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The Clyde River Fire

by Mike Morgan

From News on the DOT 1953

 

Arctic Shangri-Lah


Here I am writing from the Shangri-Lah of Baffin Island, Clyde River. My predecessors also called it Air-Drop Valley, why they called it that, I'm not too sure because I haven't seen very much of anything dropping this year. We have some snow here and a couple of diesel engines which don't seem to want to run the way the book says they are supposed to. But outside of that, there is not too much happening around these parts. We have the odd ship come in the spring, and occasionally a plane lands bringing back one of our men from medical treatment on the outside.

The DOT personnel here consists of the following: Sidney Steinhor R/S. Gerry Wood R/S, Vic Lundin R/S, Johnny Rogo OIC Radio, Glen Haggerty Radio Op., and Mike Morgan (also known as Forty Watt Morgan) OIC. The three Americans are as follows: A/IC Roy Cash, A/2C Doug Xiques, and A/2C Pete Lamberty. We are very happy to say that we are in possession of the best cook on Baffin Island, in the person of Frank Bongard.

Incidentally in the previous paragraph we remarked that there was very little excitement here, but we neglected to mention that we did have a building burn down, but it was only the main living quarters. For the interest of the readers of the DOT News, the fire in the main living quarters, was first discovered at approximately 5 PM on Feb. 14th, when the lights in the radio building adjoining went out. The living quarters consisted of four bedrooms, bath and living-room, also a small radio store room. The living-room contained the library, radio-phonograph and recreational equipment.

The fire had made good progress when discovered and all fire extinguishers on the station were brought into use. At the time of the fire the wind was blowing from the west, thus blowing the smoke and flames away from the radio building. Attempts were made to get into the burning building, but smoke prevented this, and extinguishers were used from outside the living-room windows. When the men were unable to put out the fire, they began tearing down the connecting passageway between the main living quarters and the radio building. Snow drifts piled up against this passageway made this difficult and very little progress had been made when the wind shifted to the south threatening the radio building. Attempts to wreck the passageway were abandoned, and the men began removing the equipment out of the radio office, and anything which could possibly be saved.

After most of the equipment had been removed, the wind again shifted to the west permitting the men to recommence tearing down the passageway. This was finally accomplished.

The three Americans worked very hard with the DOT men, and at one period of their efforts,ammunition began exploding in the burning building making their task more hazardous. At approximately seven o'clock the roof caved in, and about four or five the next morning danger of flying sparks to the adjoining radio building was passed.

The men were completely exhausted and the Clyde River brigade of fire fighters trooped single file to the Hudson Bay Co. to enjoy, (half heartedly) a swell breakfast of ham and eggs. The personal belongings and arctic gear of Vic Lundin, Frank Bongaid, Glen Haggerty and Johnny Rogo, were completely lost, except for the clothes they had been wearing at that time.

An R.C.A.F. emergency plane arrived here March4, bringing in much needed bedding and clothing for the above four men. Temporary sleeping quarters have been arranged in the American barracks, until mare suitable living quarters can be built. Contributions of clothing, co-operation in fighting the fire, and full efforts in normal operations on being resumed, by three Americans here, were greatly appreciated by all concerned.

Our roving reporter for the Clyde River Tropical Tribune sums up his report as follows: quote, On Feb. 14 last, our station was the centre of a special phenomena seldom recorded in these parts - an isolated heat wave. It was centered in the living quarters adjoining the kitchen and radio room. So great was the excitement that the antics of the weather men, dashing around to observe it invoked the time worn comment of some Eskimo wag "Ikki too nonnee" which being literally translated means "where the L is the fire". The wit was more accurate than
intended as shortly afterward all that was left standing of the living quarters was the bathtub, and it was teetering dangerously, but the never say die spirit of the DOT shineth through all adversity.

Another Clyde River resident Sydney Steinhor when queried on the disaster spoke the following "Luckily the ration shed and kitchen were saved along with the radio room. It can now be reliably reported that there is no truth in the rumour that the food is so bad here that even the flames wouldn't touch it".

Says Vic Lundin R/S of the catastrophe "Too bad about the house, I'll sure miss the bathtub, now there are twelve of us and we'll have to draw lots to see who's going to use the OIC's tub next, and nobody wants to be first because whoever's first has to use the blowtorch to thaw out the pipes. Bathtubs are sure convenient things to have around''.

Radio Op. Junior Haggerty quotes "The transmitter (AT3) weighing 630 lbs survived the shock of being tossed out the window, a tribute to the makers of the bailing wire by which it was held together".

Jerry Wood R/S reports, "I guess for many years to come, the Eskies will continue to whisper in awed tones of seeing the white man hurrying, actually hurrying in broad daylight, a phenomena equalled only by Haley's Comet or a seven horse parley''.

OIC Mike Morgan says, "When they were passing the radios and equipment out the office window to us, WHO, put the can of spam in my hand?"

Operations are now back to normal and grateful acknowledgement is extended to the Head Office and the R. C. A. F for their prompt action regarding our needs, at a most trying time.

Sincere thanks and appreciation is also extended to Len Brown, Manager of the H.B.C. for the many courtesies he extended us during and after the fire.

In closing, I would like to say that the three Americans posted here, helped us wonderfully during and after the fire.

 

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