Wildfires_partII_Notes

Wildfires_partII_Notes - 1 2 On October 8, 1871, numerous...

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On October 8, 1871, numerous wildfires ravaged Northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. An estimated 1,500 people died, although some estimates go as high as 2,400 people. The fire today also known as “the forgotten fire” because on exactly the same day, the City of Chicago experienced its own tragic fire event, in which about 300 people perished. The Peshtigo, WI suffered the worst impact (800 fatalities) although 16 other towns were impacted as well. The town burned to the ground in just an hour. The damage amount is estimated to be similar to the Chicago fire. 3
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The Chicago urban fire was a result of desolate construction while the Peshtigo inferno had its roots in drought conditions, plenty of dry fuel, and carelessness. The abundance of fuel relates directly to the farming techniques practiced in the late 1800s in Wisconsin. In order to claim farmland, people cleared hardwoods and/or simply burned the forest. Often enough, woods were left in piles along the wayside. Additional fuel came from sawmill and the lumber industry’s raw materials and waste. At that time, wood was also the dominant construction material, i.e. there was plenty of fuel for a raging wildfire. It is assumed that railroad workers clearing land for railroad tracks started a brush fire that turned into a disaster. With the entire year well below normal rainfall, even the cedar swamps had dried up and turned the generally wet peat into tinder. Many people (and animals) sought refuge in the Peshtigo River where they had to dive and wet their head continuously due the tremendous ambient heat. It is assumed that the wildfire died out from a change in wind direction where it was blown back onto itself and had no fuel left to burn. With federal and state resources directed to the Chicago fire, the area experienced a slow and utterly insufficient response to this tragic event. While the Chicago fire is part of the Nation’s disaster history, the Peshtigo fire remains unknown to many. 4
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The Yellowstone National Park conflagration was the results of several fires that grew into one (9 fires were caused by humans, 42 caused by lightning). During the summer months, the National Park barely received any rainfall, so that lightning combined with unusually high winds and dry weather conditions created an ideal scenario for a major wildfire. Although millions of dollars were spent to contain the fire, winter snowfall actually put out the last fire. The fire represent the largest fire fighting effort in U.S. history. 5
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After the fire, scientists continued to research the impact of the event and found that a) Fertile soil with good-water holding capacity and dense, diverse vegetation before the fire recovered quickly. b) Grasslands returned to pre-fire appearance within a few years.
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Wildfires_partII_Notes - 1 2 On October 8, 1871, numerous...

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