20070523/多伦多历史上最为惨重的大火:1904年火灾

1904年4月19日 —— 一场大火吞噬了多伦多市区,大约8公顷的土地被夷为平地,这几乎占城区的一半面积。大火烧毁了104栋建筑,造成的经济损失将近1200万元,所幸并未造成人员死亡。

1904年4月19-20日的火灾是多伦多历史上最为惨重的一场大火,发生在58 Wellington St.紧邻Bay街,经过250名消防队员,历时9小时才将大火扑灭。这场大火共烧毁123间建筑物,139间商铺,令5000人失去工作。图为Bay街在1904年大火后的情形。

Wikipedia: Great Toronto Fire

The fire was first spotted at 8:04 p.m. by a constable on his regular street patrol. The flames were rising from the elevator shaft of the Currie neckwear factory at 58 Wellington Street West, just west of Bay Street. The factory was situated in the centre of a large industrial and commercial area. The exact cause of the fire is still not known, but a faulty heating stove or electrical problem is suspected.

The fire began on the evening of the 19th and took nine hours to get under control. The glow of the fire could be seen for kilometres in all directions. Firefighters from cities as far away as Hamilton, Ontario and Buffalo (a long term friendship was established between the Queen City of New York and the Queen City of Canada) came to Toronto’s aid. The battle was made more difficult by strong winds and sub-zero temperatures. The temperature that night was approximately -4 degrees Celsius with winds at 48 kilometres per hour with snow flurries.

The fire destroyed 104 buildings, but killed no one. It caused $10,350,000 in damage and put five thousand people out of work, at a time when the city only had 200,000 inhabitants. As a result of the fire, more stringent safety laws were introduced and an expansion of the city’s fire department was undertaken.

It was largest fire ever in the city, although a previous large fire had consumed many city blocks on April 7, 1849 when the city was much smaller and constructed mostly with wood.

The legacy of this fire includes Call Box 12, which was used to sound the alarm and now is the name for the volunteer canteen truck supporting Toronto Fire Services today.


Front Street after the Toronto Fire of 1904.The Great Toronto Fire of 1904 was a fire that destroyed a large section of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada on April 19, 1904.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Toronto_Fire

The Great Fire of 1904

Exactly how the fire started has never been solved. Early reports suggested that faulty electrical wiring was to blame. Others thought that a stove left burning at the end of the work day was the cause. Whatever the source, by the time a watchman saw flames and sounded the alarm at 8:04 pm on that icy night of April 19, 1904, the Wellington Street building in which it had started was already a loss, and the fire was spreading to its neighbours.

From its origins in the E. & S. Currie Building (on the north side of Wellington Street, west of Bay), the fire quickly spread north, south, and east. Soon, both sides of Wellington and Bay were aflame. By 9 pm, every fireman in the city was at the site. The mayor, Thomas Urquhart, sent the deputy fire chief a message, asking if he needed any assistance. The deputy’s response: “We need all the assistance we can get.”

While the mayor sent telegrams to other cities, urgently asking for help, the fire’s northward advance was stopped. But the fire continued south and east, and by 11 pm, it had reached Front Street. From there it swept south to the Esplanade, and east along Front towards Yonge Street.

Fire fighters and equipment from Toronto’s surrounding suburbs, and others arriving by special express trains from Hamilton and Buffalo, arrived in time to help Toronto’s exhausted fire fighters make a last stand just west of Yonge Street. Some on the ground, some climbing to the roofs of untouched buildings to get above the flames, for two hours they soaked the advancing edge of the fire. Finally, by 4:30 am, the fire was declared under control, though small fires continued to break out for the next few days, and the ruins smouldered for two weeks.

Miraculously, although many fire fighters suffered minor injuries, particularly temporary eye damage due to smoke and cinders, no one died in the fire. Financial losses were another story. Total estimated losses were $10,000,000—in 1904 dollars. Most businesses had insurance, but even so, some lost tens of thousands of dollars. Five thousand workers lost their jobs, temporarily or permanently. The insurance companies suffered serious losses, but earned no one’s sympathy when they raised all insurance premiums for businesses in the affected area by 75%—retroactive to the night of the fire.

Most of the burnt-out businesses quickly found temporary quarters and continued to operate. Many began to rebuild immediately, and City Council worked fast to pass a new building by-law, setting standards for fire-resistant (for the time) construction. On the first anniversary of the fire, The Globe would write, “The business interests of Toronto are safe in the hands of the men who within a year of such a staggering blow as the great fire of April last have made such wonderful progress in effacing its results.”

http://www.toronto.ca/archives/fire1.htm

The Great Toronto Fire, April 14, 1904

“The weather in Toronto on the evening of 19 April, 1904, was cold and blustery. The air temperature was below freezing (24° F) and snow flurries were occurring accompanied by strong winds from the northwest at 30mph. All was quiet in the heart of Toronto’s mercantile area. Few people were on the streets as almost all the buildings in the area had been closed since 6 p.m. At 8:04 p.m., a police constable patrolling his beat in the area saw flames shooting skyward from the elevator shaft of the Currie Building, 58 Wellington St. and immediately turned in an alarm. Before the resulting conflagration was extinguished, it would destroy approximately 100 buildings, causing a property loss of $10,350,000.”

Toronto Fire of 1904
G. W. Shorter
Fire Study No. 13
Division of Building Research
National Research Council
Archives of Ontario, Pamph 1964 #55

The exact cause of the fire was never determined but it levelled nearly 20 acres of land and over 5,000 jobs were lost, at least temporarily.

Fire fighters and equipment from many other communities answered the call for help and continued to arrive throughout the night from places as far away as Hamilton, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Brantford, London and Peterborough.

In total, over 250 firefighters helped fight the blaze and used between 9.5 and 11 million litres of water (2.5 and 3 million gallons) of water. There were five injuries, including Fire Chief John Thompson who broke his leg in a fall. Fortunately, no lives were lost but the fire, which lasted less than 9 hours, dealt a serious blow to the commercial heart of the city.

To learn more about the Great Toronto Fire follow these links.

How could it happen?
Slide show of images from the fire and its aftermath
An animated map showing how the fire spread
Photos of a model showing the progress of the fire
Two Success Stories
Sources and Resources

http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/english/exhibits/fire/index.html

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