USS Little Rock CL 92

Acadia, Maine Forest Fire 1947

Page last updated: 4 March, 2021

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 the Webmaster.

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. (See letters below)

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."

Thanks to the U.S.S. Little Rock CL 92 Crew
from the
Town of Hollis, Maine

In her book "WILDFIRE LOOSE - The Week That Maine Burned" author Joyce Butler briefly refers to LITTLE ROCK's participation in helping quell blazes in the areas near the town of Hollis, ME.
  • On page 189 Miss Butler notes: "Army-Navy Day celebrations scheduled for Sunday (Oct. 26) were called off, not only in Maine, but in Boston. (The Navy's light cruiser Little Rock, in Boston for the occasion, headed to Maine with 1000 men to offer their services as firefighters).

  • On page 200 Miss Butler continues: "One hundred and twenty-five men from the U.S. Navy's cruiser Little Rock were recalled from Hollis (Wednesday, October 29) to their ship in Portland harbor, already two days late in sailing for overseas duty."
Below are two letters received aboard the U.S.S. Little Rock CL 92 after the crew helped in extinguishing the fires that devastated much of Maine in 1947. These fires which are collectively referred to as "The Year That Maine Burned" were finally extinguished, due to in no small way, the efforts expended by the crew of the U.S.S. Little Rock, and other military units.

Below are re-typed versions of the letters received from First Naval District and the Town of Hollis, Maine
Refer To:  ND1/P15/03

Navy Building
495 Summer St., Boston, Mass.

28 November 1947

From:    Commandant, First Naval District.
To:         Commanding Officer, USS LITTLE ROCK                          CL 92.
Via:       (1)  Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
              (2)  Commander, Battleships-Cruisers,
                     U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
              (3)  Commander, Cruiser Division 10.

Subj:    Letter of Appreciation from the Town
             of Hollis, Maine.

Encl:    (A)    Subject Ltr., of 14 November 1947

1.    Enclosure (A) expresses the sincerest appreciation of the citizens of the town of Hollis, Maine for the assistance of the officers and men of the LITTLE ROCK during the recent fire disaster in Maine. The Commandant, First Naval District, has had many verbal comments on the excellent conduct and performance of duty by members of the crew of the LITTLE ROCK from other locations in Maine. All of these reflect credit on the LITTLE ROCK, and indicate that she is a well organized and efficient ship.

2.    The Commandant takes great pleasure in forwarding enclosure (A) to the Commanding Officer of the LITTLE ROCK.

 /s/ M.L. DEYO
 Rear Admiral USN

November 14, 1947

Commander First Naval District

Dear Sir:
    On behalf of the citizens of this town we wish to express their sincerest appreciation for the men and equipment dispatched to this area during the recent great fire. The men and officers from the cruiser U.S.S. “Little Rock” certainly were a great help in diverting the fire around small villages, in fact, without this cooperation and equipment, working in conjunction with the fire departments of surrounding cities and towns it is doubtful if some of them would have been saved. These men worked as if their own homes were endangered and conducted themselves with the greatest dignity throughout their stay. We are all deeply indebted to those in the Navy who helped us and hope this message will be relayed to them.

                        Yours truly,

                        /s/ Lester J. Grant          
                        /s/ Parker D. Bryon       
                        /s/ Warren L. Walker     
Below are copies of the original letters as received from First Naval District and the Town of Hollis, Maine
1st Naval Dist Hollis Letter

Hollis Letter