Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Great Fire

Cafe Unknown has a large, picture-full post about the Great Fire of Portland, Oregon.

In 1873 Despite dirt streets, wooden sidewalks, saloons and livery stables, the frontier character of the city was rapidly vanishing. In downtown, brick and cast iron were replacing wood as the building materials of choice. There were one hundred eighty-nine street lights in place; ninety four gas fired, ninety five oil. The Fire Department comprised of five volunteer companies, each with their own station house. The department had thirty-six cisterns with a combined water capacity of five hundred seventy two thousand gallons. There were twenty-two fire hydrants.
The city had a gas company and telegraph service. There were thirteen churches, two synagogues and six public schools (including a “Chinese Night School”). The library had 334 members and 5,448 books.


The fire was so big, a call went out to neighboring areas for help to fight it. Fire engines were brought in by boat and train from Salem and Vancouver, WA.

The fire may have been started by a group that was opposed to the use of Chinese laborers. Although there were no deaths reported, there were serious injuries. Damage was huge:

Losses would eventually be calculated at $1,182,325 with only $258,000 insured. To give an idea of the scale of the loss, the Portland City Treasury had closed out the previous year with a balance of $2,247 in the General Fund.

1 comment:

Ris said...

This was just fascinating. I've read about several Great Fires(San Fran's, Chicago's, London's--even wrote a poem about London's based on a journal entry by Pepys) but I hadn't heard about Portland's.

Which makes me realize how very real were the fears of Mr. Pittock when he built that marvelous mansion on the hill. When I toured it, I got to see a behind-the-ropes look at it and saw how very thick the walls were for the vault and other addition made to help curtail the spread of a fire.

Thank you for sharing this.