Significant Forest Fires in Pennsylvania

The following list of forest fires covers the time period from 1872 to 1960. It is not a complete list. Most fires that are listed are over 1,000 acres unless there is some other significant factor. The Pepper Hill Fire was only 134 acres, yet it had horrific and significant consequences. Certainly not every fire over 1,000 acres is listed here.  These are only the top 100 from that time period. Readers, historians, firefighters and others who may have better or new information are asked to comment.



PAFFM-MtPocono (1024x687)
Mt. Pocono in the 1920s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1872   May 21   A fire burned near and about Mount Parnel and Franklin furnace in Franklin County.

1875   May 20   Osceola Mills, Clearfield County was destroyed by a forest fire. Only the Catholic and Methodist churches remained following the total destruction of the town.

1884   May 3   In Cameron County 50,000 acres were estimated burned between Emporium and Sinnemahoning

1886   July 10   Near Sheffield  a fire reported as “One of the most destructive forest fires that ever visited this section of the country”  burned in Forest county.

1888   May 3   The abandoned mining town of Mclntyre, situated In the Northern part of Lycoming county was destroyed by a forest fire.

1891   May 12   At Moore’s Run, Potter County, a trainload of 78 men, were sent from Austin to fight a forest fire. As the fire overwhelmed the men they boarded a train to escape. Bark and logs piled on both sides of the railroad caught fire. The heat of the fire had damaged the rails and the train de-railed throwing the men into the fire. Six men were found dead and 30 others were badly burned and probably most later succumbed to their burns.  Seven were reported missing and never found.  The fire threatened the towns of Austin, Costello and Galeton.

1894   April 6   A stretch of woodland north of Westport, Clinton County burned unabated in a fire estimated to have exceeded multiple tens of thousands of acres.

1894   September 5   English Center, a small hamlet in Lycoming county of 500 inhabitants was destroyed by forest fires.  .

1895   June 5   Coon Run, in McKean County was, was entirely obliterated from the face of the earth, and nothing remains to show that there ever was such a place as Coon Run. The place consisted of twenty-seven buildings, a pump station, school house and saw mill.

1896 May 12   Karthaus in Clearfield County was reported burning and Ramey was surrounded by flames.

1896   May 14   Large fires burned around Bellefonte, Centre County.  It was reported that the Seven Mountains section was burned and “thousands of acres of timber had been burned.:

1897   October 21   In White, Reade and Clearfield townships, Cambria County fires burned an area along a line estimated to have been 18 miles in length.

1900   April 28   The town of Laurel Forge, Cumberland county, was almost wiped out of existence by fire. Fourteen dwellings, two barns and two large ice houses, the latter owned by the Low Ice company, were destroyed.

1900   May 3   Fires threatened the towns of Lemont at the end of Nittany Mountain, and Scotia, in the lower barrens, Centre County. It was reported that on the Seven Mountains, between Potter’s Mills and Milroy, there was nothing but one sheet of flames.

1900   May 3   In Cameron County the lumbering operations of Gleason &  Mason on Sterling Run were completely wiped out, destroying their bridges, camp and logs. The flames destroyed the standing timber on Pardee and Noyes lands. Hall, Kaul & Co. are suffering greatly from the forest fires. Twelve buildings were burned at Westport, Clinton County, including the stores of Goodman, Robbins and Werts and residences of Messrs. Caldwell, Courter and Wilson.

1900   May 8   All the buildings in the village of Corbett, Potter county, Pa., were destroyed by forest fire. The fire claimed at least one life.

1900   May 9   Three children were burned to death when a forest fire turned and swept into the village of Rainton, outside of DuBois.

1900   May 16   In Portland Mills, Elk County two adults and four children were killed in a forest fire.

1902   April 30   A fire on the South Mountain near Boiling Springs was said to be twelve miles in length.

1903   May 2   Cross Fork, Potter County was destroyed by fire. Some question remains as to whether the sawmill caught fire and set the woods and town afire or vice versa.  Most sources say the forest was on fire first.

1903   May 6   Large fires were reported devastating vast acreages of the Clarion River watershed.

1908   April 23   A fire that was reported to have burned over 10 square miles burned near Oil City in Venango County.

1908   April 30   A fire in Monroe County was reported as burning along a mountain for twenty miles before it was stopped.

1908   September 24   A fire estimated as 20,000 acres burned near Keating in Clinton County. Press accounts of the time indicate that 100,000 acres were burning at that time in the state.

