In the summer of 1910, hundreds of wildfires raged across the Northern Rockies. By the time it was all over, more than three million acres had burned and at least 78 firefighters were dead. It was the largest fire in American history. "Big Burn" premieres February 3, 2015 on PBS American Experience.
My American Experience
Have you survived a wildfire, a hurricane, or another disastrous force of nature? Tell us your story.
Never in recorded United States history has there been anything to match the fire of 1910. For its size, its ferocity, its impact, nothing comes close. Over the course of a weekend, 3 million acres were burned -- an area equal to the size of Connecticut. Several towns were leveled, and about 100 people were killed, as well.
But beyond the astonishing numbers about timber blown down in hurricane force winds, and temperatures at the peak of the firestorm touching 2,000 degrees, the fire stands out for another reason. As a nation, the United States had never tried to organize a large force to fight a wildfire. It was done in 1910, and the lessons, and consequences, are with us still.