Texas wildfire ranks among largest in U.S. history

The massive wildfire tearing across the Texas panhandle is already the state’s largest ever and ranks among the biggest in U.S. history, consuming more than 1 million acres – an area nearly the size of Delaware – and killing at least two people.

Scientists say wildfires are increasing in size, frequency and intensity due to climate change, which creates hotter and drier conditions that allow fires to spread more quickly and burn more fiercely.

Here are some of the other largest wildfires in U.S. history:

AUGUST COMPLEX FIRE: CALIFORNIA, 2020

The August Complex fire began as dozens of separate fires that merged into an enormous conflagration between Napa and the Oregon border. The blaze burned more than 1 million acres, making it bigger than all other California fires from 1932 to 1999 combined.

The fire was part of the 2020 wildfire season in California that burned nearly 4.4 million acres of land, the most of any year in modern state history.

DIXIE FIRE: CALIFORNIA, 2021

The Dixie fire burned more than 960,000 acres north of Sacramento, California, from July to October, destroying several towns. It is the second largest in state history and started when a tree fell on electrical wires.

PESHTIGO FIRE: WISCONSIN, 1871

GREAT MICHIGAN FIRE: MICHIGAN, 1871

The Peshtigo fire started on Oct. 8, 1871 in northeastern Wisconsin and burned more than 1 million acres of forest. The blaze killed more than 1,100 people, according to the National Fire Protection Association, making it among the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history as well as one of the largest.

The Great Michigan Fire started at the same time, burning more than 2 million acres and killing an unknown number of people.

Both fires are not as well remembered as another blaze that began on the same day: the Great Chicago Fire, which killed hundreds and destroyed much of the city.

All of the fires were fueled by a months-long drought and high winds. However, one popular legend has it that the Chicago Fire began when a cow belonging to Catherine O’Leary tipped over a lit lantern.

GREAT FIRE OF 1910: IDAHO, MONTANA AND WASHINGTON, 1910

The Great Fire of 1910 consumed approximately 3 million acres in the span of only two days, killing 87 people. The fire exploded when strong winds and dry conditions caused many small fires to combine into one massive blaze. —Reuters

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