The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

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Glacier
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The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by Glacier »

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinchaga_fire

This fire was massive. 68 times larger than the Okanagan Mountain Park fire! A fire that size would burn the entire Okanagan valley! It would be 200 km long by 85 km wide.

The Chinchaga fire, also known as the Wisp fire or the Chinchaga River fire, was a forest fire that burned in northern British Columbia and Alberta in the summer and early fall of 1950. With a final size of between 1,400,000 hectares (3,500,000 acres) and 1,700,000 hectares (4,200,000 acres), it is the single largest recorded fire in North American history. The fire was allowed to burn freely, a result of local forest management policy and the lack of settlements in the region. The Chinchaga fire produced large amounts of smoke, creating the "1950 Great Smoke Pall", observed across eastern North America and Europe. As the existence of the massive fire was not well-publicized, and the smoke was mostly in the upper atmosphere and could not be smelled, there was much speculation about the atmospheric haze and its provenance. The Chinchaga firestorm's "historic smoke pall" caused "observations of blue suns and moons in the United States and Europe." It was the "biggest firestorm documented in North America—3,500,000 acres of forest burned in northern Alberta and British Columbia—created the world’s largest smoke layer in the atmosphere."
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Re: The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by Graham Adder »

crazy-big
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Re: The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by kelownaplumber86 »

Large fire indeed , but Wikipedia is far from factual haha here's from a legit Canadian site

http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazi ... meline.asp
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Re: The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by kelownaplumber86 »

The great prairies fire was quite a bit larger
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Re: The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by Drip_Torch »

The great prairies fire was quite a bit larger


Yes, reported as in excess of 2.8 million hectares, the May 1919 fire took at least 13 lives and an unknown number of burned victims and even more people reported as injured.

The deadliest Canadian wildfire was either, the Matheson, Ontario fire of 1916, which took 223 lives, or the Miramichi Fires (1825) in New Brunswick and Maine, with 160 confirmed dead and estimates in the range of 500.

The uncertainty is due to the fact that almost all Canadian wildfires of the time understated their true death tolls.

In BC, a report by the then Assistant Inspector of Forest Reserves for the Interior's Forestry Branch, HR MacMillan (1909) had this to say:

The Fernie fire is a good illustration of what is, throughout the newer districts of Canada, a common condition. The Fernie fire was, for a month before the town was consumed, burning in the logged-over lands and waste lands of the Elk River Valley surrounding the town. Because it was not destroying timber at that time merchantable no one made the slightest effort to control the fire. Though for over four weeks it spread through the timberland, destroying all small growth, it was allowed to continue unchecked, and the result was that it got into the slashing near the town, a wind sprang up, and, borne upon it, the fire consumed the town and almost everything within its limits, bringing 22 persons a horrible death, and entailing on a large number the tremendous property loss of $2,000,000.

That fire was a wind driven event that is reported to have burned a strip 4.8 km wide for a distance of 32 kms. Suggesting prevailing winds of 50 km/h during the blowup period.
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Re: The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by django »

No mention of climate change in 1909?
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Re: The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by Drip_Torch »

No mention of climate change in 1909?


Nope, but in hindsight, climate change (although not anthropological) is noted as a contributing factor in the 1825 fire.

"The forest fire that swept across New Brunswick and Maine on 7 October 1825 is remembered as one of the largest and most devastating ones in recorded history, and the first great fire of North American settlement. Yet as its name suggests, the Miramichi Fire has been understood almost exclusively in local terms; historical accounts written in the U.S. or Canada even tend to ignore the blaze that burned on the other side of the border. The following essay, while focusing on the fire that burned along the Miramichi region of northeastern New Brunswick, restores the fire's international character, showing that what might first seem the embodiment of a local event—a chemical process responsive to hyper-local climatic, botanical, and even topographical conditions—was ultimately shaped by and in turn shaped natural and cultural events around the globe. The essay specifically explores how unusual climatic conditions in the late 1810s and early 1820s altered the fire regime of northeastern New Brunswick. The region's inhabitants, the great majority of whom were recent immigrants with little experience of the forests and fires of eastern North America, were unprepared for what was to come."

http://pubs.cif-ifc.org/doi/abs/10.5558/tfc2014-066
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Re: The Largest Fire Ever Recorded in North America

Post by Drip_Torch »

Here's a map of the "monstrous" conflagration that Glacier posted about in the OP to show the sequence of rushes and rests the fire took through the summer of 1950.

Interesting to note, while the smoke was noticeable throughout North America and into Europe, the smoke itself was sandwiched in an atmospheric anomaly between the upper and lower strata - thus not noticeable by smell.

Official cause "human", although the actual cause remains speculation.

Chinchaga---Wisp-Fire.jpg


The Wisp Fire (Chinchaga) 1950
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