UNHOLY SMOKE

O. C. PEASE November 1 1923

UNHOLY SMOKE

O. C. PEASE November 1 1923

UNHOLY SMOKE

O. C. PEASE

A foreword by Hon. Charles Stewart, Minister of the Interior:

“TO THE man on the street who is unimpressed by statistics, even when they reveal appalling losses to our timber resources, by forest fires, Mr. Pease has a message which is at once

informative and interesting.

“Incidentally, there is vividly disclosed something of the stupendous task which confronts those in Canada who are responsible for the protection of her timber and the proper management of her vast forest areas, a task which is impossible of accomplishment without the sympathetic co-operation of the entire Canadian citizenship.”

LIDING like a hawk, and a full mile above the Canadian forest-land, a seaplane swept through the sky. Although the blazing heat of summer lay upon the land, and mosquitoes and black-flies made life miserable in the forest depths, both pilot and observer wore heavily padded Sidcote suits to protect them from the searching, violent wind of an eighty-mile-an-hour flight, and from the chill air of the upper altitudes.

The helmeted and goggled head of the observer was craned constantly over the side of the cockpit as he scanned the immense areas below. From the height at which he flew, all the vari-colored landscape had a bluish tinge upon it. That which he knew as heavy, standing timber, was a dark greenish blue. Bare, out-cropping rock ridges showed a bluish grey; second growth and hardwood forests a light blue-green; even the reddish patches of old burns, of which there were, alas, far too many, had a decided touch of the all-pervading color. But the lakes and ponds and waterways were the bluest of all, a blackish, opalescent blue, dull, opaque, except where the sunlight reflected upward from them when they flashed immediately into silver light.

Turning suddenly from his peering, the observer faced his companion^ put two fingers to his pursed lips as in the act of one. smoking a cigarette, and then pointed overside to a point far below from whence rose a faint whitish vapor. The pilot noted carefully the position indicated, and put the ’plane into a long, slow spiral downward, with the wisp of smoke the centre of the circling.

The observer busied himself with pencil and paper. Upon a large-scale map mounted upon heavy cardboard he pinpricked the location of the snmke Presently, as the ’plane sped away in the direction ol the nearest fire-ranger’s cabin, he inscribed full particulars concerning this apparently insignificant plume of vapor, and its concession and lot numbers, upon a special message form. The message, when completed, he placed in a small canvas sack about three inches square, which was weighted with leaii,, and which had ('two long streamers of red, yellow and blue attached to it.

Then, commencing with the loose streamer ends, he rolled the container and its contents into a tight little ball, and with this carefully held in one hand he climbed out of his seat, wormed his way forward along the exposed, gale-swept deck of the ’plane, and dropped down into the gunpit.

The seaplane,

meanwhile, had nearly reached its temporary objective, and the pilot put its nose downward until the altimeter registered only 1,000 feet. Below, snuggled in a clearing at the edge of a small lake, was a settler’s farm, with the white spot of a tent close beside it. From the doorway of

the cabin several midget humans ran out, attracted by the roar of the motor. Their upturned faces appeared as white pinpoints. The observer in the gunpit, leaning well over the side of the ’plane, waved his arm to them, signal fashion, and then, carefully judging the distance, threw the message bag downward with considerable force. Immediately its streamers spread outward, into a long, rapidly rotating bar of red, yellow and blue, and the midgets below could be seen running toward the spot where it might be expected to land.

Within an hour’s time one or two canoes, equipped with fire-fighting tools, would be speeding to the danger point. By dusk, or by the next dawn at least, the fire would be out—that is, with reasonable luck, depending upon the distance to be covered and the size of the fire when discovered.

