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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fire at Peshtigo, April 29, 2009
This review is from: Fire at Peshtigo (Hardcover)
October 8, 1871 is often remembered as the day Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern setting Chicago ablaze. Far more devastating and deadly was the fire that burned that same day several hundred miles to the north in the vicinity of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Hundreds, if not thousands, died across a several thousand square mile territory that burned in just hours.

Robert Wells recounts the tragedy with admirable completeness. He sets the tinderbox-dry scene - high temperatures, low humidity, a drought and an already smoldering countryside. But the folks around Peshtigo were no innocents, they were hardy backcountry types who knew how to fight and survive forest fires. What these people were confronted with, however, was a conflagration straight out of the book of Revelation. Described time and again as a fire tornado - flames, raining hot ash, and deadly heat raced across the forestland faster than a man could run. Wells collects the survivor's stories and pieces together accounts of the less lucky. Many are quite ghastly, involving split second errors in judgment with ultimate consequences. Many survived, but many others were reduced to unrecognizable remains.

Fire at Peshtigo is a readable and potent account of one of America's least remembered, but most horrible disasters. The events at Peshtigo are worth learning and Mr. Well's book provides the much needed societal memory. The reader will want to be prepared, though, for some grim reading. Peshtigo is today a sleepy small town, but it is forever haunted by the ghosts of perhaps the most devastating fire to strike America.
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Fire at Peshtigo
Fire at Peshtigo by Robert W. Wells (Hardcover - 1968)
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