The Great Boston Fire Of 1872


A fire broke out in Boston's Summer Street on the evening of November 9, 1872. The fire, known as the Great Boston Fire of 1872, was extinguished approximately 12 hours later, destroying hundreds of buildings in a 65-acre area of ​​downtown Boston.

The Great Boston Fire of 1872

The fire began in a building at the corner of Summer and Kingston Streets, which housed dry goods for a nearby retail store. The cloth cans were highly flammable, but it was the construction of the building that enabled the fire to spread so rapidly. Flames shot down the wooden lift shaft located in the center of the building, and very quickly, every floor of the structure caught fire. The fire soon spread from the roof to nearby buildings, and about half an hour after it started, firefighters who arrived at the scene realized it was more than they could handle. By 8:00 pm, all 21 fire engines in the city were on fire.

Despite the best efforts of firefighters, by midnight the fire had spread to a five-block area. A few hours later, it reached ashore, destroying ferries, ferries and boats before sweeping through Boston's financial district and the entire city area. When the fire was finally brought under control, 13 people, including two firefighters, died. Overall, the fire destroyed 776 buildings and caused $1.436 billion in damage in 2019, making it one of the costliest fires in US history.

What was the cause of the great Boston fire of 1872?

A perfect storm of influence was involved in the ignition and spread of the Great Boston Fire of 1872. At the time, Boston had few building codes, and those that were in place were not enforced. This meant that buildings were often made of flammable materials, held together dangerously, and were taller than the reach of firefighting equipment of the day. Merchandise stored in warehouse attics was not considered taxable inventory, so warehouse owners packed as much into the attics and eaves of their buildings as possible, increasing the risk of fire in those inaccessible locations.

In addition, Boston's streets, which were quite narrow with tight turns, were difficult for heavy fire engines to navigate. To make matters worse, the entire northeastern United States was thrown into an outbreak of equine flu, leaving fire departments with a shortage of horsepower and firefighters finding themselves dragging their equipment through the streets. was forced to terminate.

The city had the foresight to introduce a fire alarm system in 1852, but it worked out a little too well. False alarms became a problem, so the boxes were sealed and keys were given to only a few trusted citizens in each neighborhood. Tragically, many of those key holders were nowhere to be found during the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Thankfully, in the decades that followed, the city (and the country) greatly improved construction practices, firefighting techniques, and alarm systems.

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