Calamity of the Forest Fire

/'"AVER the mighty forests of Quebec, Ontario,

TA the northern prairie provinces and British Columbia, the droning of aeroplane motors tells its own story of a nation awakening at last to the immense value of its forest resources and the ■

serious annual loss occasioned by forest fires. For more than forty years the forestry departments of the Do-

minion Government and the various provinces have striven ceaselessly to combat the national apathy which has existed in this regard, and to overcome the wide-spread but nevertheless entirely untrue belief that Canadian forest resources are inexhaustible. Statistics and information have been collected from almost every country in the world to illustrate graphically to the Canadian public the national calamity which is certain

to follow in the wake of inaction with regard to forest protection. It has been pointed out that the onet i m e seemingly limitless white pine forests of New England and in the region of the Great Lakes in the United States have been practically eradicated within the last seventy years, and that the enormous American forests which once existed are now almost non-extant. Asia Minor is a deforested land in which agriculture and industry are now, in consequence, at the lowest possible ebb. China has suffered to such a huge extent in the matter of forest depletion that its government is plant-

ing mi liions of trees in an effort to recoup. The C edars of Lebanon are no more, and Palestine is famine-stricken.

So the tale runs the world over. In Canada, the negligence we have displayed in the proper protection of our forests is doubtless hereditary. Our pioneer forefathers had actually to hew their homes out of a stupendous forest growth which covered practically every part of the Dominion with the exception of the prairies. Trees, to them, apart from those which they used to fashion the walls of their homes, were an incubus which could only be removed by long and arduous toil unless resort was made to fire. Furthermore, a forest wall which encroached upon the home covered too easily the approach of scalp-taking enemies. Our early Canadians surely developed a distaste and a distrust for too much forest, and in these two factors probably lies the genesis of our attitude to-day.

Picture Canada as it was then, and compare it with the Canada of the present. In those olden days, from the spray-drenched rocks, tidal beaches and nodding marsh grasses of our sea ccasts, one stepped immediately into the cool, green gloom of forestland. Soft mosses and pine needles and leafy mould covered the forest floor, deadening the sound of footfalls and scenting the air with the rich

aroma of woodland. From the Atlantic ¡ytd from the Pacifie Oceans, two giant forests extended inland. Rank on serried rank, the trees mounted upward to clothe the hills and mountains, and descended again to mantle level plains and valleys. Lakes and waterways they hedged closely, jealous even of sandy beaches. Inland, ever inland, and northward and to the south stretched these forests, their skylines constantly changing from the serrated, sharp pointed etching of evergreens to the soft, bosomy roundness of hardwoods. Occasionally swamps and muskegs opened out, breathing spaces for the larger creatures of the woods, and breeding places for countless flocks of wild fowl. But always the forests closed again, and extended onward and inland to that great, central prairie land of grass and countless

flowers which seemed to be illimitable in its extent.

Fire Fiend's Giant Sickle

FLY above this one-time Land of Two Great Forests, you who will not believe in the devastation of our mighty woods! Millions of trees had to go, it is true, in order that civilization might advance, but you will see that the giant sickle of the fire fiend has been far more ruthless than the mere axe of man. Gaze down, you who need proof, upon countless square miles of out-cropping rock from which the very soil has been burned, upon the enormous areas in this Canada of ours on which no glint of green can be seen, but only the blackened spikes of fire-killed trees. Tum in your observer’s seat and beat with vour fist upon the deck of the ’plane and, when you have your pilot's attention, point upward so that he may carry* you higher still. Then, when you have reached five thousand, or six thousand feet, and you look overside once more, all land detail will have been lost and the countrywill stretch out beneath you like a great carpet with a pattern of variegated colors, a carpet upon which, in spots, there appaars to be a fine nap. But only in certain places does this nap exist. It shows in small patches, and in the great areas which surround these patches you can see where the nap used to be. Sometimes you can see the remaining fine, slender threads of it, blackened, broken, flattened out. The small patches of nap are a bluish green in color, and represent the last remnants of Canada’s once wonderful forest. The bluish-black, bluishred areas which hem the patches in upon all sides, and which are enormously larger than the latter, show where the fire-moth has been at work, and will illustrate to you, as possibly nothing else will, the enormous extent to which the splendid fabric of Canada has suffered.

