World War II and Fires at Home

The late 1930s and the 1940s brought, not only the firestorm in Europe known as World War II, which took the lives of many Millinocket soldiers, but it also was a time of several fires in and around Millinocket.

The Millinocket Theater, operated by Frank LePage, Jr., was destroyed by an explosion hot enough to scorch the face of Hikel’s store across the street, and destroying the theater building. A fire prompted a remodeling of the Opera House, removing its third floor.

Outside of town, hot and dry weather during the spring of 1941 brought several forest fires, burning many acres of forestland, and destroying about sixty camps.

Frank Speed, the owner of an insurance company in Millinocket, published a letter addressed to camp owners which read, in part:
"Do not be discouraged after your many years of hard toil. Be determined. Build immediately. Ferns will grow this summer to obliterate most of the blackness. The beautiful lakes and Old Katahdin are still with us. These views cannot be taken away."

People responded. They rebuilt. And the ferns, the blueberries, and other young plants did grow to hide the scars from the fire. Poplar and birch gradually grew to fill the gaps, until they could be taken over once again by the evergreens.

© Michelle Anderson 2005-2014