My reason for including this as a major North American wildfire disaster was not because of the actual destruction (which was substantial) as much as the symbol that developed out of the ashes and smoke of that fire - Smokey Bear. On May 9th in a moppin up action, a badly singned bear cub was found. This cub bear would change the face of forest fire prevention forever.
Found clinging to a charred tree and briefly called "Hotfoot Teddy", the tiny bear cub was brought back to fire camp by a group of soldiers/firefighters from Ft. Bliss, Texas. Veternarian Ed Smith and his wife Ruth Bell nursed the new wildfire prevention mascot back to health. Smokey was sent on to the National Zoo in Washington, DC to become a legend.