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Remembering the fire that changed the logging industry

B.C. Forest Discovery Centre staffer Tim Mitchell secures a 1918 gasoline-powered water pump to a new exhibit called the Burning Snags and Raining Ashes: The Bloedel Fire of 1938 and its Aftermath, on April 12. The exhibit will be on display until end of August. - Andrew Leong
B.C. Forest Discovery Centre staffer Tim Mitchell secures a 1918 gasoline-powered water pump to a new exhibit called the Burning Snags and Raining Ashes: The Bloedel Fire of 1938 and its Aftermath, on April 12. The exhibit will be on display until end of August.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

It was perhaps the greatest disaster to ever hit the Vancouver Island forest industry.

And it will be remembered until August at a new exhibit at the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre.

“The spark that started it all: the Bloedel Fire of 1938 began one hot July afternoon when a spark from a passing locomotive fatefully flew onto a dry pile of logs,” B.C. Forest Discovery Centre curator Jenna Kiesman said in a media release.

“By that evening, the blaze had already grown to five acres in size. By the time the caustic fire ran its course, the Bloedel Fire had burned out of control for almost 30 days and destroyed roughly 30,000 hectares of forested land.”

The dramatic story of the fire — also known as “The Great Fire” and “The Sayward Fire” — will be retold in an exhibit entitled Burning Snags and Raining Ashes: The Bloedel Fire of 1938 and its Aftermath.

“We’re incredibly excited to be presenting this special exhibit throughout the summer season” said Kiesman. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for our visitors and members to come and see a forgotten narrative from Vancouver Island’s history as told through items from our collection.

The exhibit includes a scenic trail marked with interpretive panels, archival images and artifacts. Kiesman said in addition to the drama of the fire itself, it explores the innovative changes in safety and fire fighting practices that occurred shortly thereafter.

“Once the extent of the fire’s devastation was realized, forest officials concluded that natural regeneration would not be enough to ensure a sustainable supply of timber for future use,” Kiesman said. “The Bloedel Fire is important to us today as it marks a turning point in the development of a provincial reforestation program and now, 75 years later, many areas have since been logged and planted again.

The exhibit opens to the public April 20 during the BCFDC’s Easter Eggspress event and runs throughout the spring and summer seasons.

For more, click here.

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