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Great Chicago Fire (1871)

  • By: Thomas E. Poulin
  • In: Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief
  • Edited by: K. Bradley Penuel & Matt Statler
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Policy (general)

The Great Chicago Fire started at approximately 9:00 P.M. on October 8, 1871, and burned until October 10. It began in a barn behind 137 DeKovan Street, spreading quickly through the city. By the time the fires were extinguished, the fire had killed more than 200 people and left almost 100,000 homeless. The fire destroyed nearly four square miles, and caused more than $200 million in losses, equating to $51.2 billion in 2009.

In 1871, Chicago was one of the largest cities in the United States, with a population exceeding 300,000. The public water works, built in 1863, was designed to provide sufficient water for predicted needs, including fires. Chicago created a paid fire department in 1858. However, although training and equipment of the fire department ...

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