Five of the Most Devastating Wildfires in U.S. History
Here’s a look back at five devastating wildfires in United States history:
The Great Fire of 1871 – October 1871
While most don’t think of the Great Chicago Fire as a wildfire, it has been characterized by many as one, and is often grouped with two other wildfires that occurred in 1871. Beginning on October 8, 1871, deadly fires spread across the Upper Midwest. The Great Chicago Fire ripped through the city, leaving over 100,000 residents without a home. At the same time, The Great Michigan Fire blazed through the towns of Holland and Mainstee, burning over 2.5 million acres. The Peshtigo Fire, which took place in Wisconsin, was the deadliest fire in U.S. history, burning over 1.2 million acres and leaving more than 1,500 dead.
The Big Burn – August 1910
Sometimes referred to as the Great Fire of 1910, the Big Burn destroyed 3 million acres of land throughout Idaho and Montana. The fire left the Montana towns of DeBorgia, Grand Forks, Haugan, Henderson and Taft destroyed, with an estimated $1 billion in timber destroyed. In total, there were 87 fatalities, 78 of those were firefighters.
Cloquet Fire – October 12, 1918
The Cloquet Fire of 1918 began from sparks on a railroad, and became the deadliest natural disaster in Minnesota history. The fire claimed 453 lives in one day, and 38 communities in Minnesota were burned.
Mann Gulch Fire – August 5, 1949
The Mann Gulch wildfire erupted in a gulch at the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness in Montana. The fire spread quickly, burning 4,500 acres, consuming 3,000 in a matter of ten minutes. The fire blazed for five days and claimed the lives of 13 firefighters, 12 of which were smokejumpers. As a result, the United States Forest Service developed new training techniques and safety measures.
Yellowstone Fires of 1988
Throughout the summer of 1988, and into the fall, nearly 250 wildfires started in the greater Yellowstone area, including 50 in Yellowstone National Park. In total, 793,000 acres of the park burned, amounting to 36% of the park’s total acreage. About 9,000 firefighters were called to help fight the fires and three of the fires were human-caused.
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