As damaging as the earthquake and its aftershocks were, the fires that burned out of control afterward were even more destructive. It has been estimated that up to 90% of the total destruction was the result of the subsequent fires. Over 30 fires, caused by ruptured gas mains, destroyed approximately 25,000 buildings on 490 city blocks. Worst of all, many were started when firefighters, untrained in the use of dynamite, attempted to demolish buildings to create firebreaks, which resulted in the destruction of more than 50% of the buildings that would have otherwise survived. The city's Fire Chief, Dennis T. Sullivan, who would have been responsible, had died in the initial quake. The dynamited buildings themselves often caught fire. In all, the fires burned for four days and nights.
As far as area, the largest fire in American history dwarfs this fire, considered one of the worst natural disasters in our history.
This is the answer most offer up, Ron. Alas, while this fire was indeed huge and often overshadowed by the Great Chicago Fire on the same day, the largest fire (in area) burned an area twice the size….. Thanks for guessing!
On September 1, 1864, the Confederate General John Bell Hood decided that his army must evacuate Atlanta—following a four-month-long siege laid on Atlanta by the Union Army under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. General Hood ordered that all public buildings and possible assets to the Union Army be destroyed. On the next day, Mayor James Calhoun of Atlanta surrendered the city to the Union Army, and on September 7, General Sherman ordered the city's civilian population to evacuate. Sherman's army next torched the buildings of Atlanta to the ground, beginning on November 11, in preparation for the march of his army to the southeast—though sparing the city's churches and hospitals.
The Yellowstone fires of 1988 together formed the largest wildfire in the recorded history of the U.S.'s Yellowstone National Park. Starting as many smaller individual fires, the flames spread quickly out of control with increasing winds and drought and combined into one large conflagration, which burned for several months. The fires almost destroyed two major visitor destinations and, on September 8, 1988, the entire park was closed to all non-emergency personnel for the first time in its history. Only the arrival of cool and moist weather in the late autumn brought the fires to an end. A total of 793,880 acres, or 36 percent of the park was affected by the wildfires.
Sorry, Paul. Still not the largest, but you certainly hit the nail on the head with the 1st volunteer fire company!
As reported by Benjamin Franklin in his Pennsylvania Gazette, one particularly destructive blaze in 1730 started on the riverfront and moved quickly into the city, consuming thousands of pounds worth of real estate and goods despite calm winds and generally favorable firefighting conditions.
After writing a series of articles on the subject, Franklin rose to the challenge. On December 7th, 1736, he and four friends founded the Union Fire Company, which survives today as Engine 8 of the Philadelphia Fire Department. One of the oldest organized fire brigades in the United States, the Union saw its ranks quickly filled to the agreed-upon maximum of 30 members. Other companies were founded by latecomers, all, according to one company's records, "the most eminent men in Philadelphia, embracing merchants, physicians, lawyers, clergymen and citizens of wealth and refinement." Indeed, fire company membership was a mark of honor, a sort of proxy social register of city notables from the mayor on down.