In the summer of 1922, fire ranger C.A. Stanbury patrolled the railway lines on his first job, and fought his first fire to a standstill.
On receiving notification by letter of my appointment as a fire ranger from Toronto …. [I] reported to Chief Ranger Tom Corrigan at 8a.m. and was outfitted with one Velocipede #16, one tent 7’x9’, 1 cyclone wood stove, 2 water pails, 1 axe, 1 grubhoe, batching dishes for one man, 1 ground sheet, 3 pairs blankets, 2 fire permit books, a monthly Diary, a number of Fire posters in French and English, a torch for grass burning, a set of fire report forms for fires occurring in my patrol area.. (Fire reports then consisted of one page and a mapping space on the back.)
On my patrol there was no telephone, and a ranger was on his own to commence and handle fire fighting if necessary. (Extra fire fighters were paid at 35 cents per hour.) We would forward a message by railway train conductors to Chief Ranger Headquarters at Cochrane or Deputy Headquarters at Jacksonboro. If we had a fire, we hired help from the settlers with their own pails, shovels etc.
The stubborn determination of the settlers to clear land and the requests for Fire Permits when it was too dry and dangerous, kept rangers quite busy when the hazard was high. The country was developing new settlements and the people wanted to do things in a hurry, viz., burn and clear land. Timber was not valued very highly by the settlers (15 years after it was a different story) – they wanted cleared lands.
The law was very lenient regarding fires for land clearing – penalties mostly consisted of $1.00 fine and a reprimand; they were seldom prosecuted for letting a fire spread.
My first fire was at Mileage 14 ½ in June, alongside and on the railway right-of-way. Railway ties on the main track were burning rapidly – but there was plenty of water in the ditches. I had a hard time of it for an hour or so bucketing water from ditch to ties before the Driftwood Section Crew came and rendered assistance. There was no help within hail and I could not afford time to go back to Driftwood for help, but I figured the section crew would see the smoke, which they did; but they didn’t appear any too fast to please me. I was just about played out with work, which was hot and smoky, and the worry about the passenger train.
This was possibly a railroad fire but no official report was made then, as no damage was done, just a few ties being replaced and no outside help called for fire fighting.