The Great Peshtigo Fire has the double distinction of being the deadliest fire in American history, destroying over 1,875 square miles (4,850 sq. km) of forest and taking between 1,200 and 2,500 lives; and of occurring on the same day — almost the exact same time — as the most famous fire in American history, the Great Chicago Fire.
It occurred in 1871 near the town of Peshtigo on the north shore of Green Bay in Wisconsin. It had been a dry summer with very high temperatures, and the “slash and burn” land clearing practices made the region a veritable tinderbox. On October 8, a cyclonic storm with high winds whipped up existing small fires from land-clearing, lumber operations, passing trains, etc. into a larger forest fire. The heat from the fire became so intense that the fire created it’s own weather system, forming “fire tornados”; vortices of flame which according to some witnesses threw rail cars and houses into the air. Not only did the firestorm consume most of the north shore of Green Bay, but it spread across the bay and burned large portions of the Door Peninsula. Many of those lucky enough to survive did so by fleeing into the Peshtigo River or other nearby bodies of water, although many drowned in the attempt.
Because the fire occurred in a remote region of the country, and overshadowed by the Chicago Fire on the same day, most Americans never heard of it, and even the Governor of Wisconsin had to urge people to donate aid to the Peshtigo tragedy instead of the Chicago one.
Game and Story Use
- Recently discovered documents reveal that a Peshtigo town doctor discovered an Indian artifact that could prove an important theory. Your mission: to travel back in time and recover the artifact before it is destroyed by the fire.
- The artifact is a magical one imprisoning a powerful spirit and is actually the cause of the fire!
- A popular theory suggests that the Peshtigo and Chicago fires were started by two fragments of a meteor striking the earth at the same time. Perhaps it wasn't a meteor; perhaps it was an alien spacecraft! You need to find those aliens!