Academic journal article Alberta History

The Chinchaga Firestorm

Academic journal article Alberta History

The Chinchaga Firestorm

Article excerpt

The Chinchaga Firestorm

by Cordy Tymstra. Edmonton: University of Alberta

Press, 227 pp., illus., maps, paper, $34.95.

The timing for this book couldn't have been better--or worse. Just as western Canada and the north-western United States are burning up, Cordy Tymstra tells us of the great fire of 1950 whose smoke drifted all the way to Washington, D.C., and to parts of Europe.

It started in northeastern British Columbia and was first reported on June 2, 1950. At first, no one did anything about it, and the fire expanded into Alberta and into the valley of the Chinchaga Valley. This was virgin land, with some trees so large that two men together could not reach around them. Within a short time the fire threatened the town of Keg River but the Alberta government refused to pay for fireguards and back fires because the fire was still outside the limits approved for action. The townspeople saved the town themselves.

June 17 became known as "black Sunday" when the smoke carried all the way to the American east coast. It was so thick that aircraft were grounded, motorists had to use their headlights, street lights were turned on, cows were milked ahead of schedule, chickens went to roost, and rumours spread the war had broken out with Russia. …

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