The Hartford circus fire, which occurred on July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, was one of the worst fire disasters in the history of the United States. The fire occurred during an afternoon performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that was attended by 6,000 to 8,000 people. 167 people died and more than 700 were injured.
In mid-20th century America, a typical circus traveled from town to town by train, performing under a huge canvas tent commonly called a “big top”. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was no exception: what made it stand out was that it was the largest circus in the country. Its big top could seat 9,000 spectators around its three rings; the tent’s canvas had been coated with 1,800 pounds (820 kg) of paraffin wax dissolved in 6,000 US gallons (23,000 l) of gasoline, a common waterproofing method of the time.
The fire began as a small flame after the lions performed, on the southwest sidewall of the tent, while the Great Wallendas were performing. Circus bandleader Merle Evans was said to have been the first to spot the flames, and immediately directed the band to play “The Stars and Stripes Forever“, the tune that traditionally signaled distress to all circus personnel. Ringmaster Fred Bradna urged the audience not to panic and to leave in an orderly fashion, but the power failed and he could not be heard. Bradna and the ushers unsuccessfully tried to maintain some order as the panicked crowd tried to flee the big top.
The cause of the fire remains unproven. Investigators at the time believed it was caused by a carelessly flicked cigarette; however, others suspected an arsonist. Several years later, while being investigated on other arson charges, Robert Dale Segee (1929–1997), who was an adolescent roustabout at the time, confessed to starting the blaze. He was never tried for the crime and later recanted his confession.
Because of the paraffin wax waterproofing of the tent, the flames spread rapidly. Many people were badly burned by the melting paraffin, which rained down from the roof. The fiery tent collapsed in about eight minutes according to eyewitness survivors, trapping hundreds of spectators beneath it.
Most of the dead were found in piles, some three bodies deep, at the most congested exits. A small number of people were found alive at the bottoms of these piles, protected by the bodies on top of them when the burning big top ultimately fell down. Because of a picture that appeared in several newspapers of sad tramp clown Emmett Kelly holding a water bucket, the event became known as “the day the clowns cried.”
Resourced straight from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartford_circus_fire
The fire broke out in the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ in The Liberties area of Dublin when a malt house and bonded warehouse went up in flames. The blaze narrowly missed a convent and a maternity hospital but engulfed the largely impoverished area of Dublin.
In this poor part of nineteenth-century Dublin, it wasn’t uncommon to have farm animals living either inside or outside these tenements. As a result, panic-ridden animals ran through the street and only added to the mayhem of lava-like whiskey running alongside them.
Dubliners ran through the streets with their pots, pans and even boots in an effort to scoop up as much of this flaming uisce beatha (Irish Gaelic for whiskey) as they could. As one paper noted: ‘Two corn-porters, named Healy and M’Nulty, were found in a lane off Cork-street, lying insensible, with their boots off, which they had evidently used to collect the liquor.
The Dublin Fire Brigade arrived, under the leadership of Captain James Robert Ingram, who had been a fire officer in the New York Fire Department, and was renowned for his “unconventional” strategies to control fires. On one occasion he had ordered his men to resist putting out a fire on a blazing ship in Dublin harbor, and asked the Royal Navy to sink it instead. Ingram knew that to pour water on the fire would be disastrous as the whiskey would float on top of it like petrol and spread the fire throughout the city.
Instead, he sent for soldiers and ordered them to pull up paving stones and pour a mixture of sand and gravel on the whiskey. But he soon realized that wouldn’t be enough as the whiskey started to seep through the sand. Horse manure. Heaps of it lay in depots around the city. Ingram ordered that it be brought to the Liberties by the cartload and shoveled back onto the streets, from where it had once come, to form dams. As the burning whiskey met the damp manure it was soaked up and the fire slowly began to subside.
In 2014, a new whiskey was released by Malone’s Whiskey Company in honor of this fire, known as The Flaming Pig, a liqueur whiskey with hand-crafted spices.
13 people lost their lives to the deadly fire, however not a single one to flames or burns. Instead, the cause of death was alcohol poisoning from drinking the hot manure-filtered whiskey from the dirty Dublin streets.
A fire broke out in the hotel, killing 61 people, many of them children. The fire began in the Silver Grill Cocktail Lounge on the lower floor on the La Salle Street side adjacent to the lobby before ascending stairwells and shafts. The fire started either in the walls or in the ceiling according to the Chicago Fire Department around 12:15 a.m. but they didn’t receive their first notification of the fire until 12:35 a.m. The fire quickly spread through the highly-varnished wood paneling in the lounge and the mezzanine balcony overlooking the lobby. While a significant number died from flames, a greater number of deaths were caused by suffocation from the thick, black smoke. Around 900 guests were able to leave the building but some 150 had to be rescued by the fire services and by heroic members of the public, including two sailors who were reported to have rescued 27 people between them. Two-thirds of hotel fire deaths in 1946 occurred in the La Salle and Winecoff (Atlanta) fires. The hotel fire was so devastating, it resulted in the Chicago city council enacting new hotel building codes and fire-fighting procedures, including the installation of automatic alarm systems and instructions of fire safety inside the hotel rooms.
The hotel was refurbished after the fire and was finally demolished in July 1976, to be occupied by the Two North LaSalle office building. This s kyscraper was completed on the site in 1979.