Grant #508

Blaze Trail

November 7, 2022

An Innovative Walking Tour Tells the Story of a Historic Fire—And the People Who Rallied to Defeat It

Imagine a raging fire blazing through a town, taking with it the homes of thousands of people, leveling some 1,800 buildings. It happened in Portland, Maine. Textbooks describe the Great Fire of 1866, then the largest fire in the United States. But what textbook could ever convey the scale of the inferno’s destruction? 

Caitlin Cameron—who created Blaze Trail with a slate of creative collaborators—didn’t think so. She wanted to expose visitors to the people who helped defeat the fire, including a Black firefighter who saved the local Black meetinghouse. So she built an interpretive, immersive urban trail that uses the stories of historic and current firefighters to recount what was at that time the largest fire in the United States. The map has 15 stops and will be able to be either accessed through a website as a virtual experience or used as a walking guide in Portland itself. Our funds will help her purchase image rights, license sound and music clips for sound installations, and secure a URL for a new website. We hope it fuels a burning desire to keep learning more!

Category: Civic Engagement, Community, Education, History