The Black Dragon fire ignited in May of 1987 in China. Driven by parched conditions and high winds, the wildfire devoured land along both sides of the Amur river, blazing along the Sino-Soviet frontier. The Chinese mobilized two armies of regular troops and thousands of forestry workers to fight the blaze, according to the New York Times. Lacking sophisticated suppression tools, most of the 60,000 Chinese fighting the fire were armed with beaters. May 7th and 8th saw the worst days of the Black Dragon fire, as 200 in the path of the blaze perished and 250 were injured. By the end of the fire siege, 3 million acres of forest land had burned in China, totaling 1/3 of the Black Dragon forest reserve.
The Russian government opted to allow the wildfire to burn unchecked on their side of the border. Though in total the fire burned some 15 million acres of Russian timber, the Russian government predicted that they would not harvest in that area for at least a century, which would allow the forest ample time to regrow.
The wildfire was only finally contained in June, after extreme wind conditions subsided. In all, 18 million acres of forested land were charred in the fire.
Photo credit: Rachel C. Smith 2004 All rights reserved