Last update: February 18th, 2020 at 8:00 am
The deadliest fire in recorded history struck Peshtigo, Wisconsin in 1871, killing between 1,200 and 2,500 people. The fire gained momentum when smaller fires were fueled by dry conditions and winds that reached over 110 miles per hour. The disaster destroyed 12 communities and 1.2 million acres.
The fire was a very large forest fire that took place on October 8, 1871, in northeastern Wisconsin, including much of the Door Peninsula, and adjacent parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The largest community in the affected area was, Wisconsin. It burned approximately 1,200,000 acres (490,000 ha) and was the deadliest wildfire in American history, with the estimated deaths of around 1,500 people, and possibly as many as 2,500.
Occurring on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire, the fire has been largely forgotten, even though it killed far more people. On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fires, Holland and Manistee, Michigan (across Lake Michigan from Peshtigo), and Port Huron at the southern end of Lake Huron also had major fires, leading to various theories by contemporaries and later historians that they had a common cause.
The setting of small fires was a common way to clear forest land for farming and railroad construction. On the day of the Peshtigo fire, a cold front moved in from the west.