In 1871, Before You Ruined The Climate

On this day in 1871, Minnesota was in flames. A few days later Chicago burned to the ground and America had its most destructive fire ever in Wisconsin


About stevengoddard

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30 Responses to In 1871, Before You Ruined The Climate

  1. Steven, I once saw a piece on television (won’t cite the source because he was someone of low credibility, but I don’t think it was his original idea anyway) that purported that the pattern of those fires appeared consistent with a strike from a meteor that broke into several large pieces before striking. He presented a map of the Midwest with all the affected areas highlighted. I must say it did rather look exactly like what he said. Any thoughts?


    • The Minnesota fire occurred several days before the Great Lakes fires. It was very dry and very windy that Autumn. Disintegrating meteors make massive explosions, like in Tunguska in 1907. There is no evidence that such a thing occurred.

      • Actually, he did quote some eyewitness reports about that around Chicago, in Ohio, and I think elsewhere. I’ll have to search and try to find some record of this.

        • I now recall the man claimed that Earth was passing through a major meteor shower at the time. So perhaps multiple meteors struck over a period of time.

          My boldface below.

          The TV source also has a blog up where he claims that meteor fragments were found in the midst of the ruins in Port Huron, after the fire died out. But he is not citing his source.

          Port Huron Fire of 1871

          Le terme Port Huron Fire of 1871 est cité dans le Wikipedia de langue anglaise. Il est défini comme suit:

          The Port Huron Fire of Sunday October 8, 1871 (one of a series of fires known collectively as the Great Fire of 1871 or the Great Michigan Fire) burned a number of cities including White Rock and Port Huron, and much of the countryside in the “Thumb” region of the U.S. state of Michigan (1.2 million acres, or 4,850 km²).On the same day, other fires burned the cities of Holland and Manistee, Michigan, as well as broad swaths of forest in various areas of the state. At least 50 people died as a result of the Port Huron Fire, and at least 200 from all the fires in the state.
          The origins of the fires are unknown, but the damage was worsened by a number of factors. Uninterrupted drought plagued the Midwest into early October and winds were strong. When the wind increased and shifted direction, fire fighters were unable to control the flames any longer. Vast tracts of forest burned for a week in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin. Within hours, several Midwestern cities and towns were reduced to charcoal and ash.
          That same night, the Great Chicago Fire erupted in Illinois and the Peshtigo Fire burned a large tract in Wisconsin, including the city of Peshtigo.
          Windsor, Ontario met a similar fate four days later.

          Much of the area burned by the Port Huron Fire was to be swept by another deadly conflagration 10 years later.

          Ceci est un extrait de l’article Port Huron Fire of 1871 de l’encyclopédie libre Wikipedia. La liste des auteurs est disponible sur Wikipedia.

        • He also claims that “In Peshtigo, fire literally fell from the sky and quickly consumed the entire city, burning it to the ground.” Again no source is cited.


          Survivors also reported a phenomenon which has never been fully explained. They saw dark, ball-shaped objects come streaking out of the flames and explode on contact with anything, much like napalm. Several accounts refer to them as “fire balloons.” Some theorize it was methane gas or some other carbon byproduct. Others have said it was pine sap, thinned by the heat, concentrated by the wind like a centrifuge and spit out. Whatever they were, they appear to have been unique to the Peshtigo disaster. There are no recordings of similar occurrences in other fires.

        • Sharpshooter says:

          Well, the Draconids meteor shower occurs about this time of year.

    • Jason Calley says:

      Hey Richard! Comet strike? There is a book with that premise, “Mrs. O’Leary’s Comet”.
      I read it some years back, and while I was not convinced by his arguments that it was a comet, he has enough eye witness reports from contemporaneous sources that I was at least convinced that something very out of the ordinary took place.

      What was it? Certainly the heat and dryness were extreme — but a lot of the witnesses also reported balls of fire in the sky, unexplained patterns of damage, etc. Maybe in addition to the hot, dry weather, there was some kind of coronal ejection or electrical discharge. Heck, maybe the Earth crossed a faint but ionized comet tail and short circuited some electrical current from the Sun. I do not pretend to know, but it truly is a very interesting subject and worth researching.

