LUMBERJACK, LUMBERER, WOODSMAN BY GUEST AUTHOR DEIDRAH STANCHFIELD Part 3 of 3

“The old way of lumbering was passing by 1900, driven out by the demand for pulpwood and by power companies wanting to control watersheds. Steamboats, motorboats, railroads and gravel trucking roads turned the formerly inaccessible places in the woods into public highways and swept away the old industry with all its tools and retainers (Pike, 1967).”

Lumber6Maine Conservation Corps took me to places in Maine I had never even thought of going. From Scopan (outside of Presque Isle), to Mt. Blue in Weld, to Baxter State Park in Millinocket and many other corners, I learned more and more about hardworking people and beautiful places. I have never been much of a morning person, but waking up on Daicey Pond and getting ready for the hike and workday ahead, I would often be up in time to see the sun rise. I count this time as some of the most meaningful in my life, and the most serene. I think about the loggers and river drivers, and what their time must have been like. In remote locations only accessible by water, without the technology of modern equipment and advantage of synthetic and quick drying clothes, one would certainly have to have certain qualities to survive. I cannot imagine people working under the conditions required without getting some joy out of it. It must have been hard, but also rewarding to work in such pristine conditions.

The last log drive was held on the Kennebec River in 1976 (Council). While the driving of logs down the river is a thing of the past, the lumber industry in Maine is still a vital part of our state. According to the Maine Forest Products Council, “$1 out of every $16 in Maine’s gross state product and 1 of every 20 jobs is associated with Maine’s forest products sector” (Council) . According to this same document, Maine is also home to the “Largest, contiguous, privately owned, working forest in the United States.” Although there have been some serious changes in the way Maine deals with wood, great advancements and progress is being made. It is interesting to know that while a huge part of Maine history, working with wood is also a huge part of our future.  “Forest products businesses (e.g., paper mills) tend to generate more output per worker and provide higher wages than other businesses in Maine (Council).” It is also interesting to note, that with the change in technology, more can be accomplished by less physical work. Pre- 1960’s, a logger could cut about 9 cord per week. 1980 to the present, using modern machines, a logger can cut 75.7 cord per week (Council). That’s a HUGE increase.

Lumber7While many machines have played a role increasing the amount of work one person can achieve, I would like to focus on the chainsaw. I am personally a huge fan of chainsaws. I first learned the basics of operating one while living on a Katahdin sheep farm in Monmouth, Maine. The owner heated with firewood, and I was interested in helping out with day to day operations. It was an enlightening and empowering experience. My first season at MCC I went through the formal chainsaw training, and I was amazed how much more was involved in chainsaw use and safety. I also felled my first tree. Two season of Field Team work later, I feel quite competent. My current saw weighs 10.8 lbs, and have many safety features. This is a huge change from what saws were originally.

Created out of necessity, its evolution originates from the cross-cut saw. “Until about 1897 all the falling of trees in the lumber woods of northern New England was done with an axe. At that time the two-man cross-cut saw was greatly improved by the addition of the raker tooth, which cleans out the sawdust. From then until about 1915, practically all woodsmen used the raker-tooth cross-cut saw for falling and cutting up trees. About that time, the raker tooth was added to the one-man bucksaw, enabling one man to cut as fast as Lumber8two with a cross-cut. From 1915 to about 1945 practically all pulpwood sawing was done with a one-man bucksaw. Then the two-man chain-saw was put into use, but it never became very popular. This was followed shortly by the one-man power chain-saw, which is now used almost entirely (Pike, 1967).”I’ve been able to see many old saws, at different museums/garages in the state. The Ashland Logging Museum had a few, as well as the Greenville Historical Society’s lumber section. Seeing these antiques made me appreciate the streamlined and safer version I use today. Safety and respect are needed in abundance when dealing with such.

In this picture my grandmother (below), Valerie Fuller, is posing with a NON-RUNNING chainsaw and showing it to my mom Stephanie Stanchfield. You can see from its size that it is not something convenient to carry miles into the woods, along with gas, bar and chain oil, and the tools to maintain it. I am relieved that by the time I learned how to use one, times had changed.

