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Great Chicago Fire is also known as Great Conflagration.

A great wall of fire approaching fast and destroying everything on its way – is that something you will like to see? This is precisely what people of Chicago saw and experienced back in 1871. This uncontrolled fire went on a rampage, penning down a story of horror and misery for the Chicagoites.

What started the fire? How long did it continue destruction? How was it controlled? We are going to find the answers to all these questions here in this 20 interesting Great Chicago Fire facts list.

Interesting Great Chicago Fire Facts: 1-10

great chicago fire facts
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1. The Chicago Fire of 1871 aka Great Chicago Fire started on 8th of October, 1871 and burned till 10th of October, 1871.

2. It was estimated that around 300 people lost their lives because of the fire.

3. Apart from human casualties, the fire damaged thousands of building and several other properties. The total damage was estimated to be $200 million.

4. Back in those days wooden buildings were abundant in Chicago. Sidewalks and streets too had no scarcity of wooden structures.

5. The fire started at night from a barn that was owned by Patrick O’Leary and his wife Catherine. The barn was located at Chicago’s southwest side at 137 DeKoven Street.

great chicago fire facts
Original caption: Illustration of Chicago Fire: How it started. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow upset an oil lamp. Undated illustration. BPA2#5175. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS | Public Domain

6. As per legends, it was the family cow of Patrick and Catherine that was responsible for the fire. Stories floated that the cow knocked down a lighted lantern which started the blaze.

7. Patrick and Catherine were questioned but Catherine denied the charge. So, the true source of the fire is not known till date and will never be unearthed.

8. Among other theories, the cause of fire has been blamed on humans and comets but none of them have been proved.

9. The fire became uncontrolled very soon and rapidly moved to the east and north of Chicago.

great chicago fire facts
By Currier and Ives | Public Domain

10. The fire continued to burn through 9th of October forming a massive wall speeding at 160 kilometers an hour.

Interesting Great Chicago Fire Facts: 11-20

11. The speeding massive fire wall created tornado-style winds and the tremendous heat turned the beach sands into glass.

12. Even worse, the fire wall even managed to jump over and cross the Green Bay waters and played havoc in a number of cities there.

13. The immense heat and energy produced by the fire managed to toss houses and rail cars into air.

14. With an estimated 300 dead and 100,000 homeless, the fire left behind a destruction trail of 4 miles long and 1 mile wide.

15. Over 17,000 homes and structures were completely destroyed.

16. With the devastating fire, Chicago saw lawlessness and mass looting, forcing the government to introduce martial law.

17. Companies of soldiers were sent to Chicago to prevent looting and other problems with effect from 11th of October.

great chicago fire facts

18. While most of the infrastructure of Chicago was destroyed by the fire, the transport system was left relatively unharmed that helped with the reconstruction phase.

19. During the reconstruction period, Chicago experienced a massive growth in population as well as economic growth.

20. When the fire broke out, the population of Chicago was around 324,000 and by next 5 years, the population shot up to 500,000.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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