As wildfires continue to devastate the Western United States, prompting experts to remark on how long this year’s wildfire season is stretching, I’m reminded of a spate of similar late-season wildfires that struck my home state of Maine 70 years ago next month. I wrote about these fires in “Maine Burned,” the latest installment of NFPA Journal’s Looking Back section.
After an especially rainy spring and a hot, dry summer, the fall of 1947 brought massive wildfires to the Pine Tree State. Striking mostly in October, the blazes torched over 200,000 acres of land and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, many of them mansions in coastal resort areas like Kennebunkport and Mount Desert Island. What we’ve seen happening this year in Western states, including Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, and Utah, has followed the same pattern: Rain, vegetation growth, and heat, followed by wildfires. It’s a cycle wildfire experts know well.
These fires and the ones that struck Maine in 1947 underscore the importance of being prepared for wildfires anywhere, anytime. While you might not think of wildfires occurring in a state like Maine—let alone Maine in October—history proves otherwise. Visit firewise.org for tips and tools on preparing for a wildfire.