3. The Peshtigo Fire
Happening on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire might not have grabbed as many headlines, but it is still the most devastating forest fire in American history. Although it’s not known for sure, it’s believed that the fire was caused by railroad workers clearing land for tracks when they started a brush fire, and due to it being an unusually dry summer, it quickly got out of hand.
So, on October 8, 1871, a horrific fire would sweep through northeast Wisconsin, scorching between 1.2 and 1.5 million acres and claiming 1200+ lives. The fire burned down 16 towns, but Peshtigo was hit the hardest as it was completely destroyed in about an hour with the loss of 800 citizens.