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Largest Forest Fires in Minnesota History

About 70% of Minnesota is covered by forest land. The Laurentian Mixed Forest (LMF) with mixed hardwood and conifers covers a little more than 23 million acres of the northeastern part of the state. The Eastern Broadleaf Forest (EBF) covers nearly 12 million acres of the central and southeastern parts of the state.

Because of this abundance of trees, Minnesota is very prone to forest fires (also referred to as “wildfires”). Most major forest fires in Minnesota history have occurred in the northeastern part of the country. The following is a listing of the largest forest fires beginning in the 18th century.

Rank
Year
Size (acres)
NameLocationFatalitiesCause
1
1894
350,000
Hinckley FireHinckley, MNKilled 418 people and destroyed 12 townsDrought, small brush fires
2
1910
300,000
Baudette-Spooner FireBaudette-Spooner, MNKilled 42 peopleDrought, sparks from trains, small brush fires
3
1863
275,000
Alice-Saganaga FireBWCA, MinnesotaLightning
4
1918
250,000
Cloquet-Moose Lake FireCloquet-Moose Lake, MNKilled 452 people and destroyed 10 townsDrought, sparks from trains
5
1875
175,000
Insula-Ogishkemuncie FireBWCA, MinnesotaLightning
6
1755
160,000
Lac La Croix FireBWCA, Minnesota, CanadaLightning
7
1894
130,000
Lac La Croix FireBWCA, MinnesotaLightning
8
1864
110,000
Little Sioux FireBWCA, Minnesota, CanadaLightning
9
1727
100,000
Sawbill-Winchell FireBWCA, MinnesotaLightning
10*
2011
93,000
Pagami Creek FireEast of Ely, MNDrought, lightning
11
1801
80,000
Saganaga Lake FireBWCA, Minnesota, CanadaLightning
12
2007
76,000
Ham Lake FireBWCA, Minnesota, CanadaNo fatalitiesCampfire

* The Pagami Creek Fire is still burning on publish date (September 28, 2011) and was 61 percent contained. (source: inciweb.org)

Sources: Minnesota DNR, BWCAWiki, Star-Tribune.com

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