Kingman, ME Forest Fire, Jul 1880



From the Bangor (Me,) Whig, July 17.

For several weeks past the Town of Kingman has been almost in constant danger from forest fires, and on one occasion, about three weeks ago, the flames approached here for assistance, and one of our fire-engines was sent up on a special train. The fire, however, after causing the people great anxiety for several days was got under control without doing any damage in the town. Since then the people have felt quite safe, until some three days ago, when a large fire was discovered approaching the town, from the direction of Scatterack. This fire continued to sweep toward the town, although the wind was blowing almost in the opposite direction, until the flames were only a quarter of a mile distant, and the large tannery owned by Shaw Brothers was in immediate danger. Up to the present time the fire had been confined to the woods on the opposite side of Mattawamkeag stream, but in now ignited on the Kingman side of the stream, and threatened the whole town with destruction. As soon as this fire was discovered a crew was sent out to extinguish it, and after plowing around the land they succeeded in stopping the flames.

At this time the outlook for the town was exceedingly dark, and word was sent to this city for assistance. Superintendent Cram had bee anticipating this call, and had his train all ready to start in a very short time, but as acting Mayor Jones was at first doubtful about letting one of the steamers and hose go, on account of the absence of Union Hose Company, it was about 3 o'clock when the special left the depot. The train consisted of a locomotive, passenger car, and flat car, the latter being used for the transportation of the fire-engine and hose. Besides several of the firemen under command of Assistant Engineer Maloney, the train had as passengers the Hon. W. B. Hayford, A. F. Snow, Esq., and a Whig representative, with Superintendent Cram, who is always one of the first to act in case of an emergency, in charge.

This train made good time, and reached Kingman at a little past 5 o'clock. On the way up fires were seen on all sides, and at Greenbush "bog" the flames were running so near the track that the flat car caught on fire, making it necessary to use several pails of water. The smoke was very dense, and for a short distance it was impossible to see anything from the car. When the train reached Kingman station, quite a crowd had collected to receive the firemen, and, after viewing the situation it was decided to take the stream fire-engine and saturate the tannery buildings with water. At this time the fire was burning briskly a short distance from the stream, opposite the town.

Our reporter saw Mr. Henry Smith, foreman at the tannery, and learned that he had a force of about 60 men out fighting the flames. Mr. Smith said that the line of fire extended some 12 miles and that 10,000 acres of land been more or less burned. He had a crew of 40 men out peeling bark and fighting the fire in one lacality, and they lost about 100 cords of bark. Messrs. Shaw Brothers have lost some 2,000 cords of bark since these fires started, and have some 3,000 cords in danger. Messrs. H. Poor & Son also have about 3,000 cords in danger of the flames, above Kingman. Mr. Smith said that it has been about six weeks since they have had rain of any consequence, and the ground is exceedingly dry; in fact it is so dry that after a fire has passed over a piece of land a perosn can dig down several inches and expose the earth to the wind, and it will be seen that the fires can spread with fearful rapidity. Then as the woods are full of old hemlock logs and tops, left by the bark peelers, it is very difficult to check or turn the direction of the flames. Mr. Smith was unable to give any estimate of the loss sustained by his firm, but it must necessarily be large.

The scene at Kingman Thursday nigth was terriby grand. Soon after tea the wind began to breeze up considerably, which started the fire afresh, and then, as the fie itself caused a strong current of air, the flames were whirled about in the tops of the trees with a fearful roar. The wind was blowing away from the town, which prevented a serious conflagration, for had it changed about nothing could have saved the tannery and other buildings in the village. The fire still continued to approach the stream against the wind, however, which was exceedingly fortunate, as it burned almost to the water's edge, so that the town is now out of danger from fire, everything having been leveled to the ground. After the sun went down the fire made the town almost as light as day. The flames swept on with irrepressible force, now burning in the underbrush and then leaping into the tops of some tall trees, the whole forming a weird spectacle. At one time it looked as though the house and buildings of Mr. Fogg, located on the same side of the stream as the fire, must be consumed; but the indomitable will of the owner and the strenuous efforts of his neighbors, who turned out to a man, won the victory, and the property was saved.

It is now thought that Kingman is secure from any danger from fire, but what will be the fate of other towns unless we have rain is more than we can tell. These fires are raging all over this section of the State, and we are now just entering upon what is usually called the dry season. This year is a remarkable exception, as many of the oldest lumberman say they never knew it so dry at this season, and if the drought continues as uaual through the month August, the damage from these fires must necessarily be very large. A large fire is burning near Vanceboro, and Superintendent Cram remained at Kingman all night with the fire steamer, expecting to be called upon to visit that place and render some assistance. At Calais the air is filled with smoke and cinders, the fire having reached within 10 or 15 miles of the city. On the Piscataquis road these fires are also raging in the woods. Old "Prob" predicts local rains, and if ever they were needed it is at the present time.

The New York Times, New York, NY 19 Jul 1880