  2. Gamecock says:

    My son and I were caught up by the Shultz Fire in 2010.

    We were run out of Wupatki. As we were headed to the Grand Canyon, we were fortunate to get out above where they closed U.S. 89.

    I saw a whiff of smoke as we drove by the Coconino peaks. At Sunset Crater, within an hour, a smoke column was overhead. At Wupatki, in less than two hours, the sky was dark, as if there were a great storm. We Easterners could not believe how quickly the fire spread. Two days later, in Cortez, CO, the smoke cloud was overhead. 200 miles away. Nothing like this ever happens in the East.

      • Jason Calley says:

        Many of the Florida fires belong in a special class. Native forests are usually a mix of deciduous trees, pines and scrub, often located in near swamp conditions. Lumber companies are quite powerful in Florida politics and some decades back they managed to get special tax regulations put in place favoring some of their operations. Subsequently businessmen realized that by buying up marginal property and putting in a few canals to improve drainage, they could harvest the standing timber and replant in monoculture pine. The desired result is that they get a good tax write off on the property during the years that it takes for the pines to mature. The undesired result is that you suddenly have large swaths of land that make wonderful tinderboxes and once they start burning, they spread easily. unintended consequences…

        The massive fires around Moscow a few years back were similar in nature and exacerbated due to Stalin ordering the area bogs to be drained. Of course when they burned, the loonies cried “Global Warming!”

    • On October 7, 1825 – a fire in Maine and New Brunswick burned 3 million acres. It was 200 times larger than the Shulz fire.

      • Gail Combs says:

        While Obama is SCREAMING about global warming causing wildfires he was also grounding aerial firefighting planes.

        This was just before the last Presidential election. If the media had been doing its job this would have been plastered all over the news with scathing editorials about Obummer’s mismanagement endangering peoples lives.

        National Guard firefighting planes sit idle as Obama authorizes $24 million for new aircraft
        CHEYENNE, Wyo. – President Barack Obama signed a bill this week hastening the addition of seven large tanker planes to the nation’s rundown aerial firefighting fleet, at a cost of $24 million. The same day, two C-130 military transport planes designed for that very purpose sat on a tarmac in Cheyenne, shrouded in an eye-watering haze from a raging Colorado wildfire just a 15-minute flight away.

        In all, eight workhorse C-130s stand ready to fight destructive wildfires around the country — but all are grounded due to rules governing the use of the nation’s aerial firefighting resources. The new purchases, meanwhile, won’t help firefighters battling destructive blazes in Colorado, New Mexico and elsewhere in the West for weeks, if not months.

        “Getting into large, multiple wildfire scenarios, there’s just not enough (aircraft) to go around….

        …the eight Air National Guard C-130 cargo planes fitted to drop slurry sit in Wyoming, Colorado, California and North Carolina. The Forest Service says it may request the eight planes only when all private tanker planes already are fighting fires or are unavailable for use. …


        Contract Dispute Grounds Firefighting Planes
        Nearly half of the federal government’s firefighting air tankers are siting idle at a California airport, grounded by the Obama administration in a contract dispute just weeks before wildfires swept through Texas killing a mother and her child, and destroying 100,000 acres.

        The massive blazes forced Texas Gov. and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry to abruptly call off a campaign appearance in South Carolina earlier this week to respond to the crisis, and may force him to cancel his first debate appearance Wednesday night.

        The U.S. Forest Service terminated the contract with Aero Union five weeks ago to operate seven P-3 Orions that are critical to the agency’s firefighting mission, leaving the federal government with 11 tankers under contract to help battle more than 50 large uncontained wildfires now burning nationwide.

        That’s down from 40 tankers used by the Forest Service just a decade ago,

        Notice how the firefighting fleet was shrunk to 1/4 of its previous size and now that it is brought up to half the previous size it is heralded as increasing the aerial firefighting planes “In the face of what is shaping up to be a catastrophic fire season..”

        I think I am going to lose breakfast, the out right LIES of the US Government and the massive cover-up by the MSM are getting too much for a decent person to be able to stand.

