Vinatge: The Great Baltimore Fire in 1904

Vinatge: The Great Baltimore Fire in 1904


The Great Baltimore Fire raged in Baltimore exactly 113 years ago (February 7, 1904). 1,231 firefighters helped bring the blaze under control, both professional paid Truck and Engine companies from the city’s B.C.F.D. and volunteers from the surrounding counties and outlying towns of Maryland, as well as out-of-state units that arrived on the major railroads. It destroyed much of central Baltimore, including over 1,500 buildings covering an area of some 140 acres (57 ha).

It is considered historically the third worst conflagration in an American city, surpassed only by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. Other major urban disasters that were comparable (but not fires) were the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and most recently, Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico coast in August 2005.

One reason for the fire’s long duration involved the lack of national standards in firefighting equipment. Despite fire engines from nearby cities responding with horse-drawn pumpers, wagons and other related equipment (primitive by modern day standards, but only steam engines were motorized in that era) carried by the railroads on flat cars and box cars, many were unable to help since their hose couplings could not fit Baltimore’s fire hydrants.

Much of the destroyed area was rebuilt in relatively short order, and the city adopted a building code, stressing fireproof materials. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the fire was the impetus it gave to efforts to standardize firefighting equipment in the United States, especially hose couplings.

Anderson and Ireland Hardware Store

Anderson and Ireland Hardware Store

the Baltimore skyline at night during the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904

the Baltimore skyline at night during the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904

Panoramic photograph of Baltimore fire

Panoramic photograph of Baltimore fire

Panoramic photograph of Baltimore fire

Panoramic photograph of Baltimore fire

Panoramic photograph of Baltimore fire

Panoramic photograph of Baltimore fire

The old 1875 Baltimore City Hall with dome in background and the 1889 Italian Renaissance style General Post Office with its nine towers and central tall clock tower survived the blaze

The old 1875 Baltimore City Hall with dome in background and the 1889 Italian Renaissance style General Post Office with its nine towers and central tall clock tower survived the blaze

The ruins after the fire

The ruins after the fire

The ruins after the fire

The ruins after the fire

View from harbor of Pratt St. after 1904 fire

View from harbor of Pratt St. after 1904 fire

Baltimore's tallest building, the Continental Trust Building after the fire, 1904

Baltimore’s tallest building, the Continental Trust Building after the fire, 1904

Downtown in the aftermath

Downtown in the aftermath

East of Baltimore and Liberty Streets after the 1904 fire

East of Baltimore and Liberty Streets after the 1904 fire

Electric railway powerhouse

Electric railway powerhouse

Firefighters spraying water on buildings along German St. during 1904 fire

Firefighters spraying water on buildings along German St. during 1904 fire


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