Fire Through The Ages: A Timeline
Excerpted from the 1984 FIRE ALMANAC, published by
the National Fire Protection Agency. Quincy, MA. 1983
1600s • 1700s • 1800 - 1850s • 1851 - 1890s • 1900 - 1950s • 1951 - 2000s
First settlement in the "new world" founded in Jamestown.
January 7th. Jamestown settlement destroyed by fire. All provisions lost and many die of hunger and exposure.
Dutch trading ship Tiger burns in New York Harbor, forcing her crew to be first settlers on Manhattan.
Pilgrims land at Plymouth.
November 1st. Fire destroys seven dwellings at Plymouth and nearly ends settlement.
Boston, MA was settled.
Peter Stuyvesant, Governor of New Amsterdam, appoints four fire wardens to perform inspections of chimneys. Fire prevention ordinances are passed and fines are imposed to purchase and maintain fire buckets, hooks and ladders.
January 14. First of Boston's great fires destroys one-third of the town.
Joseph Jynks of Saugus, MA, builds first American fire "enjyne".
British take over New Amsterdam and the town is renamed New York.
September 2. Great Fire of London England.
November 27. Fire at Boston destroys large part of North End, including Increase Mather's church.
Boston imports fire engines from England.
Town of Philadelphia is founded.
"Towne House Fire" in Boston.
Mutual Fire Society organized in Boston by progressive citizens, This first volunteer fire company in America only battled fire amongst its members homes.
Newsham engines arrive in New York from London.
Benjamin Franklin establishes the Union Fire Company, the first fire organization in Philadelphia and one of the first in America to fight fires for the public good of all.
November 18. Fire in Charleston, SC. All houses and buildings from Broad and Church Streets to East Battery are burned down.
March 18. Fort George on lower end of Manhattan burns. New Yorkers incited to rise against "Negro Plot."
First successful pumping engine built in America, by Thomas Lote, New York.
Philadelphia Contributionship started; first successful fire-insurance company in America.
March 5, the Boston Massacre. British troops opened fire on a mob of colonists. The shooting may have started when a wayward cry of "fire" was given -- a cry intended to sound the town's church and fire bells as an alarm.
April 19. Paul Revere's famous ride.
June 17. Battle of Bunker Hill. Redcoats set fire to 380 dwellings in Charlestown, MA.
July 4. Declaration of Independence.
September 21. New York burned. American patriots believed to have "scorched earth" for the British by fire that destroyed 493 buildings.
America wins her independence.
A powerful new, American designed, "Gooseneck" style fire engine was introduced.
March 21. New Orleans destroyed by fire on Good Friday. The fire was started by a curtain blowing over an open candle. Over 900 buildings (seven-eighths of town) burned.
George Washington becomes first President.
Journals recording fire-company duty and activities first used.
First double-deck/end stroke hand engine built in Philadelphia.
Insurance Company of North America was formed.
December 9. "Coffee House Slip" Fire in New York.
Newark, New Jersey organized a fire company and purchased small hand-engine.
English inventor John Carry, designed the first crude automatic sprinkler but it went undeveloped for a long period.
Fort Dearborn (Chicago) founded.
Volunteer fire department established in Cincinnati, OH.
Wooden hydrants installed in Philadelphia.
June 11. Detroit, Michigan destroyed by fire.
In the aftermath of a major fire in Philadelphia, hydrant inspections began.
Early fire prevention activity in Washington, DC resulted in all chimneys being cleaned.
Fire Bucket Company formed in Cincinnati Ohio.
NYC got first hydrant attached to underground water main.
A new concept in fire fighting, leather fire hose seam by copper rivets.
The first fireboat (Engine 42 of New York) was hand-rowed and hand-pumped.
Philadelphia diverted water from storage trunks in the street for use in fighting.
Philadelphia Hose Co. formed.
May 3 1. Fire destroys 250 buildings in Newburyport, MA
1812 to 1814 --
The war with England brought major conflagrations: Capitol Building, State and Department, Treasury Building, Government Arsenal all were destroyed by fire.