1910   April 10   Several hundred acres burned over on South Mountain in Cumberland County.

1911   June 2   Near Laporte in Sullivan County a fire burned over 5000 acres with a loss to property of over $19,600.

1914   May 14   A fire began near Mt. Holly Springs in Cumberland County and burned nearly to Huntsdale before it was extinguished.

1914   November 3   Stretching over a path almost a mile in width a fire spread rapidly before a high wind, a mountain fire which broke out on South Mountain and  headed toward Boiling Springs.

1914   November 6   The Narrows along the Juniata River in Mifflin County and the mountain above Lykens in Dauphin County burned as the a large fire on North Mountain in Cumberland County that threatened the resort at Doubling Gap

1915   April 20   A large fire swept over a space of nearly ten square miles of valuable timber land in Lebanon County and more than 400 acres of woodland in Lancaster County.

1915   April 22   Forest fires on South Mountain, Cumberland county, during the previous two days have destroyed 20,000 acres of State forest reserve and at least five thousand acres of private property.  34,400 acres destroyed in Noyes, Chapman and Grugan Townships. This is quite likely the largest fire in Department of Forestry History

1915   November 12   Hundreds of firefighters worked in a strenuous battle to conquer the biggest forest fire in this section for many years. It is estimated that 15,000 acres of timberland have been burned over and the loss runs into thousands of dollars. The fire is on the Stony Creek side of the Mountain and its path is now nearly seven miles wide.

1916   April 17   6000 acres burned in Fayette County and two firefighters were seriously injured.

1916   May 12   Near Bear Creek in Luzerne County, ten thousand acres of timber land and the home and outbuildings of J. D. Eastman were destroyed by a forest fire on the Pocono Mountains.

1919   March 29   It was reported that 10,000 acres burned on South Mountain in Cumberland County.

1920   March 12   A fire on Chestnut Ridge in Fayette County. A 1,000 acre fire near Fairchance came perilously close to the DuPont Powder Plant where thousands of pounds of explosives were stored.

1921   April 7   A 4,000 acre fire burned near Blossburg in Tioga County

1922   May 1   A large fire near Bloomsburg, Columbia County covered more than 1400 acres and burned a saw mill on McCauley Mountain.

1922   May 3   A forest fire destroyed a large portion of Marienville, Forest County

1922   May 4   A 2500 acre fire burned on the watershed of the Tipton Water Company in Blair County.

1922   May 11   Near Summit, in Duncan Township, Tioga County a fire had reached an area of 2,000 acres and had extended into three townships before its progress was checked by the rain.

1922   April 25   From April 25 to May 3, during which the serious fires in the Delaware, Cornplanter, Sproul, Wyoming and Lackawanna Districts occurred, 37 of the 39 fires over 1,000 acres took place and burned 86,000 acres of the total area burned (178,349) during that time.

1925   April 8   One thousand acres of brush and timber land in the Wopsononock Mountain in Blair County

1925   April 24   Two thousand acres burned on the mountain near Stroudsburg in Monroe County.

1925   June 5   A fire that grew to 1500 acres burned near Porkey in the Allegheny National Forest.

1925   June 13   Between 1800 and 2000 acres of woodland burned over in the Black Moshannon region

1925   June 22   A 2,000 acre fire burned in the Allegheny National Forest south of Highland in Elk County. This appears to be the first large fire in the newly created ANF.

1926   May 1   A fire between Excelsior and Locust Gap, Northumberland County covered 3000 acres

1926   May 8   Two fires that burned over 4,000 acres near Altoona

1926   May 10   4,100 acres burned near Mount Carmel

1926   May 11   A 3,000 acre blaze burned in the Tangascootack Creek watershed in Clinton County and a 7,000 acre fire burned near Long Pond in Monroe County.

1926   May 13   The Harrisburg Telegraph reported that the fire in the Tangascootack watershed was under control and had burned more than 140 square miles. That is almost 89,600 acres. It is doubtful that the fire was that large as it would have burned over an area the size of Philadelphia and fully about 18% of Clinton County. It is possible but it is more likely the fire burned over 14 square miles or about 8900 acres.

1926   May 14   A 3,000 acre fire burned near Croydon in Elk County. Near Tyrone, Blair County, a fire, after raging for five days and burning over between 40,000 and 50,000 acres of timberland, was finally extinguished yesterday. Another fire near Loleta, Forest County a 7,000 acre fire began.

1926   May 17   A 26,000 acre fire began at Owls Nest in Elk County.  To date it is the largest recorded fire in the Allegheny National Forest.  Two lumberjacks were reported missing and never heard from again.

