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The Great Fire of 1922: The Haileybury Fire


Haileybury Heritage Museum
Haileybury, Ontario

The summer of 1922 was unusually hot and dry in northern Ontario, so hot and dry that worried fire rangers asked the government for permission to stay on for the approaching "burning" season, when farmers were allowed to clear land with small brush fires. Bureaucrats, however, denied the request and on September 12th, all fire rangers left the area around Lake Temiskaming. With burning permits now unnecessary, settlers were quick to take advantage and farmers began to set the small fires needed to improve their land. On October 4th, gentle fall breezes unexpectedly turned into hurricane-force winds. The small fires, burning on ground dried out from summer heat, soon merged into an inferno. In Haileybury, citizens paid little attention to the smoke, at first no different than the smoke that drifted into town every year during burning season. When the flames approached the town, however, people panicked. In the thick, black smoke, families had difficulty finding each other. A clerk at the telegraph office wired to North Bay, "Haileybury is on Fire. Send help!" Most people headed to the lake, covering themselves with wool blankets, where they waited, shivering, for six hours. By midnight the fire had finally burnt itself out, leaving 90% of Haileybury in cinders.

 

 

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