Tuesday, February 03, 2015

1915 and 1918 Powell Lake Fires

Not long ago Wayne and I were digging near our Powell Lake float cabin home and discovered a thick layer of ash.


We've heard about devastating fires around the lake and figured the ash layer must be related. I did some research online and found two British Daily Colonist articles that might have been related. This daily Victoria newspaper ran from 1858 to 1920. You can browse the issues online and they are searchable, a great feature.

The first article was from August 22, 1915.  It mentioned a number of fires raging in the lower mainland, along the coast and on Vancouver Island including fires on Gordon Pasha Lake (now Lois Lake), Powell Lake and in Sliammon that were nearly burned out.

The second article from July 9, 1918, mentions a fire sweeping up the west side of the Powell Lake through "young timber." Our cabin is on the west side up about 15 kilometres.

Later it mentions fires on the east shore in mature timber were under control due to efforts of fire crews. Because this timber was more valuable, I'm sure more resources were placed there.

Because there's one distinct layer, I'm guessing it's from the 1918 fire. Are there any Powell River residents that might know for sure?


The ash layer extends for a long distance, and we've discovered similar layers in other nearby locations. Because it's so thick and extensive I'm sure it isn't from something else man made.

Look at the top picture. You can see a layer of decaying wood over the ash, followed by a layer of finer humus and finally moss. It gives you a good idea about how much forest decomposition is generated in a hundred years. -- Margy

10 comments:

  1. That is pretty neat - archeology!

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  2. Really fascinating post! I love history and archaeology so much!

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  3. Wow, a fascinating discovery. Hope you can find our more about the ash layer.

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    1. I remember reading about the fires in a book that I have in my collections. I just need to figure out which one. Plus, there are a lot of long time residents in town I might be able to ask. - Margy

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  4. This is neat to find history in your area.

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  5. What a wonderful bit of research!

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  6. amazing, great research

    that looks like a snake hanging down there in your image.

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    1. It's one of the many roots "snaking" through the soil from the forest floor. - Margy

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  7. Wow - interesting story - and the research really helps you know the dates.

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  8. We have a layer of ash on our property south of town. There is also a very old water system under the surface, using techniques from the 1930s. I must go into the museum and see what they can tell me about my area.

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