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Top newsworthy fires in Canadian history

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    Wednesday, August 28, 2013, 2:45 PM -

    Over 4,000 firefighters have been called to help battle the flames as a forest fire continues to grow in Yosemite Park in San Francisco, California. With only 23% of the fire contained and almost 76,000 hectares burned, this wildfire has made its name as the seventh largest in California’s history and the biggest one in the United States so far this year. The video below shows the fire that is currently burning in Yosemite park.

    With all this talk of it being one of the biggest fires in California it begs the question, what are some of the largest forest fires in Canadian history? 

    Here are some of the most notable wildfires that have happened across the country: 

    Miramichi Fires (1825)

    This is considered to be one of the top three largest forest fires in North American history. It affected numerous places in New Brunswick, including Fredericton where 1/3 of the homes were destroyed. It took less than three hours to turn the town of Newcastle into ruins and the flames engulfed over one million hectares of land. The fire also took the lives of an estimated 160 people. 

    Saguenay Fires (1870) 

    In the spring of 1870, fires ravaged this region located in northeastern Quebec. The wildfire spread over a 150 kilometre span and grew so fast that some had only enough time to scramble into makeshift dugouts or to run to the closest body of water. The result was over one third of the population losing all possessions to the fire. Severe drought is to blame for sparking the brushfire. 

    Black Tuesday (1911) 

    Michigan saw around 200,000 hectares of land charred after this fire which happened in mid-July. Very little remained after the fires passed through. It also left 73 people dead. The cause of the fire is unknown.

    Matheson Fire (1916) 

    Known as the worst fire in Ontario’s history, this wildfire was responsible for killing over 244 people and burning 500,000 hectares. This fire eventually led to the creation of the Forest Protection Branch of the Department of Lands, Forests and Mines, which is now known as the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Forest Fires Prevention Act. 

    The Great Fire (1919) 

    2.8 million hectares of land were engulfed by flames during the Great Fire of 1919. The forest fire effected areas in Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta and left 300 people without a home to return to. 

    Haileybury Fire (1922) 

    Places between New Liskard and North Cobalt Ontario were affected by the fires. 500,000 hectares are estimated to have been burned, and in 2013 would cost the equivalent of $8 million CAD in damages. 43 people also perished as a result. Some suspect the cause to be arson. 

    The Manitoba Fires (1989) 

    This is claimed to be the worst fire in the provinces history. Having been caused by drought, more than 2.5 million hectares were taken by the fire. This resulted in the evacuation of over 25,000 people in 32 communities. 

    Salmon Arm Fire (1998) 

    Although 6,000 hectares does not compare to the 2.5 million in Manitoba, this fire still affected many. 7,000 people needed to be evacuated from the Salmon Arm area and over 40 buildings were destroyed. What’s more is that it cost over $10 million to extinguish the fire.

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