Lumber9

My time at Maine Conservation Corps certainly sparked my interest in this history of the people and industry of logging. My education time contributed to my understanding, and further research has yielded even more knowledge. I am grateful for these opportunities, and hope that this series of blogs might spark your interest in the history of logging. I would like to thank the Maine State Library, Roberta Scruggs of the Maine Forest Products Council, Chuck Harris of the Ambajejus Boom House, The Ashland Logging Museum, and the writers of the resources used for this. Thank You all for sharing the knowledge, and helping me put the pieces together.

Works Cited

Council, M. F. (n.d.). Maine Forest Economy. Retrieved September 15, 2015, from http://maineforest.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Maines-Forest-Economy.pdf

Pike, R. E. (1967). Tall Trees, Tough Men. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. .

Advertisements

LUMBERJACK, LUMBERER, WOODSMAN BY GUEST AUTHOR DEIDRAH STANCHFIELD Part 2 of 3

“To ensure that logs had sufficient water to be floated downstream, dams were built to hold back water, which was released when the time was right. Where necessary, a series of dams was constructed on long streams and the logs were floated or “driven” from pond to pond through dam after dam until they reached their destination. (Wilson, 2001)”

Understanding and learning about the logging camps was only the beginning of the story. In the Fall of the 2013, I was assigned to a new Field Team under Team Leader Amy Freund. We served in Baxter State Park, creating a reroute for Mt. OJI. During some off time in Millinocket, I connected with a former River Driver and caretaker of the Ambajesus Boom House. Chuck Harris certainly intrigued me, with his utilitarian clothes and Maine accent. We got talking about what I was doing, and he shared his history. He also invited my Team to the Boom House for some of our education hours.

Lumber2We waited on the land, just below the bridge on the Golden Road that Chuck had directed us to. We heard a motor start in the distance, and after a few minutes saw a figure coming up the river. Clad in a yellow rainjacket and accompanied by a collie dog, our guide skillfully made his way upriver. Greeted in such a gallant fashion, we hopped into the boat. Along the way to the Boom House, Chuck shared his knowledge of the river, and recollected how the logs would come down.

I think I started to understand when Chuck showed us some of the tools, many of which had been found in Ambajejus Lake one year when the water was very low. He spoke about the boom chains that held together the logs, and I began to envision a circle of logs floating on the water.

Lumber3In the winter the logs were hauled out upon the lake and placed as compactly together as possible. Around the mass was placed the boom—a contraption composed of largest and longest logs chained together end to end. When the ice had melted, the logs rested upon the waters of the lake, surrounded by the restraining girdle of the boom. Then, boom and all, they were towed to the outlet of the lake and sent on their way down stream (Wood, 1961).

Steamboats would take the logs from one end of the lake to the other this way. Chuck has pictures of this process in the Boom House. Acres of logs, huge islands of timber, made their pilgrimage to the sawmill in this fashion. The iron remnants told a story, but I would not have understood if not for the guide.

The log remnants I had seen as a child were explained as well. They were piers, built to guide the logs down the river. “Note the piers that hold the booms, confining logs toward shore and leaving the middle of the river free for the passage of logs to other companies farther down the river (Wilson, 2001).” There had to be some way to control the lumber coming down, and a way for those who cut it to get credit. Chuck mentioned that if all was well, the drivers would be on the shores. In the event of a jam, the men had to get to work. Sometimes it would be finding the key log with an ax, other times dynamite would do the trick. Life threatening work, many drivers lost their lives keeping the flood of spruce and fir flowing.

Should one false step be taken, a nerve falter, and eye miss its calculation, to powder would be ground the being who fell among the tumbling mass. But see the bravado of yonder Frenchman. He dances about on the logs like a cat on hot coals. There is twenty feet of water between him and the shore, and the logs are moving ten miles an hour. If he goes another hundred feet, over the next pitch he shoots and is lost. How can he escape? Look! There comes a log just outside the mass. He jumps upon it, swings his pole quicker than lightning, steers the log toward the shores, catches a hanging branch, and is jerked up the bank by his shirt-collar, by the hands of his admiring comrades (Wood, 1961).

