Recent headlines have been dominated by news from a usually obscure corner of Canada – Fort McMurray, Alberta. The town has been absolutely decimated by a massive forest fire that has burned (as of Tuesday May 10) over 500,000 acres of land and forced some 80,000 residents to flee the flames. Luckily, no one has been killed as a direct result of the fire.
However, history has been littered with many examples of fire-related tragedies with great lost of life with cities like London, Rome, and Chicago all burning at some time or another. When measured in terms of loss of life, the single costliest wildfire in United States history is the often-forgotten Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin. On October 8, 1871 (which happened to be the same night as the famous Chicago Fire), a forest fire broke out near the logging camp outside of Peshtigo, Wisconsin near Lake Michigan. The fire ravaged about 1.2 million acres of forest in Wisconsin and Michigan. It killed somewhere between 1, 500 and 2,500 people, mostly in Peshtigo itself.
Featured Image. “Forest Fire.” By BLM – http://www.blm.gov/photos/netpub/server.np?find&catalog=catalog&site=BLM&field=Keywords&op=contains&value=wildfire&sorton=Cataloged&&template=details.np&offset=77, Public Domain.
Image 1. “Peshtigo Fire Museum.” By self – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5.
Holbrook, Stewart. “Fire Makes Wind: Wind Makes Fire.” American Heritage. August 1956.
La Corte, Rachel and Robert Gillies. “Alberta PM says Fort McMurray saved from worst of wildfire.” Washington Post. 9 May 2016.
Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Local History & Biography Articles; “History of the Peshtigo Fire.” Peshtigo Times. October 6, 1921.