I'll bet that you've heard of the second biggest fire that started on October 8, 1871. There's no truth to the legend of Mrs. O'Leary's cow knocking over a lantern, but the Great Chicago Fire was real enough. It destroyed about 2000 acres of downtown Chicago, killed about 250 people, and did over $200 million worth of damage.
The Great Peshtigo Fire started the exact same night, some 250 miles north of Chicago. It burned 1.5 million acres of Wisconsin and upper Michigan. In Peshtigo alone, about 800 people were killed, which was about half the town's population. Overall, the Peshtigo Fire killed somewhere between 1200 and 2400 people. I couldn't find a figure for monetary damage, but taken all together, I imagine it at least rivaled the value of downtown Chicago.
There were at least two other major fires in the Midwest that started that same night. All these fires were driven by strong winds after weeks of drought.
In the picture above, you see me running in front of the Peshtigo Fire Museum. It is housed in one of the first churches built in Peshtigo after the fire.
One other note about the fire: Ken Lonnquist, one of my favorite local singer/songwriters, has a cool song about it. I found the lyrics on his web site, but you really need to hear it to get the haunting, driving melody. I recommend you buy the album, and support Ken.
Oh, yeah, I made it to Peshtigo today by running 13 miles. The schedule said 12, but I pushed it a little. It was a nice run to end the week. Next week, my long run is supposed to push back up to 18 miles. I'm not sure I could have done 18 today, but luckily I didn't have to.