World Facts

Largest Brush and Forest Fires In Recorded History

In terms of acreage engulfed in flames, these have been some of the biggest wildfires ever seen on earth.

Forest fires, sometimes called bush fires or brush fires, are usually catastrophic in nature, with the ability to burn acres and acres of everything in their path. Though most popular in areas that are rural or forested, forest fires can quickly turn into deadly if they encroach upon areas of human habitation. In order to encourage he vitality of several forest species, wildfires are actually an essential part of a natural habitat. However, large scale forest fires, which are often brought on by human behavior, can have very negative effects on the environment ranging from species degradation and poor air quality, the latter of which can have an effect for miles. In this list, we examine the worst forest fires of all time in terms of acreage burned.

5. The Great Fire of 1919 - 5 Million Acres, Canada

The Great Fire of 1919 burned up 5 million acres of land in western Canada, with the fire starting north of the city of Edmonton. Wood that been cut for the timber industry contributed to the quick-burning flames of the massive inferno. The fires were responsible for hundreds of people losing its home, as well as the deaths of at least 11 people. Scientists have pointed out that the nature of the widespread boreal forest may make this area especially prone to wild fires.

4. 1939 Black Friday Bushfire - 5 Million Acres, Australia

In Victoria, Australia on January 13th, 1939, bush-fires were spurred on by drought conditions and heavy winds to create what came to be called the Black Friday Bushfire. Around five million acres were burned and seventy-one people lost their lives along with the destruction of entire townships. Soil fertility and water reserves were also negatively affected.

3. The 1989 Manitoba Wildfires - 8.1 Million Acres, Canada

In 1989, the Canadian prairie province of Manitoba was subject to terrible wildfires that spread over an astonishing 8 million acres. The flames from over 1,000 separate wildfires were responsible for thousands of evacuations across the province. Several homes and other items of personal property were destroyed in the fire, which was brought on by a combination of extreme drought and human activity.

2. 2014 Northwest Territories Fires - 8.4 Million Acres, Canada

In 2014, a terrible fire ravaged through the forests of the Northwest Territories, a vast territory in northern Canada. The flames, which burned an area of over 3.5 million acres, were the result of over 100 separate fires that had broken out in the area. The fires were so exhaustive that they caused air quality warnings for thousands of kilometers away, in Canada's more southern prairie provinces and some states in the US. Some smoke was even seen as far away as western Europe.


1. 2003 Siberian Taiga Fires - 47 Million Acres, Russia

The Siberian forest fires of 2003 resulted in an exasperating 47 million acres of land engulfed in flames. Emissions from these fires equaled the emission cuts promised by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol. Increasing temperatures and the thawing permafrost in Siberia are the most likely cause of the growing number and intensity of forest fires in Siberia. Satellite images of the fire show Eurasia covered in smoke. The effects of these fires are seen in present day environmental studies on ozone depletion.

The 15 Largest Wildfires by Acres Burned

Rank´╗┐Fire LocationSize of Fire (Acres)
12003 Siberian Taiga FiresRussia47,000,000
22014 Northwest Territories Fires Canada 8,400,000
3The 1989 Manitoba Fires Canada8,105,000
41939 Black Friday BushfireAustralia5,000,000
5The Great Fire of 1919 Canada 5,000,000
61950 Chinchaga Fire Canada4,000,000
72010 Bolivia Forest Fires Bolivia 3,700,000
81910 Great Fire United States3,000,000
91939 Black Friday Bush FiresAustralia2,000,000
102011 Richardson Backcountry Fire Canada 1,700,000
111871 Peshitgo Fire United States1,500,000
122016 Fort McMurray FiresCanada1,434,780
132008 California Summer WildfiresUnited States1,375,781
142005 Taylor Complex Fire United States1,305,592
152009 Black Saturday Fire Australia1,100,000

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