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More of the Book's Revelations

• During the Depression, some jobless men were eager to fight fires for a mere 25 cents an hour, while others were pressed into service by forest officers. In 1931 crews from federal relief camps spent weeks in the sweltering Okanagan fighting the McKinney fire — only to be told the government couldn’t afford to pay them at all.

• The Bloedel fire of 1938, near Campbell River scorched 30,000 hectares of Vancouver Island. Two destroyers from the Esquimalt naval base sailed to Campbell River, then Comox, to prepare for possible evacuation by sea.

One crew of firefighters escaped the Bloedel blaze huddled on a flatcar under a wetted canvas. “The flatcar caught fire several times, as did one man’s coat, but they walked into the company office, remarked that ‘it was pretty hot up there’ and asked for their next assignment.”

• In 1958 the only airplanes fighting fires were cropdusters, whose meagre payloads could evaporate before they hit the ground. MacMillan Bloedel pilot Dan McIvor learned that the U.S. navy had sold its four remaining Martin Mars flying boats for scrap — and the modern water-bomber was born.

• In May, 1983 a pair of young Swiss campers were smoking trout on the shore of Widen Lake, near Houston, when their makeshift smokehouse caught fire. The resulting blaze would cover 18,000 hectares, destroying more than one million cubic metres of lumber and six homes in the ranching community of Buck Flats.

• The 1998 Silver Creek fire drove 7,000 people from their homes in Salmon Arm - the largest peacetime evacuation in the province’s history.