Thumb Fire

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The great Thumb Fire took place on September 5, 1881, in the Thumb area of Michigan in the United States. The fire, which burned over a million acres (4,000 km²) in less than a day, was the consequence of drought, hurricane-force winds, heat, the after-effects of the Port Huron Fire of 1871, and the ecological damage wrought by the era's logging techniques.

The blaze, also called the Great Thumb Fire, the Great Forest Fire of 1881 and the Huron Fire, killed 282 people in Sanilac, Lapeer, Tuscola and Huron counties. The damage estimate was $2,347,000[1] (which is $57,355,824 adjusted for inflation).

The fire sent enough soot and ash up into the atmosphere that sunlight was partially obscured at many locations on the East Coast of the United States. In New England cities, the sky appeared yellow and projected a strange luminosity onto buildings and vegetation. Twilight appeared at 12 noon. September 6, 1881 immediately became known as Yellow Tuesday or Yellow Day due to the ominous nature of this atmospheric event.[2]

History[edit]

The summer of 1881 had been extremely hot, and the Thumb had virtually no rain during July and August. There were forest fires beginning in mid-August, and on August 31, a fire started in northern Lapeer County. It destroyed several buildings in Sandusky and Deckerville in nearby Sanilac County. On Monday, September 5, the town of Bad Axe, in Huron County, burst into flames. Winds spread the fire to Huron City and Grindstone City. The fire continued to spread through Tuesday and Wednesday, September 6 and 7, consuming most of Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Lapeer counties.[3]

Relief aid[edit]

In 1881 Clara Barton, at the age of 60, founded the American Red Cross. The organization's first official disaster relief operation was its response to the Michigan "Thumb Fire" of 1881. The Red Cross provided money, clothes and household items.[4] The fire caused more than 14,000 people to be dependent on public aid. It also destroyed over 2000 barns, dwellings, and schools.

Fire protection[edit]

After the fires of 1881, people started to organize firefighting plans. By the 1900s the timber barons were suffering huge losses due to forest fires, so they developed the Northern Forest and Protection Association to manage forest fires in Michigan; it was later superseded by the US Forest Service.[5] However, the Ford Motor Company, which owned large areas of forest, had already established serious conservation and cleanup methods, along with maintaining their own fire watchtowers and timber patrols, in order to discover fires soon after their starts.[5] Firefighting started with man vs. nature; fires would erupt and burn until they ran out of fuel sources or were extinguished by rain. The early settlers used bucket brigades to protect their houses and barns, but they were no match for the raging fires. It was not until 1917 that Michigan purchased its first tractor for firefighting. The first fire truck was developed in the early 1930s, leading to contemporary firefighting practices. l

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nesbit, Joanne. “Michigan History Series”. U-M News and Information Services.Aug. 29, 1996. Oct. 10, 2007 <E-mail:mjnesbit@umich.edu>
  2. ^ Yellow Day at CelebrateBoston.com
  3. ^ Moore, Charles (1915). History of Michigan, Vol. I, pp. 525-28. The Lewis Publishing Company.
  4. ^ Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
  5. ^ a b Sodders, Betty (1997). Michigan on Fire, pp. 239-40. Thunder Bay Press.

Sources[edit]

  • “Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross”. American Red Cross Museum. Oct. 12, 2007 <http://www.redcross.org/museum/history/ClaraBarton.asp>
  • Nesbit, Joanne. “Michigan History Series”. U-M News and Information Services.Aug. 29, 1996. Oct. 10, 2007 <E-mail:mjnesbit@umich.edu>
  • Sodders, Betty (1997). Michigan on Fire. Thunder Bay Press.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°48′N 83°00′W / 43.8°N 83.0°W / 43.8; -83.0