On the Banks of the Miramichi

Fire seized upon the town

With wildfires having recently raged in the Amazon, California, New South Wales, Siberia, and elsewhere, the appearance of Alan MacEachern’s The Miramichi Fire is a timely reminder of earlier conflagrations that attracted global attention. MacEachern, an accomplished environmental historian at Western University, has spent sixteen years exploring New Brunswick’s experience with forest fires almost two centuries ago. His commitment to the topic shows in a book that is accessibly written, wonderfully sourced, and often a page-turner.

In 1825, the eastern part of North America experienced an exceptionally dry summer and fall. On the evening of October 7, a Friday, a fire driven by hurricane-force winds roared across northeastern New Brunswick, descending on communities along the Miramichi River, wiping out the shire town of Newcastle, scorching its sister town of Chatham, and taking at least 160 human...