During the summer Helen Autio lived at Trout Lake 58 miles out of Sault Ste Marie, with her husband, a Deputy Chief Ranger, and their two small children. This is her story.

Helen Autio and children

At about 2:30 on September 11th, while the rangers were away fighting a fire…. Mrs. Autio was baking bread at the headquarters. She happened to look out and noticed a fire about a mile away on the opposite side of the lake. Knowing that there was no one around for miles, she became concerned, but in no time had a plan of action working.

First, she telephoned the towerman and gave him the details. Then she put a canoe in the water, grabbed the sleeping baby, blankets and all, put him in along with her son Bill and paddled across the lake to the fire. (Babysitters are rare in the woods.) Mrs. Autio immediately started carrying water, throwing it on the flames.Young Bill, with a 5-lb. lard pail, was also doing his bit.

In the meantime the towerman notified headquarters by radio and left for the fire, travelling most of the way on his motorcycle, reaching the fire in one-half hour. Here he found that the fire fighting crew, although almost exhausted, had the fire well under control, so he proceeded to finish the job. Bill, the towerman, said the baby was sleeping peacefully in the canoe which was being rocked jerkily by a ripple on the water.

About 30 feet from this fire stands a very nice summer cottage….Had it not been for the quick action of Mrs. Autio, this cottage with all the out-buildings and furnishings would have been destroyed, and from there the fire would have swept into the thick woods beyond, causing many thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Green, Harold W. « The Trout Lake fire of 1950. »
Sylva: The Lands and Forests Review Vol 16, No.6 (1950).
Photo Credits:
Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre [Helen Autio and children]
Online Exhibits