The worst wildfire recorded in US History took place in Wisconsin and part of Michigan in 1871. The Great Peshtigo Fire burned 3.8 million acres and killed more at least 1,200 people and possibly as many as 2,500.* Some of them were boiled to death after trying to escape by jumping in rivers or lakes.
An area twice the size of Rhode Island was burned completely and 12 communities were destroyed. The map below (via Weather Underground
) shows the origin and extent of the fire, wind direction and estimated number of deaths in each area.
The fire broke out in October after a very hot and dry summer. These conditions also helped set up numerous other fires in the region including the Great Chicago Fire - also the same week.
Though the fire is largely forgotten it has its own museum
in Pehtigo, Wisconsin - with some nice public art.
* An accurate death toll has never been determined because many records were destroyed by the fire.