Reflections on the Great Chicago Fire

8 months ago 108


As the summertime months are accelerated approaching, the occurrence play volition again beryllium a superior interest of Australia’s occurrence services.

The memories of the disastrous bushfires of December 2019 and January 2020, lone eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic, are inactive caller successful people’s minds. The dangers associated with fires alert radical to the necessity to person safeguards successful spot and the request to travel the proposal of the occurrence services.

Now is besides the clip to bespeak connected the Great Chicago Fire, which devastated Chicago 150 years ago, and to see what we tin larn from that conflagration.

The Great Chicago Fire started connected Oct. 8, 1871, successful Catherine O’Leary’s barn.

O’Leary and her husband, Patrick, were Irish immigrants. Because of the adust conditions and beardown wind, the occurrence dispersed and ravaged a ample portion of the city. The occurrence destroyed the downtown country and the northbound broadside of the city. Approximately 3,000 radical died, and 90,000 radical became homeless.

Epoch Times Photo A presumption of downtown Chicago, including the damages Court House, successful the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire, Ill., October 1871. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Following the disastrous Fire, O’Leary became infamous erstwhile a writer alleged that the occurrence had started erstwhile she was milking her cattle that accidentally tripped implicit a lantern.

The allegation turned retired to beryllium a lie, propagated by an enthusiastic but devious journalist, Michael Ahern, who admitted successful 1893 that the communicative was fake.

Nevertheless, the story of the wayward cattle was born, and for respective decades, radical believed that the occurrence started precisely however Ahern described it.

His communicative of the accident-prone cattle whitethorn look to beryllium somewhat amusing to a scholar today, but it remains an illustration of an unwarranted manipulation of journalistic freedom.

The mendacious allegation is besides instrumental successful revealing the prejudices which existed astatine the clip against Irish immigrants.

Throughout her life, O’Leary was blamed for starting the Great Chicago Fire, adjacent though she testified that she was successful furniture erstwhile the occurrence started.

What is true, however, is that the occurrence started successful her barn. Catherine and Patrick O’Leary were unaware of the enveloping information due to the fact that they were dormant successful their furniture erstwhile the occurrence broke out.

The 150th day of this cataclysmic lawsuit was commemorated appropriately successful America, particularly successful Chicago.

For example, the Northwestern University Alumni Association invited Emeritus Professor Carl Smith to sermon the Great Fire. Smith’s book “Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City” recounts the catastrophe and the consequent rebuilding of Chicago.

Chicago is present an entrepreneurial metropolis that rejuvenated its skyline aft the disastrous Fire of 1871 erstwhile the rapacious, ravenous flames destroyed 3 quadrate miles of the city.

Nowadays, radical visiting Chicago tin respect fibreglass cows and different workplace animals, positioned passim the centre of the city, converting it into a menagerie. The accumulation of cows is simply a portion of CowParade, an planetary creation accumulation held successful galore American cities.

But 1 wonders whether the enduring story of O’Leary’s wayward cattle that allegedly caused the Fire whitethorn person inspired the exhibition!

Epoch Times Photo A kid takes a representation of 1 of the 300 life-size painted and sculpted Fiberglass cows connected show arsenic portion of the “Cows connected Parade” successful Chicago, Ill., connected June 29, 1999. (Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images)

O’Leary’s cattle did not origin the fire, but instead, a fierce upwind fuelled the flames. Chicago is besides aptly known arsenic the “windy” metropolis due to the fact that breeze coming from Lake Michigan whizz done its streets and squares.

The past of the Great Chicago Fire causes radical to bespeak connected the ever-present dangers of Fire during Australia’s upcoming adust and sweltering summertime season.

Although radical whitethorn respect authorities authorities regulations that enforce precautionary measures to debar fires arsenic intrusive, these measures are cogently related to achieving a worthwhile objective, namely the prevention of Fire and the extortion of beingness and property.

In this context, it is utile to notation to the caller authorities successful Queensland (and successful different Australian jurisdictions) which mandates the installation of interconnected fume alarms.

As of Jan. 1, 2022, spot owners indispensable instal interconnected fume alarms successful residential rental properties. When 1 fume detector goes off, each spell off, thereby alerting each occupant of a dwelling of imminent danger, giving them capable clip to flight the Fire. All different non-rental residential properties indispensable comply with the authorities authorities by 2027.

There is overmuch utile accusation connected the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) website connected the prevention of fires.

For example, the website discloses that radical suffer their consciousness of odor erstwhile they sleep. Hence, toxic fumes tin easy flooded sleeping people.

Photo-electric fume alarms are frankincense instrumental successful alerting sleeping radical of the dangers of Fire, giving them clip to prevention themselves. The caller authorities specifies the type, positioning, and interconnectedness of fume detectors, which are captious elements of a timely informing system.

Epoch Times Photo Country Fire Authority (CFA) unit show a elephantine occurrence raging successful the Bunyip State Park, immoderate 125 kilometres westbound of Melbourne, Australia, connected Feb. 7, 2009. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

It is of involvement to enactment that, arsenic Catherine and Patrick O’Leary were dormant erstwhile the Great Chicago Fire started successful their barn and proceeded to devour the city, they would not person been capable to odor the toxic fumes.

Undoubtedly, electrical fume alarms would person helped to debar the disaster, but, alas, they were not disposable successful that era.

The QFES Department administers a programme called “Safehome.”

It assists “all householders successful recognising occurrence and information hazards successful and astir the home.” And the “intent is to trim decease and wounded and spot harm owed to location fires and accidents.”

This programme and different programs described connected the website assistance successful the avoidance of disasters similar the Great Chicago Fire.

The Great Chicago Fire reminds radical of the dangers of Fire. Hopefully, policymakers and legislators volition larn from this disastrous lawsuit present that the summertime play is upon us.

Views expressed successful this nonfiction are the opinions of the writer and bash not needfully bespeak the views of The Epoch Times.

Gabriël Moens


Professor Gabriël A. Moens AM is an emeritus prof of instrumentality astatine The University of Queensland, and served arsenic pro vice-chancellor, dean, and prof of instrumentality astatine Murdoch University. He has published a caller astir the origins of the COVID-19 disease, “A Twisted Choice,” and precocious published a abbreviated story, “The Greedy Prospector,” successful an Anthology of abbreviated stories, “The Outback” (Boolarong Press, 2021).