Log marks were used to identify the logs of particular operators. (Coolidge, 1963)
Log marks were used to identify the logs of particular operators.
(Coolidge, 1963)

Each operator made their mark on the logs. Some even made new marks every year, to tell the how old the wood was. “The marks were cut into the sapwood with axe or auger, and were deep enough not to wear off during the drive, but not enough to injure the timber (Wood, 1961).” For all the risks and hard work these men of the woods took, their companies wanted to be paid appropriately for the wood provided. They had  costs and profits recorded right down to the  penny. In 1930, the Wage Scale in the lumber camps in the Millinocket area ran from the Cookee and Feeder earning $5.00 to $7.00 per week plus board, to the Foreman who would earn $12.00 to $15.00 per week plus board (Caron, 1994). Chuck Harris related that they were usually paid at the end of the season. During the season men could get items on “credit” from the clerk, and at the end of the season they were paid and their debts taken out of what they were owed.

Lumber 5My time at Maine Conservation Crops helped me to gain a better understanding of the kind of work the lumberjacks did, and through the education time I became more acquainted with the history as well. Connecting the pieces from my childhood, and sparking interest that still is strong today, logging history is a little less of a mystery for me.

Works Cited

Caron, S. J. (1994). Lumbering in the Millinocket, Me. Area 1930 Thru 1950. Millinocket, ME: In-House Printing.

Coolidge, P. T. (1963). History of the Maine Woods. Bangor, Maine: Furbush-Roberts Printing Company, Inc.

Wilson, D. A. (2001). Logging and Lumbering in Maine. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Wood, R. G. (1961). A History of Lumbering in Maine 1820-1861. Orono, Maine: University Press.

Lumberjack, Lumberer, Woodsman by Guest Author Deidrah Stanchfield

Lumberjack, Lumberer, Woodsman

“A man generally recognized as a separate species, as is shown by a newspaper account of a steamboat accident in 1912, which reported that “three men and a logger were drowned.” In short, a man well worthy of our attention”-Tall Trees, Tough Men p. 53

All my life I have been fascinated with the lumber industry. I remember as a little girl seeing the “islands” out on the Kennebec between Gardiner and Augusta, and wondering what they were all about. My mom told me they were built by people, they weren’t natural, but she wasn’t sure why. I think that is kind of funny now, because she also told me stories about how she was young in Millinocket and she remembers the logs floating down the river, and the men jumping from log to log. These events are directly connected, although miles apart. Following the logs down the river, I began to understand.

Deidrah Lumber 1During my term of service in AmeriCorps, with the Maine Conservation Corps, I was able to travel all over the State of Maine. While I have lived here my whole life, I got a whole new outlook, and much more knowledge about different areas. My first Field Team was assigned to Scopan outside of Presque Isle, cutting a new hiking trail. Coming from a fairly humdrum life, and starting a little late at 28 (most AmeriCorps members are 18-24), I was going to sink or swim at this hardworking endeavor. Running a chainsaw, pulling trees up by their roots, and swamping it all into the bushes after hiking into the site took some time to get used to. It rained every day during our first 9 day hitch, and I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Our Team Leader, Jared Ress, decided it was a good time for our weekly education hours, and we went to the Ashland Logging Museum.

We met the caretaker of the museum, who was very excited to have guests. He was very informative. There were tools everywhere, and a replica of the kind of cabin that the loggers would have stayed in when the industry first began. It was amazing to think that these people came to Maine in the winter, without roads to get places, traveling either by boat or over the snow, to work 10-12 hour days of backbreaking labor. Although fed many meals a day, and able to get warm clothing on credit even if they didn’t have the money, it is hard to imagine.

“There were no bunks and no chairs. The men ate standing, out of a common kettle. For a bed, fir and hemlock boughs were sometimes screwn on the bare ground and on these was laid a twenty-foot-wide spread stuffed six inches thick with cotton batting. When one of those things got wet, twenty men could hardly lift it. Such spreads were still being used on the drive as late as 1930. On top of the first one was spread a second, and about a dozen men crawled in between, lying spoon fashion. Those great covers were especially hard on small men sleeping in the center. If a man wanted to turn over, he cried, “Flop!” and everyone, without waking up, flopped. Old woodsmen aver that the worst thing about them was when some man would crepitate underneath them. And of course, the inevitable lice found them a favorite roosting-place.” – Tall Trees, Tough Men p. 91

