Corydon Goodwin (1886-1953), a career Firefighter Driver/Engineer with the Springvale Fire Department, will be honored by the Maine Forest Service with a ceremony at the Springvale Fire Station, 5 Oak St., on April 20 at 11:00 a.m. Firefighter Goodwin, who served in Springvale for 31 years beginning in 1922, was the first Maine firefighter to die in the line of duty.
The event honoring FF Goodwin is being held during Wildfire Awareness Week, which this year is April 17-23. A plaque will be unveiled and a representative of the Forest Service will discuss changes in wildland firefighting since the 1950s. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony.
FF Goodwin was killed on Friday, July 29, 1953, fighting a raging forest fire on Twombley Rd. According to the Boston Globe’s front-page story, his pumper truck stalled and he stayed too long trying to restart it. Witnesses recalled that with the fire almost upon him, he jumped from the truck in an attempt to escape the flames, but broke his leg upon landing. He was unable to escape the fast-moving blaze and was overcome.
Corydon Goodwin, known as Cory to his friends, was remembered in the Sanford Tribune as “bluff, jovial and outspoken” but kind-hearted – “a man among men.” He was survived by his wife Mary and a son, also named Corydon. He has no living direct descendants, but the Sanford Fire Department would appreciate hearing from any cousins or other extended family members.
The blaze that killed FF Goodwin burned 2,800 acres of land in York County over a period of several days, mostly in Sanford and Springvale. It began on Friday, July 29 at the farm of George and Raymond Twombley, and, fanned by wind gusts of up to 38 mph, quickly spread to the Highpine area of Wells. At the Sanford Airport, flames came close enough to the National Guard Armory to singe the clapboards. Parts of North Berwick were also affected. 14 families were evacuated from buildings in the path of the fire. While some farm structures were burned, fortunately, no homes were lost.
The combination of wind and sparks led to several smaller fires around York County. Smoke from the fire was visible 40 to 50 miles away.
Winds died down on Monday, August 1, allowing firefighters to get things under control, and heavy rains over the next two days put it out for good. Almon Stackpole, Sanford Fire Chief at that time, said the fire would have been much larger if not for the mutual assistance from more than 40 other Departments and 700 firefighters. An Air Force plane dispatched from Portland also provided help, communicating with Civil Air Patrolmen on the ground. The remains of the fire truck are still in the woods off Twombley Rd., a sad reminder of that deadly day.
The fire came just six years after the Great Fires of 1947, the worst fire disaster in Maine’s recorded history, in which 200,000 acres burned across the state.
Forest Ranger Specialist Kent Nelson said wildfires in Maine are actually most common in spring, before vegetation greens up, which is the reason Wildfire Awareness Week is held in April.
FF Goodwin is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Springvale. His name is one of three etched on the memorial marker at the central Fire Station.