Peshtigo, WI

The Deadliest Wildfire in Recorded History Happened in Peshtigo, Wisconsin

Yana Bostongirl

According to Wikipedia, a wildfire, forest fire, bushfire, wildland fire or rural fire is an unplanned, uncontrolled, and unpredictable fire in an area of combustible vegetation starting in rural and urban areas. While naturally occurring wildfires may be beneficial to forest ecosystems, they can also cause destruction to properties and human

The tragedy that was the Peshtigo Fire was a forest fire of horrendous proportions that occurred in 1871 and is still considered to be one of the worst disasters in US history. The out-of-control firestorm took with it the lives estimated to be between1500 - 2500 people.

Since it happened on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, it was eclipsed in the news even though it claimed more lives as this excerpt explains: "Occurring on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo fire has been largely forgotten, even though it killed far more people. In total, the Great Chicago Fire took one-fifth as many lives as the Peshtigo Fire."Everybody's heard about the Chicago fire, and that got all the publicity at the time," said a volunteer at the Peshtigo Fire Museum, named Ruth Wiltzius, whose great-grandfather perished while trying to escape. "Peshtigo was a backwards lumber town then—who had ever heard of it? Chicago was the big city. Which one was going to get more attention?"

Per reports, the fire was the result of the slash and burn land management method that was used to clear land for farming and railroads: "The story of the Peshtigo Fire gleaned from survivor accounts and conjecture, is that railroad workers clearing land for tracks that Sunday evening started a brush fire which, somehow, became an inferno."

Strong winds from a cold front further fanned the flames resulting in the tragic loss of property and human life as the report elaborates: "It scorched 1.2 to 1.5 million acres, although it skipped over the waters of Green Bay to burn parts of Door and Kewaunee counties. The damage estimate was at $169 million, about the same as for the Chicago Fire. The fire also burned 16 other towns, but the damage in Peshtigo was the worst. The city was gone in an hour. In Peshtigo alone, 800 lives were lost."

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