Fire Timeline—Text Version
Large Fires & Fatalities
OCTOBER 29, 1804
William Clark Journal Entry
William Clark's journal entry for an incident is recorded near Ft. Mandan, North Dakota. This may be the first recorded wildland fire fatality and use of a fire shelter.
"The Prarie was Set on fire (or cought by accident) by a young man of the Mandins, the fire went with such velocity that it burnt to death a man & woman, who Could not get to any place of Safty, one man a woman & Child much burnt and Several narrowly escaped the flame. a boy half white was saved unhurt in the midst of the flaim" ... "The course of his being Saved was a Green buffalow Skin was thrown over him by his mother who perhaps had more fore Sight for the pertection of her Son, and [l]ess for herself than those who escaped the flame, the Fire did not burn under the Skin leaveing the grass round the boy. This fire passed our camp last [night] about 8 oClock P.M. it went with great rapitidity and looked Tremendious."
REFERENCED ITEMS: From Bernard DeVoto, ed., The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997 ), p. 60.
MARCH 30, 1805
Lewis & Clark Journal Entry
"The plains are on fire in view of the fort on both sides of the river, it is said to be common for the Indians to burn the plains near their villages every spring for the benefit of the horse and to induce the Buffalow to come near them."
OCTOBER 7, 1825
The Miramichi Fire
Maine and New Brunswick—Three million acres burned and 160 people killed.
The Great Fire
Oregon—1.5 million acres burned.
RELATED ITEMS: Great Fire of 1845
The Yaquina Fire
Oregon—450,000 acres burned
The Silverton Fire
Oregon—one million acres burned
The Coos Fire
Oregon—300,000 acres burned
OCTOBER 8, 1871
The worst recorded forest fire in North America history
Peshtigo, Wisconsin—fire burned over 1.2 million acres and killed 1,182 people. Fires in Lower Michigan—burned over 2.5 million acres, destroyed over 3,000 buildings killed 200 people. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed over 17,400 structures and killed 250 people.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1894
Fire burns 160,000 acres, destroys the town of Hinkley, Minnesota, and killed 418 persons.
RELATED ITEMS: Hinckley Fire of 1894
February 16–17, 1898
A Series Of Wildfires
A series of wildfires swept through South Carolina. Unconfirmed reports indicate that 14 people were killed, numerous homes and sawmills burned, and up to 3,000,000 acres of forest land were charred.
RELATED ITEMS: Significant Wildfire Events in South Carolina History
August 20–21, 1910
The Big Blowup
Idaho and Montana—Over 3 million acres burned, destroying numerous towns and killing 85 people across northern Idaho and western Montana. It destroyed the Montana towns of DeBorgia, Grand Forks, Haugan, Henderson and Taft.
RELATED ITEMS: The Big Burn of 1910
AUGUST 20, 1910
Ed Pulaski, the Wallace district ranger of the Coeur d'Alene National Forest, led a crew of firefighters battling fires near the town of Wallace, Idaho. His crew was trapped between walls of fire and he led them to safety inside a mineshaft. Five of the 45 men died and Ed Pulaski and many others received serious burns while escaping the flames.
October 12, 1918
Over 1.2 million acres burned 38 communities destroyed 450 fatalities
RELATED ITEMS: The 1918 Fire: Fire Memorial Plaque in Kettle River
SEPTEMBER 17, 1923
Giant Berkley Fire
California—Leveled 50 city blocks, destroying 624 buildings when 60 mile an hour winds drove flames out of the surrounding hills.
OCTOBER 3, 1933
Griffith Park Fire
Los Angeles, California—Kills 29 firefighters and injures more than 150 when a sudden wind change sent a shaft of flame up the slopes of Dam Canyon.
RELATED ITEMS: Griffith Park Fire
Heaven's Peak Fire
Fires in Glacier National Park destroyed buildings in the Many Glacier area of the park. Only through the efforts of firefighters and hotel employees was the Many Glacier Hotel saved.
RELATED ITEMS: The Story of the Heaven's Peak Fire of 1936
AUGUST 21, 1937
Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming—15 firefighters died and another 38 were injured when a passing cold front turned the fire's head a full 90 degrees and trapped groups of firefighters on various parts of the fire.
RELATED ITEMS: Staff Ride to the Blackwater Fire
JULY 28, 1939
Rock Creek Fire
Flames overran and killed five crewmen from Paradise Camp F-5, Company 1212, a Civilian Conservation Corp Firefighting Crew, as they retreated from a fire in steep rugged terrain on the Toiyabe National Forest and Winnemucca District-Division of Grazing lands in Northern Nevada near the small community of Orovada. This is the first recorded firefighting fatality in sage brush fuel type.
