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47 - Newfoundland Story
The Scissors Cove Fire



from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

The sun had risen in all its splendour and shone for miles around our little village of Scissors Cove, at Notre Dame Bay. It shone over the fertile land gleaming with all its greenness - its evergreens, its stalwart pines that rose as giant flowers in the virgin forest which spread for miles east, south and west of our homes. The year was 1912 - the date, May 28.

The lambs were bleating; the cattle lowing; the singing of the birds told the glory of spring. But at sunset, what a contrast! All that was lovely in the morning was a burning inferno as far as the eye could see.

It began about seven o'clock.

Someone at Norris Arm was burning brush. Somehow it got out of control and a forest fire started windward of us. Fanned by the southwest wind, the fire travelled through the dry bush. By five o'clock it had spread over an area of 175 square miles, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Only a few animals, domestic and wild, were left alive, and many of these died from the after effects of smoke inhalation. I saw 17 sheep and lambs burned to death in a shed where they had taken refuge. Someone dropped one burning lamb in the salt water. It managed ashore somehow but carried the mark all summer where the wool had been burned off.

Other livestock - cows, horses, pigs, hens and goats - were in the way of the fire; nothing could be cone. One could only try to save oneself. In all there were about 25 families, half or more burned out - practically all property, a life's savings, including food, gone.

Some of the families took shelter on the small islands just off the mainland while others sought refuge on a long point with water on either side. My father saved some of the household effects of a friend whose husband and son were away by burying them in the garden and putting some on a point in the harbour. The house burned a few minutes later.

We did everything possible around our own home by removing a few sections of fencing so the fire would not travel along. This proved effective later as the fire burned to the end of the port and died there.

After our family was evacuated to the point with the other families where two of three men were left to care for the women and children, I stood by our home. My father went to the stage where our schooner sailed, and cod trap was stored (our "fixing" at that time) to try and save them. I was around 19 then.

While the fire was passing over, our house caught fire three times. I was exhausted trying to put the flames out and had to run into the house to get my breath. Once I had to lie down with my face towards the ground to breathe more easily - but we saved the home and stage.

During those worst minutes the only life I was aware of was the panic-stricken cries of the women and children on the point - and the wild rabbits scurrying by. (Some of the rabbits ran out onto a boom of saw logs we had in the cove.)

There was a tense moment when we thought the schooner was on fire as she rode at anchor by the woody island - but she came through it with only a few minor scars on her deck from falling sparks.

Scissors Cove has been renamed Stanhope, and when visiting it this Fall I found it reforested and looking lovely again - the woody island a panorama of bushy green.



Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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