The Great Fire of 1908 was a dramatic, defining moment for Fernie that saw the community obliterated by fire in less than 90 minutes on August 1st, 1908. The fire claimed 10 lives and the property loss was valued at over $5 million dollars, a staggering amount at the time. It was the second major fire in four years. In 1904, a fire destroyed much of Fernie’s commercial core and led to the incorporation of the City of Fernie and the formation of the Fernie Fire Department.
The efforts of the firemen were no match for the 1908 firestorm; they surrendered where the Fernie Museum is today. People fled for the river. A Great Northern train passing through Fernie rescued many and took them to Hosmer. Surprisingly, over 30 homes survived, all at the far south-west end of Fernie. The Crow’s Nest Pass Coal Co. offices (Fernie’s City Hall today) also survived and became the place where refugees from the fire could obtain food and clothing. Nearby towns offered shelter, and supplies came from across Canada.
Reconstruction of the town quickly began and was largely completed by 1911.
PUBLIC ART COMMISSION
To commemorate disaster and the indomitable and resilient community spirit that allowed the community to literally rise from the ashes, the City of Fernie is commissioning a public work of art to be installed in the proposed Station Square. This call for artists is open to all Canadian artists with previous experience in creating public art sculptures. Artists can submit an original and one copy of a proposal in a sealed envelope clearly marked “Proposal – Fernie Art Project- 1908 fire” to Fernie City Hall, P.O. Box 190, 501 – 3rd Avenue, Fernie, B.C., V0B 1M0. Attention: Lloyd Smith. Proposals will be received up to 4:00 P.M. LOCAL TIME, FRIDAY, September 18, 2017.
The project budget is $50,000 which is to include materials, fabrication, and the artist’s fee (artists’ fee); the work of art must be completed no later than February 28, 2018 with a public unveiling by no later than March 1, 2018. This project is a Canada 150 Project for the City of Fernie and is supported by the Province of British Columbia through the “British Columbia | Canada 150: Celebrating B.C. Communities and their Contributions to Canada” grant program, that is administered by the BC Museums Association with support from Heritage BC.