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THE 1947 WILDFIRE SEASON

70 Years of Lessons from Acadia National Park, Maine, and Beyond

1947 has been called “The Year Maine Burned.” By October, dry weather patterns set the stage for disastrous wildfires across the northeastern U.S. and Canadian Maritimes. On October 17, 1947, a fire started in Bar Harbor, Maine, that would spread through the town and Acadia National Park. Raging fires burned through forests and towns across Maine and neighboring states and provinces, leaving hundreds of thousands of acres of devastation in their wake. Help poured in from near and far. The recovery process was slow, but the landscape and communities mostly healed in time.


The world we live in today is very different because of the 1947 wildfire season. Out of the ashes of that fire, the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission was created to promote effective prevention and control of forest fires in the northeastern U.S. and neighboring Canadian provinces. State and federal agencies, local fire departments, and allied organizations work cooperatively to cope with wildfires. Scientists study fire in order to better understand it, control it, and prevent it from causing harm. Fire managers use prescribed fire and other tools to reduce the threat of wildfires. We are far better prepared for extreme fire events today than we were in 1947.


But is it enough? Over the last 70 years, lessons have been learned, but memories have also faded of the devastating events of 1947. The information at the links below is intended to provide some context for critical lessons from the 1947 fires in Acadia National Park, Maine, and beyond.


Information resources:


Who fights big fires today?

Learn about the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission


What did the 1947 fire do to Acadia National Park?

Read the National Park Service’s summary of the Fire of 1947


What did the 1947 fire do to Mount Desert Island?

Explore an interactive account of the 1947 fire by the Mount Desert Island Historical Society


What other fires burned in Maine in 1947?

View maps of the 1947 fires and watch excerpts from the documentary, October Fury


What wildland fire leadership lessons can be learned from the Bar Harbor fire?

Read the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Staff Ride summary with maps and information about the 1947 fire


What is happening in 2017 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1947 fire?

Join us for a series of events examining lessons and future challenges from the Great Acadia Fire, including:

• A documentary film premiere created by the Bar Harbor Historical Society

• A workshop on climate and disturbance scenario planning in Acadia National Park

• A Bar Harbor history walk

• A science and management panel on the 1947 fire: What happened? Could it happen again? What if it happened again?

• A field trip for fire managers and scientists following the path of the 1947 fire and lessons learned.

This series of events is hosted by the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange, the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission, the Acadia National Park Fire Management Program, the Maine Forest Service, and numerous partners.