Dan Gillis at the Damn Interesting blog has a masterful write-up on one of America’s worst and least-remembered catastrophes — the fire that baked the entire town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin with its 2000 residents alive. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:
As the fire approached the frantic citizens, they did everything they could in their desperate attempt to escape. Many jumped into wells, hoping the water would help protect them, only to be boiled alive. As people inhaled the superheated air, they dropped dead, their lungs charred. Men, women, and children rushed for the bridge that spanned the Peshtigo River, but it had not escaped the fire’s indiscriminate carnage. As the townspeople crossed the bridge, it succumbed to the abuse of the flames and collapsed in a deadly heap. Even more had rushed into the river itself, hoping the water would help protect them from the looming inferno; but the fire bombarded the people with burning wreckage. The river was soon littered with lifeless bodies.