Deidrah Lumber 2The logging camps, beginning in the early 1800’s, were built as needed. The men would come up the rivers, as the river were the way to get the logs out of the woods when the time came, and find a stand of trees to manufacture the buildings out of. They did not use nails initially, they had wooden pegs. They split their own shingles, and built the whole structure from what they had available and a few tools. They would live in this structure through the whole winter. At first they used only axes, then saws, and then at the end they had available but rarely used chainsaws because they were so heavy. The men felled the trees and moved them to the waterways. Helped by teams of horses and oxen the giant trees were kept intact as much as possible. Mast trees were the most profitable; trees that were very tall and very straight made it possible to build the ships of the time. After 1880, larger organizations and corporations took hold of the industry, and from 1890 to 1910 the lumber industry reached its peak in Maine (Pike, 1967).

Next week we will follow the logs from the logging camps to the mills.

Deidrah Lumber 3

Volunteer of the Month, August 2015

August’s Volunteer of the Month is Jamie Coughlan from Augusta, Maine. Jamie is a close personal friend of MCC staff member Deidrah Stanchfield, and has joined her as a volunteer on several projects through the season. Most recently, he joined Deidrah and Environmental Steward Jordan Tate, at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park. While there, he assisted Jordan in presenting an interpretive program to the public.

Jamie is originally from southern Maine and was educated at Pierre’s School of Cosmetology in Portland. In addition to helping in his community, Jamie enjoys reading and has read seven or eight books in the past month. Jamie is also a skilled cook, according to Deidrah he; “makes an amazing chicken casserole.”

We at the Maine Conservation Corps would like to thank Jamie for his participation and effort. MCC loves having volunteers of all ages! If you’re interested in joining one of our teams for a few days, please feel free to contact me, Dylan Cookson, at Dylan.Cookson@maine.gov or call me at 207-624-6092.

Back Packing: What to Carry

Most Maine Conservation Corps members have to go backpacking during some part of their term of service. Field crews often hike out to both campsites and work sites with packs filled with equipment. Today, I am going to go over what you should bring with you when backpacking in the Maine Wilderness.

If you are just hiking for the day, you won’t need to carry out nearly as much stuff as an MCC member with camping gear and trail working tools. However, there are a few essentials that MCC members and the average hiker have in common.

#1 – The Backpack

Definitely not the same kind of backpack you would use to carry your books to school. These packs have padded waist straps, padded shoulder straps, plenty of pouches and are designed to carry a lot more than just homework. A good back-country backpack should have enough space for clothes, water, food, and all of the rest of the gear I will be describing today.

20150831_082727 20150831_084429

#2 – Wet Weather Gear

If you are outdoors and it starts to rain unexpectedly you are going to want to have some wet weather clothes to put over your hiking clothes. MCC members often choose to get wet weather gear that is fairly heavy. Rubber coated canvas materials are less prone to tearing during outdoor construction work.

However, most choose to get lighter and cheaper rain gear. This would be most appropriate for the average hiker.

20150831_082920 20150831_08594420150831_082418

#3 – Dry bag and clothes

20150831_085953
Dry bags keep clothes dry in wet conditions. Can be packed right into backpack.

If you get wet, wouldn’t it be really nice to have some dry clothes to change into? Even just an extra couple of pairs of dry socks would be a wonderful relief at the end of a long day of hiking. Dry bags provide a water tight space to stick your clothes into when you’re traveling. If you get rained on, or happen to fall into a river your clothes will be sheltered and dry.
Although you can buy dry bags in sporting goods stores, a tightly closed trash bag will also do.

You should also pack other clothes for sudden changes in the weather, it may seem strange to carry warm wool clothes during the summer, but it is better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.

#4 –  Sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellent

Just like a day on the beach or when you are mowing your lawn or spending a day at the beach a bad sunburn or a swarm of biting insects can ruin a good time. Here in Maine, DEET based products are recommended for guarding against Lyme Disease.

#5 – Litter Bag

Trash on the trail ruins nature’s aesthetic and can be a health hazard to people and wildlife. Be prepared to carry out anything you might carry in.

# 6 – Flashlight, matches, whistle, pocket knife.

These little items could come in handy during an emergency. A good backpacker should always be prepared for the unexpected.

20150831_130723#7 – Water and Food

You should pack enough high energy food to get you through the day, and then some. Granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, and pb&j sandwiches, are all trail essentials. Pack 3 quarts of water per person.

