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

Relocation of new West Kelowna firehall under fire by Lakeview Residents

A Lakeview resident has started an online petition

Accused Lake Country wife-killer going to trial after more than three years

Lambertus Westervelt, 63, was charged in April 2019 for allegedly killing his wife in June 2016

Protest planned against Kelowna RCMP’s high unfounded sexual assault numbers

Kelowna RCMP deemed almost 40 per cent of sexual assault reports as “unfounded” in 2018

RCMP cut free activists chained to Kelowna bank, placed under arrest

The group is protesting Interior Savings Credit Union’s support of Kelowna Ribfest

Okanagan chefs battle at Great Kitchen Party

Chef Kai Koroll of 50th Parallel Estate Winery won the event Friday night

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

Kamloops woman fatally hit by truck was a TRU employee

The investigation into the Nov. 15 pedestrian fatality near Thompson Rivers University continues

EDITORIAL: When confrontation replaces dialogue

A number of recent comments making news headlines in Canada have shown… Continue reading

Sicamous’ second cannabis store set to open

Sicamous Trading Company designed to fit with community’s love for nature and adventure

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Kelowna team wins Summerland junior curling tournament

Okanagan teams will be competing to qualify for B.C. Winter Games and B.C. U18 Championships

Missing Okanagan teens believed to be in Armstrong

Young couple was reported missing last week

Abbotsford police chief mulls more enforcement of homeless lawbreakers

‘When all else has failed we have to hold people accountable,’ Police Chief Mike Serr tells council

Most Read