The Smokehouse Creek Fire in the Texas Panhandle has already burned 1.1 million acres. Here are the largest wildfires in U.S. history.

The wildfire ravaging the Texas Panhandle is now one of the largest wildfires in U.S. history, with an estimated more than 1.1 million acres burned so far — which would rank it second-largest among U.S. wildfires. The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which broke out earlier this week, is just 15% contained and is already “the largest and most destructive fire in Texas history,” the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department wrote on Facebook. 

As the Texas fire continues to burn, here are the other largest wildfires in U.S. history.

1. The Fire of 1910

For two nights – Aug. 20 and 21, 1910 – a wildfire ravaged northern Idaho and western Montana. It burned 3 million acres and destroyed enough wood to build 800,000 homes, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Eighty-seven people were killed, according to the Western Fire Chiefs association.

2. Peshtigo Fire

On Oct. 8, 1871, a whopping 37 individual fires burned in the Great Lakes region and were grouped into five wildfires: The Great Chicago Fire, The Great Peshtigo Fire, the Port Huron Fire, the Holland Fire and the Manistee Fire.

They are collectively known as the the Great Fire of 1871.

The Great Michigan Fire, created by a series of forest fires in the state, and The Great Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin, were overshadowed by the Chicago Fire, which burned three square miles of the city.

But the Peshtigo fire burned 1.5 million acres and killed 1,200-2,400 people, although an exact number is unknown, according to the National Weather Service. It was caused by smaller wildfires that had been raging for days, and is believed to have been fueled by wood dumped by loggers into large piles, according to History.com.

3. Taylor Complex Fire

In 2004, the Taylor Complex Fire burned more than 1.3 million acres in Alaska and was one of many devastating wildfires that ravaged more than 6.5 million acres in the state that season. No deaths were reported from the Taylor Complex fire.

4. August Complex Fire

California’s worst fire season was 2020, with 10,000 separate fires burning a total of 4.3 million acres, according to Cal Fire. Thirty-three people were killed, according to the Western Fire Chiefs.

An August heat wave in the state led to dozens of simultaneous fires, prompting a statewide state of emergency from Gov. Gavin Newsom and tens of thousands of people evacuating. In the fall, high winds boosted the fires again.

The largest of the 2020 wildfires, the August Complex fire, is the largest in the state’s history, burning more than 1 million acres and killing one person, according to the Western Fire Chiefs. It was created when 37 separate fires burning at once merged together in Mendocino County.

Complex fires occur when two or more fires are burning in the same general area and are assigned one name. 

5. Dixie Fire

In 2021, the Dixie Fire burned 963,309 acres in five northern California counties and is the second-largest wildfire in the state’s history, according to the Western Fire Chiefs. It lasted from July 13 to Oct. 26 and caused one death.

Other notable fires

In Texas, the 2011 fire season was the state’s worst, with 31,453 wildfires burning a total of 4 million acres and destroying 2,947 homes, according to Texas A&M Forest Service. In 2023, thousands of wildfires burned more than 45 million acres across Canada for months, blanketing much of the U.S. with smoke.

And in 1825, the Miramichi Fire burning in New Brunswick, Canada carried over into Maine. It is believed to have burned 3 million acres – mostly in Canada – and killed 160 people, according to the Western Fire Chiefs.

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