The Great Chicago Fire

The summer of 1871 was very dry, leaving the city of Chicago ripe for a fire. Although the O’Leary cow traditionally gets blamed for the blaze, evidence does not necessarily support this. Historians agree that on Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, the Chicago Fire did indeed start in the barn of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. While the blaze ironically spared the O’Leary home, it burned a patch 3 1/3 miles square through the town. Property valued at nearly $200 million  was destroyed, 300 people were killed, and 100,000 lost their homes. Although Mrs. O’Leary gained immediate and unwanted fame as the starter of the fire, the investigative board at the time never determined whether the cause was human or accidental (after interviewing fifty witnesses, including the O’Learys).

The firefighters who responded to the fire were tired from working a large fire the day before. At first, they were sent to the wrong neighborhood. By the time they got to the O’Leary’s, the fire was beyond control. Anything wooden lying in the path of the blaze was consumed. The entire central business district of Chicago was destroyed. It was a spectacular and horrifying event, and is now a foundational piece of Chicago history.











One Response to “The Great Chicago Fire”

  1. I have been examinating out some of your articles and i must say pretty good stuff.

    I will surely bookmark your site.

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