#TBT From the NFPA Archives: The Great Chinatown Fire of 1900

Blog Post created by jrodowicz Employee on Jan 19, 2017

Great Chinatown Conflagration - January 20, 1900

(Picture courtesy of the Hawaii State Archives)


Early 1900 was a tumultuous time in the Pacific. An outbreak of bubonic plague had begun to spread throughout the Chinese inhabitants on the island of Honolulu in Hawaii. In an effort to prevent further spread of the disease, the Board of Health established a quarantine station in Kaka'ako and set 41 controlled fires to clean and disinfect the areas affected by the plague.


On January 20, 1900, while one of these controlled burns was taking place at Bertania between Nu'uanu and the Kaumakapili Church, unexpected winds blew the fire onto the roof of the church. Firemen were quickly overwhelmed as the flames spread all the way to the waterfront. The conflagration lasted for 17 days. In the end, more than 4,000 homes and 38 acres of property were destroyed.


For more information regarding this or other historic fires, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library. The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.