Much has been written about the Great Chicago Fire, but that inferno was only one of several that occurred in the Great Lakes area on October 8, 1871. That same day, a firestorm of hellish dimensions consumed more than a million acres of Wisconsin and Michigan. It crossed rivers and destroyed woodlands, farms and towns including Peshtigo, Wisconsin, the largest settlement in the area, with a pre-fire population of about 1,700. An estimated 1,200 to 2,400
The cause of the blaze remains somewhat of a mystery. Many researchers believe a combination of dry weather and strong winds helped stoke several smaller fires into a single conflagration so huge that it created its own weather system, triggering wind gusts of up to 80 m.p.h. and fueling a number of the small fiery tornadoes known as fire whirls. Another theory is that the numerous simultaneous wildfires that started the blaze were ignited by falling fragments of the passing Biela comet.
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