6 Greatest Fires In Human History That Left Behind More Damage Than You Think

Fire is ruthless. It destroys everything in its path.

There have been many fires in the history of mankind, but very few stand out due to immense casualties – of life and property. These fires were destructive and went on to forever change fire safety norms; modifying them into the ones we know today.

Here are some of the deadliest fires the world ever saw.

#6. The Great Fire of Rome (64 AD)

Rome is that one city that has survived the test of time.

The city’s housing was made out of wood. When the fire started in one of the shops near Circus Maximus, it spread out of control. The narrow streets were set aflame one by one. Of the 14 districts in Roma, only 4 survived the damage, and everything else was charred to the ground.

One can only imagine the damage to human life.


#5. Cocoanut Grove Nightclub Fire (1942)

We’ve all been to overcrowded nightclubs but did we ever think about the danger of the same overcrowdedness?

Unfortunately, this Boston nightclub experienced the situation at close quarters. The club had a maximum capacity of 600 people but there were more than 1000 people in the premises on that unfateful day.

The place caught fire when a decor piece came in contact with a match. Panic rose, and in under 12 minutes 492 people died and more than 200 people got injured. The fire, however, wasn’t the only thing to be blamed.

The nightclub was a death trap with one main exit.

This exit wasn’t really great for evacuating people in situations of emergency. The exit door was of the revolving kind, it jammed instantly as people started fleeing in panic.

There was a lesson to be learned from this fire. US’s National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) made changes to their codes especially when it came to lighting, decor finishes, capacity and emergency exit routes.


#4. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

In 1911, three floors of a 10-storey building caught fire.

This was no regular building that held residents, this was what you would call today a sweatshop by any standards.
The factory workers were mainly women who had immigrated from Germany, Italy and other parts of Eastern Europe and were ready to work 14-hour shifts that paid as low as $7 per week. These were women who were desperately seeking a livelihood.

The reason for the fire was quite stupid. It was a cigarette butt that started it all. It is common sense that a factory that dealt with fabrics would ban smoking on the premises, but no such luck.

The fire started when the shift time was over and the workers were ready to leave. One of the rags caught fire and it soon spread overhead where the paper caught fire. However, the damage and deaths could have been prevented had the factory not resorted to barbaric measures in the name of the business.

The factory kept their exits locked to prevent theft of raw materials. There was also an issue of flammable fabric on the floor discarded by the workers. All in all, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. 147 people lost their lives in that building.

This incident went on to influence the fire safety standards in the US.


#3. The Great Fire of London (1666)

This raging fire almost wiped out the entire city of London and went on for four days from 2nd September to 6th September. It started in a bakery and soon spread out across the city’s narrow streets.

The major cause was that the houses were made out of thatch and wood, both of which are pretty inflammable.

The fire was so great that it lit the sky as the temperature reached 1,250 °C. The surroundings were charred to dust. The fire stopped finally at the River Thames after the winds dropped. The reports estimated that the fire destroyed the homes of 70,000 residents.


#2. Chicago Fire (1871)

This fire was a literal inferno and gobbled up nearly all of Chicago.

It was apparently started in a barn when a farm animal kicked over the lantern. It spread slowly but profusely and damaged around 17000 structures in the region and made around 90,000 people homeless. This was truly the deadliest of fires.

It resulted in reforms in various procedures in the Chicago Fire Fighting Department and set a template for the rest to follow.


#1. Great Tokyo Fire (1923)

Japan is known for its catastrophes. This one will be remembered as one of the deadliest.

On the 1st of September, 1923, a massive earthquake of 8.3-magnitude quake hit Tokyo. It was about 50 miles from the main city and the quake went on for 5 minutes.

It was enough to pile up a list of casualties.
Because the quake hit during noon when people were busy preparing lunch, there were small fires across the region due to gas stoves. These multiple fires created a tornado that spread the fire further into the city. Buildings were destroyed within minutes.

More than 30,000 people died that day, any help was rendered useless due to the damage was done to the water facilities by the quake. An Australian ship Empress of Australia was pulled in to rescue the people from the fire. 60% of Tokyo was destroyed that day and many innocent people lost their lives.


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