RELATED ITEMS: Staff Ride to the Rock Creek Fire
OCTOBER 3, 1943
Hauser Creek Fire
Cleveland National Forest, Southern California—The fire burns 10,000 acres, kills 11 U.S. Marines and injures 72 others. Fire started by gunnery practice.
AUGUST 5, 1949
Mann Gulch Fire
Gates of the Mountain Wilderness, Montana—Kills 13 firefighters. Only the foreman and two crew members of the 16-man smokejumper crew survived.
JULY 9, 1953
A New Tribes Mission firefighting crew under the direction of U.S. Forest Service overhead was trapped by flames as they worked on a brush covered hillside in Powderhouse Canyon on the Mendocino National Forest. One USFS Ranger and 14 missionary firefighters died in the fire.
RELATED ITEMS: Staff Ride to the Rattlesnake Fire
43,000 acres near Julian, California kills 11 firefighters
NOVEMBER 1, 1966
Loop Fire, Angeles National Forest, California—Thirteen El Cariso Hotshots were killed and others injured when a cold trail fireline was being constructed downhill at 3:55pm on a SW aspect. The fire relocated from the bottom of a draw to the slope below the crew and the smoldering fire transitioned to an area on fire creating flame lengths reaching 100 feet.
HTML—Staff Ride to the Loop Fire
September 26–October 3, 1970
The Laguna Fire
California—San Diego County's largest fire in modern times, burned 175,425 acres, killed eight people and destroyed 382 homes. In 24 hours the fire burned from near Mount Laguna into the outskirts of El Cajon and Spring Valley.
Moccasin Mesa Fire
Mesa Verde National Park—A lightning caused fire, burned a total of 2,680 acres in Mesa Verde National Park and on Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Lands. The Park failed to recognize the potential for cultural resource damage from fire suppression activities. Fire suppression activities (primarily dozers) resulted in the destruction of numerous archeological sites. A post-fire review and investigation resulted in the establishment of a national policy to include cultural resource oversight in the management of wildland fires on all federal lands.
JULY 16, 1976
Battlement Creek Fire
Colorado—kills five firefighters
JUNE 16, 1977
La Mesa Fire
Bandelier National Monument—Burned over 15,000 acres of lands administered by three federal agencies. The major portion of the burn was within Bandelier, burning over 10,000 acres and affecting numerous cultural sites containing artifacts dating back to the early 1100-1200's. This is the first known wildland fire event in which archeologists were used as cultural resource locators and many sites were saved as a result of this action.
SEPTEMBER 15, 1978
Ouzel Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park threatens nearby community of Allenspark, Colorado. Initially managed for resource benefits as a prescribed natural fire, the Ouzel Fire was driven by strong downslope "Chinook" winds toward the park boundary. Winds eventually subsided and the fire was controlled within the park boundary. Recommendations from the fire review further clarified the NPS fire management planning and use of natural fires for resource benefits.
Salmon National Forest near Salmon, ID—Seventy-two firefighters deployed shelters for 1-2 hours when fire ran up a west aspect with a following wind at 1600 hours.
Great Black Dragon Fire
China and Russia—Started by a careless smoker, burned over 3 million acres in the world's largest virgin pine forest in China and approximately 30 million acres in Russia.
The Siege of '87 Fire
California—Burned across 640,000 acres in California. The Klamath and Stanislaus National Forests lost valuable timber.
Fires In Yellowstone
A total of 248 fires started in greater Yellowstone in 1988; 50 of those were in Yellowstone National Park. Despite widespread misconceptions that all fires were initially allowed to burn, only 31 of the total were; 28 of these began inside the park. In the end, 7 major fires were responsible for more than 95% of the 1.2 million acres burned. Five of those fires were ignited outside the park, and 3 of them were human-caused fires that firefighters attempted to control from the beginning. Approximately 793,000 (about 36%) of the park's 2,221,800 acres were burned. Five Type I Incident Management Teams, an Area Command Team and nearly 9,000 firefighters at one time were called in to fight the fires. Total suppression costs were estimated at $120 million.
SEPTEMBER 6, 1988
Canyon Creek Fire
Canyon Creek fire a prescribed natural fire that had burned much of the summer in the Scapegoat Wilderness in Montana. on the Helena, Lewis and Clark, and LoLo National Forests. The jet stream surfaced over the fire and the fire ran east over the continental divide and burned over 118,000 acres overnight. It ended up at 249,000 acres.
