FIRE TROUPERS OF THE CCC
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
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I desire to ask you a favor. A favor which if
performed will save you thousands of dollars and probably human
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
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
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
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
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