1. #1
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    Default Biggest Fire of the 20th Century

    What do you think is the biggest fire in the United States of the 20th century. The Triangle Shirt Waist fire? Maybe. What do you think?

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    Depends on what you mean by biggest, most fire apparatus, biggest area, longest time to put out, most fatalities. There have been some pretty awesome timber fires in the last 100 years. I think there was one in Texas started with an explosion and burned the whole town down.
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    One of the biggest and most devastating that claimed only one life was the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. A Baltimore fireman was the only fatality. It may have been the largest response of big city departments ever; Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, New York and more. It changed the way the fire service addressed the different thread sizes that hampered operations that day. Here is a short link but there is lots of info out there on this blaze.

    http://www.ezl.com/~fireball/Disaster10.htm

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    Like OldSchool said, it depends on what you mean by biggest. If you mean physical size, some western wildfires have burned areas the size of eastern states. Other than wildfires, The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 burned down a significant part of the city. The link goes to a report of the FD's incredible efforts to fight the fire.

    Otherwise, leaving out recent events like the World Trade Center and the Station some of the fires that have greatly influenced fire protection (other than the Triangle Shirtwaist fire) are:

    The Iroquois Theater Fire
    The General Slocum Fire
    The Cocoanut Grove Nightclub Fire
    Our Lady of Angels School Fire
    The Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire
    The MGM Grand Hotel Fire

    The sad thing about all these fires is that we as a people always forget the lessons learned. If you follow the links and read the stories, you can replace the place and date with recent events and you will notice the story is all too familiar.

    Also, OldSchool is probably talking about the
    Texas City Disaster , which devastated the town and killed every member of the volunteer fire department except one that wasn't on-scene.

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    I think we should divide everything up into categories, such as:

    Forest Fires
    Bush/Forest Fires, etc
    Structure Fires:
    MGM Grand, etc
    Natural Disasters:
    Earthquakes, etc
    Man-made Disasters:
    Texas City, WTC, etc.

    Here in Canada, we have had our share of disasters as well. The one that comes to mind right away is the Halifax Explosion , December, 1917:

    The French ship Mont Blanc, loaded with 2,300 tons of wet and dry picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton and 35 tons of benzol collided with the Norwegian vessel Imo, at the entrance to Halifax Harbour. The Imo struck the Mont Blanc on the bow. Although the collision was not severe, fire immediately broke out on board the Mont Blanc.

    1,630 homes were completely destroyed, many by fires that quickly spread following the explosion;
    12,000 houses were damaged;
    6,000 people were left without shelter in the middle of December;
    Hardly a pane of glass in Halifax and Dartmouth was left intact.
    The death toll rose to just over 1,900.
    (The captain, pilot and crew of the French ship, launched their lifeboats and took refuge in Dartmouth. All but one of the crew survived.)
    Last edited by firefighter26; 05-13-2003 at 03:33 PM.
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    Thumbs up 26 has an idea!!......

    And, since I like the challenge, here's my list....
    FOREST/BRUSH FIRES
    "The Big Blowup" August 1910, Idaho/Montana, 3 Million Acres, 89 Lives Lost.
    STRUCTURE FIRES
    Probably The MGM Grand.
    NATURAL DISASTERS
    The San Francisco Earthquake/Fire.
    MANMADE DISASTERS
    The Excursion boat General Slocum, on the New Jersey coast.
    I have attempted to find out if R1SAlum responded on all of these, I do remember seeing him in Montana, but he was not old enough to be on my crew. Stay Safe....
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    The biggest Fire I remember was when old man Smiths dairy barn burnt down on old route 15 back in 1941. That Fire was so big that it dern near caught the chicken coop on fire also. Lucky for us, we had our Model A Fire Truck with 200 gallons of water to protect that dern chicken coop or it could have been a lot worse. yup, yup that was a big one.

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    Forest Fires
    I'd have to agree with hwoods about the 1910 Idaho fire, although based on the death toll, I might argue that a fire in October of 1918
    bordering Minn. and Wis ranks up there also. It killed about 1,000, including 400 in the town of Cloquet, Minn. Acreage unknown.

    For sheer volume of destruction...the April 1947 Texas City, TX fire and subsequent explosion on the French freighter Grandcamp, which was carrying a cargo of ammonium nitrate. At least 516 were killed and over 3,000 injured. It destroyed most of the city. There exists some fabulous film of the incident's aftermath.

    Now...if the chicken coop had burned in waterboy's example....I'd certainly have to adjust my thinking.
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    The biggest fire in terms of both structure and wildland/urban interface fire was the Oakland Hills Fire in Oakland, California on October 20, 1991. 27 Lives lost including one Battalion Chief and One Police Officer, 3,500 Homes and Apartment Units destroyed. This was all within the space of less than 3 hours. At one point, two houses were catching on fire every 15 seconds. Think about that one for a second and picture the scene.
    It was also second only to Hurricane Andrew in terms of montetary loss from a natural disaster.

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    Red face Oops, Forgot One.........

    Before "Interface" got into our vocabulary, there was the BelAir - Brentwood Fire in LA County, in the early '60s. Over 600 homes lost..... Stay Safe....
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    April 16, 1947, Texas City. This is my first thought in terms of scale and casualties.

    May 4, 1988, Pepcon, Las Vegas. The explosion was equivalent to 1-kiloton nuclear free air burst.

