7/14/1874 the Second Great Fire Chicago, IL was reported around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. “It was raised near the corner of Clark and 12th Street (Roosevelt Road), just a few blocks south of the downtown business district. A fire had broken out, inauspiciously beginning the same way the Great Fire had, in a small barn. Unluckily, the barn was located next to an oil factory. And that unfortunate location, coupled with the same dry conditions and wind from the southwest that proved so fatal in 1871 fire, again spelled disaster for the city. A segregated company of black firefighters was the first to respond to the fire, but although they arrived within minutes of the general alarm, it was already too late. Flaming oil from the factory had already spread the fire the width of the block between Clark and 3rd Avenue (Plymouth Court) and it was burning its way north towards Taylor Street. The firefighters attempted to halt the blaze but were forced to abandon the fire engine in the street as the fire grew in strength and threatened to overwhelm them. The fire continued in a northeasterly direction, burning through to the intersection at Taylor and State Streets by 5:30 p.m. consuming everything in its path. An hour later the fire was making its way north on State Street and breaking through to Wabash Avenue between Eldredge and Peck Courts (8th and 9th Streets). There it burned the First Baptist Church, a huge stone structure described as “the finest church structure in the city.” The loss of the church was a heavy blow. Other major buildings lost in the fire included the post office, Aiken’s Theatre and the St. James Hotel. Wealthy residents living in mansions along South Michigan Avenue saw the flames approaching and feared the scene of the Great Fire was being repeated. They began packing up their belongings, loading furniture onto wagons, and prepared to leave their homes. But sometime after 10:00 p.m. the fire finally stopped on Wabash Avenue, between Adams and Van Buren Streets. Critics observed that the fire stopped not because of the efforts of the Chicago Fire Department, but because the fire had run out of wood to burn. The firefighters were only able to gain control when the flames encountered the impenetrable brick walls of the newly rebuilt business district. Reporters made much of the fact that the neighborhood burned in the fire consisted “of the worst rookeries imaginable,” most of which were “occupied as houses of ill-fame.” One reporter went as far as to estimate more than 500 prostitutes were left homeless by the fire, including “all the most notorious keepers of the vile abodes.” But in addition to prostitutes the densely populated area had been home to many poor immigrants, including Germans, Irish and Poles. The neighborhood also included a small but burgeoning African American community. All lived close together in compact, poorly constructed wooden housing. But now even what little they had was gone, and while Chicago’s more well-to-do residents felt badly for the victims of the fire, they were not especially sorry to see the dilapidated “shanties” wiped out. Many of the residents displaced by the fire dispersed to other corners of the city, but some just moved a little farther south. The prostitutes relocated between 18th and 22nd Streets, establishing Chicago’s notorious Levee District. And many of the African Americans left homeless by the disaster moved south of 22nd Street, forming the beginning of the so-called “Black Belt.” Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the fire, Nathan Isaacson, the man who owned the barn where the fire began, was arrested and charged with arson. But whether Mr. Isaacson deliberately set fire to his barn is unclear from early newspaper accounts. Several neighbors testified in court that Isaacson or his wife had started the fire, but their testimony and accusations bordered on the outlandish. Accounts lead one to believe Nathan Isaacson was as likely a victim of his neighbors’ racial prejudice, who bore little affection for “the Jews,” as he was an arsonist. Early reports estimated 60 acres had been destroyed by the fire, only a small fraction of the 2,100 acres burned in the 1871 fire. But the lessons learned from this second fire had important consequences for the city. After the Great Fire of 1871, the city had established fire limits prohibiting the construction of any wooden building north of 22nd Street or east of Halsted Street in the downtown area. However, the city then permitted temporary wood structures to be built within the fire limits until more permanent buildings could be completed. These “temporary” wood buildings were supposed be torn down within a year of construction, but their demolition was never enforced. And now the entire area had burnt to the ground. Business owners, prominent residents and insurance companies tired of paying out for fire losses seized their chance to demand real reform. Their efforts immediately after the fire of 1874 resulted in the fire limits being extended to encompass the entire city limits. This act laid the foundation for the later formulation of Chicago’s building code. In addition, their criticism led to the increased organization of the Fire Department and infrastructure changes to increase the city’s water supply to critical areas. On the scale of destruction, the fire of 1874 was only a lighted candle to the Great Fire’s roaring inferno. But Chicago’s Second Great Fire resulted in many real changes that would shape the city as it moved towards the 20th Century.”
7/14/1909 a Philadelphia, PA firefighter “died from injuries he received following a fall through a glass marquee while operating at a fire, on June 22, 1909.”
7/14/1911 an Evansville, IN firefighter “died of burns he sustained after trying to remove a pan of grease from a stove. He was standing on the corner of St. Joseph Avenue and Franklin Street when he heard a commotion coming from the restaurant of Peter Perry at 1229 West Franklin Street. He ran to the restaurant and found trash burning on the floor. He ran outside to summon No. 5″s house and when he returned, he found that the fire had spread to a pan of grease. The firefighter picked up the pan of burning grease and tried to remove it from the building. He stumbled, causing the grease to splash onto his clothing, which ignited. He extinguished the flames, which had engulfed his entire body, by jumping into a pile of sawdust. He was taken to Deaconess Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.”
7/14/1963 a Tacoma, Washington firefighter died at “a spectacular wind-driven three-alarm fire that had quickly spread along the entire length of Pier #7, overtaking the firefighters that were operating there to control it. He was killed when he was engulfed in the fire while evacuating his men.”
7/14/1967 a Sioux Falls, SD firefighter “died as a result of injuries sustained while operating at a major structure fire in the downtown section of the city.”
7/14/2013 the early-morning arson fire destroyed half of the 584-bed Grove apartment complex, that was under construction and set to be filled in the fall with Washington State University students; the unprotected wood-frame 11,700 square feet four-story apartment building contained 32 units, all under construction, located in a complex of 10 buildings containing 216 units of similar construction, and with wet-pipe sprinkler system that was being installed, but it was not yet in service; the fire resulted in $13 million loss.
7/14/2013 a gasoline tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons crashed in a tunnel and caught fire causing $16.5 million damages on the Glendale Freeway at the Golden State Freeway interchange north of downtown Los Angeles, CA.
7/14/1980 Mississauga, ON a 202-room nursing home fire that spread rapidly through the top floor of the three-story building where most of the chronically ill patients were housed shortly after 9:30 p.m. The fire killed twenty-one and injured thirty of the 198 residents.
7/14/1960 a fire raging through a Guatemala City, Guatemala Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital (insane asylum) killed 225, and severely injured 300.
7/14/1950 Seattle, WA an underground gas explosion at 5:35 a.m. killed one, injured twelve, and damages several buildings in a south side business area.
7/14/1926 Haines Falls, NY the Twilight Inn fire killed eighteen.
7/14/1900 Prescott, AZ conflagration.
7/14/1874 Iowa Falls, IA forty-five buildings in the business section are destroyed by fire.
7/14/1897 Exeter, NH the Squamscott House Hotel was destroyed by fire.
7/14/1852 Lake Pontchartrain, LA the Steamer Saint James explosion and fire.
7/14/1857 Utica, NY Lunatic Asylum fire.