1952 Fire

From the Post – Record daily newspaper Sydney , Nova Scotia

July 28, 1952

Number of Homes in Path of Blaze
New Campbellton, July 28

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Residents of this district had a second night of anxious vigil as a forest fire burning on the top of Kelly’s Mountain threatens the safety of the homes in the entire area.
Forest rangers from all over Victoria County were alerted Saturday afternoon and have been on continuous duty since that time.

The fire was observed by Forest Ranger Allister MacDonald of the North River station at approximately 4 P. M. Saturday, who immediately alerted the Big Bras d’Or station, which is the nearest to the scene of the fire.

Norman Morrison, forest ranger for that station did not waste any time in mustering his squad which set out by truck with all necessary fire-fighting equipment.


However, on arriving at Cape Dauphin, the nearest approach, it was found that reaching the center of the fire with their apparatus was impossible, and the men went to work blazing a trail to the top of the mountain.

It was about 10 p.m. before this first crew of ten men came within a mile of the fire after fighting their way through an almost impassible tangle of under brush and fallen tree trunks.

As nothing could be done to combat the fire without equipment, the men returned to the base and an emergency crew was sent in to the central station at Baddeck.

By 6 a.m. yesterday forest ranger stations from Baddeck, Englishtown and North River as well as the Big Bras d’Or station reported for duty. The chief ranger for Victoria county as well as an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, equipped with a “walkie-talkie” were on hand.

A full force of over 50 fire-fighters fought a losing battle to halt a fire which already threatened to wipe out the entire settlement which nestled at the foot of the mountain.


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This morning a bulldozer of Highways will attempt to open a trail to the top of the mountain over which pumpers and other fire fighting equipment may be transported. If this is successful it may yet be possible to get the fire under control.

Older residents of the district can recall the time when this mountain burned out about 70 years ago. At that time raging flames swept from Big Harbour to Cape Dauphin, a distance of almost twenty miles.

Burning embers were carried to the Boularderie side of the Bras d’Or Lakes, almost four miles away; and fire-watchers maintained a constant vigil to extinguish the many fires that started on that side of the Lake.

It was following this fire Kelly’s Mountain became a haven for blueberry pickers as that was the nature of the after growth.

The burning of the mountain would present a more serious situation today, since what were once cleared farms are now covered with dense spruce, and a fire raging out of control might spread over a wide area. (it is noted that this refers to the old farming community at base of mountain along the shore)

Aerial observation was taken at different times during the day and communication was maintained with fire fighters. This, however, was of little value since approach to the scene with adequate equipment was impossible.

The cause of the fire has not been determined. However, evidence of a recent campfire was located near the fire and it is believed by some that careless campers could have caused the blaze.

Last night a weird glow could be seen over Kelly’s Mountain as residents on both sides of the Bras d’Or lakes keep their anxious vigil.

July 29, 1952

Little Valuable Timber Destroyed by Outbreak

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Rindress MacKenzie of Big Bras d’Or performed a titanic task today when he smashed a road to the top of Kelly’s Mountain with a big Department of Highways bulldozer so that rangers and volunteer firefighters could lug equipment up to battle a fire that has been burning on the table land since Saturday.

He began the rugged accent at 7 o’clock this morning and for a distance of over two miles uprooted trees and pushed aside big boulder. Five hours later he reached the top completing what he termed “the toughest job he ever had”.

Rangers and volunteer fighters from the surrounding districts then began the long climb carrying stirrup pumps filled with approximately 60 pounds of water over the rough trail blazed by the “dozer”.

Chief Ranger, Allister Fraser (actually District Forester) and Corporal Housers of the Northside detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived at the scene at an early hour this morning and directed operations which are been carried on continuously over rough terrain in an attempt to halt the spread of the fire, in the Cape Dauphin area.

A second big bulldozer arrived from Sydney this afternoon and John W. MacAulay of Big Bras d”Or will take it up the winding trail that leads to the scene of the fire.


It is reported that the two machines will be sent to dig a trench around the fire which will form a fire-break and it is hoped that in this manner its spread will be checked. Rain, to, is forecast for tomorrow night.

Knowing the disastrous results if the fire gets into the heavily wooded sections surrounding both New Campbellton and Englishtown on either side of the mountain, scores of men have kept up the fight since the blaze was observed by Ranger Allister MacInnis at North River Saturday.

The men returning from their long shift on the mountain are tired, all agreeing that it is a “tough job” to fight a fire under the conditions encountered on the top of the mountain.

A slight change in winds today seemed to alter the direction in which the fire had been traveling. Smoke as not visible from the Big Bras d’Or side, but travelers from the northern part of Cape Breton said that it could be seen for miles.

Fire Ranger Norman Morrison, of Big Bras d’Or said we expect to win the battle tomorrow.

More then 100 acres have burned already in the area, 40 miles from Sydney but no valuable timber was destroyed.


Residents of this area were breathing easier tonight after two al-night [sic] vigils watching the glow of flames dangerously near. Some have been on duty since Saturday without rest.

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The forefighting [sic] force is made up of Rangers called from throughout Victoria County, members of the R. C. M. P. and volunteers.

The flames spread unchecked yesterday and most of today while fire fighters tried to penetrate the thick woods to reach the blaze. R. C. M. P. using walkie-talkies led about 50 men into the area yesterday, but they were powerless to check the fire with their light equipment.

Older residents of New Campbellton, in the shadow of Kelly's Mountain remember the big blaze of 70 years ago when flames raced 20 miles over the peak.

From July 30, 1952 edition


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Aided effectively by last night’s heavy rainfall the forest fire in the Cape Dauphin area of towering Kelly’s mountain was definitely “out” today, according to a spokesman.

Firefighters comprising forest rangers and volunteers fought the stubborn outbreak since last Saturday afternoon.

Monday, bulldozers tore through the wooded slopes to reach the scene, thus enabling the transportation of firefighting equipment to the area.

The fire swept an area of 150 acres, some of it fairly good timberland, it was reported.

A 40 foot swath was cut around the fire yesterday and encircled by bulldozers in a move to prevent the flames from jumping to other sections.


Rindress MacKenzie and John W. MacAulay who worked continuously for the day ripping and tearing a path around the fire which has been burning in the underbrush, stated last night that the conditions were the worst they ever encountered in all their experience with the big machines.

One driver stated that if “Old Baldy” in Korea was anything like the top of Kelly’s Mountain, he pitted the “poor devils” who are fighting there.

This will give some idea of the conditions encountered by the 50 or more Rangers and volunteers who have put up a stubborn fight on this rugged terrain since Saturday.

A full force of firefighters turned out in an early hour yesterday. The Chief Ranger for the province together with R.C.M.P. officers from the Northside detachment were on hand to direct operations, as well as Allister Fraser, Chief Ranger for Victoria County and Norman Morrison and Allister MacInnis, Rangers for Big Bras d’Or and North River, respectively.

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