October of 1947 in the Northeast was not the typical autumn we’ve grown to love and celebrate today. Seventy years ago this month, portions of New England were facing catastrophic wildfires, some stretching eight miles in length along the coast of Maine, shaping the landscapes of today including sections of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The fire that became known as the Kennebunkport Fire destroyed over 200 homes and caused $3,250,000 in damages, which is valued at over 35 million dollars today.
Photos courtesy of Brick Store Museum
If a fire in New England of this magnitude were to occur today, one can only begin to fathom the devastation this could cause. The thickly settled houses and communities lining the east coast drastically increases risk to the homes and people living in the area. In efforts to prevent a fire of this magnitude, it takes a group effort, combining resources from, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to safely manage the North County Interagency Fire Zone. Fire managers work closely with partners to share equipment and personnel. They also rely upon each other for expertise and help in managing lands for habitat, reducing the risk of wildfire, and responding to wildfires. Together, they also spread awareness and fire education to communities.
In the Northeast Region, the Service had a total of 58 staff, mostly collateral duty, that led fire and assisted on over 105 fire incidences across the country this year alone, some spending three months or more away from home or responding to multiple incidents. While a relatively small portion of the Service, they often have highest number of duties and take on crucial roles in responding to these emergencies.
To recognize the first responders that raced through the area and the current staff that work to keep us safe, events are being held this week in multiple communities in Maine. When it comes to fire, we all work together to ensure the health and safety of communities, firefighters, wildlife, and habitat.
Learn more about the history of the Kennebunkport Fire.