12 Largest Fires in the World and their Environmental Significance

A wildfire can go in several directions at a high rate of pace, leaving only ash and charred soil in its wake. And they will only get worse as global warming continues. Join us as we x-ray some of the largest fires in the world.

Since fire is one of the five elements of nature, along with air, water, soil, and space, it has always been a component of our ecosystems. All of these are crucial to both our survival and the preservation of the planet’s equilibrium.

However, extreme occurrences, particularly wildfires, have become more frequent as a result of climate change. Wildfires, in particular, have destroyed vast tracts of forests and wildlife habitats, endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals.

According to recent data from WWF and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), there were 13% more fire alerts worldwide in April than there were in the previous year, which was already a record year for fires. The primary causes are deforestation, brought on mainly by land conversion for agriculture, and persistently hotter and drier weather brought on by climate change.

On August 19, 2019, thousands of miles away in São Paulo, Brazil, the day gave way to night as smoke from fires in the Amazon mixed with low clouds and moved southeast. Satellite images showed that the world’s largest rainforest was on fire.

Earlier in January 2020, comparable photos from Australia surfaced. As smoke cast a pall over Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne, it billowed across the Pacific. Australia’s woods were blazing thousands of acres.

The Worst Historical Wildfires | EducationWorld

Top 12 Largest Fires in the World

  • 2003 Siberian Taiga Fires (Russia) – 55 Million Acres
  • 2019/2020 Australian Bushfires (Australia) – 42 Million Acres
  • 2014 Northwest Territories Fires (Canada) – 8.5 Million Acres
  • 2004 Alaska Fire Season (US) – 6.6 Million Acres
  • 1939 Black Friday Bushfire (Australia) – 5 Million Acres
  • The Great Fire Of 1919 (Canada) – 5 Million Acres
  • 1950 Chinchaga Fire (Canada) – 4.2 Million Acres
  • 2010 Bolivia Forest Fires (South America) – 3.7 Million Acres
  • 1910 Great Fire of Connecticut (US) – 3 Million Acres
  • 1987 Black Dragon Fire (China and Russia) – 2.5 Million Acres
  • 2011 Richardson Backcountry Fire (Canada) – 1.7 Million Acres
  • ​​The 1989 Manitoba Wildfires (Canada) – 1.3 Million Acres

1. 2003 Siberian Taiga Fires (Russia) – 55 Million Acres

Over 55 million acres (22 million hectares) of land were burned by a succession of incredibly destructive fires in the taiga forests of Eastern Siberia in 2003, during one of the hottest summers Europe has ever seen.

One of the most destructive and massive wildfires in recorded human history is thought to have resulted from a combination of abnormally dry circumstances and growing human exploitation in recent decades.

Smoke from the flames traveled hundreds of miles to Kyoto, spreading across Siberia, the Russian Far East, northern China, and northern Mongolia.

Studies on the depletion of the ozone layer conducted in the present day reveal the consequences of the Siberian Taiga fires, whose emissions are comparable to the emission reductions pledged by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol.

2. 2019/2020 Australian Bushfires (Australia) – 42 Million Acres

The devastating effects of the 2020 Australian bushfires on fauna made them a historical footnote. Severe bushfires ravaged Queensland and New South Wales in southeast Australia, scorching 42 million acres, demolishing thousands of buildings, and taking the lives of 3 billion creatures, including an astonishing 61,000 koalas.

Late 2019 and early 2020 proved to be Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, which played a significant role in the catastrophic wildfires. Australia’s mean temperature in 2019 was 1.52°C higher than average, making it the warmest year since records began in 1910, according to data given by the climate monitoring group.

January 2019 was also the warmest month on record in Australia. Rainfall was 40% less than usual, the lowest since 1900.

3. 2014 Northwest Territories Fires (Canada) – 8.5 Million Acres

Over 150 distinct fires started in the Northwest Territories in the summer of 2014, consuming an area of over 442 square miles (1.1 billion square kilometers) in northern Canada.

Thirteen of these were thought to be human-caused. With smoke visible as far away as Portugal in Western Europe, the smoke they produced prompted air quality alerts not only in the US but throughout the entire nation.

Nearly 8.5 million acres (3.5 million hectares) of forest were destroyed, and the government had to pay an incredible $44.4 million for firefighting supplies. The Northwest Territories fires were among the worst to be reported in almost thirty years because of these catastrophic outcomes.

4. 2004 Alaska Fire Season (US) – 6.6 Million Acres

In terms of the total area burned, the 2004 Alaskan fire season was the worst ever recorded for the US state of Alaska. Seven01 fires destroyed more than 6.6 million acres (2.6 million hectares) of land. Of these, 426 were started by people, while 215 were caused by lightning strikes.

Compared to the normal summer environment in interior Alaska, the summer of 2004 was unusually warm and wet, leading to a record number of lightning strikes. The fires that persisted until September were caused by an unusually dry August, following months of this firing and rising temperatures.

5. 1939 Black Friday Bushfire (Australia) – 5 Million Acres

The bushfires known as “Black Friday,” which devastated over 5 million acres in the Australian state of Victoria in 1939, were the result of a prolonged drought that was followed by extremely high temperatures and powerful winds.