There is, however, still hope that the Dominion may retain some of her forest beauty and forest wealth. The total number of forest fires in Canada in 1919 was 1,313; in 1920 the total was 1,532; and in 1921 it was 1.434. It is not to these figures, however, that we must look for proof of the assertion that Canada is at last awakening to the evil of the forest fire, but rather to the sky over our remaining forest areas from which now comes the droning of aeroplane motors, and to our forest sky-lines against which are rising, in rapidly increasing numbers, high, steel towers capped by tiny houses, from the windows of which lonely men with countless wrinkles at the corners of their eyes look down upon the billowing sea of tree tops during every hour of summer daylight.

Canoe Ranging Obsolete

\S A nation, we have now come -x to realize that the old system of fire-ranging by canoe is practically obsolete. Waterways, which are usually the only possible travelroutes in the backwoods, do not at all lend themselves to observation purposes. A ranger’s canoe might pass within a few hundred yards of an incipient fire and miss it entirely, owing to the fact that it was hidden behind a hill or high-itanding timber. Again, when canoe rangers

discovered a fire of any magnitude which could not be put out by two men, the time taken to paddle and portage any considerable distance, and then to procure, and return with, men and tools, had meanwhile, more frequently than otherwise, allowed the fire to grow to enormous and exceedingly costly proportions.

For these reasons, therefore, the days of paddling fire-rangers may be taken as numbered. To them, individually and personally, we should extend our heartfelt thanks for all the good work which they accomplished, and acknowledge gratefully our appreciation of their lives of loneliness and hardship, of long hours

bucking head-winds, of spills in treacherous rapids, of their unfailing courtesy and helpfulness in camp and at portage, and of the many splendid lessons they taught us in common-sense woodcraft and forest protection. They leave us not because their individual Efforts were inefficient, but because the task was far too great for them and the issue at stake too monumental.

Within the last three years, Canada has made remarkable strides in perfecting more effective machinery for the curbing of forest fires. Considering the question broadly, three main essentials are observed—speedy detection, quick communication, and finally the rapid transportation of men, tools, pumps, tents, blankets and food supplies to the points of danger. Proportionate to the

amount of hazard involved, every province in Canada is now most actively engaged in developing the new system, or perhaps it should be called a double-system of organization, for the reason that it concerns both towers and seaplanes, and is being aided

and counselled to the fullest possible extent by the Dominion Forestry Branch at Ottawa.

In the matter of detection, observation towers have long been used in Canada. In the past, however, these were infrequently scattered at best and were unequipped with the proper facilities for quick communication. In the more settled areas, where adequate help is available in case of fire and where the country is sufficiently rolling to permit the placing of towers upon dominant ridges, these are now being rapidly erected. Properly linked together by telephone, and with direct telephone communication w’ith various central headquarters

from which assistance may be obtained, the modernized tower system has already proved itself capable of meeting all difficulties with the exception of one—namely, quick transportation to the danger point. To cite a case in point, for instance, a fire occurred in the Tweed District in Ontario this summer. Within five minutes four separate towers reported this fire, and as each tower gave its compass bearing of the smoke, the process of intersection enabled the Tweed office to calculate the exact location almost immediately.

The observer in one of these towers was an ex-army man, light and wiry in build, and with that somewhat unfathomable look in his paleblue eyes that men acquire gazing across wide stretches of sea or land. I asked him if he liked his observer’s job better than that of watching over the top for Huns, and he replied, “Yes, I kinder

d sight more lonesome!”

think 1 do. But it’s a d

Observation from Seaplanes

'T'HERE are, however, millions of acres of forest land in I Canada which are practically uninhabited, and where the only means of travel is by canoe and portage. Oftentimes even the canoe routes might not run sufficiently close to the location of a fire to make it readily accessible to fire-fighting crews who approached by water, yet there would probably be a nearby lake which would be large enough to permit the landing of a seaplane. In such areas, the seaplane offers the only possible alternative, but it is, nevertheless, an alternative which can conveniently over-

come all three of the difficulties mentioned above

In one flight this summer a machine flew 240 miles. As the radius of visibility on the trip in question was thirty miles, the observer consequently “covered” an area of 14,400 square miles. Anything in the nature of a fire in that district, unless it had been very small indeed, would certainly have been discovered. Although the reporting of fires by wireless from moving ’planes is now being experimented upon, and will doubtless be a valuable factor in the near future, this unequipped ’plane could have returned to its base if necessary, picked up a fire-fighting force and supplies, and landed them close to any danger spot in the area within a period of a very few hours. This, as a matter of fact, has already been done upon numerous occasions.

