The early rangers worked hard to protect the forests from fire, frequently providing their own tools – and in the case of the Taylor brothers, Henry and Jim, driving their own Model T on patrols. Henry recounts their work as fire rangers in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The summer of 1923 was crackling dry in the Tweed District, with plenty of fires, but no lookout towers and very little telephone communication. In 1923, when the Ontario Government took over the fire protection on all Crown Lands, [Jim Taylor] became a provincial Forest Ranger…

[Jim] supplied an axe, a canoe, a saddle horse and a 1914 Model T Ford car. All the Government gave him was a shovel, a canvas pail and a badge – so it did not take him long to turn in his official equipment in the autumn.

Ranger Jim Taylor in 1914 Model T, with canvas bag hanging from windshield, and canvas pack pumps in frontA Model T could make 30 miles per hour but,as the roads of the early 20s were little better than wagon roads, from ten to fifteen miles an hour was the average speed. Cars often got stuck in the mud, and it was quite an undertaking for a Chief or his Deputy to contact his Rangers. They could not let the single Model T truck they had at Headquarters be away too long during high-hazard times, so they asked Jim Taylor to pay the extra fire-fighters himself, so they could get the signed pay sheets and fire reports and return his money all on one day…

In 1927 when Jim left the Department to take on the duties of foreman…I took his place as Forest Ranger on Patrol 32…

The year that Fire Permits were introduced was 1927, and I drove my Model T hundreds of miles to contact all the settlers on my patrol and instruct them in the new regulations. Most of the people co-operated 100 per cent, but there was a small minority who did not and, in the 30’s, I had to teach three fellows the hard way – they got from three to six months for setting fires on crown land.

On one particular Sunday morning in May,1929, when the hazard was high, I had all my fire-fighting equipment piled in the old Ford, ready and waiting when the telephone rang, about ten o’clock. I knew before I took down the receiver that it was a fire. Raglan Tower and Quadville Topwer had picked up smoke. I had all the bad spots marked on my patrol map, so after I got the readings I saw the fire was a sawmill in the south end of Raglan Township. I made for the car, cranked it up and got going. [He stopped at the church, rounded up the sawmill workers to fight the fire,] formed a bucket brigade and saved the mill.

Jim and I also built miles of telephone line for the Department with our Model T Fords. People said we were foolish to do so, but we have no regrets for we have both lived to see the results of our efforts, as well as the efforts of other old Rangers who are now gone to their place in the churchyards.

Ranger Henry TaylorWe first old Rangers were issued with a manual of instructions in which the first and most important item told the Ranger to be courteous to all those he met on his patrol, for the good will and co-operation of the general public was essential for good fire protection.

Taylor, Henry F. “Model T Ranger.” Sylva, Your Lands and Forests Review. Vol. 15, No. 5 (1959)
Photo Credits:
Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre< [Ranger Henry Taylor]
Online Exhibits