The international nature of the Miramichi Fire

MacEachern, A.

The Forestry Chronicle 90(3): 334-337


DOI: 10.5558/tfc2014-066
Accession: 068507596

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The forest fire that swept across New Brunswick and Maine on 7 October 1825 is remembered as one of the largest and most devastating ones in recorded history, and the first great fire of North American settlement. Yet as its name suggests, the Miramichi Fire has been understood almost exclusively in local terms; historical accounts written in the U. S. or Canada even tend to ignore the blaze that burned on the other side of the border. The following essay, while focusing on the fire that burned along the Miramichi region of northeastern New Brunswick, restores the fire's international character, showing that what might first seem the embodiment of a local event—a chemical process responsive to hyper-local climatic, botanical, and even topographical conditions—was ultimately shaped by and in turn shaped natural and cultural events around the globe. The essay specifically explores how unusual climatic conditions in the late 1810s and early 1820s altered the fire regime of northeastern New Brunswick. The region's inhabitants, the great majority of whom were recent immigrants with little experience of the forests and fires of eastern North America, were unprepared for what was to come.