Sayward

The Great Fire of ’38 subject of Museum at Campbell River exhibit

The Museum at Campbell River will be telling the story of this dramatic event with archival photos, text and artifacts

In the spring of 1938, an unprecedented dry spell resulted in one of the worst forest fire seasons ever seen in British Columbia.

Also known as “The Great Fire” and “The Sayward Fire,” the Bloedel Fire burned out of control for almost 30 days and destroyed roughly 30,000 hectares of forested land.

The Museum at Campbell River will be telling the story of this dramatic event with archival photos, text and artifacts in a temporary exhibit entitled Burning Snags and Raining Ashes: The Bloedel Fire of 1938 and its Aftermath. It will be on display starting Saturday, July 20.

Nothing quite like the Bloedel Fire had ever been seen in B.C. in the 1930s and the impact of the fire was felt over the whole province.  Fighting the fire involved over 2,000 men, and Campbell River and Courtenay were at the centre of news coverage for over a month.

A newspaperman covering the story for the Vancouver Daily Province, ‘Torchy’ Anderson reported: “Hundreds of men, scores of pumps, fifty miles of hose, snorting caterpillar bulldozers, axe and shovel crews – every available means of modern forest-fire fighting is pitted against the Red Enemy!”

After the devastation caused by the fire, forest officials realized that natural regeneration would not be enough to ensure a sustainable supply of timber for future use. The Bloedel Fire is important to us today, because it marks a turning point in the development of a provincial reforestation program and now, 75 years later, many areas have since been logged and planted again.

This exhibit offers a look at the dramatic events of the fire itself, and the sweeping changes in safety practices and fire fighting techniques that resulted from it.  The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the exhibit will be up until mid November.