Sunday, October 21, 2018

Some of the Most Destructive Fires in the History of the US

by katiesmith02 (writer), , October 08, 2014

?Since prehistoric times, fire has played a major role in human lives. Sometimes, it has been a savior. However, at other times, it has emerged as one of the most destructive powers of nature.

Since prehistoric times, fire has played a major role in human lives. Sometimes, it has been a savior. However, at other times, it has emerged as one of the most destructive powers of nature. There have been several infamous incidents of fire breaking out and causing loss of lives and property. People just learned or tried to learn from their past experiences.

From the day human started building home with wood instead of stone, it became easier to catch fire. Sometimes the reason of fire is war, sometimes man's carelessness, and sometimes nature itself has taken the tool of destruction in her own hands.

Infamous Fires in the United States

The US has witnessed some incidents of most destructive fire over the years. By 'most destructive', we can refer to many metrics:

  • Number of death is the first metric that comes in our mind. But even if a fire does not cause death, it can still be destructive.
  • The loss of property is the next point that pops up in the mind. When fire destroys home, it destroys family life. That leaves its mark in the history of civilization.
  • 'Largest' fire can be determined by the acres affected by it. Generally, wildlife fire becomes the largest fires, as they spread over the span of the forest and sometimes they engulf city life too.
  • Let's revisit a few incidents of fire that have been infamous for the destruction and loss they caused.

    #1. Great Chicago Fire (October, 1871)

    The inferno in Chicago in the winter of 1871 is an infamous one. It consumed 17,000 structures. As a result, the number of homeless people were 90,000. As NFPA reports(, it caused the loss of $3.3 billion. The number of death was comparatively lesser than that of the other incidents in USA (fewer than 300) as the fire spread slowly. But the spectacle of so many homeless people in the winter night was painful. It is remarkable the way Chicago had literally risen from the ashes after this incident.

    #2. San Francisco Fire (April 18, 1906)

    A Wednesday morning in San Francisco started with a jolt when the people of the city woke up due to a devastating earthquake. It was followed by the roaring fire that caused the loss of 3,000 lives and properties worth $9.0 billion( It is one of the worst incidents that denotes when nature joins in the stupidity of man, the result can be dangerous. The fire burned 250,000 houses over 490 city blocks and the disaster became worse when the poorly trained fire fighters decided to dynamite large buildings in order to create fire break.

    #4. Oakland Fire Storm (October 19, 1991)

    NFPA ranks this incident as the fourth largest fire accident in the USA. When it began, it was a small fire in a private property in Oakland Hills. It was extinguished by the effort of the Oakland Fire Fighters and the Park District Crew. But the next day, it turned into an inferno as the ember flames were reignited and fanned by the easterly winds. As many as 1,500 fire fighters and 450 engines started fighting it. The fire consumed 2.5 square miles area, which was mostly residential. According to NFPA, the loss amounted to $2.6 billion ( The fire destroyed 3,469 homes and at least 2,000 automobiles.

    #4. The World Trade Center Incident (September 11, 2001)

    This is one of the largest incidents of fire and death, not only in the US, but in the whole world. No wonder, in the list provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) (, it is at the top of the most deadliest and destructive fires. The number of death, according to NFPA report, was 2,066. The financial loss that it caused was worth more than $44 billion.

    American Airlines Flight 11 ( and United Airlines 175 ( stormed into the belly of the twin tower, making sure that the epic disaster will haunt the people of America for years.

    #5. Cedar Fire (October 25. 2003)

    Cedar Fire is one of the largest forest fires not only in the history of California, but in the history of USA as well. When a lost hiker ignited a small fire to alert the rescuer, the flames turned into an inferno, fueled by the wind. The fire consumed 273,246 acres and more than 2,000 homes and almost reached the Pacific Ocean. It resulted in a long suspension of aviation services in Los Angeles and San Diego.

    Sometimes, fire has destroyed civilizations. Sometimes it had given a chance to create a new one. But one thing is for sure: the above cases of fire has been etched in the bitter memories of the people of America permanently.

    Katie Smith is a Fire Expert and his area of interests and expertise lies in forensic science and accident or crime scene investigation related matters. He often consults Houston Fire Investigation

    About the Writer

    katiesmith02 is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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