October 8, Fire Prevention Day in the U. S.
Fire Prevention Day was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9.
While the Great Chicago Fire was the best-known blaze, it wasn’t the biggest. That distinction goes to the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire, which also occurred on October 8th, 1871, roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burning down 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres.
One speculation, first suggested in 1883, is that the occurrence of the Peshtigo and Chicago fires on the same day was not just a coincidence, but that both fires and other major, simultaneous fires in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were caused by the impact of fragments from the Comet Biela.
Whether or not it originated from a comet, experts do agree that it was the perfect fire storm, consisting of wind, topography, humidity. It is known as the Peshtigo Paradigm.
This image of the extent of the blaze was provided by the U. S. Census Department and is the public domain.