Contributions to the Spreading of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871
Many events led up to the spreading of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 including difficulties at the fire department, the weather, and the types of buildings in Chicago. The cause of the fire is still indefinite today; however, there are many theories how it started. Some believe a cow kicked over a lantern inside a barn while some believe a meteorite fell to the Earth creating the fire. Despite all theories, the inferno became uncontrollable when it could have been put out fairly quickly (Smith).
The fire, which began on October 8, 1871, spread so quickly it was unmanageable. One of the reasons the fire became so irrepressible is that the firefighters were already exhausted from having fought a fire the day before. The firemen underestimated the potential of this fire when they first responded to it. As a result of the fire the previous day, the firefighters’ equipment, including the fire hose, was not in the best condition. Furthermore, the hose that was available was in short supply (Murphy 30).
Mathias Schafer, the fire department watchman, was stationed in the courthouse tower. Upon the sighting of a fire, he would, via voice tube, give the location of the fire to a telegraph operator. The operator would then strike a fire alarm box closest to the location of the fire. On the evening of the fire, Schafer noticed a light in the southwest. He called the night operator and told him to strike box 342, which was located one mile away from the O’Leary barn. Afterwards, Schafer realized he had made a mistake and called the operator once more. He told the operator to strike a different box, but he refused. He claimed that he did not want to confuse the fire...
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