Page last updated: 28 February, 2019
The Year Maine Burned !!!
In October of 1947 a huge forest fire in up-state Maine required massive amounts of outside help to put down the flames. Sailors from U.S.S. Little Rock CL 92, undoubtedly enjoying liberty in Portland, suddenly found themselves on the way to fight the largest forest fire in Maine's history.  Below is a brief recap of the story of the fire. If you participated in this event, let us know what you remember. Contact Woody Donaldson.
Acadia National Park
October 1947 - The Big Fire

On Friday, October 17, 1947, at 4 p.m., the Bar Harbor, Maine Fire Department received a call from a Mrs. Gilbert. She reported smoke rising from a cranberry bog between her home and Acadia National Park. No one knows what started the fire. It could have been cranberry pickers smoking cigarettes in the bog or a trash fire at the dump. Whatever the cause, once ignited, the fire smoldered underground. From this quiet beginning arose an inferno that burned nearly half of the eastern side of Mount Desert Island and made international news.

In its first three days, the fire burned a relatively small area, blackening only 169 acres. But on October 21, strong winds fanned the flames. The blaze spread rapidly and raged out of control, engulfing over 2,000 acres. Personnel from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, University of Maine forestry program, and Bangor Theological Seminary joined local fire fighting crews. National Park Service employees flew in from parks throughout the eastern United States.

U.S.S. Little Rock's crew was directly involved with a companion fire near the towns of Kezar Falls and Hollis, ME.  Click HERE for more information about that part of the conflagration.

Evacuation of the residents quickly became an issue. At one point all roads from the town were blocked by flames and local fisherman prepared to help with a mass exodus by boat as gale force winds fanned the inferno. Finally, bulldozers opened a pathway through the flames and smoldering remains of homes and a caravan of 700 cars and 2,000 people made it to safety.

In all, some 17,188 acres burned. More than 8,000 acres were burned in Acadia National Park. Property damage exceeded $23 million in 1947 dollars. State-wide, more than 200,000 acres, 851 permanent homes, and 397 seasonal cottages were destroyed in "the year Maine burned."
Crew Memories:    (To be added as they become available.)

For additional information, see letters from 1st Naval District and Town of Hollis, Maine

Back to 1947 - 1956 Chronology

Back to History & Facts

Back to Home Page