Fire of 1947

What Am I Looking At?

This scar in the tree is evidence of fire damage done years ago. Trees have the amazing ability to heal themselves.

Although the spring of 1947 was unusually wet, by July Maine was in a drought. After 90 days in a row of record-breaking high temperatures, and no rain, Maine was in class 4 danger. This means fires can start very easily from all causes, and spread quickly and burn deep.

On October 7th, 1947 small fires were being reported around Maine. By October 16th there were 25 major fires burning. It is believed that the fire that spread through Kennebunkport and Biddeford started in Arundel and swept all the way to the ocean at both ends of Goose Rocks Beach. It destroyed all but 6 homes at Fortuneís Rocks and at one point the fire was an 8 mile long wall burning through the towns.


In this famous Associated Press photograph, AP news photographer Ted Dyer captured the moment when the 1947 fire crossed Route 1 in Arundel and began its path of destruction through Kennebunkport and Biddeford.

York County was the hardest hit area, but the fires affected people all over the state of Maine, destroying over 205,000 acres of land and over 1000 homes, and leaving 2,500 people homeless with 16 people dead.

Though the fire of 1947 swept through Kennebunkport more than 60 years ago, you can still find the scars it left on trees. Other signs of forest fires include: multi- trunked trees and small pine trees growing in large masses.
Multi-trunked trees often occur when something kills the top of a tree but the roots stay alive (fire or logging).
Note: conifers canít do this ó they sprout from roots!

Causes of Forest Fires

  • Drought
  • Strong winds
  • Careless people lighting fires that get out of control, or tossing a cigarette in a severe drought area.

Did You Know?

90% of all escaped forest fires are caused by people.


Porcupine Tracks
Courtesy Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

What's Next?

Look for other signs of fireómulti-trunked trees, small pine groves, and more fire scars. What other signs of past use of the land can you find? Look for evidence of past use like apple trees, cemeteries, roads, and barbed wire through trees.