The first sign of the apocalypse came on a Saturday night in the early autumn of 1950. It was a little after 9 o'clock. That's when a star was seen streaking across the sky above Toronto; some said it was as big as the moon. It was gone in an instant; it broke apart into three pieces and disappeared over the lake. Most people didn't even notice. But the meteor was just the beginning. The real show started the next day, when the sun turned blue.
"Toronto's sky was filled with weird wonder," the Globe and Mail reported. "A great saffron-colored cloud filled the sky. Around it rolled steel grey clouds, shot by blackness and rippled, as water is rippled by a sudden light wind. Far off to the north and east the cold white light of the horizon accentuated the darkness that hung over the city.
And the bad omens were far from over. As people woke up on Monday morning and went to work, the skies were still swirling with "yellows, browns, pinks and purples" and the sun was still shining blue. It continued all day. And then, that very same night, there was yet another sign of the apocalypse: a dark shadow swallowed up the harvest moon. It was a total lunar eclipse.
In the end, it was the changing seasons that brought the great fire to an end. The rains and snows of late October doused the flames. The devastation left in its wake finally convinced the government to change the rules. Forest fires would now be fought more vigorously. The sun above Toronto hasn't been blue since.
You can read Helen Sawyer Hogg's column about Toronto's blue sun for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada here. It's a PDF. Her husband, Frank S. Hogg, was also an astronomer. He wrote about it here, which you can read if you've got a Toronto Public Library card. That card will also allow you to read the coverage from the Toronto Daily Star here and here, the Globe and Mail here, and the Associated Press here and here. The writer Pat Mastern remembers her own experiences outside of Toronto that day here.