"Fire rafts" [burning ships set adrift) were used to threaten and destroy the enemy.
Richmond, VA organized the Richmond Fire Society for the purpose rendering mutual aid.
Philadelphia organized a special fire patrol group to perform salvage work.
January 11. Fire destroys 463 buildings, mostly dwellings in Savannah, GA.
A volunteer fire company is organized in St. Louis, Missouri.
English chemist John Walter invented the friction match containing phosphorus sulfate.
1825 --Erie Canal opened.
George Braithwaite built first fire engine using steam to pump water.
B & 0 Railroad, (the first in America), makes successful run.
Fire protection improvements in Richmond, VA brought a water supply system reservoir, water pump hose and private hydrants.
Horses began pulling engines after Asiatic cholera plague struck firemen.
Sectional ladders used by John Braidwood of London.
December 16. Great Fire in New York City. Over 650 buildings, including most of the Wall Street financial area are destroyed and result in $20-40 million property loss. Following the conflagration, private patrols were appointed to cover the city in event of second fire.
Depression and panic sweep America.
June 10. Broad Street Riot in Boston. Firemen fight Irishmen all day.
Milwaukee, WI formed its first volunteer fire company.
Henry R. Worthington invented an independent, direct-acting steam pump.
Paul Hodge builds the first steam in America fire engine. He is scorned by the volunteer firefighters of New York.
Samuel F. B. Morse invents the telegraph.
Dr. William F. Channing of Boston invents the fire-alarm telegraph.
April 10. Great Fire at Pittsburgh; 982 buildings burned, mostly dwellings.
Potato famine in Ireland. Irish come to America in great numbers.
July 13. Fire in Nantucket; 300 buildings destroyed. Brought an end to the town's whaling supremacy.
August 17. Fire at Albany, N. Y., destroys 600 buildings.
California Gold Rush begins.
San Francisco. A conflagration caused by arson results in $12 million in property damage. Following the fire, vigilante groups are organized to patrol the city and watch for more arsonists.
May 17. A conflagration that began on the ship "White Cloud" destroys twenty-six river boats, 418 buildings, and kills twenty in St. Louis, Missouri
Fire destroys 400 buildings in Philadelphia and kills thirty-nine people.
May 4. The worst of six big incendiary fires that swept San Francisco between December, 1849, and June, 1851. This one destroys almost the entire city.
First fire-alarm telegraph central office and street box system inaugurated at Boston.
Patent issued for first sprinkler-perforated pipe system. This was the first recognized installation of fire protection equipment.
Latta Brothers steam fire engine, "Uncle Joe Ross," revolutionizes firefighting. Cincinnati becomes the first American city to replace volunteers with the horse-drawn steam fire engine, and to form a paid fire department.
December 27. Great Republic, biggest clipper ship ever built, burns in New York on eve of her maiden voyage.
Jennings Building fire causes four deaths in New York City .
Aurora, IL forms its first fire company, "Young America Fire Engine Company No. 1" and a hand pumper and hose cart are delivered.
St. Louis forms the second fully paid steam fire department in America.
Crystal Palace fire, in New York City .
Baltimore, MD established its first paid fire department.
January 10. Pemberton Mills Fire in Lawrence, Mass.; 115 killed.
February 2. Elm Street Tenement Fire in New York City; 200 killed. Laws requiring fire escapes were passed as a result of this fire.
Milwaukee, WI establishes a paid fire company.
Washington, DC fire department becomes a fully paid organization and installs a fire alarm telegraph.
Fort Sumter attacked. Civil War begins.
New York City firefighters organize the first Fire Zouaves regiments and leave for the battlefront.
December 11. Most of Charleston, South Carolina is destroyed by fire.
Battle of Gettysburg.
July. Draft riots in many United States cities.
New York City draft riots occur.
New York City becomes paid fire department.
November 8. "Southern Conspiracy" to burn New York City.
General Robert E. Lee surrenders.
April 14. President Abraham Lincoln assassinated.
April 27. S.S. Sultana explodes in Mississippi River; 1450 killed.
