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

North Okanagan car club annual show a huge hit with spectators

People didn’t mind the hot weather as they admired all kinds of vintage vehicles at 25th annual show

North Okanagan mayor’s win benefits school lunch programs

Christine Fraser of Spallumcheen won $1,500 in SILGA draw, which goes to not-for-profit programs

Vernon Vipers name Connor Marritt captain

Takes over from graduating veteran, and fellow Okanagan native, Jagger Williamson

Vernon pitcher tosses second no-hitter of season

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

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.

VIDEO: Horseback riding helps North Okanagan residents with special needs

North Okanagan Therapeutic Riding Association needs more volunteers to continue offering sessions

Thunderstorm leaves small fire in the Shuswap in its wake

Wildfire crews are also fighting a small fire near Kamloops

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.

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

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

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Summerland ready for dry summer conditions

Province has declared Level Two drought, but Summerland has not increased watering restrictions

Summerland pioneers had connection to Middlesex, England

Harry Dunsdon and Richard Turner became cattlemen

Most Read