During the last few years it has been the policy of the Dominion Government to co-operate with the various provinces in the carrying out of experimental work as regards air operations, this with a view to paving the way for similar operations on a commercial basis by pioving their

possibilities. The Government has no desire to remain in this field, however, but prefers that the provinces initiate their own services or else contract for the work with commercial firms.

In 1921 the Royal Canadian Air Force operated a unit from Sioux Lookout, Ontario, and in 1922 carried on an extensive system of fire patrols by air from \\ hitney and Parry Sound. These efforts were so eminently successful Continued on page 56

Continued from, page 14

that the Ontario Government took over the work on its own account at the beginning of 1923, contracting with the Laurentide Air Service, Limited, to carry it out. Flying over northern Ontario, therefore, has been constant this last summer, actual operations being directed from the Sudbury office of the provincial forestry branch. The Company also established its headquarters in Sudbury, and through the provision of fuel stations at Parry Sound, Rock Lake, Grand Lake, Trout Lake, Timagami Station, Gowgama, Biscotasing, Tatnall, Orient Bay and the Soo, was able to cover a very considerable portion of the wilderness forest area in the northern part of the province.

In the Province of Quebec a similar development has taken place. After three years of work in the Lake St. John region, the Dominion Government turned over its equipment to the provincial foresters. Here, again, arrangements similar to the above were made with a commercial firm. One experience which the Quebec Forestry Branch had this summer is most interesting. The start of a fire was reported from the headwaters of the Bersimis River, and a seaplane was requisitioned to prove the veracity of the statement. Affirmative information was obtained within a few hours, whereas it would have taken a crew of excellent canoe men fifteen days to obtain the same corroboration. The Quebec Government’s experiences, so far, are such that it has been decided to use ’planes for the protection of the north shore of the St. Lawrence and of New Quebec. With regard to the rest of the province, however,

it is believed that the nature of the country and the conditions therein are such that lookout stations will be sufficiently effective.

The Dominion maintains units in the field in Manitoba, with headquarters at Winnipeg and operating bases at Victoria Beach on Lake Winnipeg, at Norway House at the northern extremity of that lake, and at The Pas near the Saskatchewan border. In Alberta there are other headquarters at High River, and in British Columbia there is an operating unit at Vancouver. British Columbia furnishes the sole exception to the Dominion Government’s policy, as the R. C. A. F. is prepared to carry on work for the provincial government on a repayment basis, as in past years—this for the reason that no commercial firm is as yet established on the Pacific Coast and a federal station in that area is otherwise considered as essential. In the Maritime Provinces a station is maintained at Dartmouth, on Halifax Harbour, but except for a few photographic operations for the Water Powers Branch, this unit is intended chiefly for service purposes and not for fire patrol.

The Business of Flying

CANADA’S experiences to date, in the use of seaplanes for forest fire patrol, prove conclusively that the flying boat is a valuable commercial and peace-time asset. Much as I would like to cozen romantic maidens and imaginative youths who may picture seaplanes as skimming over the tree-tops and the pilots and observers as wearing “natty” uniforms, I am afraid I must resist the impulse. Flying at low altitudes may be interesting —one could surprise the bears in the act of clawing at a log for grubs, or chase the ducks from marsh to marsh—but it would be neither safe nor valuable from a forestry point of view. The business of flying, in this respect at least, is a matter-offact, cut and dried proposition from start to finish which has to do with the saving of as much as possible of the Dominion’s forest wealth. Sky-blue uniforms, gold insignia and decorations have no place in forestry aviation. The Sidcote suit which is usually worn to-day is merely a heavy, fleece-lined, overall sort of garment, more often grease-stained than otherwise. Commercial flying, fascinating as it may be, carries with it none of the glamour of war-time.

