International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Fire scars reveal source of New England’s 1780 Dark Day

Erin R. McMurry A C , Michael C. Stambaugh A , Richard P. Guyette A and Daniel C. Dey B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Forestry, School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.

B US Forest Service, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 16(3) 266-270
Submitted: 13 October 2005  Accepted: 13 November 2006   Published: 3 July 2007


Historical evidence suggests that great wildfires burning in the Lake States and Canada can affect atmospheric conditions several hundred miles away (Smith 1950; Wexler 1950). Several ‘dark’ or ‘yellow’ days, as such events are commonly called, have been recorded, often with anecdotal or direct evidence pointing to wildfires as the source (Plummer 1912; Ludlum 1972). One such ‘dark day’ occurred across New England in 1780, a year in which people were technologically unable to confirm the source of such a phenomenon. Here we combine written accounts and fire scar evidence to document wildfire as the likely source of the infamous Dark Day of 1780.


The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions to fire history research by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the USFS Northern Research Station, and the Joint Fire Sciences Program.


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