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Simpson Street Free Press

The Peshtigo Firestorm and Tornado

The Peshtigo fire was a huge fire that destroyed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin on October 8, 1871. Although the fire is considered one of the deadliest fires in America history, somehow it is largely forgotten.

In the 1800s many fires were set on purpose. It was a common practice to clear land for farming and for building railroads in 1871. On the day of the fire, a cold front moved west that brought very strong winds. This pushed the fire out of control, creating a big wildfire that headed toward the town of Peshtigo.

Another reason the Peshtigo fire is forgotten is that a big fire in Chicago happened on the same day. The Great Chicago Fire also started on October 8, 1871.

Peshtigo was a large area for logging as it was surrounded by forest. That summer was very dry, all types of fires were breaking out in the forest. Sources list 1.5 million acres burned. Twelve towns were burned to the ground, and the fire killed about 1,500 to 2,700 people.

The people that survived reported that the fire and wind created a fire tornado that threw houses into the air. Many of the survivors hid in the waters of the Peshtigo River. Others drowned while trying to escape into the river. News about the fire in Chicago overshadowed the firestorm and tornado in Peshtigo.

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