63 Unbelievable Chicago Fire Facts That Will Stun You | Kidadl


63 Unbelievable Chicago Fire Facts That Will Stun You

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Chicago is a wonderful city situated in Illinois in the United States of America.

Chicago's history has always been very rich and extremely interesting. The Great Chicago Fire was one of the biggest fire outbreaks around the globe.

In this article, we will be taking you through some unbelievable facts about the great fire, Chicago's history, the reason for the Great Conflagration, and how it happened. So get ready to learn some exciting facts about the great fire starting right from O'Leary's cow to the massive damage it caused.

Causes Of The Chicago Fire

These facts will educate you about the big inferno and also tell you about how it was caused, these facts will clear your doubts about the incident.

  • The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was one of the biggest outbreaks in the history of modern human civilization.
  • The fire started on October 8, 1871, at around 9 pm in the evening and continued till October 10, 1871.
  • It started on the west side of Chicago city, in the DeKoven Street barn managed by Patrick O'Leary.
  • The barn belonged to the O'Leary family. Catherine O'Leary used to work there primarily.
  • As per legend, Mrs. O'Leary was milking her cow at night, that is when O'Leary's cow kicked the lantern which caused the fire.
  • But as per historians, the legendary cow fable might not be true.
  • As when the police questioned Mrs. O'Leary, Catherine O'Leary denied doing so, because the evening is not a suitable time to milk a cow.
  • Some say that there was a party going on hosted by the people living nearby, and some drunken men might have entered the barn to steal some milk with a lantern.
  • Mike Ahern, was a writer and he admits that he started the O'Leary fable, and later rectified it in the 1911 Chicago Tribune edition stating about the milk theft tale.
  • The fire had engulfed a lot of areas starting from the downtown area.
  • As time passed, the Chicago Historical Society have come out with multiple reasons for why the fire started to spread.
  • First, most of the people had wooden buildings that were quickly subjected to flames.
  • Second, the weather was very dry and rough which favored the outbreak.
  • Third, the fire department was given the wrong directions to the location.
  • In addition to that, the fire department fighters were already tired because of the Peshtigo Fire that took place along Lake Michigan the same day.
  • And fourth, the winds were blowing at a speed of 30 mph (48 kph) that night.
  • The fire whirls burst out in the western parts of the city and continued towards Chicago's downtown area and nearly reached Fullerton Avenue.

Destruction Caused By The Chicago Fire

The Great Chicago Fire had deeply affected the population of the city and cost a huge bill to the Chicago City Council. The Chicago Fire of 1871 was the most eminent incineration in American history. The following facts will give you an estimate of the destruction caused.

  • As per the Chicago Historical Society, when the fire broke out, people started to escape the city through the Randolph Street Bridge to get into safer areas.
  • Randolph Street Bridge crosses the Chicago river situated in the downtown area of the city.
  • The Great Chicago Fire is infamous for killing around 300 individuals that day and leaving around 100,000 more homeless.
  • The Great Chicago Fire cost the Chicago city council damage worth $222 million.
  • The total of $222 million then is equivalent to $4.7 billion in today's world.
  • One-third of the city was left ruined after the Great Chicago Fire.
  • The flames were eminent on destroying the downtown and North of Chicago.
  • The City's Business District was left in ruins after the incident.
  • The Chicago Fire of 1871 had scorched almost 3.3 sq mi (8.5 sq km) of the city.
  • During the outbreak, only about 185 firemen were deployed by the Chicago Fire department to control it.
  • Some areas were left untouched by the outbreak, such as the stockyards in the southern part of the city.
  • The residence of O'Leary was lightly damaged because they had large metal doors.
  • Joseph Medill was elected the New Mayor one month after the great inferno.
  • He provided the city with stern building codes and fire codes.
the history of modern human civilization

Duration Of The Chicago Fire

This was one of the most eminent outbreaks ever witnessed because it lasted for around two days. Time to learn why it lasted that long and how it was toned down.

  • Huge tornados of flames started emerging throughout the night, which people were referring to as Flame Devils.
  • These Flame Devils were the fire whirls that were carrying huge debris of burnt-up waste and scathing longer distances because of the high wind speed present that night.
  • Since most of the buildings were constructed out of wood, including the sidewalks, it was therefore very easy for the outbreak to engulf the city quickly.
  • The duration lasted long because a huge part of the city was affected and around 185 firefighters were present to control it.
  • Only 17 horse-drawn steam pushers were available to control the outbreak.
  • An alarm triggered from the initial point of the fire went unregistered in the courthouse thus causing a delay.
  • Burning debris which was being carried forward by the high-speed wind was one of the major factors that increased the duration of the spread.
  • Industries around the city had flammable waste which was present in the river.
  • The flammable waste helped the fire to cross the river.
  • Since the city was a huge Lumberyard, the fuel for the incineration was being continuously provided.
  • Lake Michigan was also facing the same inferno situation at that time which was the Peshtigo flame outbreak, and firefighters had to deal with that as well.
  • The Chicago Water Tower which was built in 1869, had survived the inferno and still stands tall.
  • The water supply for the city was deemed to be insufficient for the increasing population in the early 1860s.
  • During the inferno, this shortened water supply was a reason for the increased duration of burning.

Casualties In The Chicago Fire

Plenty of people and property were hurt and damaged during this famous inferno and almost half the city was engulfed in flames. The following facts will tell you about the number of casualties in Great Conflagration.

  • Around 17,450 buildings were incinerated during the fire.
  • Most of the people were left homeless because the majority of the residences were wooden buildings.
  • Since the duration was long, the survey for the casualties was delayed because the remains of the incineration were too hot to be removed.
  • Many people were devoid of their insurance claims as the documents were burnt up.
  • A huge amount of individuals and small businesses were forced out of the city after the incident as they couldn't afford the price for rebuilding and insuring their assets.
  • Firefighter Marshawn Plummer died after being critically injured for many days.
  • The railroads were not destroyed and were intact which contributed to the faster rebuild of the city.
  • The quick rebuild was possible since Chicago was a transportation hub and was the Lumber capital.
  • Architects were subjected to using more durable and fireproof materials to build the city again.
  • Finally, it started to rain late in the evening on October 9, 1871, and the fire started to subdue.
  • There were 12o bodies found, but it is estimated around 300 people succumbed to death.
  • Chicago stockyards also renowned as the 'Hog Butcher of the World' were left untouched.
  • It didn't take Chicago much time to develop after that incident.
  • Another inferno was witnessed by the city in 1874, which led to a generation of better building codes.
  • Chicago recovered from this horrendous phase and started to build a planned city.
  • In 1956, the O'Leary barn and property were taken down to build the Chicago Fire Academy.
  • This Academy works as a training facility for the firefighters.
  • A statue made of bronze depicting the stylized flames named 'Pillar of Fire' was established there in 1961.
Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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