• Top 10 Most Famous Fires in History

    Ever since mankind first began building structures out of wood rather than stone, fire has been a part of the learning process. In fact, so common have these infernos been throughout history that nearly every major city in the world has been largely burnt to the ground at one time or another in its history. Some, in fact, have burned repeatedly. For example, Constantinople was burned no fewer than five times between 406 and 1204 only to be, like a damaged anthill, rebuilt each time, thereby setting the stage for the next great inferno. Many times these fires are man-made results of war, but most of the time nature—combined with poor construction techniques, the extensive use of flammable building materials, and the utter lack of any ability to fight really large blazes—were the culprit. A few of these fires stand out in our memory, however, both for their size and some for having had a major role in shaping historical events. Which fires are these? Without further ado, here is my list of the top ten most destructive, most famous, or most historically significant non-war related infernos in history.

    10. Boston 1872

    Boston-1872

    While not as large a fire as the one in Chicago the year before or the fire that was to ravage San Francisco just over three decades later, Boston’s fire was arguably the most expensive in terms of property damage of any American fire. This was largely due to the fact that most of the damage was confined to the cities’ downtown areas and financial districts, resulting in thousands of Bostonians losing their jobs and hundreds of businesses being destroyed. In fact, it was so expensive a fire that dozens of insurance companies even went bankrupt trying to pay out damages. (Think about that the next time you pay your premium.) Unfortunately, the fire might never have done so much damage had not the cities’ overworked fire department not been burdened with everything from locked fire alarm boxes (which had been ordered by the city to be locked to prevent false reports) to low water pressure and non-standardized fire hydrant couplings. In the end, this comedy of errors resulted in 65 acres of downtown Boston—including some 776 building and twenty people—being turned into charred cinders, making it one of the East Coast’s most devastating fires.

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