Atlantic Cable successfully laid.
July 4. Great Fire in Portland, Maine. Firecracker starts blaze that destroys 1500 buildings.
Alaska purchased from Russia.
Railroad spans America, coast to coast.
The City of Aurora reorganizes the fire department. A new steam fire engine is purchased for the East Side district. A high-pressure Holly Pump water system is installed and the "Holly Hose Co." is organized to protect the West Side.
"Boss" Tweed era of corruption in New York at its height.
Philadelphia PA gets a paid fire department.
Daniel Hayes, a San Francisco fireman, develops the first successful aerial ladder truck.
First volunteer firefighting unit organized in Los Angeles, CA.
Rubber-lined, cotton-jacketed, fire hose begins to replace the riveted leather hose.
October 8. The Great Chicago Fire. 18,000 buildings burned, over 200 lives lost. Help comes from eight states to battle the two-day conflagration. Aurora, IL sends a steam fire engine and crew of eighty-five firefighters.
Also on October 8, forest fires destroyed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconson (killing over 1,000) and raged through parts of Michigan.
November 9. Great Fire of Boston..
Great Fire of Boston destroyed 776 buildings and one square mile of the business district.
More than seventy insurance companies went bankrupt as a result of the Great Fire of Boston. The companies that survived formed the National Board of Underwriters and established safeguards for insurance companies to follow.
Quick-hitch collar and hames invented by Charles Berry a fireman in Cambridge, MA.
Suspended harness invented by firemen in St. Joseph, Missouri.
First sliding poles, (made of wood), were installed in some New York engine houses.
Automatic sprinklers introduced.
First high-pressure water system for fighting fires installed in Rochester, NY
Big-league baseball is organized.
December 5. Brooklyn Theater Fire; 295 killed.
Edison invents the incandescent lamp.
Frederick Grinnell improved upon the automatic sprinkler. Insurance companies cut rates to businesses installing Grinnell sprinklers.
Henry Ford builds his first car.
May 31. The Johnstown Flood, 2200 people killed.
June 6. Fire destroys thirty-one blocks in center of city and along the waterfront in Seattle, Washington.
Moving-picture machine invented.
New Central Fire Station (now the home of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum) is completed in Aurora, IL.
February 14. Fire at Lynn, Mass., destroys 300 buildings in center of city, mostly factories.
Klondike Gold Rush.
June 30. Fire sweeps through the Hoboken water front; 400 killed.
September 8. Galveston (TX) Flood kills 5,000.
May 3. Fire destroys 1700 buildings in Jacksonville, Florida.
Marconi transmitts the first wireless message across the Atlantic.
President McKinley is assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt becomes President.
Wright Brothers make first airplane flight.
February 8. Fire burns 525 buildings in Paterson, New Jersey.
December 30. Iroquois Theater fire, Chicago, Illinois (602 deaths and 250 injuries).
Successful breathing apparatus invented but not adopted for a number of years.
February 7. Great Fire at Baltimore. eighty downtown blocks, 1343 buildings burined. The Baltimore fire raised national attention for the need to standardize fire hose couplings and screw threads.
June 15. General Slocum, an excursion steamer with combustibles on board, catches on fire while crusing in New York's East River. 1,030 lives were lost, mostly children. This fire lead to inspection of ships in New York Harbor.
April 18. San Francisco earthquake and fire destroys 28,000 buildings; Over 492 deaths and $350 million in property damage.
Gasoline-powered motors and pumps begin to appear in the fire service.
Underwriters Laboratories initiated its factory inspection service and began to issue labels for "approved devices."
Invention of first pumper with a single engine to do both driving and pumping.
March 4. Fire at Lakeview Grammar School in Collinwood, Ohio. 175 children and one teacher are killed.
April 12. Conflagration in Chelsea, Massachusetts, burns 3,500 buildings and kills eighteen.
Fire in the Nelson Morris Co. Chicago, Illinois. Twenty-one firemen killed by falling wall.
New York City fire, Grand Central terminal yard.
Transport of hazardous materials is quickly becoming a great hazard.