Major G. A. Thompson, a pilot who has flown extensively over almost every part of Canada, tells me that flying over the mountainous regions of British Columbia is not any more difficult or dangerous than it is anywhere else, as the local atmospheric conditions do not lend themselves to the “bumps” usually experienced in rough country. Furthermore, the numerous

lakes among the Rockies afford more than the average number of landing-places to choose from in case of a forced descent. As a matter of fact I rather fancy that Major Thompson would prefer British Columbia to be the scene of his flying exploits. The scenery, he claims, is “quite wonderful,” and I can well believe him. He is an ardent exponent of the safety of flying, and claims it to be much less hazardous than most of the ordinary “walks” of life, by which I take it that he refers to St. Catherine street in Montreal on a busy afternoon, or to the corner of King and Yonge streets in Toronto, or to Portage avenue in Winnipeg. As a matter of statistical fact he has ample backing for his claims in the comparative absence of even minor mishaps as reported in various aeronautical records. J. T. O’Gorman, one of the observers who flew for the Ontario Government, calls flying boats “trucks.” Certainly the nonchalance with which he moves about on his own craft while it is many theusands of feet high is a sure enough sign that his confidence in them is complete.

Handling of Forest Fires

IN DEALING with the question of forest fires thus far, particular emphasis has been laid upon speed in detection, in reporting to proper headquarters, and in the transportation of men, equipment and supplies to the point of danger. It has been suggested that an elaborate organization is absolutely necessary before firefighters can be brought to the blaze, but there still remains, finally, the task of putting it out. The most important thing, however, is to catch the fire at its incipiency when it is fairly easy to extin-

guish, because once it has developed into a conflagration no human agency would make this possible. A large fire can at times be headed off by setting other and smaller fires in front of it and so burning a swath which it could not jump, but this is about all that can possibly be accomplished. Only a heavy and continuous rain can put out a really large fire, although it can be directed occasionally by the swath-burning method towards a lake or a fair-sized stream, and then be allowed to burn itself out.

Even small fires, however, are oftentimes stubborn and require a frightful amount of effort to master. Each one has to be studied, and handled in accordance with its individual characteristics—the density of the wood, wind direction, and the value of forest and property in the path which the fire may be expected to take. Here again the use of ’planes for aerial observation has proved to be of incalculable benefit, and fire rangers who have been able to thus study their tasks have found them much less difficult.

Heretofore, the tools mainly used in fire-fighting have been the axe, the pick and the shovel, but a new development is now taking place through the advent of the portable pump. One of these models weighs only sixty pounds, yet it generates one hundred and eighty pounds pressure and can throw a fair-sized stream at least a hundred feet. Such a pump can be transported by ’plane, speedboat, motor car or canoe, and it can be carried quite easily by two men.

Co-operation the Remedy

The report of the Air Board for 1922 recently issued tells a story of bewildering magnitude and significance to those who care to send for it. The closest kind of co-operation has been developed between the Air Board, the Dominion Forestry Branch, and the various provincial forestry services. The Canadian Forestry Association and its publication, the Canadian Forestry Magazine edited so ably by Robson Black, are doing a splendid work. Our railways have followed suit. In the case of the C.P.R.. for instance, approximately one-half of the right-of-way in Eastern Canada is flanked by forest areas. In all districts where fire constitutes a menace, this road maintains a permanent patrol, one man with a velocipede covering a seven mile frontage. Engineers and firemen are given explicit instructions regarding the dumping of live coals, and are forbidden to throw waste upon, or near, the track. Tank car units and hose are kept ready for immediate operation at strategic points. This particular railway now claims that it has ceased to be a factor in the destruction of forests, and states that the majority of the fires which its employes are called upon to fight are, more often than otherwise, clearly the fault of settlers or are caused by carelessly thrown cigarette ends and matches on such parts of the right-of-way as are not paralleled by roads.

