Posted by: munroja | November 23, 2014

Wes Freake

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Wes and  Ruby

Wes was born on July 27, 1927 at Lewisporte. He started work with the Provincial Forestry Service in April of 1958. He retired from Government Service in 1987. He and his wife Ruby now live in the North Haven

Manor Sr. Citizens Home in Lewisporte, Newfoundland.

Gar Collins started work with the Fire Patrol in Lewisporte at about the same time. First Wes was based in Lewisporte and later was put in charge of the depot at Deadman’s Pond, Gander in 1963. Wes also worked on Labrador forest fires near Port Hope Simpson during the 1950’s, and also the major fires in Central Labrador in 1967. He was sent to Labrador on fires on other occasions as well.

Wes and Gar Collins were involved in a fire near Port Hope Simpson, Labrador about 1958. They couldn’t do much to stop the fire but fortunately the weather changed and helped put the fire out.

Wes was probably the only member of the Forest Service to fight a fire on the Horse Islands, which lie about 25 Kilometers north east of the Baie Verte Penninsula. He was based in Lewisporte at the time and a fire had been reported on the main Island, which was still inhabited. It was some distance inland behind the community. Although it was spring, there was still Arctic ice around, and snow was still on the ground in places. However, the ground that was not covered was dry and members of the community requested

Government help in putting the fire out , before it became a threat to their houses.

He was dispatched from Lewisporte by EPA Beaver GPA. He had the plane loaded with a DDVA pump, hose, and other equipment. He thinks the pilot was Ron Smith. After some difficulty, they managed to land near the community. Wes stayed there a week, boarding with the Justice of the Peace. There was no shortage of volunteers to help him, even the Pentecostal Preacher pitched in. It took some time but the fire was contained and put out. The local people told him that although they had requested help, they were surprised that someone actually showed up!

Although Wes boarded there for a week and had two motorboats hired to get equipment and men to the fire, no bill was ever submitted to the Department for these services. He did purchase some Acto (dyed) gas from a local man and in the rush he paid for it without getting a receipt. He had an awful time getting his money back from the Department without the receipt. When he left on the plane from the Islands, he had a big bag of canned ducks, turrs, etc., which he planned to take home. However he was diverted to another fire at Musgrave Harbour and all his food got eaten there.

Like many men on fire patrol Wes spent the full summer of 1961 fighting fires in various parts of the Island, such as Bonavista North and Old Perlican. He was occupied with this from June to October and he lost a lot of weight in the process. He remembers that he and Ellis Hancock did a back- burn when a fire was getting close to the Old Perlican Hospital. They took a can of gas and soaked a strip of brush between the building and the fire and lit it. It worked, burning the brush ahead of the fire and saving the hospital.

In October of 1961, Wes was based at Millertown, in the central part of the Island, working on wildlife law enforcement. There were problems there with compliance with the wildlife regulations. It wasn’t unusual at the time for field personnel to change roles as the need arose, from Forestry to Wildlife and vice versa.

After Christmas in 1962 Wes and Ellis were assigned to Whitbourne to help repair pumps and other equipment that required overhaul after the 1961 fires. Once they voluntarily repaired a pump being used by the community to flood a skating rink. They couldn’t accept payment for it but were rewarded anyway with a bottle of whiskey from the grateful townspeople.

Wes once covered for Sterling Hoddinott for a time while he was in St. John’s before being appointed Regional Forester  for Labrador.

In the fall of 1962  Wes was involved in a seed collecting program. That fall, work crews made up of men from the Fire Patrol, collected Black Spruce seed  cones from Crown Ridge and other areas in Central Newfoundland. The seed was extracted from the cones by drying them at Whitbourne. Seeding was started in 1964 using the S-55 Helicopter HJS piloted by Austin Garrett. A seed dispensing apparatus

was borrowed from the Ontario Forest Service and fitted under the helicopter to spread the seed over burned areas. Wes was at the fall cone collecting and seeding operation for three years

In the winter of 1963-64 Wes went on Wildlife enforcement work. He originally took the assignment for six months but stayed with it full time, until he retired as the Lewisporte District Wildlife Officer,  which included the area between Terra Nova Park and Bishop’s Falls. The work included doing both aerial

and ground patrols. At first he was on his own, but later worked with Reginald Bath and Calvin Saunders.

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