#8 – Map and compass

Getting lost is always a possibility. It is a good idea to pack a map and compass to try and navigate your way home if you really need to.

#9 – First Aid Kit

Once again, the threat of an unexpected emergency should always inspire preparedness. A first aid kit can mean relief from minor discomforts like cuts and bruises, but it could also save your life!

20150831_125338

Leah Beck’s Team on the Appalachian Trail

This is not the first year that I have spent most of my time working in an office. However, it can get a bit stuffy in hereBeck, Leah (2). Times come when my legs want to move and I just need to get out! It wasn’t that many years ago that I was on a trail crew in the back-country of Baxter State Park. Luckily the MCC provides ample opportunities to get out and “Get Things Done!”

On July 26th of this year I drove myself into the back woods of Madrid, Maine. At the end of a long series of winding dirt roads and endless forest, I found the entrance to an abandoned ATV trail. I hiked the trail for about a half an hour and eventually found the camp of Leah Beck’s trail crew. The team consists of six members, including Leah: Nathan Dumas, Irene Syphers, Richard VanTwistern, Liz Thibault, and Anna Doyle.

I had planned on staying two nights and volunteering for a day. They were on their second nine day hitch with the Appalachian Trail project, and I was joining them as a volunteer near the end of their work week. Leah’s crew had made very efficient work of the project but they were far from finished. “Just pushing our way up the hill; we got a lot more to go,” Leah said on the night before my day as a volunteer.

20150817_090028[1]The team’s project had been designed by Lester Kenway, their sponsor. Lester is the current president of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and a former MCC staff member. Before Leah had come to the project site with her team she had walked the trail with Lester as he gave her instructions and descriptions of the projects he had in mind. The section of the Appalachian Trail near Poplar Ridge was in need of staircases, step stones, and drainage maintenance.

20150727_103312

On my day with the crew we were placing step stones on a muddy section of the trail. Step stones are meant to elevate the walking surface out of the mud, saving hikers energy and making the walking surface safer. The process of moving and setting rocks is very labor intensive but it also involves Leah’s favorite activity, ‘Rock Shopping.’ Leah describes rock shopping as the process of “Finding the perfect rock. Digging the perfect hole, and putting the perfect rock in the perfect hole.” For me this meant walking into the woods with a tool and dropping it into the ground over and over until I heard a ‘clink.’ When we found a stone that was large and flat enough, we would dig it out and roll it to the trail to be placed.

For many hours I helped the crew push rocks through mud and brush and dug holes with mini-picks and shovels. Hikers would occasionally make their way through the work-site. The whole team would stand off to the side and receive thanks and courteous comments from the passing strangers. Leah attributes this to how important their work is to these hikers. Improvements to the trail help to prevent accidents, and hikers are very grateful for everything they do.

In total Leah’s team completed 140 step stones in a single nine day hitch. (I am happy to report that I contributed to this number.) Since their time on the Appalachian Trail started they have also completed a total of 33 stone steps. Leah is very proud of her team and wanted to express her feelings for the blog: “I wanted to say how extremely proud of the work that we have done, so far, and how far we’ve pushed. Our work ethic and fortitude has really made for an extremely successful summer. I’m really proud of my team.”

089

July’s Volunteer of the Month

Volunteers of the Month for July

Billy Borden:

Billy

July’s Volunteer of the Month is Billy Borden of Pownal, Maine. During the month of July, Billy volunteered with Chantelle Hay’s team on the Appalachian Trail near Bemis Mountain. His work ethic and positive attitude left a great impression on Chantelle’s team.

The team members submitted numerous positive comments about Billy’s participation, calling him a diligent worker and a fast learner. “Billy Borden joined our crew for 5 days.  [He] did an outstanding job, [was] always willing to help, and learned fast!  It was a lot of fun working with him” said one member of the crew.

Billy’s mother, Tracy Borden, offered a bit of information about her son for this post:

Billy is a junior at Greely High School. As an 11 year old, he hiked Katahdin with his father and brother, which sparked a lasting passion for the Appalachian Trail. He was inspired to hike the trail by meeting other hikers and hearing their stories.  Volunteering with the Maine Conservation Corps seemed like a good way to give him an introduction to trail life. He is looking forward to hiking the 100 mile wilderness trail next summer with his twin brother.

