Big Forest Fire on Cape Cod
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from Bourne and Monument Beach to Sagamore and East Sandwich, was recently swept by a disastrous forest fire which laid waste thousands of acres of timber land and threatened several towns with destruction. The fire raged for three days and nights and jumped roads and clearings in spite of the efforts of several hundred fire fighters working under direction of the forest wardens. One vacant homestead was burned and in many cases the flames were stopped within a few feet of farm houses and residences. Back firing was finally resorted to and a ditch nine miles long was cut with a motor plow and this proved an effective barrier from which to start back fires and prevent the main fire from crossing into new territory.
Several times when the fire was believed to be under control a shift in direction of the wind fanned the flames to renewed fury. Extensive use was made of chemical extinguishers which were transported along woods roads on motor trucks. Shovels and brooms were also employed to beat out the advancing lines of fire, but the main fire could only be checked by starting back fires from main roads and intersecting highways and confining the flames to a section about five miles square which was done after a large territory had been burned over. Plumbers’ blow torches were used to start the back fires which swept in and joined the main blaze until both died out for want of further fuel. If the main fire had not met the area already burned it would have easily crossed the road.
Chemical engines and motor pumpers were sent to Sagamore from Plymouth and motor apparatus was also sent from Falmouth. The flames raged fiercely in the vicinity of Forestdale between Pocassct and East Sandwich. Coffee, sandwiches, and drinking water were sent in to the fire fighters, many of whom were so exhausted that they lay asleep by the roadside.
The section of woods burned was just to the south and east of the Cape Cod canal and in some places the flames extended nearly to the banks of the waterway where navigation was made difficult by the heavy smoke. Motor cycle police from the state constabulary patrolled the burned area by the roads and diverted the heavy auto traffic.
The woods were very dry as there had been no rainfall for several weeks before the flames broke out. There were conflicting reports as to the origin of the blaze, one story giving a broken high tension wire and sparks from a short circuit as the cause and the other report being that cigars or cigarettes thrown aside by telephone linemen were responsible. More than 20,000 acres of woodland, much of it state reservation property, were burned over. High credit was given to P. H. Lombard, of Forestdale, who drove his 45 horsepower Holt farm tractor attached to a plow and made a long ditch which would have required great labor to dig by hand. The plant of the Keith Freight Car Company at Sagamore was threatened and also the high school at Bourne.