Tonto National Forest, Arizona—Burns 28,000 acres, razes a subdivision and kills six firefighters.
October 19–22, 1991
Tunnel Fire (renamed the East Bay Hills Fire)
Oakland and Berkley, California—This fire is the most destructive wildland urban interface fire to date. Twenty-five people were killed with approximately 135 injured, 3,354 single family dwellings, 456 apartment units and approximately 2,000 vehicles were destroyed. While only burning 1,600 acres, total damages were estimated at $1.5 billion.
Laguna Hills Fire
California—destroyed 366 houses in just 6 hours
JULY 6, 1994
South Canyon Fire
near Glenwood Springs, Colorado kills 14 firefighters—An interagency team was formed to investigate the fatalities and contributing factors. The subsequent 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Policy and Program Review, signed by both secretaries of Agriculture and Interior, directed federal wildland fire agencies to establish fire management qualifications standards to improve firefighter safety and increase professionalism in fire management programs.
RELATED ITEMS: South Canyon Fire Investigation
JULY 7, 1994
Glacier National Park—Experienced problems getting resources to manage the fire as a "prescribed natural fire." Managers discussed the need for crews to manage these type fires similar to fire fighting crews. This led the National Park Service to create four Fire Use Modules and four Fire Use Management Teams.
5.1 Million Acres Burned
5.1 million acres of land burned across the nation by the end of November, nearly 2.5 million acres were managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with two million acres being in the Great Basin, which encompasses most of Nevada, the western half of Utah, the southeast corner of Oregon, the lower third of Idaho and a small slice of California.
Cerro Grande Fire
Bandelier National Monument—A prescribed fire escaped control and burned over 45,000 acres and destroyed 235 homes in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Department of Agriculture and interior suspend all prescribed fires west of the 100th Meridian for approximately one year.
Bircher and Pony Fires
Bircher Fire Mesa Verde National Park—Burns 23,607 acres in July
Pony Fire Mesa Verde National Park—Burns 5,420 acres in August causing closure of Mesa Verde National Park.
National Fire Plan
Fires burn a record 8.4 million acres; National Fire Plan adopted which increased funding and committed federal land management agencies to treat, by burning and thinning, 40 million acres of brush and dense forest during the first decade of the new century.
JULY 10, 2001
Okanogan National Forest, Washington—Erratic fire behavior entraps crew and two civilians. 14 shelters were deployed and four firefighters died.
RELATED ITEMS: Thirtymile Fire Information
JUNE 8, 2002
The Hayman Fire
Started near Lake George, Colorado—The fire burned over 136,000 acres before being contained July 2 at cost of over $43 Million. 600 structures including 133 residences were destroyed in the largest fire in Colorado history.
RELATED ITEMS: Hayman Fire and BAER Information
JUNE 18, 2002
The Rodeo-Chediski Fire
began near Cibique, Arizona—The fire burned over 462,000 acres, caused evacuation of over 8,000 people, destroyed 426 residences and cost approximately $153 Million. Four Type I Incident Management Teams and an Area Command Management Team were involved in fighting the larges fire in Arizona history.
JULY 29, 2002
Long Mesa Fire
Mesa Verde National Park closed because of the Long Mesa Fire.
Fires Burn 7 Million Acres
88,458 fires burned roughly 7million acres and caused the deaths of 23 firefighters. Arizona, Colorado and Oregon all have largest fires in recorded history.
JULY 22, 2003
Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho—Experienced a major blow-up causing the deaths of two firefighters. The investigation report cited inadequate management oversight, failure to comply with policy, failure to recognize and adjust fire suppression and tactics, and a shortage and misallocation of resources as situations leading to the fatalaties. A separate four-member accident review board reviewed the findings and developed recommendations to prevent similar accidents. The key actions that, when implemented, would best prevent similar mishaps in the future, include strengthening command and control performance of agency administrator and fire managers, and periodically re-certifying fire management leadership positions nationally.
RELATED ITEMS: Cramer Fire Investigation Information
Numerous Wildfires in Glacier National Park
Numerous wildfires in Glacier National Park fires close portions of the Going-to-the-Sun Highway and causes evacuation of West Glacier communities.
The Cedar Fire
The Cedar Fire started on the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County. It burned 275,000 acres, over 2,400 homes, 14 civilian fatalities and one firefighter fatality. Fire behavior like that has never been seen before in Southern California. Largest fire in California recorded history. Many of the civilians died while evacuating from the fire.
RELATED ITEMS: California Fire Siege 2003—The Story
Wildland Fires In Alaska
Wildland fires in Alaska burn over 6.38 million acres.