Shortly after the Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago in 1893, the acting chief of the World’s Fair Fire Department called the exposition’s Cold Storage Building “a miserable fire trap” that would “go up in smoke before long.”
He was right.
The “Looking Back” department in the July/August NFPA Journal explores the factors that caused the deadly fire that killed 14 men. Prioritizing aesthetics over safety as well as a poor choice in building materials played a role in the destruction, which was witnessed by about 50,000 fairgoers.
Eventually, 21 engine companies from the Chicago Fire Department extinguished the blaze before it could spread and cause further damage.
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