Historic Photos of Wildfires from Across Alberta

The summer months in western Canada are now synonymous with wildfires burning over vast tracts of land. Whether the increased size and destruction of these fires are attributed to climate change, mismanagement of our forest resources, or a combination of factors is still to be determined. What we do know is that our warmest months are now being dominated by these powerful and deadly blazes.

Previously, I was fortunate to get a glimpse at a day in the life of a Wildland Firefighter and the rigorous work they do protecting people, property, and communities. I also wrote extensively about the Black Rock Fire Lookout, which has been standing on the summit since 1928 and is accessible if you’re up for an adventure. What follows here is a look at some historical wildfires from across Alberta and a few of the early techniques at combating them.

As you enjoy the following photographs please keep in mind the devastation wildfires have caused and the tireless work put forth in an attempt to extinguish them. Next time you meet a Wildland Firefighter please thank them for the incredible work they do.

As always if you see a wildfire burning call 310-FIRE as quickly as possible. The earlier the fire is reported, the sooner crews can get there, and the easier it will be to contain.

Fire lookout, Blue Hill, Alberta, 1928
First World War bomber used in forest fire protection patrols, High River, Alberta, 1920
Work party of Royal Canadian Mounted Police recruited to fight forest fire at Banff, Alberta. Alberta, 1920
Forest fire, Jasper National Park, Alberta, 1913
Forest fire, Brule area, Alberta, 1913-1919
Forest fire at Oil City, Alberta, 1919
Forest fire, Nordegg area, Alberta, 1919
Devastation (burnt trees) caused by forest fire, Oldman River area, Alberta, 1916
Forest fire in mountains, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1930s
Remains of forest fire, Bow River forest, Alberta, 1920
Fighting a forest fire on McLeod River, Alberta. Sketch from “North-west passage by Land”, by Milton and Cheadle, 1865
Forest fire at Willow Creek in Cypress Hills, Alberta, 1934
First air forest fire patrol station, Grande Prairie, Alberta, 1928
Forest fire, at Yellowhead Pass, Alberta, 1913
Fire lookout tower, House Mountain, Whitecourt, Alberta, 1943
Fire lookout, Burke Mountain, Willow Creek area, Alberta, 1930s
Forestry lookout station on Junction Mountain, Alberta, 1941
Bragg Creek forest fire, Bragg Creek, Alberta, 1954
Forest fire, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, 1939
Grass fire near Royalite gas plant, Turner Valley, Alberta, 1932

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

Tyler Dixon
About Tyler Dixon 102 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.