Billy’s other interests include soccer, lacrosse, and running. He ran his first half Marathon in South Carolina when he was 14.

 

Honorary Mention:

While Billy Served on the Appalachian Trail, a group of five Boy Scouts joined David Hicks’ at Baxter State Park. These young men cleared trails for two days alongside David’s crew. The Boy Scouts of America have always been active participants in service work and the Maine Conservation Corps Looks forward to working with them again in the future. The Scouts in this troop came from all over the country. Their names are Zachary Bolen, Brian Ross, Graham Owings, Samuel Amick, and Jack Beckerley.

Thank you for all of your hard work!

Commemorating the Centerville forest Fire: 50 Years ago Today

UntitledFor the past few months, western states have been battling wildfires. This past June, 167 members of the California Conservation Corps assisted the US Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as they battled wildfires state wide (Novey, 2015). This is not the first time that AmeriCorps members have been involved in firefighting efforts: just last year, 69 AmeriCorps members with the Washington Conservation Corps put in more than 6,000 hours supporting firefighting camps by coordinating and distributing food, supplies, and equipment (Network, 2014).

acreage
(Climate Change Indicators in the United States; Wildfires, 2015).

Maine’s wildfires are pretty mild compared to those out west. According to the EPA the average number of acres each year burned per square mile in Maine was nearly ‘zero’ between 1984 and 2013.  By contrast, Idaho has seen an average of 5.52 acres burn each year per square mile in the same time range (Climate Change Indicators in the United States; Wildfires, 2015).

Still wildfires do happen here. In May of this year, Maine firefighters were controlling a blaze in Lubec that burned over 200 acres of land (Hoey, 2015). The great fires of 1947 caused such significant damage that the week of October the 13th was called the “Week that Maine Burned” (Park, n.d.) (Killelea, 2012).

Exactly fifty years ago today, (August 4th, 2015) the Eric Kelley Peat Bog in Centerville, Maine, became the site of one of the largest fires in Maine’s history, burning over 12,000 acres of land (Cleaves, 1995). At the time the Eric Kelley Peat Bog was the site of peat hauling and harvesting. Workers used bulldozers, trucks, and other heavy machinery to harvest peat, which can be sold as a commodity and has several uses in agriculture, construction, and manufacturing (Bastin & David, 1909) .

On August 4th the peat on the surface of the bog had dried into a dust due to the hot weather and lack of precipitation. It was the perfect condition for a fire to start and spread (Decoster, 1965). All it took was a spark from the exhaust of one of the “Bog Buggies” to ignite the peat dust. The vehicle lacked a muffler and “back-fired” while hauling peat (Cleaves, 1995). Like the fires of 1947, the Centerville Forest Fire preceded legislation aimed at protecting public safety. In weeks following the blaze, the State of Maine passed a new regulation requiring that power equipment not be operated in the woods unless equipped with mufflers and spark arresters (Decoster, 1965).

?????????????
Indian Fire Pump

The workers at the bog first noticed the fire around 10:30 am, and called for assistance from the the fire-tower watchman at Mitten Mountain. The tower watchmen referred the call to Forest Rangers David Grant and Luther Davis of Cherryfield. Grant arrived with Indian Fire Pumps which workers used to try to control the fire. (Decoster, 1965)

The fire spread rapidly due to the dry conditions and 18 mph winds. What had been 2.5 acres at 2pm reached 300-400 acres by nightfall. The Centerville forest fire spread for approximately five days, jumping the Machias River, and a section of Route 192 between the towns of Weaslely and Machias. The number of men involved in the firefighting operation reached over 700 individuals by August 7th. From the beginning there was a scarcity of trained firefighters. Groups from Bucks Harbor, Dow Air Force Base, and Maine Maritime Academy, the Outward Bound School as well as “floods of individual volunteers” joined the effort. These volunteers were a diverse group, which included white collar office workers and experienced woodsmen (Decoster, 1965).

