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The Big Burn | Article

America's Most Devastating Wildfires

Browse a list of the largest, most costly and deadliest wildfires in U.S. history. The U.S. Forest Service did not keep detailed records until the mid-20th century, so certain information may be lacking from earlier fires.

Fire Date Location Acres Burned Lives Lost Property Damage Notes
Miramichi Fire October 1825 New Brunswick, Canada and
parts of Maine
3 million 160 Unknown Limited records kept
The Great Fire 1845 Oregon 1.5 million Unknown Unknown Limited records kept
The Silverton Fire 1865 Silverton,
Oregon
1 million Unknown Unknown Limited records kept
The Peshtigo Fire October 8, 1871 Peshtigo, Wisconsin/
(moving into Upper Michigan)
1.2 million As many as 2,500 unknown Deadliest fire in American history.
The fire created its own wind system and turned into a tornado.
The Great Michigan Fire October 8, 1871 Michigan (Various regions) 2.5 million 200 3,000 buildings destroyed  
Hinckley Fire September 1, 1894 Hinckley, Minnesota 160,000 418    
Yacolt Fire September 1902 Washington
Oregon
Over 1 million 38 146 homes  
The Big Burn August 1910 Northern Rockies/
Washington, Montana, Idaho
3 million 87 Estimated $1 billion
in timber destroyed
 
Cloquet Fire October 12, 1918 Cloquet, Minnesota 1.2 million Over 450 $73 million  
Griffith Park Fire October 3, 1933 Los Angeles, CA Unknown 29 firefighters    
Tillamook Burn 1933-1951 Oregon Coast Range Combined 355,000 Unknown  Unknown Between 1933-1951, a wildfire occurred in the same area every six ears. Each burned for several days.
The Great Fires of 1947 October 17 - November 14, 1947 Maine Over 200,000 At least 15 854 homes destroyed; between $50 - $100 million in damages This was dubbed, "The week that Maine burned."
Mann Gulch Fire August 5, 1949 Helena National Forest, Montana 4,500 (3,000 of which were consumed within 10 minutes) 13 firefighters (including 12 smokejumpers)   New safety measures and training techniques were established by the USFS as a result of the Mann Gulch Fire.
Rattlesnake Fire July 9, 1953 Mendocino National Forest, California 1,300 14 firefighters, 1 Forest Service employee   Forest Service establishes changes in wildland fire training, firefighter safety standards, firefighter knowledge and awareness of fire weather and fire behavior.
Inaja Fire November 25, 1956 Cleveland National Forest, California 43,904 11 firefighters    
The Coyote Fire September 1 - October 1, 1964 Santa Barbara, California 67,000 1 dead, 227 injured 157 structures destroyed, including 94 homes; $5.7 million in damages  
Laguna Fire September 26, 1970 San Diego County, California Over 175,000 8 civilians 382 homes destroyed  
Siege of '87 1987 California 640,000      
Yellowstone fires of 1988 June - November 1988 Yellowstone National Park Nearly 794,000     Continuous fires throughout the summer
South Canyon Fire July 3-6, 1994 Colorado 2,000 14 firefighters   A post-fire investigation results in fire management qualification standards that heighten safety and professionalism in fire management programs.
Cedar Fire October 25 - November 3, 2003 San Diego County, California Over 280,000 14 people (including 1 firefighter) 2,280 buildings Part of 2003 Fire Siege
Taylor Complex Fire June 12, 2004 Alaska Up to 1.7 million     2004 was the worst fire season on record for Alaska, with up to 6.6 million acres burned. The Taylor Complex Fire was the state's worst fire of the year.
Esperanza Fire October 26, 2006 Cbazon, California 40,200 5 firefighters 34 homes, 20 outbuildings; $9 million In 2009, Raymond Lee Oyler was convicted of first-degree murder for setting the Esperanza Fire that killed 5 firefighters.
Murphy Complex Fire July 16, 2007 Idaho and Nevada 653,100   $9 million This was Idaho's largest wildfire since the Big Burn in 1910.
Trigo Fire April 15 - May 22, 2008 New Mexico Nearly 14,000   59 homes; $11 million containment cost  
2008 California Fire Siege Summer 2008 California 1.2 million by autumn 13 firefighters   2,000 fires throughout the summer.
Wallow Fire May 29, 2011 New Mexico and Arizona 538,000      
2011 Texas Wildfire Season November 25, 2010 - October 31, 2011 Texas 4,011,709     In 2011, there were 31,453 wildfires in Texas - the state's worst fire season on record.
Yarnell Hill Fire June 30, 2013 Yarnell, Arizona Over 8,000 19 firefighters    
Carlton Complex Fire July 2014 Washington Over 256,000   At least 340 homes This was the largest wildfire in Washington's recorded history.
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