Aurora, IL places its first motorized fire engine into service.
March 25. Fire at the Triangle Shirt Waist factory in New York City. Over 150 killed, mostly young women. This fire aroused the public and labor against sweat shops and child labor.
New York City created Committee on Safety which led directly to Safety to Life Committee of National Fire Protection Association. (the NFPA).
Equitable Building fire in New York City.
Titanic sinks 1,513 lives are lost.
Fire destroys 518 buildings in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Binghamton Clothing Factory fire results in new standard for building exits (35 deaths).
Single-driving and pumping engine developed to efficiency.
Life Safety Code® is established.
June 25. 1,600 buildings are destroyed when fire sweeps through Salem, Massachusetts.
Panama Canal opened.
World War I begins.
Telephone service from New York to San Francisco is initiated.
The S.S. Lusitania is sunk.
March 21. Fire burns 1440 buildings, nearly the entire town of Paris, Texas.
March 22. Fire in Nashville, Tennessee burns 648 buildings, mostly dwellings.
March 22. 682 buildings burn in downtown Augusta, Georgia.
July 30. "Black Tom Pier" fire and explosion in New Jersey.
Ammunition storage explosion kills 1,500 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Eddystone Ammunition Corporation explosion, Eddystone, Pensylvania (133 deaths).
April 6. United States enters World War I.
May 21. Simultaneous fires destroy 1,938 buildings in Atlanta, Ga.
International Association of Firefighters Union organized.
October forest fires in Minnesota sweep through fifteen townships destroy and kill 559.
November 11. Armistice is signed, World War I ends
Two-platoon system begins in New York City. Many cities had already adopted shorter hours for firemen, others were to follow soon.
Prohibition in effect.
September 16. Wall Street explosion; 40 killed.
New Stutz motorized fire engine is delivered to Aurora, IL (this engine is now on display at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum)
California passed a law forbidding wooden shingles on roofs but pressure from the roofing industry brought a repeal.
President Harding issued first Fire Prevention Week proclamation.
Standards for Municipal Fire Alarm systems are adopted.
December 8. fire destroys 30 blocks in the center of Astoria, Oregon during a rainstorm.
December 20. Last horse-drawn engine in New York City is retired.
Cleveland School Fire in Beulah, SC (77 deaths).
Tokyo and Yokohama earthquake and conflagration, Japan (91,344 deaths).
United States Chamber of Commerce sponsors National Fire Waste Council with contest for fire prevention in cities by local chamber of commerce.
Fire prevention education in schools required by thirteen states.
September 17. Brush fire roars through Berkeley, California and destroys 640 buildings.
Shakespeare Memorial Theater burns in Stratford-on-Avon.
First sound movies.
Lindbergh flies from New York to Paris.
Annual Fire Prevention Week inaugurated.
Fire in Fall River, MA burns 107 factories and business blocks.
May 15. Cleveland Clinic Fire.125 are killed when X-ray films burn and give off poisonous fumes. As a result of this fire, in laws require the use of "safety film."
Stock Market Crash. The great depression had devastating effects on fire department budgets. resulting in losses of manpower and stations. Arson fires increased.
Ohio State Penitentiary fire, Columbus, OH (320 deaths).
Comprehensive fire loss study estimates that most fire deaths involving the very old and the very young occur in ordinary dwellings.
S.S. Morro Castle caught fire off the New Jersey coast, 134 killed.
Conflagration in Hakodate, Japan destroys one-half of the city and takes 2,018 lives.
Woolworth building fire in Aurora, IL. Three firefighters are killed and six others were injured when a wall collapsed.
May 19. Chicago Stockyards Fire.
Fire destroys 20 blocks in center of Nome, Alaska on September 17.
Consolidated School fire in New London, TX gas explosion (294 deaths). This fire focused attention on the need to safeguard buildings not subject to municipal ordinances.
German Zeppelin Hindenburg burned as a result of an engine spark igniting flammable hydrogen (36 deaths).
World War II begins. Incendiary bombs dropped on European cities.
