The Regional Review

Volume II - No. 6

June, 1939


By Gerald H. Hyde,

Soon after the disastrous New England hurricane of 1938, Civilian Conservation Corps camps were shifted to new locations to take up the important task of reducing the immense fire hazard which was left in its path. In the middle of one of these severe "blow-down" areas a site was selected for the company then assigned to Pittsfield State Forest, Massachusetts. The camp was moved in December to Warwick State Forest (SP-30) and, since its occupancy of that area, has made noteworthy advances in spreading the word of fire prevention.

During February the CCC Educational Adviser and our National Park Service personnel prepared a dramatic story on fire prevention, and with this and an orchestra using camp-made musical instruments, the Camp SP-30 Troupers were born. Many hard hours of training by Junior Foreman William Chapman were necessary to give the show its finishing touches.

Word spread that the Civilian Conservation Corps at Warwick had a fire prevention show, and it was first presented to the public on March 8 at the local Town Hall to a group of 300 townspeople. After this many calls came for a showing in neighboring towns. The following speech, given by Enrollee James Pike, was so expressive that every public-spirited citizen who heard it wanted his neighbor to hear it:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I desire to ask you a favor. A favor which if performed will save you thousands of dollars and probably human lives.

As a result of the September hurricane, fire hazard exists in your forests. In the words of forestry experts, it is the worst fire hazard that has ever existed in the eastern United States. Because you were near the center of the hurricane and because of the many pine trees in your forests, many Massachusetts towns are in an especially dangerous position.

During the coming fire season these pine trees will dry out to tinder. They will ignite from the smallest spark. Should fires occur, timber and buildings will be destroyed. Once they become large, whole towns could be wiped out. Every fire will destroy the forest floor. This prevents new trees from growing. Every fire will increase the flood hazard. Every fire will destroy our wildlife and game. These are real dangers, which my fellow workers and I can see every day.

To help prevent this destruction the Government and the State have called here every available agency to work on the reduction of the fire hazard. But despite our greatest efforts, the hazard will be reduced only partially when summer comes. The dangers will still be present.

Therefore, to protect life and property a forest fire fighting organization is being built in the CCC. Each enrollee is receiving intensive training in the best methods of combatting forest fires. These men will be on hand to answer a call from proper authority to fight at any time within their assigned area. In addition selected CCC enrollees are receiving instruction in fire detection. These men during the fire season will patrol the dangerous areas.

Thus everything possible is being done by the National Park Service, the Forest Service and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation, to protect you and your property. But all these efforts may mean nothing. The worst can happen. Fire can ravage this section. It all depends on you. Yes, each individual here. Fire once started in these forests, especially in a wind, will be almost impossible to control. The only cure is to prevent them from being started. Ninety-eight per cent of all forest fires are caused by human carelessness. Thus they can be prevented. It will mean obeying these four simple rules:

1. Never throw away a match, cigarette or cigar without first being positive that it is out.

2. Do not burn rubbish, brush or grass during dry weather.

3. Obey all laws and regulations in regard to open fires. Be sure there isn't a single spark left alive when you leave a camping fire.

4. Insist that all lumbering mills, railroads and other machinery are equipped with spark arresters, and that proper fire lanes are maintained.

By strictly obeying these rules you will be helping me and all the others now doing forestry work to prevent forest fires.

But the favor I ask is more than this. I ask that you warn and teach others. Don't be content to watch yourself. Use every chance you have to drive the message home to others. Remember that a careless ten per cent of the people will destroy our work. I beg that you do me this favor - prevent fires.

Fourteen husky enrollees make up the musical novelty show to accompany Enrollee Pike. The group has spread the word of fire prevention in Town Halls, Grange Halls, American Legion Meetings, Rotary Clubs, Rod and Gun Clubs, and have broadcast from WHAI, Greenfield; WTAG, Worcester, and WBRK, Pittsfield. Aside from the radio broadcasts, the attendance records show that 6,195 men and women have heard the message.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002