It was the third deadliest blaze in Australian history, having destroyed more than three-quarters of the state and claimed 71 lives. After raging for several days, the fires finally got out of control on January 13, when temperatures in the northwest city of Mildura reached 47.2C and the capital city of Melbourne reached 44.7C.

This resulted in 36 fatalities and the destruction of over 700 homes, 69 sawmills, numerous farms, and other enterprises. Ash from the fires washed over New Zealand.

6. The Great Fire Of 1919 (Canada) – 5 Million Acres

The Great Fire of 1919 is still regarded as one of the biggest and most destructive wildfires in history, even though it occurred more than a century ago. Early in May, a complex of many fires tore through the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta’s boreal forest.

Strong, dry winds and the wood that had been cut for the timber business contributed to the fast-burning fires that, in a matter of days, destroyed hundreds of houses and claimed 11 lives, ravaging almost 5 million acres (2 million hectares).

7. 1950 Chinchaga Fire (Canada) – 4.2 Million Acres

The Chinchaga Forest Fire, sometimes called the Wisp Fire and “Fire 19,” burnt in Northern British Columbia and Alberta from June through the first part of October 1950.

With an estimated burned area of 4.2 million acres (1.7 million hectares), it is among the biggest fires in North American history. The lack of habitation in the area allowed the fire to burn unchecked, lessening its impact on structures and posing a hazard to people.

The enormous amount of smoke produced by the fires resulted in the famous “Great Smoke Pall,” a dense cloud of smoke that turned the sun blue and was easily visible to the unaided eye for almost a week. For several days, observers may witness the event throughout Europe and eastern North America.

8. 2010 Bolivia Forest Fires (South America) – 3.7 Million Acres

More than 25,000 fires broke out in Bolivia in August 2010, destroying a vast 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares) of land, with the country’s Amazon region suffering the most.

The government was compelled to proclaim a state of emergency and halt multiple flights because of the dense smoke that was produced by them.

In addition to the dry vegetation brought on by the severe drought the nation had over the summer, farmers’ fires to clear ground for sowing were other causes. Some of the deadliest forest fires to hit South America in almost 30 years occurred in Bolivia.

9. 1910 Great Fire of Connecticut (US) – 3 Million Acres

This wildfire, also known as the Devil’s Broom Fire, Big Burn, or Big Blowup, raged in the states of Montana and Idaho during the summer months of 1910. This was one of the worst wildfires in US history, destroying 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares), roughly the size of the state of Connecticut, and killing 85 people in just two days.

The original fire was fueled by strong winds, which also caused it to merge with smaller fires to form one massive blaze. The government was able to implement forest protection measures because of the fire, even though it is primarily recognized for the devastation it wreaked.

10. 1987 Black Dragon Fire (China and Russia) – 2.5 Million Acres

The Black Dragon Fire of 1987, sometimes referred to as the Daxing’annling Wildfire, may have been the deadliest forest fire in the People’s Republic of China and the largest single fire in the world in the previous several hundred years.

For more than a month, it burned nonstop, consuming almost 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of land, of which 18 million acres were forest. Chinese reports suggest that human activity may have started the fire, but the precise reason remains unknown.

During the fire, 191 people lost their lives and 250 more were injured. Furthermore, around 33,000 people were left without a place to live.

11. 2011 Richardson Backcountry Fire (Canada) – 1.7 Million Acres

In May 2011, an outbreak of the Richardson Backcountry Fire occurred in the Canadian province of Alberta. Since the Chinchaga Fire in 1950, this has been the biggest fire incident.

Nearly 1.7 million acres (688,000 hectares) of boreal forest were destroyed by the fire, which also caused several shutdowns and evacuations. Authorities believe that human activity was most likely the cause of the fire, but heavy winds, unusually high temperatures, and extremely dry circumstances made it worse.

12. ​​The 1989 Manitoba Wildfires (Canada) – 1.3 Million Acres

The Manitoba flames come in last on our ranking of the biggest wildfires in recorded history.

The Canadian province of Manitoba, which is home to a vast range of landscapes, from the arctic tundra and the Hudson Bat coastline to dense boreal forest and enormous freshwater lakes, saw 1,147 fires between mid-May and early August 1989, the greatest number ever recorded.

About 1.3 million acres (3.3 million hectares) of land were burned by the record-breaking flames, forcing 24,500 residents of 32 separate settlements to evacuate. The money spent suppressing them came to $52 million.

Although summertime fires are not unusual in Manitoba, the quantity of fires that occurred in 1989 was over 4.5 times greater than the average of 120 monthly fires over 20 years. The majority of the fires in July were started by lightning strikes, whereas the majority of the fires in May were caused by human activity.

How can we act to stop these destructive flames from occurring on our planet?

Wildfires serve as a frightening reminder of the climate emergency. Additionally, learning about the destructive and far-reaching impacts of wildfires can be discouraging and depressing. However, the truth is that you can support climate solutions and help spread awareness about these fires by taking certain steps.


A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *