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Here's how they used to fight forest fires

In this edition of Remember This, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre looks back on how forest fires have impacted the Porcupine gold camp
A water pumper and five men at Railway Street in South Porcupine, pumping water from the creek to fight Connaught Hill bush fires in 1918. Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre

From the archives of the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre: 

Forest fires have always posed a threat to northern communities and have significantly shaped our towns. Lives have been taken, and buildings have been razed to the ground. In the aftermath of the fires, people remember the brave feats performed by their neighbours.

After the well-known 1911 Porcupine fire, fire prevention became an important issue for the town and a horse-pulled fire wagon was purchased but unfortunately there was no money for the horse. Michael Barnes recalls that when the fire alarm sounded throughout the town, citizens would race their teams of horses to be the first at the fire hall to pick up the fire wagon and receive a $5 reward.   

When a fire threatened the town in 1923, the Porcupine Advance reported on ten Finnish men and women who protected their rural farm against the burning forest, extinguishing hot spots with buckets of water. In town, the fire chief organized a gang of people to push back the fire line as it began to encroach, along with support from the Hollinger Mine, and the T&NO railway, who supplied a water tank. 

The following year, the Ministry of Lands and Forests put a new flying service into place. The squadron of 13 planes would be used to monitor the province’s vast tracts of forest for signs of fire. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the first water bombers were adopted into service by the province and can still be heard today, buzzing overhead. 

Each week, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins Museum has to offer at and look for more Remember This? columns here.