Posted February 25th, 2016 by Fire & Life Safety America

Throughout history, house and wild fires have wreaked havoc on our lives and communities. However, with each fire we learn more about fire safety, maintaining fire systems, servicing fire equipment, and fire prevention. We here at Fire and Life Safety America are always interested in furthering safety procedures and learning lessons about fire protection. So, as we move into the month of March, we have taken a look at some of the biggest fires in February in the early 1900s, and taken note of why they happened and how they’ve impacted our society in fire safety and protection.

Great Baltimore Fire of 1904

It took over 1200 volunteer and professional firefighters to bring this blaze on February 7 and 8 in 1904 under control in Baltimore, Maryland. 1500 buildings over about 70 city blocks, or 140 acres, were ruined, and after the fire, 35,000 people were thrown into unemployment. Around this time, American cities were growing rapidly, but each city had its own system of firefighting practices. There was no national standard of fire safety or fire protection. But after the fire, slow steps to better fire protection were adopted. The city of Baltimore at last adopted a city building code, and the National Fire Protection Association standardized requirements for hose connections and fire hydrants.

February Fires in 1916

Just one hundred years ago in February, a rash of fires across the world clued us into ways to avoid fire safety disasters. In Ottawa, Canada, a fire attributed to smoking killed two women, two men, and a police officer, and alerted us to the dangers of careless smoking. At a dye and chemical company In Kingsport, Tennessee, a lantern exploded and set fire to a nearby chemical tank. The fire was successfully quenched before it destroyed more than one building, but we grew aware to the dangers of gas and chemicals stored too close together. In New York, New York, firefighters used a cutting torch to free a carbon monoxide-poisoned man from a fire within a loft populated with paint and chemical companies. In Mexia, Texas, an explosion caused by the collapse of an old opera house ignited a fire that spread to a neighboring bank, general store, and restaurant. This blast and fire which decimated the town of Mexia taught us the importance of building standards to prevent avoidable tragedy.

Whether it’s the necessity of firefighting standards, building codes, or proper chemical storage, these February fires from the past taught us plenty about ways to improve fire protection and fire safety services in our society. One hundred years later, we are wiser and more vigilant in fire prevention, maintaining fire protection equipment, and providing fire safety systems.

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