The Thumb Fire took place on September 5, 1881, in the Thumb area of Michigan. The fire burned over a million acres in less than a day, was the result of drought, hurricane forces winds, heat and that after effects of the Port Huron Fire of 1871 and the ecological damage wrought by the era's logging techniques. The blaze, also called the Great Thumb Fire, the Great Forest Fire of 1881 and the Huron Fire, killed 282 people in 4 counties in northeastern Michigan. The damage estimate was more than $2 million dollars or $100 million in 2021 dollars. The fire sent enough soot and ash up into the atmosphere that sunlight was partially obscured at many locations on the East Coast of the United States. In New England cities, the sky appeared yellow and projected a strange luminosity onto buildings and vegetation. Twilight appeared at 12 noon. September 6, 1881 immediately became known as Yellow Tuesday or Yellow Day due to the ominous nature of this atmospheric event. August and the first days of September 1881 were hotter than usual, and the Thumb had had a rain deficit since April. There were forest fires beginning in mid-August. On Monday, September 5, the town of Bad Axe in Huron county burst into flames. Winds spread the fire on September 6 consuming most of Huron and surrounding counties. In 1881 Clara Barton, founded the American Red Cross. The organization's first official disaster relief operation was its response to the Michigan "Thumb Fire" of 1881.
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