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History of Saint John, New Brunswick
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- The Story of the Great Fire in St. John, N.B., June 20th, : George Stewart : ;
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Nook , 0 pages. Published by Toronto : Belford Brothers first published December 28th More Details Other Editions Friend Reviews. New York, June Consul Warner at St. John is almost totally destroyed. All the public buildings are burned. Few business houses are left.
Fully one-half of the residences are in ashes. Send all the aid you can. Wandering Among the Ashes. No one knows whether the spark originated at the storehouse or whether it blew in from a neighbouring establishment, but it soon grew and become the Saint John Great Fire. They say that fire engines responded almost immediately, but with such dry conditions, such crowded timber structures, and the limitations of 19 th century firefighting equipment, it was soon out of control.
Within half an hour, fires had broken out at several locations and firefighting reinforcements had been brought in from Portland and Carleton. The flames first moved southward along the harbour until they reached Market slip. They then spread eastward, all of the way to Courtenay Bay, and again southward until nearly the entire city was ablaze. Only the shore line stopped it from going further. It was a desperate scene.
Men with picture frames and books rushed past, calling and threatening, and moaning. It was a scene terrible in its reality. People were driven from street to street, and hurled forward, till, with horror in their blanched faces, they turned and saw in their rear the wild flames hemming them in.
People sent loads of their more valuable goods to places which appeared to be safe, but which turned out in the end to be of only temporary security.
The story of the great fire in St. John, N.B., June 20th, by George Stewart
Everything on that peninsula south of King Street burned. All of the properties on the harbour from Market Slip northward past Union Street also burned. Two hundred acres and over 1, houses were lost. The churches burned, were Trinity, St. James, St. All the business portion of the city lying on the dock and water fronts; all the wholesale stores and warehouses with their contents of flour, grain, beef, pork, tea and sugar, in fact all the larger stocks of groceries and the entire stock of dry goods, hardware, furniture, etc. The money figures were larger than they at first appear to be.
The Victoria skating rink was set aside as a relief center, but those first few hours and days must have been desperate. The fire had begun at on a Wednesday afternoon, and had not run its course until early Thursday morning, when smoke was still rising. Nineteen people died in the fire, and more died later from burns, accidents, heart attacks, or other conditions brought on by the event. It was impossible to keep track of the numbers of injured since medical workers were too busy to keep records. Medical help was hampered by the loss of almost all medical supplies. People did what they could.
A baker who had escaped the fire also delivered between to 1, loaves of bread and a selection of cheeses and other supplies. Some railway sheds were taken over to supplement the space at the rink, and you could say that the response so far had been as quick and efficient as it could be, under the circumstances.
Much more than this would be needed, however.
This was , the modern age of rapid communications and, within 24 hours of the fire, messages of sympathy and offers of help started pouring in, and the Relief and Aid Society later compiled these into a book. The cities of Halifax and Boston were the first to offer assistance, asking what was most needed.
Halifax and Boston were not alone, however. There were 42 telegrams offering help on the first day after the fire, and these continued until December. Offers came from all along the eastern seaboard of the United States and from other Provinces. The authorities were under extreme pressure to deal with the catastrophe. It took over a week to formalize emergency measures, and the situation was so dire that the telegrams piled up. Some of those 42 telegrams of June 21 st asked what was needed, or whether the City would prefer goods or cash, or who would act as consignee for shipments.
Responses were delayed, and several cities followed up on the same day with demands for answers to their earlier enquiries.
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