Maine's Great Fire

Not long after the end of World War ll there was an event that shook Maine its core. The year was 1947, and the state had just gone through a significant drought that summer. However, the fall didn't bring rain. Instead, it was just more of the same. According to the National Park Service, it was the driest year on record for Mount Dessert Island. This ultimately was a recipe for disaster.

Above is a map of one of the costliest fires in Maine history. And, according to the New England Historical Society, it all started with a call from a resident about a small fire close to her home.

Mrs. Gilbert called the Bar Harbor Fire department on Oct. 17, 1947, to alert them to the smoke rising from a nearby cranberry bog. What caused the fire, no one ever knew. But the world would soon find out about the inferno that destroyed half of Acadia National Park and nearly all of the mansions on Millionaire’s Row in Bar Harbor.

The dry land and heavy winds caused by the drought were the perfect catalyst for a massive fire disaster. According to the National Park Service, what started with a slow burn quickly intensified after a few days. Shifting winds made it even more difficult to contain, as the fire twisted and turned in numerous directions.

Acadia National Park via Facebook
Acadia National Park via Facebook

Maine's Great Fire Aftermath

According to the Park Service, when it was finally contained after 10 days, the damage was inconceivable. More than 17,000 acres of land had burned, with 10,000 of those in Acadia National Park. There would be more than $23 million worth of damage. And, sadly, five people had died due to the fire directly or from its impact.

1947 Maine Fires

Mount Dessert Island's fire was just one of many that year in Maine. The drought absolutely wreaked havoc on the state. The New England Historical Society has some jarring stats from that fall.

From October 13 to October 27, firefighters tried to fight 200 Maine fires, consuming a quarter of a million acres of forest and wiping out nine entire towns. The Maine fires destroyed 851 homes and 397 seasonal cottages, leaving 2,500 people homeless.


The state rebuilt. The forests naturally regrew. Volunteer fire brigades started popping up. And while Maine reacted well to the disastrous year, 1947 will always be a reminder about how dangerous drought conditions can be.

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