Author: Mary Knapp

When we think of wildfires, we generally think of forest fires in the west, or the grassland fires of the central Plains. However, the deadliest wildfire occurred in the forests of the upper Midwest. October 8th marked the 146th anniversary of the “Great Chicago Fire”. Prolonged drought and hot, dry winds the fire that destroyed over 17 thousand buildings and killed 200 people. The worst of the damage, however, occurred in Peshtigo WI, as part of the million acres of land that burned that day. A fire destroyed the town, killing more than 1100 persons. And in Michigan, 2.5 million acres were burned, killing 200 persons. Accounts stated “Tornadoes of fire" generated by intense heat caused houses to explode in fire, and burned to death scores of persons seeking refuge in open fields.

Peshtigo fire area (Public Domain)

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library