In early June of 1950, a fire started in northern Alberta, Canada, and spread through northeastern British Columbia. It burned four million acres of land. This fire became the largest fire in North America and was named the Chinchaga fire. It was also known as the Wisp fire or Fire 19.
Alberta, Canada was a hot and dry place before the fire began. The fire was thought to be started by humans, and officials left it unattended when they noticed it, which allowed it to spread. The fire expanded due to the wind and cold air. The smoke passed through the eastern seaboard of Canada and landed in Pennsylvania.
Witnesses in Pennsylvania noticed that the sky was different colors, and within 30 minutes it turned dark. The smoke particles in the air spread, which made the sky turn dark blue. This led to people thinking there had been a nuclear attack.
In late October 1950, the rain finally extinguished the fire, leading the Canadian Forest Service to take more caution and create ways to prevent another possible fire. The Chinchaga Fire was an important lesson on wildfire spread. The prevention and control of fires has since improved and efforts continue to education people on these events and how they can stay safe in the future.
[Source: Newspapers.com; Wisconsin Historical Society]