1928   April 19   A fire on South Mountain, Cumberland County burned 1,000 acres

1928   April 20   A 3,000 acre fire near Loysburg in Bedford County was reported

1928   May 7   A 1,500 acre blaze was reported near Port Allegany in McKean County.  At the same time a 1,000 acre blaze was burning near Emporium.

1928   May 12   A fire broke out near Trevorton which, when it was finally extinguished two days later covered 3,000 acres. At the same time 1,500 acres near Cresco in Monroe County were burning.

1930   April 27   On South Mountain a forest fire not only covered forest land but burned the state fire warden’s house, as well as two other houses, a barn and some outbuildings. It was estimated that at least 2000 acres were burned.  A still was found in the remains of the Drockbar house. Until the fires were out it was estimated that 8,000 acres of South Mountain burned.

1930   May 5   Near State College, “The Barrens” was burned over in a 2,000 acre fire.

1930   May 9   A 2,500 acre fire started by incendiarists, burned near Dunbar in Fayette County

1930   May 10-11   One fire near Mount Pocono in Monroe County burned more than 3,000 acres. In the region 15,000 acres were reported burned over during the weekend.

1930   August 1   A 3,000 acre fire near Central City, Somerset County was contained. It was declared “the most disastrous fire in the history of the Forbes forest district.”

1930   August 2   A fire was reported as approaching Arroyo in Elk County. A fire in Bear Valley near Mount Carmel consumed over 2,000 acres.  A fire covering four square miles broke out and burned an area north of Marienville.  Until it was extinguished the fire would cover 1,000 acres, most of it in the Allegheny National Forest.  The town of Kersey was also in jeopardy when a small fire that burned for some time blew up and began to run.  The fire would grow to over 1,000 acres during the next two days.  On August 11 the fire, for reasons that were never explained, gained strength and broke across fire lines and made a run toward Benezette, consuming 12,000 acres.

1930   October 14   Two square miles burned in Young Township, Indiana County near Kent.

1931   April 15   A forest fire of over 3,000 acres burned in “The Barrens” between Warriors Mark and Marengo in Blair County and destroyed the home of William Barton.

1931   April 20   A fire broke out between Cleremont and Betula, McKean County. It gained ground rapidly in the dry brush and 3,000 acres were quickly consumed. Every available person was pressed into service to prevent the destruction of the two towns.

1931   May 6   A fire near Dillsburg in York County burned over 2,000 acres in northern York and Cumberland counties – the northern tip of South Mountain.

1932   April 23   A large fire of 2,000 to 3,000 acres was reported burning near Bear Creek in Luzerne County. Another large fire of indeterminate acreage was burning north of Williamsport in Lycoming County. A thousand acre fire was also burning near Tremont in Schuylkill County.

1932   May 2   A fire on McCauley Mountain near Bloomsburg was reported as burning over ten square miles (6,400 acres). If the estimates are correct it was the largest single fire since Owls Nest.

1933   July 6   A 2,500 acre fire burned in Monroe County.

1934   April 29   2,000 acres were burned over near Strangford along the Conemaugh River, upstream of Blairsville, Indiana County. The fire in the Packsaddle Gap area where the river breaks through Chestnut Ridge was stubborn and over 200 men fought the blaze

1934   May 8   A 15,000 acre fire burned between Snow Shoe and Moshannon in Centre and Clinton counties.  Another fire burned between Snow Shoe, Kato  and Renovo. When the final tally was made the fire was mapped at having burned 39,900 acres. It was the largest fire in Pennsylvania since records had begun to be kept. The fire between Snow Shoe and Kato had burned more acreage than all the fires in the previous year.

1934   May 9   A fire of 1,000 acres burned over Potlicker Flat in Armagh Township, Mifflin County.

1935   April 26   A 10,000 acre fire burned near Long Pond in Monroe County

1936   May 12   A fire near Medix Run, Elk County was reported to have burned over two square miles.

1938   October 19   Seven CCC enrollees and their foreman were overrun by a fire and killed in the Pepper Hill Fire in Cameron County. Over twenty others were injured.  The fire was set by an arsonist. It burned only 134 acres and was extinguished by rain that night.

1941   April 15   A 2,000 acre fire raced across Broad and Mauch Chunk Mountains in Carbon County.

1941   April 20   A fire burned near Dawson in Fayette County.  When the fire was controlled and extinguished the acreage was calculated 3,000 acres burned.

