Since the time when humanity began to build its building structures not of stone, but of wood, fires have become an accompanying part of progress. Throughout the history of civilization, many large cities are related by the fact that at some point in their history there were fires.
Some cities were destroyed by fire several times. Only Constantinople suffered at least 5 major fires between 06 and 1204 years. But the cities, like a damaged anthill, rebuilt as a result of anew, preparing the ground for new fiery nightmares.
Often the cause of fires was people’s wars, but the main cause is still natural causes, combined with poor construction technologies, an abundance of flammable materials and the lack of the ability of a person to adequately fight fire.
Several grandiose fires have survived in our memory, some due to their size, and others due to the formation of subsequent historical events. We will tell below about the ten most famous, destructive or significant fires in the history of mankind.
Let this fire not be as big as it was in Chicago the year before, or the fire in San Francisco that occurred 30 years later, but the Boston fire became perhaps the most expensive in terms of causing material damage among American disasters such kind. This is due to the fact that most of the damage occurred in the central part of the city and financial areas. As a result, thousands of townspeople lost their places, hundreds of businesses and warehouses were destroyed. Fire steel is so “expensive”, which led to the bankruptcy of dozens of insurance companies that tried to pay the damage. Unfortunately, the fire would never have brought so much damage, had it not been for the blocking of the fire alarm system. It was disabled due to a large number of false messages. In addition, the water pressure was low, and the coupling hydrants were non-standard. A whole series of mistakes and misunderstandings led to the fact that 65 acres, 766 buildings and 20 people were burned in the center of the city. Until now, the Boston Fire is the largest urban fire in the country’s history, losses amounted to about $ 70 million (a monstrous amount at that time). However, the city managed to rebuild after only 2 years.
London, 1212 year.
This city is usually associated with the famous fire in 1666. The events of 1212 are much less known, but then a fire (known as the Great Fire in Southwark) destroyed about 3,000 people. Many of them died, trapped on the London Bridge. At that time it was made of flammable materials, and the insulation was made of even more combustible pitches. The exact figures on the number of destroyed buildings have not reached us. It is only known that the fire destroyed much of the area south of the Thames, known as Southwark. As a result, about a third of London turned into ruins. For the city it was not the first ruinous fire in history, parts of London suffered in 1130 and in 1135. The last great fire destroyed much of the city between the cathedrals of St. Paul and Clement in Westminster. In total, the great city burned at least six times between 1130 and 1666, which makes it one of the great burnt-out people on the planet, proving that people do not learn anything. Probably, in those days to get an insurance policy from a fire was rather difficult.
As already mentioned, the modern capital of England has been burned many times. The reason for this was a large number of wooden buildings and poor layout. But the biggest fire in the city was the Great London Fire of 1666. He is known for his influence, which had not only the city, but also all of England. Ironically, but in the fire, then only 6 people died. The fire began at the bakery at Pudding Lane. To prevent fire, firefighters of that time used the method of destroying buildings around the fire. But this time the mayor panicked and did not dare to give such an order.The fire lasted 4 days, during this time, more than 13200 houses and 80 churches burned down. The damage from the fire was 10 million pounds. It is believed that 7 of 8 townspeople lost their homes. However, the fire also made a useful effect – the dirty slums associated with the recent Great Plague were burnt. Such effective cleaning seemed to sterilize the city, enabling it to be rebuilt in cleaned places. King Charles II, fearing riots, urged the fire victims to leave the city and settle in new places. The real guilty fire was never named, the commoner Robert Hubert was executed on charges of espionage in favor of the Pope and arson.
Rome, 64 years old.
The legend of this fire has been around for centuries. When the flame gutted the very heart of the Roman Empire, Emperor Nero played, admiring the violin. However, there is no evidence of such a story, and the violin was invented later. Today there are rumors that Nero deliberately decided to fire Rome as part of a plan to clean up the territory for the future construction of his palace. But this, most likely, is only the propaganda of the haters of the emperor, spread after his death. Today, thanks to the historian Tacitus, it is known that the fire quickly spread and blazed for as long as 5 days. 10 of the 14 districts of Rome were either completely destroyed or severely damaged. It is possible that Nero was not responsible for the fire, but this was used by the emperor as an excuse for persecuting Christians. It was they who were accused by the authorities of the arson of the city. And the fact that Nero on the ruins erected one of the greatest and rich palaces, just a coincidence, which, incidentally, led to the fall of the emperor in a few years.
Chicago, 1871 year.
Probably, there are not so many fires, known just as the fire in Chicago in October 1871. Then more than 17 thousand buildings were burned, about 90 thousand people were left homeless. Fortunately, the fire spread quite slowly, but still killed about 300 people. The picture of disaster was completed by a cold winter, which came to the Midwest. The weather hurt the fire victims. Historians are almost sure that the fire began in a small barn, which was owned by the O’Leary family in the backyard of house number 137 at Dekoven Street. The most popular version said that the flame appeared from a lamp, which the cow overturned with the hoof. This story even published the Chicago Tribune, but later the journalists admitted that they came up with such an option. Historians eventually restored another version – hay in a barn was set on fire by a thief, trying to distract others from stealing milk. In any case, like the fire in London in 1666, fire opened the way for a new and improved Chicago. The city rose from the ashes and after decades became the industrial center of the country. America was forced to undertake the necessary firefighting reforms, and 80 years later the Chicago Fire Academy was built on the remains of that very barn. The events of 1871 made the fire brigade of the city one of the best in the country, for a long time others were equal to it. If this is the matter of the hooves of the notorious cow, then things did not turn out so badly.