Centerville0001
(Decoster, 1965)

The coordination and cooperation in response to this fire was due in no small part to the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission (About the NFFPC, n.d.). This commission was established by the United States Congress in 1949 and was originally composed of Maine and six other New England States (Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact, n.d.).  Governor John H. Reed attributed this act to an idea that was first conceived of by New England Governors in response to the great forest fires of 1947.(Decoster, 1965)

Several agencies collaborated with the Forest Service to control the Centerville Forest Fire. Robert Wright of the St. Regis Paper Company joined the effort as a sector boss on the fire lines. His efforts enlisted the Maine Central Rail Road Company’s assistance in transporting firefighters. (Cleaves, 1995)

The Washington County branch of US Civil Defense supported the effort by setting up a mobile feeding station to provide meals to firefighters. The unit was staffed by Mrs. Sara Wilson, the Washington County Home Demonstration Agent. Lodging was also handled by Civil Defense which provided cots and blankets. (Decoster, 1965)

U.S. Civil Defense Feeding Station
(Decoster, 1965)

Other agencies joined the effort by supporting the firefighting operation with services and supplies. The State Police cooperated in the requirements of moving permits, escorting heavy equipment and blocking roads leading to the fire. The Maine Highway Commission provided $15,000 in free services and forestry companies provided heavy equipment free of charge (Decoster, 1965).

Fire fighters created a 34 mile long perimeter free of combustible materials called a “fire line.” Fire lines help to contain fires by creating a gap that a fire must jump across in order to spread. Along the perimeter men suppressed the fire with pumps, tank trucks, and hose . Building the fire line required the use of bulldozers and other heavy machinery, which proved difficult to transport across the uneven terrain. Centerville is known not just for bogs but also large boulders and steep ledge, all of which posed challenge to moving heavy equipment (Decoster, 1965).

Five different airplanes were employed to control the Centerville Forest fire. Canadian Casos planes with 940 gallon drop tanks flew in from Quebec and were used to drop water on the fire from above. Two small “Beaver” float planes with 125 gallon tanks were used to douse spot fires caused by windblown embers. If these little second fires had grown out of control the firefighting effort could have been considerably bigger and more costly.  (Decoster, 1965). The participation of Canadian pilots and planes preceded the membership of Quebec in the North Eastern Forest Fire Compact (About the NFFPC: History n.d.).

Centerville060001By the end of the 4th day, August 7th, the Organized Towns involved in the effort were running out of spare equipment and city fire departments began contributing their own supplies to the effort. This was the turning point where firefighters began to gain the upper hand. The fire’s once rapid spread had begun to slow as it started spreading into wetter areas. On August 8th crews had completely enclosed the area with fire lines and by the next day the fire was under control. From August 9th onward the weather cooled and the risk of the fire reigniting was low due to fog and precipitation. On Friday, August 13th, demobilization began. Mopping up after the fire was a lengthy process, lasting well into September. Forest Rangers and 14 men continued to patrol the area for weeks and the last smoke was reported on October 3rd. (Decoster, 1965)

In the aftermath of the fire a board of review was assembled by the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission. The board’s purpose was summed up in a statement by Ed Peltier of the U.S. Forest Service; “We have to be especially critical on a board of review, comparing human endeavor and human efforts with an ideal, striving to improve the practices.” (Decoster, 1965) A report was prepared by Lester A. DeCoster, the assistant to the information and education supervisor of the Maine Forest Service. The report contained maps, day by day accounts, photographs of the firefighting effort, and transcripts of question and answer sessions with the board and observers.

Centerville01
(Decoster, 1965)

The effects of the fire were big but no lives were reported lost. Of the more than 12,000 acres burned St. Regis Paper Company lost an estimated 8,000 acres of young spruce-fir forest. The Georgia-Pacific Corporation lost an estimated 2,100 acres of woodland and 70 cords of already harvested wood. Two small hunting camps were destroyed and 25 workers were injured in the fire. Most injuries included abrasions, strained backs, sprains, and injuries due to lack of proper footwear. Only one serious accident occurred when a bulldozer operator was struck by a spring pole, breaking several ribs. (Decoster, 1965).

The timely and large scale response to the Centerville Forest fire owes a great deal to the policies set forth after the great fires of 1947. The effort to control it represented a feat of both interstate and international cooperation as well as a successful application of volunteer and national service. This day, August 4th, 2015, is exactly 50 years after this eventful fire. We should remember the role that service played in responding to the Centerville Forest Fire and ask ourselves what we would have done if we had been there.

