Though modern times have seen large fires, especially in California and Texas in the past few years, the worst fires ever seen in the United States took place over 100 years ago. The deadliest, the 1871 Peshtigo Fire, claimed 2,500 lives while the largest was the Great Fire of 1910, burning three million acres of land.
As shown in these famous wildfires, many if not all incidents of tragedy, wildfires are very dangerous and can claim lives just like the worst tornadoes ever. Fortunately, as the old slogan states, forest fires can be prevented. What are the worst wildfires in history? Take a look at this list of wildfires and you'll find out for yourself.
If you're curious about things like the biggest fire in history and other kinds of natural disasters, check out more lists like Worst Earthquakes of All Time, Most Devastating Global Famines and Droughts, Most Shocking Tornadoes.
2016 Gatlinburg Firestorm
Mountain resort city Gatlinburg, TN was consumed by a firestorm in late November and early December 2016. Fourteen people died from the blaze, including a mother and her two young daughters and Dr. Ed Taylor, a local minister who officiated more than 85,000 weddings.
The fire became exceedingly dangerous when strong winds spread a small patch of flames across a large swath of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. By the time the it died down, 17,000 acres were scorched and 170 structures destroyed. About 14,000 people were evacuated, 130 injured, and 2,500 left without power. Before and after pictures show the extent of the devastation.
Dolly Parton, whose theme park, Dollywood, abuts Gatlinburg, organized a telethon to benefit victims of the fire, to take place on December 13, 2016. As of December 5, Parton had raised $1m for fire victims through other efforts.
Burning from May 29, 2011, to July 8, 2011, the Walloe Fire was named after the Bear Wallow Wilderness, where the blaze in Arizona and New Mexico started. Over 538,000 acres of land, 72 buildings and 16 people perished as a result of the fire, which was believed to have been started by an abandoned campfire.
Summer 2008 California Wildfires
Burning land in Northern and Central California, the Summer 2008 California Wildfires included over 2,780 individual fires that occurred between May 22 and August 29, 2008. Killing 23 people and destroying over 1.15 million acres of land, the fires were believed to be caused by a combination of lightning and heat.
Murphy Complex Fire
Spreading through the states of Idaho and Nevada, the Murphy Complex Fire burned an estimated 653,000 acres of land in 2007. The same area was subject to another fire, which spread into Mexico, in June 2011.
2004 Taylor Complex Fire
The Taylor Complex Fire was part of a record-breaking 2004 fire season in Alaska that burned a combined 6.6 million acres. This fire accounted for 1.3 million acres alone, making it the single largest wildfire in the United States during the period of 1997 to 2007.
Yellowstone Fires of 1988
Caused from a number of smaller fires that burned out of control, the Yellowstone Fires of 1988 shut down the national part completely for several months and destroyed 793,880 acres or roughly 36% of the park. Over 9,000 firefighters attempted to control the blaze but the effort was a losing one with the fire allowed to burn out. It eventually was ended by a snowstorm that hit the area.
Great Fire of 1910
Believed to be the largest fire in U.S. history, the Great Fire of 1910 burned over two days from August 21 and August 21, 1910, in the states of Washington, Idaho and Montana. An estimated three million acres of land were burned by the blaze and 87 people were killed.