Observer Archie McDonald

There were times when the tower observer and the fire ranger definitely did not see eye-to-eye. Greenhorn observer Archie McDonald had to insist – where there’s smoke there’s fire!

One day early in the 1929 fire season, Archie McDonald, observer at PoplarDale Tower in Northern Ontario, saw his first ‘smoke’. Archie, eager to do his job, immediately made a report to the fire ranger. He refused to go out to the fire. 18-year old Archie was new to the job. The ranger, old and experienced, didn’t have much faith in Archie’s ability to spot and locate a fire accurately.

The second day Archie spotted the smoke again, verified the location, and reported the fire to the fire ranger once more. This time the ranger went out looking for the fire. He walked for over eight miles, but could not find any sign of smoke.

Smoke Report

When Archie sighted the same puff of smoke for the third day in a row, he reported the fire to the Deputy Ranger, who dispatched a pilot to check out the location. The pilot confirmed the sighting. The furious fire ranger walked the eight miles again with ax and shovel, found the fire and put it out. “But,” says Archie, “He never forgave me!”

Archie McDonald Collection, Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.
Photo Credits:
Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre [Observer Archie McDonald; Smoke Report]
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