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  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?


  2. #2
    Member TheOldSchool's Avatar
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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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    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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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.

  5. #5
    Forum Member firefighter26's Avatar
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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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  6. #6
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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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.

  8. #8
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Wink

    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.

  10. #10
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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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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  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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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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    Forum Member Lewiston2FF's Avatar
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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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    Member TheOldSchool's Avatar
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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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    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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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.

  17. #17
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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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?

  19. #19
    Permanently Removed Kvfcjr's Avatar
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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!

  20. #20
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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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