1941   April 27   A fire which began near Morann burned into Centre and Blair counties on a front that the Altoona Tribune reported as covering ten miles.

1941   May 5   A 2200 acre fire burned near the Shingle Branch of Young Womans Creek north of Renovo.  Another 2500 acre fire burned on the Clearfield – Indiana County line near McGees Mills.

1942   April 15   A large fire, incendiary in origin broke out “at possibly 20 points almost simultaneously,” on South Mountain in Cumberland County. The fire rapidly covered 1000 acres near Big Flat. The fire complex burned over 2000 acres until it was extinguished. Students from Dickinson College, Army troops from the Carlisle Barracks as well as students at Mont Alto were used to fight the blazes. The fire crowned at several places and was fed by a strong wind. The fires burned in the vicinity of Big Flat, Tumbling Run, Pigeon Roost, Gray Ridge and Dead Womans Hollow. At one point the hamlet of Wenksville was in danger.

1942   April 27   1000 acres burned near Pennsylvania’s “Grand Canyon” in Tioga County, 2500 acres burned on Tuscarora Mountain in Perry and Juniata counties, and a 1500 acre blaze along the Youghiogheny River between Confluence and Ohiopyle. A 500 acre fire burned near Marvindale, McKean County.  Through the week fires continued to break out. A 600 acre fire was reported from Rockland Township, Venango County and Broad Mountain in Luzerne County was hard hit as well.

1944   April 19   A fire broke out near Rileyville, Wayne County and until it was contained twelve hours later it had burned more than 3,000 acres of forest. The fire burned an ice house, several small buildings and threatened structures at Camp Rosemond, a popular tourist destination.

1947   May 10   A 1,500 acre fire burned from Hicklin Hollow to about a half mile west of Snow Shoe before it was contained.

1950   May 5   An arsonist set several fires along the McGeorge Road in Goshen Township, Clearfield County. Until the fire was contained it had covered 1,400 acres.

1950   May 7   A fire between Monument, Salt Lick and Orviston on the Centre-Clinton county line burned 5000 acres. A second fire broke out near the Beech Creek Road – Eagleton Road intersection and eventually joined the Monument fire to form a fire complex. Through the work of an arsonist or arsonists a fire that eventually consumed another 1,250 acres of forest land broke out in Benjamin Run, fifteen miles over the mountain from Monument.

1951   May 7   A large fire broke out on Berry Mountain near Lykens in Dauphin County covering about 1,900 acres

1951 May 9   A 2000 acre fire burned between Snow Shoe and Renovo in the Pine Run area.

1952   April 21   A fire complex near Effort in Monroe County burned an estimated 5,100 acres as a series of arson fires burned together to form on large fire. At the same time In Luzerne County, a series of suspected arson fires burned over 2,000 acres in the vicinity of Glen Summit, Moosehead and Penn Lake

1952   April 23   A fire broke out near Big Pocono in the “unprotected land” that consumed 3,000 acres.

1952   May 6   In Centre County a fire broke out in the Black Bear Run area in Rush Township. The fire fed by high winds burned 3,000 acres before it was contained by more than 200 firefighters

1953   July 16   A fire broke out near Moosic Lakes in Lackawanna County that burned for forty hours before it was brought under control. The 1,200 acre fire was fought by more than 200 firefighters and was called, “the worst in a decade in the region.”

1955   April 13   A fire on Blue Mountain on the Northampton – Monroe County line burned an estimated 1,900 acres until it was providentially extinguished by heavy rain

1955   May 5   A 2,500 acre fire broke out near the newly created Big Pocono State Park in Monroe County. The fire which took 27 hours to contain was driven by high shifting winds blowing across the mountaintop

1955   May 21   A 2,000 acre fire burned near Long Pond in Monroe County.

1955   July-August   A fire on Effort Mountain in the Pocono region burned 3,000 acres, 2,500 of which were in the unprotected area near Long Pond. The stubborn fire burned for two weeks before it was extinguished. District Forester E.C. Pyle noted the fire which had been set in two places on July 22 was difficult to contain because of the dry conditions and high winds.

1957   May 1   A fire broke out on Sandy Ridge, Centre County that burned 3,000 acres. The fire originated in Adler Run near the Tyrone Sportsmen’s lodge and burned into Blair County near the Tyrone watershed.

1957   May 2   A 2,500 acre fire burned between Snow Shoe and Renovo

1957   May 8   A fire grew to 2,000 acres on Effort Mountain in Monroe County and burned part of the recently created Delaware Lehigh Experimental Forest.