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Maine’s Fire of ’47

Getty Images, photo by Justin Sullivan

Here in Maine they call it the great fire of ’47. It happened on October 17th, 1947. No one knows how it started but they do know where it started: in a cranberry bog near Salisbury Cove and then it spread.

October of 1947 was exceptionally dry and after three days of the fire, it had only burned 169 acres and folks considered themselves lucky. But as winds picked up on October 21st, the fire started to pick up and spread. Wind gusts and gales pushed the fire in every direction and spread the damage over 2,000 acres and it got worse.

As the fire escalated it started to head for Bar Harbor and burned a path through the town three miles wide and six miles long. Five grand hotels, 67 cottages and 170 homes were destroyed. That was most of Bar Harbor.

Park Rangers, the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and firefighters all volunteered to help try to control the fire but it spread despite their efforts. It headed down the coast of Maine eventually blowing itself out over the ocean. The fire was not considered completely out until November 14, 1947 almost a month after it started.

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