    And, of course, there was the Great Tumbleweed Conflagration

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    Originally posted by E229Lt
    And, of course, there was the Great Tumbleweed Conflagration [/B]
    LMAO
    Didnt that go to 1000 alarms?

    I would have to agree with many that Texas City would have to be at the top of the list.
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    In the catagory of Man-Made Disasters I would have to nominate the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917. This occurred during WW I when two ships (one was carrying munitions) collided in Halifax Harbour . Until the Atomic bombs were dropped during WW II, it had been classified as the strongest man-made explosion.

    Almost 2000 people were killed 9000 injured, 325 acres within the city were destroyed including 1600 houses destroyed, 12000 damaged. Glass was damaged in buildings 50 miles away.

    More information can be found at the following links:

    http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mma/AtoZ/HalExpl.html

    http://www.halifaxexplosion.org/

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    Originally posted by EFD840
    Otherwise, leaving out recent events like the World Trade Center and the Station
    Yeah because both of those took place in the 21st century, not the 20th!

    Anywho...

    My vote goes with examples already listed above.
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    EFD840,
    I feel like an idiot, but it was Texas City in Texas! Thank you for the correction.
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    Hey OldSchool, you shouldn't feel bad. I missed a whole century change (which Adze was kind enough to point out ). My mistake didn't bother me - my wife regularly accuses me of living in the past.

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    My vote would sway to Halifax, except the question limited me to the U.S.
    Had I been able to go worldwide, I would pay a visit to Tokyo.

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    Wildland fire -Pestigo-- Wisc 1871 - appx 1500
    dead--entire town destroyed-
    Man caused-- for intensity -how bout the fire
    bombing of Dresden Germany?

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    hmmm...fire, lets think back.......
    ah yes, the big wax fire of 2002.

    ya see what happend was, we were all at the fire house, and we looked over and sitting on the table was this round chunk of wax with a string coming out the top, well, anyway they flame was HUGE!!, im talkin like 1 or 2 inches!!!!!!! So me and fire cheif bob ran over and put on our gear, and packs, and grabbed the 2" attack line and was able to get the flame under contol within minutes, now that was a big one!






    As you can tell, we dont get very many fires, big ones a that, here in my town!

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    If we are talking about war time Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have to top the list but I'll stay with Texas City.

    EFD840, mine tells me I have a one track mind.
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    Default Texas City again

    4 Die In Massive Explosion At Texas City Refinery
    More Than 80 People Injured

    POSTED: 1:39 p.m. CST March 23, 2005
    UPDATED: 5:44 p.m. CST March 23, 2005


    Story by Click2Houston

    TEXAS CITY, Texas -- A massive explosion and fire erupted at a Texas City refinery Wednesday afternoon, resulting in at least four deaths and dozens of injuries. It also destroyed buildings and vehicles, and sent a plume of thick, black smoke hundreds of feet into the air.



    The blast happened at 1:20 p.m. at the BP Amoco petrochemical plant, located at 2401 5th Street. It occurred in a gasoline refinery area of the plant, officials told Local 2.

    The explosion and fire left a lot of destruction and rubble at the plant, including a row of vehicles destroyed by flames, as well as buildings blown apart and leveled.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    SLIDESHOW: See Pictures Of Explosion
    SLIDESHOW: Close-Up Pictures Of Blast Scene
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition to the four deaths, at least 83 people were injured.

    Twenty-three victims were taken to UTMB Hospital in Galveston, a Level 1 trauma center. Four people are listed in critical condition and ten victims are in serious condition. Nine others are listed in fair condition.

    At least 60 injured were treated at Mainland Medical Center in Texas City.

    Lifeflight helicopters helped transport some of the victims.

    Hospital officials said the injuries range from burns, scrapes, scratches and contusions, to broken arms and broken legs.




    All of the injuries involve workers at the refinery.

    Search and rescue teams are still looking for victims under the debris. Company officials said their primary focus is to ensure that all employees are accounted for.

    An information hot line was set up for families of employees at (409) 945-1400.

    "It's been a sad day for the BP Texas City site and a really sad day for me, personally, as well. Our concern right now is for the families of those injured and families of those involved in the incident," said Don Parus, BP Amoco's Texas City site director. "At this time, it's unclear what happened. The fire was contained to the isomerization unit. This unit improves the octane of gasoline. It was contained to that single unit."


    Residents Hear, Feel Blast
    Residents told Local 2 that the explosion rattled homes and shattered windows.

    "I was in my house on Tiki Island and it shook the house," said Mark Jackson. "I walked out my back door and saw the smoke."

    Jackson lives about five miles from the blast location.



    "I heard this big explosion. The whole building shook. Things were coming off the walls and we knew that something exploded. It's just been chaotic around here with everything," said Dianne Barnett, who works across the street from the refinery. "Our scaffolding fell."

    "I was shaking and then I heard a boom and a window popped out. I was just at the door and I turned around and went and got my cousin out of the bed," said Keisha McFarland, a nearby resident.

    "All of a sudden it just went, 'Boom.' It knocked my nephew to the ground, three blocks away," said Joey Terry, who felt the explosion.

    A shelter-in-place order issued for nearby residents and schools in the Texas City Independent School District was lifted at about 2:15 p.m.

    The BP Amoco plant is the largest in Texas City with 1,200 acres. The facility has 1,800 employees.

    On March 30, several explosions rocked the same facility. Officials said that fire started in a furnace. The plant was evacuated, but no one was injured.




    Copyright 2005 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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