Peshtigo Fire 1871

We sometimes think this has been the worst blank in history. We sometimes make this claim without considering history. 1871 didnt have carbon dioxide causing this but human contributions did contribute but how much is the question.

For example this article said

Peshtigo wasn’t destroyed.  It was incinerated by a fire of biblical proportions. A perfect storm of wind, drought, terrain and combustion stirred up a witch’s brew for weeks that finally exploded into a cataclysmic firestorm very much like those that destroyed Dresden and Tokyo in World War II.  For several hours, it created its own weather, including fire tornadoes that picked up railroad cars and turned burning trees into unguided missiles larger than telephone poles. Survivors later remarked that “…this must be what Hell looks like.”  When it was done, there was nothing left but ashes. There was no way to fight it and nowhere to run from it.

It went on to say

The abundant fuel in and around the town increased the ferocity of the fire even more.  It turned on itself and created a fire tornado. The cyclone demolished buildings, uprooted trees and sucked tons of burning material high into the air, only to drop it on to whatever or whomever was below.

The soil itself was burning, powder dry with sawdust ground into it. At the height of the conflagration, a dome of flames arched over the town.  Many survivors said the sky was on fire.

Survivors also reported a phenomenon which has never been fully explained.  They saw dark, ball-shaped objects come streaking out of the flames and explode on contact with anything, much like napalm. Several accounts refer to them as  “fire balloons.”  Some theorize it was methane gas or some other carbon byproduct.  Others have said it was pine sap, thinned by the heat, concentrated by the wind like a centrifuge and spit out. Whatever they were, they appear to have been unique to the Peshtigo disaster.  There are no recordings of similar occurrences in other fires.


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