Last week was National Fire Prevention Week. The date was
selected to coincide with the Great Chicago Fire, which burned 3.3 square miles
of the city from Oct. 8-10, 1871, killing up to 300 people. However a lesser known tragedy happened the same day.
The Great Peshtigo Fire is called the “forgotten fire” because the fire in
Chicago dominated the press at the time.
The Peshtigo fire was the worst forest fire in recorded
history, burning millions of dollars of timber and property in northeast
Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, killing an estimated 1,500 to 2,500
people. Many months of extreme drought combined with the land-clearing
practices of the time ("slash and burn") caused many small fires to
be whipped into a huge forest fire when a cyclonic storm blew up on the night
of October 8, 1871.
The fire burned such a large area -- why is it called the
"Peshtigo Fire" ? Though other
villages and farm settlements were affected by the fire, the greatest loss of
life and property occurred in the village of Peshtigo. About 800 people died
there, nearly half of the official population from the 1870 census.
The Peshtigo Company had a single, horse drawn steam pumper
for fighting fires in the sawmill, but there was virtually no other technology
available for fighting structure fires, much less a forest fire of such great
magnitude. The people were essentially trapped in the town, surrounded by
wooden buildings and sidewalks, sawdust-strewn streets and a burning forest. The
fire continued to burn until it reached the waters of Green Bay, the storm
winds died down, and the rain came.
Obviously fire prevention isn’t just a one week observation,
Take the time and live fire prevention 365 days a year!!
With the upcoming time change, make sure you change the batteries in your smoke detector AND YOUR CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR. Don't have one yet? You really need to make sure you have one and place it near where you sleep. "Here the beep where you sleep"