Rhode Island Improves Forest Fire Fighting Methods
Under a new system installed on the recommendation of Governor J. Howard McGrath of Rhode Island, to combat woodland fires in that State, several recent fires in the western side of Rhode Island have been fought in a more efficient manner.
Although Rhode Island, smallest and the most heavily industrialized of the 48 states, would seem to be the least likely place in the country to have a forest fire menace, the fact is that large parts of the State are wooded and the annual fire loss runs into high figures. In 1942 the loss was estimated at one half million dollars.
Eric G. Jacobson is the State’s new Chief Fire Warden and in complete charge of the system now in effect. A variety of new techniques have been worked out, such developments as walkie-talkie radio sets have been called into use, and the annual appropriation for fighting the woodland fires has been increased from §25,000 to $57,000.
The long drought this spring has made conditions dangerous in the woodlands, Warden Jacobson explained, and in many sections the mulch covering woodland ground is dry as tinder to a depth of a foot and will burn beneath the surface if once ignited.
Considerable credit for the fire fighting record in Rhode Island this year is given to groups of servicemen stationed in this area who have been called out to help fight the fires, joining the professional and volunteer fighters. In addition, the United States Navy made available an observation plane during the larger blazes.
This plane soared over the area spotting fresh outbreaks and sending the word by radio to a control point on the ground.
By proclamation of Governor Sumner Sewall of Maine, issued on June 2, the vast forests of that State, were closed to fishermen, except those using boats, in an effort to prevent further outbreaks of fire, which to that date this year, already scarred over 5,000 acres.
Widespread fires raged in Maine as Governor Sewall’s ban took effect. The worst in Piscataquis County, east of Moosehead Lake, had blackened more than 8,000 acres of pulpwood since May 30. More than 10,000 cords of stacked wood at Whitneyville, Me., owned by Hollingworth and Whitney, paper manufacturers, were in the path of the flames at one time with 200 men engaged in fighting this fire. A part of the National forest situated in the State of Maine was closed by order of White Mountains Forest Supervisor A. H. Anderson of Laconia, N. H.