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Major urban fires around the world

Major fires and their impact on various parts of the world

The Great Fire of London, 1666

London has a long history of devastating fires. From 60AD to this day, London has experienced many great fires. The Great Fire of London, 1666 was the most destructive and destroyed most of the city after raging for four-five days. It is believed that Thomas Farrinor, the King's Baker, failed to smother his oven properly, which led to the firewood kept nearby burning and eventually turning into a conflagration that gutted the city.

The Great Fire of London, 1666

Seventeenth century London was a busy city of narrow, dusty lanes, houses made of cheap material like wood, poor firefighting techniques, and the east wind, all factors leading to the unforgiving wrath of fire. The great fire engulfed nearly 13,000 houses, 90 churches, scores of public buildings, St Paul's Cathedral and other historic landmarks.

27-storey London tower on fire

But this is not it, there have been a number of major fires over the years like the one at London Bridge in 1633, the Whitehall fire in 1698, the Parliament fire in 1834, the great fire of Tooley Street in 1861, the second great fire of London in 1940, and more till the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14.

2010 Shanghai fire: Welding sparks turns residential building into inferno

London, however, is not the only city to suffer from fires. A 28-storey high-rise building (constructed in 1997) in Shanghai caught fire on November 15, 2010. Sparks of welding undertaken by unlicensed workers were reported to be behind the fire. The building had 440 residents, out of which 50 died in the fire.

2010 Shanghai fire

The fire raged for more than four hours and more than 100 fire trucks had to be pulled in for the rescue operation.

Major Paris fire, August 26, 2005

On August 26, 2005, a fire raced through a residential building housing African immigrants, killing 17, mostly children. It raged for three hours in this six-storey building, starting from the ground floor stairwell. More than 200 firefighters had to battle the inferno.

Dhaka Fire, 2010

More than 100 died in the Nimtali area of Old Dhaka on June 3, 2010. The fire is believed to have been caused by a faulty electrical transformer. There was a wedding party on the roof of one the buildings which lead to a high number of casualties. Chemicals and flammable plastics stored in the nearby shops fueled the fire. "The feast was being cooked on makeshift stoves right next to a chemical warehouse which heated up the extremely flammable chemicals," an official report says. More than 40 members of the wedding party were among the dead. The fire started at 10.30 pm and lasted for over three hours. Bangladesh announced June 5, 2010 as a day of mourning and the Bangladesh cricket team wore black armbands during their match against England the day after the fire.

The Great Fire of Boston, 1872

Boston's 12-hour battle with fire happened on November 9, 1872. It is regarded as the largest urban fire and property loss in American history.

The Great Fire of Boston, 1872

The conflagration began in the basement of a warehouse at the corner of Kingston and Summer Street at 7.20 pm. Most of the downtown area was destroyed by the time the fire could be controlled. The firefighting units did not have enough water or adequate equipment. It caused a damage of $73.5 million approximately.

The Great Fire of Boston, 1872

Faulty warehouse connections, inadequate equipment, no building norms, wooden construction, all fuelled the Great Fire of Boston. This incident, however, helped to improve Boston's business community and firefighting methods.

1871 Chicago fire

The Great Chicago fire began on October 8, 1871 and burned till October 10, claiming about 300 lives and causing a damage of $200 million. Legend is that a cow kicked over a lantern in the barn of Patrick and Catherine O?Leary which caused the fire.

1871, Great Chicago Fire

BUT there are other rumours that involve humans and even meteors. A hot dry summer day and the south-west wind helped the fire to spread at a rapid rate. It was almost a drought-like situation due to lack of rain. A burning piece of timber lodged on the roof of the city's waterworks which made the city helpless. The fire was finally extinguished when it rained on the late evening of 9th October.

1871, Great Chicago Fire

More than 2000 acres of the densely populated city was destroyed. One of the prominent reasons for the spread of the fire was the excessive use of wood for construction. The house structures, sidewalks, buildings and many roads were made of wood which allowed the fire to grow unchecked.

The Great Fire of Rome, 64AD

One of the greatest in the history, the Great Fire of Rome went on for 6 days. The cause of the fire is uncertain, even after 2000 years. Some believe that Emperor Nero intentionally set the city on fire because he originally wanted to tear down one-third of Rome and build an enormous series of palaces but was denied by the Senate. The city was torched and skinned and left in smouldering ruins.

The Great Fire of Rome, 64AD

Tthe sweltering heat and the wind kindled the already raging fire. Nobody could escape the terror, those who tried to run, the fire followed them and others jumped in the fire because they preferred to die.
Now the city stands strong, studded with marbles and stones, but the mystery of the fire still stands.