‘Fireballs from the sky’: The Great Chicago Fire was big, but nowhere near the worst that happened that night

On the same day of the Great Chicago Fire, an even more deadly fire broke out in Wisconsin, killing more than 2000 people.

peshtigo fire
Chaos reigned. The wind, heat, smoke, combined with people heading in opposite directions—some toward the river, some the other way—created confusion and panic. Wisconsin Historical Society
peshtigo fire
Chaos reigned. The wind, heat, smoke, combined with people heading in opposite directions—some toward the river, some the other way—created confusion and panic. Wisconsin Historical Society

‘Fireballs from the sky’: The Great Chicago Fire was big, but nowhere near the worst that happened that night

On the same day of the Great Chicago Fire, an even more deadly fire broke out in Wisconsin, killing more than 2000 people.

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Chicago Fire. On October 8th, 1871, near the O’Leary family farm, a fire broke out that would burn down a third of Chicago, killing 300 people.

But for all its fame and legend, the Chicago fire is not the biggest or worst fire in U.S. history. Not even close.

That title goes to a city called Peshtigo in northern Wisconsin, just 250 miles from Chicago. The fire they’re known for was described by survivors as a fire tornado. And the kicker? It happened the same night as the Chicago Fire.

Reset learns about the history of the other big fire no one talks about.

GUESTS: Wendy Kahl, curator and secretary on the board of directors for the Peshtigo Fire Museum

Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune reporter