Next Tuesday marks the 148th anniversary of one of the worst fires in our nation’s history.
More than1,500 dead, many burned beyond identification, houses destroyed, entire communities swallowed up in what has been described as a fire tornado.
But in history, timing is everything.
The Great Peshtigo Fire does not have the same name recognition as the Great Chicago Fire. They both started Oct. 8, 1871. Coincidentally, it was the same day as the Port Huron fire and fires in Holland and Manistee, Michigan.
A hot, dry summer, wooden buildings, and a flash point triggered the fires on the same day.
Mrs. O’Leary’s cow usually gets blamed for the Chicago blaze, but more likely it was a carelessly discarded cigarette or cigar, possibly by a neighborhood drunk trying to sleep it off.
Railroad crews or logging crews are often blamed for the Peshtigo and Michigan fires. Some have hypothesized that a comet was breaking up, and fiery pieces landed throughout the Midwest, causing the fires. I like that theory, despite all the drawbacks that go with it.
Fire Prevention Week in Illinois includes the Oct. 8 date as the start of the Chicago Fire. It is a good time to check your smoke detectors and replace the batteries.
We often think we are safe from these major fires, but then a Paradise, California, blaze reminds us that we can’t control nature or fire.
But we can prevent it in many cases.
Consider donations to the Rochelle Area Community Foundation and the Rock River United Way. Both agencies help local groups that provide services to a lot of people. If you stop in the Rochelle Area Community Foundation office in front of Central Bank, you can slip a donation into an envelope and hang it on the giving tree.
I am involved with both groups, so I may be biased but I think they do great jobs in making life a little better for people.
I don’t understand people who dump trash along a road. Fast food wrappers are bad enough, but I have seen a mattress and box spring (which stayed in a ditch for most of this year before being removed), children’s toys and tires…I just don’t get it. We live in a beautiful state, why ruin it by being a jerky litterer?
I don’t know who was dumber…the woman who went into the lion enclosure at the Bronx Zoo or the man who fell into the geothermal pool near Old Faithful.
Terry Dickow is a retired elementary school teacher with lots of opinions, some you will like, some you won’t. He can be contacted at [email protected]