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

Penticton cyclist injured in hit-and-run in critical condition

Jesse Birkedal was injured in a hit-and-run while cycling on Eastside Road

Vehicle smashes sign and cars in Summerland school parking lot

Driver of a Ford Expedition lost control, crashing into two other vehicles

Top classic car show cruises back into Penticton

Peach City Beach Cruise runs June 21 to 23 in Penticton

Update: Penticton fire in mop up mode at Greenwood Forest Products

An employee said as he was coming in for his shift at around 4:39 a.m. he heard a loud explosion

Permits for sale at former Penticton Greyhound depot turned into parking lot

Permits for parking spots in the newly created parking lot at 307 Ellis St. now are on sale

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

RCMP Emergency Response team swarms Kelowna home

Water is flooding Highway 33 in Kelowna Monday afternoon

Judas Priest rocks the Okanagan

Judas Priest is on a 32 date tour of North America

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Restrictive policies affecting labour mobility for care aides in B.C.

‘I had to take two competency exams and pay over $1,400,’ said an Okanagan care aide

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Most Read