        This is from May 2014:

        U.S. Forest Service Increases its Firefighting Aircraft Fleet as Fire Season Begins

        Check out the Forest Service’s Aerial Fleet for Wildland Fire Management 2014 infographic (PDF, 1.8MB)

        WASHINGTON, May 20, 2014 – In the face of what is shaping up to be a catastrophic fire season in the Southwest, the U.S. Forest Service is adding four additional aircraft to its next-generation firefighting fleet, bringing the total amount of aircraft to 21 large airtankers (with opportunities to add additional aircraft, if needed)

      • Gamecock says:

        Steve, my point was about how fast the fire spread. Not the size.

        • Gail Combs says:

          Must have been a nightmare when limited to the speed a horse can run and the horse’s endurance especially when coupled with a limited warning system.

          Very short grass around the homestead (SHEEP!) along with sod houses and root cellars dug into the ground might be the only hope for many. You still would lose most/all of your livestock and perhaps the beams of the house.

        • Jason Calley says:

          Hey Gail! I am reminded of the rather cynical old joke from the 19th century: “Our house caught on fire, but luckily we managed to save the chimney!”

        • Gail Combs says:

          Jason, It might not be as cynical as it sounds. The chimney requires a lot more skilled labor (a mason and kiln fired bricks) to build compared to a house. Think of the Amish barn raising that happens in a day. — It takes a village and 10 hours to raise a barn.

  3. Thomas Englert says:

    Is there any Palmer drought data or maps as far back as 1871?

    • Pål Jensen says:

      The drought, rain deficit, and weather before the great 1871 fires are documented her: Donald A. Haines & Rodney W. Sando 1969: Climatic Conditions Preceeding Historical Great Fires in the North Central Region. North Central Experimentation Forest Service; US Department of Agriculture.
      Pål Jensen

  4. Pathway says:

    Fires happen.

  5. Windsong says:

    While driving north to Michigan on U.S. 41 last month, swung into Peshtigo to see the fire museum. There is very little from the actual time of the fire, as very little survived intact. The descriptions of the fire tornado and people seeking refuge in the river, then succumbing to hypothermia is sad. Even Green Bay wasn’t a wide enough fire break, as embers were carried east to the Door peninsula. The conditions during the Peshtigo fire were studied by Army Air Corps officers during WWII for future deployment of fire bomb raids.

    The weather map of the U.S. for that date prepared from Army post observations shows a tremendous low pressure system over the middle of the country. I can’t properly interpret it, but there had to be some extreme straight line wind (derecho?) moving east.

  6. Ed Martin says:

    I’ve read a number of historical markers from Minnesota and Wisconsin down into Kansas that state much of the land was virtually an impenetrable thicket before the white man cleared it.

    What started all the fires was that the Whig party was forced to dissolve and they merged into the newly founded GOP… 😉

  7. Andy DC says:

    Meanwhile on this day in 2014, there was snow in Minnesota. Obvious sign of global warming. Right!

    • Gail Combs says:

      Harsh winter (2013-2014) cut Michigan wine grape crop in half. Michigan’s wine industry ranks fifth in U.S. wine production. It normally contributes more than $300 million annually to the state’s economy. link

      Seems Florida is due for a shocker: Much of Florida 20 deg. Below Normal by Sunday Morning

      And someone was wondering about why beef prices were up?
      There is record cold in South Dakota in Sep. of 2014, three weeks earlier in the season than the record blizzard that killed about 100,000 cattle in Oct. 2013. Also the freezing temps so early in the season mean Canada and Northern USA have less animal feed.

      …Something nobody considers about animal feed crops near harvest, but not yet cured on the stalk, is that if they get soaked, snowed on, or frozen in the field, it becomes especially dangerous to use it as feed for livestock. Oats, barley, millet and wheat, as well as any of the other grain crops and then most hay types simply cannot be used for feed because they then become nitrate toxic and in some situations prussic acid toxic, too. Any cattleman worth his salt will tell you cattle can bloat and die if turned onto frozen or frosted alfalfa forage and horses, sheep, and other ruminants are extremely susceptible to oat poisoning. Bad weather like we are getting with regards to harvest time becomes a nasty harbinger nobody needs, whether they are a producer or a consumer.

      NO GOOD…

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