The cigarette was the symbol of devastation even though the ravaged area was not caused by the butt.

The true story of the Hope-Princeton Gallows

Tales from the past by Brian Wilson

—Brian Wilson, Archivist – Okanagan Archive Trust Society

There is confusion about the history the big fire and of this sign. Here’s the true story.

The “Big Burn” was first reported on August 8th, 1945 by a Canadian Pacific Airline pilot who saw it from his flight path. The smoke was so heavy that a Kamloops Forestry lookout spotted it at about the same time as a U.S. Forest Service tower in the Cascades called it in.

The story of the cigarette is not altogether true. Actually, the true cause of the fire was a slash burn that got away from workers building the Hope-Princeton Highway.

Because of the rough terrain between the Allison hill and the Skagit Bluffs, it was not until August 11th that 140 men were able to reach the centre of the fire zone.

The Forest Service took advantage of the Japanese camp at Tashme and pressed the internees to work the fire. That brought the force to well over 200 men.

The fire was attacked for 11 days before bringing it under some kind of control. It wasn’t until August 26th during a long rain storm that it was declared “out”.

By then the fire had devastated 5,920 acres of prime timber. The scar remained for many years.

The gallows wasn’t erected until well after the Hope-Princeton was officially opened in 1949.

Funny thing about the sign is that it was at the start of the B.C. Forest Service forest fire prevention program. The U.S. had launched its Smokey Bear program at this time and the Bear quickly became a household symbol.

Canadians couldn’t make up their mind as to a symbol…who wanted Benny the Beaver preventing forest fires? So, the gallows went up to the horror of some who travelled the road. The cigarette was the symbol of devastation even though the ravaged area was not caused by the butt.

It wasn’t until 1956 that the Canadian Forestry Association bought rights to Smokey. We’ve shared it ever since.

When capital punishment ended in Canada in 1962, the gallows became inappropriate and was taken down.

Missed last week’s column?

A look back in time: The famous Clyde “Slim” Williams

Brian Wilson is the archivist for the Okanagan Archive Trust Society, based in the South Okanagan. Each week he brings tales from history alive in his column, A look back in time. Check out the society’s website at www.oldphotos.ca.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Thunderstorm leaves small fire near Adams Lake in its wake

Wildfire crews in the Kamloops Fire Centre are also fighting a small blaze near Kamloops

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Heat, sun and a chance of thunderstorms for Father’s Day

Morning pancake breakfasts and fishing derbies across the region will see sun, showers may follow.

Dedicated Girl Guide leader recognized with Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers

Maryann Brock has volunteered with Girl Guides for 37 years

$30,000 donation for outdoor classroom in Salmon Arm to honour beloved teacher

Funds from Armstrong Regional Co-op to go to the Shannon Sharp Learning Circle

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Sun and heat continue Saturday

Environment Canada forecasts highs of 30 C throughout the Okanagan Saturday

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

South Okanagan pharmacy restricted from dispensing opioid treatment drugs

B.C. College of Pharmacists alleges Sunrise Pharmacy dispensed treatment drugs against rules

Police seek two suspects and car after stabbing in Kelowna

The stabbing took place on Friday evening on Wilson Avenue. It sent one man to hospital.

Okanagan pitcher tosses second no-hitter of season

Vernon’s Jarod Leroux has two no-nos in his last three starts for the BCPBL’s Okanagan Athletics

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Summerland Health Care Auxiliary completes hospital donation pledge early

$1M contribution to medical equipment campaign completed half a year earlier than expected

Letter: Writer argues biosolids will damage water, soil

Turtle Valley residents lost the first battle with Nutrigrow/Arrow Transport when our… Continue reading

PacificSport and SportHealth team up to subsidize physiotherapy for members

The partnership is touted as the first of its kind in Salmon Arm

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Most Read