Dateline Cowichan: Fires a real danger in the Cowichan woods

Duncan’s Emporium construction circa 1901: workers rest during construction of Duncan Emporium’s second location at the corner of Craig and Station streets. - courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive
Duncan’s Emporium construction circa 1901: workers rest during construction of Duncan Emporium’s second location at the corner of Craig and Station streets.
— image credit: courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive

Minimal rainfall during spring and summer always prompts advice on preventing fire in the woods.

But in July 1938, the warnings failed when the most famous forest fire in B.C.’s history sprang to life in the forests beyond Campbell River. Before the Bloedel fire was over, it burned some 74,500 acres. Here in Cowichan, the long hot summer drought also took its toll: dense smoke from fires across the Island hung like a pall, logging camps closed, and farmers turned their livestock into their oat fields, saying the oats were not considered worth cutting.

One day, the humidity at Lake Cowichan dropped to 14 and at Duncan 32. In all, 30 fires had sprung up by mid-July. Forestry men spent a weekend attending to a 10-acre fire at Deerholme and a 35-acre blaze on the Malahat. In the municipality, a grass fire near Maple Bay’s Maple Inn was extinguished by municipal workers. On Highland Avenue, off Gibbins Road, 10 youngsters helped the municipality douse a bush fire. According to Duncan city hall, it was the hottest July in four years, with temperatures soaring to 95 degrees F.

The dramatic story of the Bloedel fire is being told at the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre in a new temporary exhibit.

1938: schools

At the annual meeting of Mayo School District held in the senior room of the new two-roomed school, Major L. C. Rattray was re-elected trustee. Mr. L. Kenyon was chosen as auditor.

1938: track

Cowichan track star Yvonne Dingley, a member of Canada’s Empire Games team, won her specialty 90-yard hurdles at a Powell River meet in a time of 13.25 seconds. Her Dominion record was 13.1 seconds.

1938: building

North Cowichan issued building permits to Mr. M. J. Green for a $1,000 house on Drinkwater Road, to Mr. J. C. Norcross for an $800 home on Norcross Road, and to Mr. W. Waldon Jr. for a $750 house on Stamps Road.

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