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CCC Crews Suppress Coos County Fires in 1936

The Civilian Conservation Corps was also known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” for its work in the nation’s forests, including fighting forest fires and planting 9 billion trees over nine years beginning in 1933.  President Roosevelt put Depression era youth to work in every U.S. state and territory.

CCC firefighters confronted a major challenge in Coos County, Ore., in 1936.  An Oregon Encyclopedia article says that year “humidity dropped to 8 percent and … stray sparks started fires throughout (the county) … Fence posts, trees, and structures exploded into flames, … spread by east winds that blew at thirty-eight miles an hour.”

Reinforced by 5,000 enrollees from other regions, CCC crews suppressed fires all over the county.  Flames licked at the city limits of Marshfield, Coquille and Myrtle Point, and an inferno devoured the small coastal town of Bandon.

Between fires, the CCC built roads, trails and lookouts in Coos County and helped develop three parks, Cape Arago and Silver Falls state parks and the Daphne Grove Forest Service Campground.

The Oregon Encyclopedia says the CCC left a legacy of “stands of tall, green Coos County timber untouched by flames, an infrastructure for fighting fires, and even a few fat hogs.”

 

Sources:  "Introduction: The Civilian Conservation Corps." American Experience. PBS, Web. 18 Feb. 2016. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/introduction/ccc-introduction/;  Kirk, Linda. "Civilian Conservation Corps in Coos County." The Oregon Encyclopedia. N.p., 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.