December 7. Bombing of Pearl Harbor resulted in loss of 2,383 lives and 19 American ships. Other losses - $25 million damage to aircraft, $25 million damage to buildings, supplies and ammunitions, 88 ships damaged and 960 persons missing. Pearl Harbor experience led to fire training program of the US Navy.
Japanese and European cities continue to be destroyed by war conflagrations.
November 28. Coconut Grove Night Club fire, Boston, MA (492 deaths). This fire showed the need for practical improvements. UL stepped up research on combustibles in public places.
"Rain of Terror," in Hamburg, Germany. Fire storms killed 60,000 to 100,000 people.
July 6. The Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey circus tent catches fire in Hartford, Connecticut. 167 are killed and nearly 500 are injured.
Gas explosion and fire at the East Ohio Gas Co.in Cleveland, Ohio causes 130 deaths.
Munitions Depot explosion in Port Chicago, California (300 deaths).
Dresden, Germany, explosive incendiary bomb raid ( 300,000 deaths).
Eastern Air Lines DC-3 near Florence, S.C., fire in flight (22 deaths). Empire State Building struck by aircraft (14 deaths).
Germany surrenders. Japan surrenders after atom bombs are dropped..
June 5. Sixty-one die in a fire at the LaSalle Hotel fire, Chicago, Illinois.
December 7. Winecoff Hotel fire in Atlanta, Georgia (119 deaths).
The Morkoy, petroleum tanker fire in Los Angeles, CA. Fireboats used to fight miles of waterfront fire.
April 16. Ammonium nitrate being loaded on the S.S. Grandcamp explodes in Texas City, Texas. More than 600 are killed, including entire membership of volunteer fire department.
Centralia Coal Co., Centralia, IL dust explosion (111 deaths).
October 23. Forest fires burn in Maine burn 1,200 buildings and kill 16.
DC-4 accident at Chicago Municipal Airport (12 deaths). This fire recognized the need for specialized aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicles for airports.
The US Postal Service issues a three-cent stamp honoring volunteer firemen
Sparky the Fire Dog created as a symbol of fire prevention for children.
Cleveland Hill School fire, Cheektowaga. New York (15 deaths).
Oil refinery fire in Whiting, Indiana resulted in $16 million loss, explosion and boilover.
Junior Fire Department in Los Angeles, CA organized.
Our Lady of Angels School, Chicago. IL, rubbish fire spread through open stairway (95 deaths).
Multiple fires resulting from Watts riots in Los Angeles, California. After 34 lives were lost, special gear was used to protect fire fighters as a defense.
Chief E. J. Bauman establishes the Aurora Fire Department Museum. Lieutenant Charles 0. Goodwin is appointed as Curator.
McCormick Place fire, Chicago, Illinois
Apollo Space Capsule fire, Cape Kennedy, Florida, 3 astronauts died.
A fire resistive fabric, Nomex,® came into existence.
Forrestal aircraft carrier fire off coast of Vietnam (131 deaths).
Aurora, IL firefighters begin Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training at Mercy Center Hospital.
A 727 plane crash and fire in New York. Spilled fuel ignited after crash (113 deaths).
Social Club fire, Bronx, New York (25
Nursing home fire in Chicago, Illinois kills 24.
Fire at the "Beverly Hills Supper Club" in Southgate, KY results in 165 deaths.
MGM Hotel fire, Las Vegas, Nevade (85 deaths).
Stouffer's Inn hotel fire, Harrison, New York (26 deaths).
Hyatt-Regency Hotel walkway falls, killing 114 in Kansas City, Missouri
Oklahoma City Bombing, 169 Dead.
September 11th. Terrorist attack the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC. 189 are killed in the Pentagon attack. In New York, both of the 110 story world trade towers collapse killing nearly 3,000 including 344 firefighters and 87 police officers. A third hijacked plane crached in rural Pennsylvania.
• December 3rd, Worcester cold storage warehouse fire. Firefighters get disoriented and trapped while battling the fire. In all, six firefighters are killed.
June 18th, Sofa Super Store Fire in Charleston, SC. Nine firefighters die when caught in a flashover.