The Ten Deadliest Wildfires In US History
As Measured By the Number of Deaths
October 8 – 14, 1871
More than 1,500 lives were lost and 3.8 million acres burned. The United States’ worse fire, however, is largely forgotten because it occurred at the same time as the more publicized Great Chicago Fire, which occurred on October 8 – 10, 1871. Interestingly, a similarly deadly fire occurred in Port Huron, Michigan on the same date.
October 13 – 15, 1918
As many as 1,000 were killed (although some sources put the total at around 500) 52,000 injured or displaced and 250,000 acres destroyed.
September 1, 1894
The Great Hinkley Fire burned 200,000 acres and may have killed as many as 800, although some put the total at just over 400. The towns of Mission Creek, Brook Park and Hinckley all were completely destoryed. Among the victims was Boston Corbett, the union soldier who killed John Wilkes Booth.
Port Huron, Michigan
September 5, 1881
The Thumb Fire (named for Michigan’s east side thumb-shaped peninsula), burned more than 1 million acres and took 282 lives. This was the second major fire in the area in ten years.
Port Huron, Michigan
October 8 – 21, 1871
The Port Huron fire of 1871 occurred simultaneously with the Peshtigo, Wisconsin fire and the Great Chicago Fire. It destroyed more than 1,200,000 acres and killed 200.
Maine and New Brunswick, Canada
Named after a river in Canada, the Miramichi fire burned 3 million acres and killed 160.
Idaho and Montana
August 20 – 21, 1910
The Great Fire of 1910—also known as the Big Blow Up, or the Big Burn—ignited more than 3 million acres. It killed at least 85 people. The blaze created a firestorm that whipped up high winds which very quickly drove the fire forward.
October 20, 1991
Beginning as a grass fire, this firestorm destroyed 1,520 acres and killed 25.
Multiple wildfires destroyed more than 800,000 acres and left 22 dead.
Cleveland National Forest, San Diego, California
October 23 – November 3, 2003
Burning more than 230,000 acres, this fire killed 15.