The Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871 - What caused it?
The Cause


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The Cause

What caused the great fires that plagued the Upper Midwest in 1871? 

Weather: prolonged and widespread drought and high temperatures, capped off by a cyclonic storm in early October (see map, below left).

Settlement & Industry

bulletFarming: clearing of hardwood growth for farm crops; "slash and burn" methods.
bulletLogging: Slash from the huge, virgin pine forest was intentionally burned, or left in piles in the woods and clearings creating dry tinder for forest fires
bulletRailroads: trees and brush cleared from rights-of-way were left by the wayside. In dry weather, sparks from steam engines often ignited grass, brush and slash.
bulletIndustry: Sawmills and factories, with large supplies of raw materials (logs), product (lumber, woodenwares) and waste (bark, sawdust)
bulletConstruction: Wooden buildings, board walks, sawdust floors and streets

Could a comet or meteorite have played a role? See impact theory for more on this subject.

In This Section:
Impact Theory



Cite as: Deana C. Hipke. The Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871. <>
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