In May 1914, the newspaper editor James Mewhort warned residents about the risk of fire in McBride when he wrote: “One thing which the citizens of McBride seem slow to realize is the terrible danger and risk which to town runs from loss by fire and the consequent need of fire protection … with a spell of dry weather, and with high winds such as frequently prevail … A large part of the town might be wiped out in a few hours in fact.”
Mewhort’s words were not truly heeded as a few months later, in September, a fire started on First Avenue when a calendar blew into a gas lamp. The fire quickly spread, destroying four buildings including the Wright home, Curlie’s Rooming House, The Imperial Rooms (another boarding house) and a second building behind the Imperial Rooms. While the fire started on First Avenue and Queen Street, it spread to encompass the lumber yard of McBride Lumber Company on Second Avenue. All told, four buildings were totally destroyed, cost over $7000—money that insurance would not cover. At the time, Queen Street and First Avenue were the largest business districts in McBride, so the loss was devastating to the town.
Following the fire, residents discussed a fire protection system, but not much happened and they still relied on the railway for fire protection. That same year, there was a brush fire that almost enveloped the town, and every able bodied man was assigned to camps to protect the town. The town had been put on evacuation alert and the railway had an engine and cars on standby to evacuate the town at a moment’s notice. When all hope appeared lost, the wind shifted and the fire was brought under control.
Photo: Corner of First and Queen after the big fire. Valley Museum and Archives.