The callous indifference of settlers in the back areas, however, is most difficult to understand. The city-bred person

may, with reason, consider that the average backwoodsman or farmer whose property is surrounded by forest would sense the danger of the first pungent whiff of smoke. But he doesn’t in the least. Government foresters have told me that it is exceedingly difficult to get settlers to assist in the fighting of adjacent fires. One chap positively

refused to help in putting out a fire which was burning on his own property. In another instance the ’plane in which I was flying circled above a fire of considerable magnitude which was burning within a quarter of a mile of a settler’s barns, but as far as we could see he had made no effort at all to extinguish it. There was no possibility of his being unaware of the existence of a fire somewhere in his locality, for the reason that the smoke of it was blowing directly across the little clearing in which his buildings were located.

Seven hundred thousand square miles of Canadian timber lands have gone up in smoke, and yet spectacular fires, like that of Haileybury last year, are few and far between. The loss of life through forest conflagrations, as compared with this enormous material depredation of the fire-fiend, is remarkably low, and is not to be mentioned in the same breath with the number of fatalities on city streets. Nor is the loss of buildings and

stock and farm gear comparable in the least degree, serious as it has been, to the great and useless destruction of forest trees in Canada which takes place every year. The real tragedy of the forest fires is the numerical strength of them, the annual sapping of our natural resources, and the consequent loss to Canada from a national point of view.

Lessons to be Learned

ONLY through continuing and augmenting the co-operation of various interests in Canada, as indicated above, and in the education of our settlers in the matter of forest protection, may Canadians look forward with confidence to the preservation of our timber and pulpwood resources. Statistics show that town-bred persons who might come under the heading of “campers and travellers” are responsible for less than ten per cent, of the fires which occur. The average city man, as a matter of fact, rather prides himself on his little trick of rubbing a burnt match between his fingers before he throws it away. The 1921 statistics of “causes,” however, show that nearly twenty-five per cent, of fires have originated from woods dwellers, and there can be little or no doubt but that these latter, occupying, as they do, areas adjacent to railroad lines, are also very largely responsible for the bulk of the thirty-five per cent, of the fire total now attributed to railway operation. Our legislation should unquestionably be so framed that carelessness and negligence should meet with drastic punishment, and that offenders who deliberately set out fires to clear the land for berry-picking, or for the purpose of attracting game later on, or to burn the soil from the rocks in order that prospecting for minerals may be made more easy, should be given stiff terms in the penitentiary.

It is to be remembered that adequate fire protection has not yet been attained anywhere in Canada, and that Canadians have still a big task before them. In all our national life there is no part or section that will not be most seriously affected by the continuation of forest fires. Agricultural possibilities in those parts of the country which are affected are ruined for years to come through the destruction of the soil and the rainattracting trees. We talk of our developed and potential water power resources, but without our trees these would finally dwindle until '•hey would hardly turn a boy’s paddle-wheel made out of a cigar box. The development of tourist traffic from the United States into Canada is only in its infancy if we protect our beauty spots, yet we are already reaping millions of dollars a year from Americans who come into Canada in search for the game which has been driven out of their country through the depletion of their forests by fire. Even for those who neither hunt nor fish, the shores of our wooded lakes are a recreational heritage which we must preserve at all costs.

There are various kinds of smoke. There is the kind that rises from altar candles, before shrines, in sacred, holy precincts fragrant with incense. There is the comfortable, home-y smoke of farm kitchens, that speaks of gleaming ranges, clean kettles, shining pans and homespun clothing. There is the smoke of industry, voluminous and black, which hangs like a pall above our cities, which puts smudgy marks upon the faces of urban Canadians, yet which speaks of honest dollars earned in our factories, of children being given good educations, and of Christian homes. Yet for all the pleasant odor of a distant forest fire, it is the devil's brew a-burning in our midst which must be stamped out at all cost. It is not enough that we should be merely aware of the calamity that threatens. We must act, and act immediately. It is not enough to think of forest fires in the terms of the several big holocausts which Canada has known in the past. We must think of the countless smaller fires, trivial in their individuality perhaps, but monstrous in their numerical strength. These glowing sores, these hideous fire moths, call them what you will, are quickly and surely destroying the splendid fabric of Canada, for, to our airmen, at least, our country does seem like a fabric, splendidly marvelous and beautiful, that spreads out beneath them every day they fly, in a wondrous pattern of variegated greens, tinged with bluish light.