As It Was: South Coast Fire Blamed on German Spies or Sympathizers

Oct 4, 2017

In July of 1918, suspicion fell on enemy sympathizers as the cause of a raging forest fire between Pistol River and Brookings, Ore.

It appeared the fire originated from a series of small fires set in timber every quarter mile or so, possibly by someone yielding a firebrand to set off dry underbrush.  The flames spread fiercely over a wide territory.

A regional newspaper, the Gold Beach Reporter, ran an advisory that spies or pro-Germans were setting fires in the woods. It warned Curry County residents to watch out for strangers and to report all suspicious activity.

The Nicholson ranch was directly in the path of the fire at its northern perimeter, so men from Gold Beach rushed to defend the property’s buildings and hauled household goods, livestock, and an automobile to the safety of a creek.

The men struggled to kill sparks with hoes and wet sacks, but approximately 250,000 acres and 50 million feet of timber went up in smoke before the blaze burned itself out.

Meanwhile, someone took advantage of the fire to rob a beehive, removing 25 pounds of honey without resistance from the smoke-calmed bees.

Source: "Goes Up In Smoke." Gold Beach Reporter, 4 July 1918, p. 1+