It was October 4th, 1922 and the Community of Haileybury started their day off like any other; the men were off to work and the children off to school. The air was hot and a little smoky due to the small bush fires on the outskirts of the area. But by 1pm the Town of Haileybury was overcome by thick smoke and at that point the Towns people were becoming very concerned as they had been told there was a large fire heading in their direction. The winds quickly sped up bringing the fire to the outskirts and by 4pm it was so dark it was hard to see, so smoky it was hard to breathe and so unbearably hot it was hard to focus.
The people of Haileybury were in a hurry to salvage the things they could and evacuate their loving Community. Unfortunately not everyone was able to make that last train and some wound up bringing blankets and headed down to Lake Temiskaming where they would soak their blankets and lie under them to prevent themselves from being burned. Men were in the Lake with buckets where they would scoop water and throw it on the blanket covering the people to keep it wet and to keep their loved ones safe from the flames.
The Great Fire of 1922, also known as the Haileybury fire covered 650 square miles and half a million acres of land. It partly burned Englehart and New Liskeard and completely destroyed the Communities of North Cobalt, Charlton, Thornloe, Heaslip and Haileybury as well as jumping over the Quebec border and affecting Notre-Dame-du-Nord and Notre-Deam-des-Quinze. This particular fire has become known as one of Canada’s top 10 disasters. It killed 43 people and destroyed over 6000 homes as well as affecting 18 Townships before it finally came to an end on the morning of October 5th when the winds died down and snow began to fall.
Mr. Billie Weeks of Englehart saved the lives of 150 settlers’ with his Gray-Dort Roadster on this tragic day of October 4th, 1922. Mr. Weeks was out to examine some work when he came across the Fire just beyond Charlton and knew he needed to help. He quickly set off on a journey to help those in need. He would load up to sixteen adults and children in his Gray-Dort Roadster and rush them to safety. At one point the flames overtook him and set fire to his car, smothering it however, he was not ready to give up. Mr. Weeks was blistered, his car was sizzling and running on the rims, yet he would coat himself in Vaseline and head right back into the flaming bush and blackness caused by smoke to continue searching for anyone who was in danger.
"The Great Fire of 1922". Copyright 1999 – Haileybury Heritage Museum.
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