San Francisco, 1906.
In this fire, 25,000 houses in 490 city blocks burned in fire. The element destroyed almost 3,000 dead people. The cause of the fire was man and nature. The fact is that in the pre-dawn hours on April 18, 1906, an earthquake struck San Francisco. But the main part of the damage to the city caused a fire. Poorly trained rescuers tried to blow up a few surviving buildings to make clearings. In addition, many townspeople deliberately set fire to their damaged homes, which were insured against fire, and not from an earthquake. The quenching was difficult, as the city’s water supply was also destroyed by earthquakes. The damage to the city was estimated at 400 million. The city’s problems were related to corruption in its administration. So, the municipality of San Francisco did not allocate enough funds for the development of fire fighting systems, the money went to other projects.As a result, the firefighters at the right time were left without tools. On top of everything, Denis Sullivan, the fire department chief, who could coordinate the actions of the rescuers, died in the earthquake. Firefighters at the critical hours were left without leadership. Definitely, for the city in the bay it was not the best day for the city in the bay. The military helped. They began to shoot marauders (about 500 criminals were executed on the spot), provided the victims with shelter and food. However, after a decade of traces of the fire there is almost no left.
Pestigo, 1871 year.
Speaking of the fires of 1871, the Great Chicago Fire immediately comes to mind. But few people know that just a few hundred miles from him in the north of Wisconsin raged unprecedented fiery storm. The events in Pestigo went down in history as the largest forest fire in history. Then more people died than during any such event in US history. The fire burned to the ground an area of 5,180 square kilometers, 17 cities turned into ashes. The region burned twice as large as the whole state of Rhode Island. The remoteness of the district and the rural population there led to the fact that the number of victims remained unknown. But the approximate estimates indicate 2500 deaths, the total damage amounted to 200 million dollars. More than others, a small town of Pestigo was affected by the disaster. Most of the population of 1,700 people died, many were missing. People in panic fled from the fire, rushing into rivers, wells and other bodies of water, which caused hypothermia. The fire was so terrible that the eyewitnesses described it as a tornado that threw into the air at home, burned bricks. People in Pestigio flashed like candles. The situation was aggravated by a strong wind, and also that all the firefighters in the vicinity were thrown into Chicago.
Texas City, 1947.
Who would have thought that a small fire in the hold of a moored French dry cargo ship could cause major problems? But the ship was supposed to take 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate, a flammable and explosive substance. It was used for the famous explosion in Oklahoma in 1994. A small fire in the hold, presumably due to an abandoned cigarette, led to the largest industrial explosion in US history. The burning ship tried to tow, but it was too late. The explosion was so strong that it was recorded even by seismographs for fifteen hundred kilometers, and the shock wave reached New Orleans, for 250 kilometers. Two aircraft flying at an altitude of 300 meters were instantly destroyed. But this was only the first act of a deadly tragedy. The chain reaction of fires and explosions has begun among neighboring oil refineries and chemical enterprises. The next day, another cargo ship with saltpeter exploded. About 1,000 buildings were destroyed, nearly 600 people died or went missing, including the entire voluntary fire team of Texas City, who was on the ship in a fire. Many of the survivors of Texas City fled from the city in horror, never to return there. It took many years and more than $ 100 million to recover.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1917.
These events were left out of the public’s attention only because they occurred during the war. Nevertheless, today, despite the military censors’ attempts to conceal the catastrophe, one of the largest accidental explosions in the world is already known. It all started on the morning of December 6, 1917, when the French cargo ship Mont Blanc, which transported ammunition for the war in Europe (explosives and picric acid) collided with the Norwegian ship Imo and caught fire. The narrow harbor did not allow the ships to turn around. The fire did not have time to take control, there was a powerful explosion. Today it is estimated at three kilotons in TNT. Even in the harbor a tsunami arose, and a blast wave destroyed the port and much of the city. About 2 thousand people died under the rubble of buildings and because of the fires that occurred.About 9 thousand people were wounded, 400 people lost sight. The explosion became the most powerful explosion of the pre-nuclear era. The situation worsened with the fact that the next day the city got into a blizzard. This worsened the ability to rescue people from the ruins, the number of deaths only increased. As a result, the harbor of Halifax became unusable as a major port for many years.
Like San Francisco 17 years earlier, Tokyo was simultaneously hit by a strong earthquake and a subsequent fire. More buildings were destroyed in Yokohama than in Tokyo, but the picture worsened the fire. A strong wind carried fire. People fled to open areas, but that did not help either. On one of the squares of Tokyo, about 40 thousand people were suffocated – the surrounding buildings were burning. As a result of the impact of the elements, only the official death toll was 174 thousand people, more than half a million people were missing, and 570 thousand houses were destroyed … The uniqueness of this disaster is that several factors have united to have the most destructive effect. So, an earthquake occurred at lunchtime, when many people were cooking. This is what caused the numerous fires. They quickly spread under the influence of coastal typhoons, the city was literally walked by fiery winds. The earthquake also caused a tsunami wave, adding victims and destruction. The city was quickly rebuilt by hard-working Japanese in order to be destroyed again during the Second World War by American B-29 bombers.
In addition to the cities listed, it is necessary to note the large fires in New York (the city burned twice, in 1776 and in 1835), Amsterdam (burned down twice, in 1421 and 1452), Moscow (ignited at least four times between 1547 and 1812 Copenhagen (burnt down in 1728 and again 67 years later) and New Orleans (in 1788 and 1794, hurricanes were not the only problem of this place).