Global & Disaster Medicine

11/9/1872: A mammoth fire in Boston destroys hundreds of buildings and forced the establishment of an entirely new system of firefighting and prevention.


  • There was not enough water on hand to get the fire under control;
  • The hydrant system did not work well because much of the equipment was not standardized;
  • The height of the buildings and the narrowness of the streets made it difficult to direct whatever water was available at the blaze from the optimum angle.
  • A local equine epidemic had struck the city fire department’s horses making it difficult to get the fire engines to the correct locations at the right times.
  • Explosions were used to attempt fire breaks, but this high-risk strategy was not executed with enough precision and served only to further spread the fire.


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