Centerville070001

Centerville110001

Works Cited

About the NFFPC. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29th, 2015, from Northeastern Forest Fire Compact: http://www.nffpc.org/html/eng/info/about/5.html

About the NFFPC: History. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29th, 2015, from Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact: http://www.nffpc.org/html/eng/info/about/3.html

Agriculture, U. D. (1951). The Home demonstration Agent. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Bastin, E. S., & David, C. A. (1909). Peat Deposits of Maine. Retrieved 07 31, 2015, from USGS Publications Warehouse: http://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/0376/report.pdf

Cleaves, H. (1995, September 4th). Mainers remember the great fire of ’65; Centerville blaze destroyed 12,000 acres. Bangor Daily News, p. 5.

Climate Change Indicators in the United States; Wildfires. (2015, June). Retrieved July 29th, 2015, from EPA.gov: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/ecosystems/wildfires.html

Decoster, L. A. (1965). The Centerville Forest Fire Board of Review. Augusta, Maine: Maine Forest Service.

Hoey, D. (2015, May 07). Wildfire burning across 200 acres in Lubec. Portland Press Herald.

Killelea, E. F. (2012, October 7th). ‘The week that Maine burned’. Portland Press Herald.

Network, T. C. (2014, July 28th). Corps Responding to Wildfires, Floods, and More. Retrieved July 29th, 2015, from TheCorpsNetwork.org: https://www.corpsnetwork.org/corps-responding-wildfires-floods-and-more

Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29th, 2015, from Ballotpedia: http://ballotpedia.org/Northeastern_Forest_Fire_Protection_Compact

Novey, L. (2015, June 25th). The Corps Network Blog. Retrieved 07 29th, 2015, from TheCopsNetwork.org: https://www.corpsnetwork.org/blog/65

Park, A. N. (n.d.). Fire of 1947. Retrieved July 29th, 2015, from National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/acad/learn/historyculture/upload/Fireof1947.pdf

This post written and prepared by Dylan Cookson: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator

Contributions to the article made by:

  • Krista Rogers: MCC Community Leader and Environmental Steward Program Coordinator: editing and proofreading
  • Photos taken from: The Centerville Forest Fire Board of Review. Augusta, Maine: Maine Forest Service.

Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District

Earlier this season Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD) welcomed a Maine Conservation Corps Environmental Steward, Nina Lawonn, into their organization for the summer season. HCSWCD is one of several different district programs all throughout the state of Maine. Each different conservation district has unique services tailored to its region. The mission of the HCSWCD is to provide local conservation leadership, teach the value of natural resources, encourage conservation efforts, and help to plan and implement volunteer programs. Among the services the HCSWCD offers is technical assistance for soil erosion and abatement.

On Friday July 17th, 2015 Nina was joined by Environmental Steward and Community Leader Program Coordinator, Krista Rogers; Training Coordinator Deidrah Stanchfield; and Art Grindle of the Kennebec Conservation District. Also involved in the project were several MCC AmeriCorps members, including Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Dylan Cookson; and Environmental Stewards, Anna Farrell, Ling Rao, and Kelly Reardon. Nina ‘s objective was to develop an erosion mitigation project for  Toddy Pond, located in down-east Maine and a part of the Penobscot River watershed. Like many places in Maine, shoreline erosion is a significant problem for aquatic ecosystems.

20150717_094518

Nina led the other MCC members in building riprap along the bottoms and sides of feeder channels to abate erosion from the flow of water into Toddy Pond. Stones were purchased and trucked in by a contractor and piled at the work sites in advanced. The group used wheel barrows to transport the rocks to the channels at three locations around the pond. Among these streams and gullies were hollows where water flow had washed sediment from under roots and topsoil. Working by hand, MCC members and staff filled hollows with small rocks and then covered these with larger stones: this armored the soil from further erosion. At the other sites stones were simply used to cover the bottom of the channel and slow water down while catching sediment before it is washed into the pond.

The Toddy Pond community was very happy to have this work done and even helped support the process, providing wheel barrows, bathroom facilities, and on one occasion a tractor. Before and after photos are below to illustrate the day’s accomplishments:

20150717_104314

BEFORE AND AFTER

20150717_161822

BEFORE AND AFTER 2

An AmeriCorps State Program