Monday, June 13, 2011

The Great Porcupine Fire

It will be this time next month that the people of Timmins will stop and remember one of the worst forest fires in Canadian history. It will be the 100th anniversary of the Great Porcupine fire of July 1911. It's called Porcupine because back then, this whole area was known as The Porcupine Gold Camp. It's amazing to think not so much that people endured the fire, but that they continued on in spite of it. Back then, there were no warnings, no special firefighting airplanes, no evacuations. The people who came to Timmins were taking part in one of the great gold rushes ever recorded. Fire devasted the towns, hundreds died, but the people carried on in spite of the great sadness and loss of life. There was even the story of the mine manager who rushed to bring his family down into a mine shaft to escape the flames ... but the firestorm sucked all the oxygen out of the mine. They were found dead days later, without a scratch, without a burn. They had suffocated. There was also the story of the train rushing into town, without knowing of the fire. Sure enough, as the story goes, the train was carrying a shipment of dynamite for the mines. It caught fire and exploded, causing even more death and havoc. Archives Canada has saved many of the photos showing the fire, the people on shore at Porcupine Lake trying to get away, and then days later carrying the bodies out to Deadman's Point, which still exists as a cemetery today. (Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada)

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