The Great Fire
Author: Jim Murphy
Grade Level Equivalent:
Guided Reading Level:
American History, Natural Disasters, Firefighters, Courage, Bravery, Heroism, City Life, Homes and Housing, Fire Safety, Survival
The Great Fire of 1871 was one of the most colossal disasters in American history. Overnight, the flourishing city of Chicago was transformed into a smoldering wasteland. The damage was so profound that few people believed the city could ever rise again.
It all began one Sunday evening when a small fire broke out inside the O'Learys' barn. The panic was slow to build at first. People ignored the danger signals, and even the fire department was unable to locate the fire. This city, built of wood, was connected by hundreds of miles of wooden sidewalks and roads. In time, wild flames, fueled by a steady wind, engulfed everything in their path. As people took to the crowded streets, hours of mounting chaos, fear, and panic followed before the relentless flames were halted. When at last they were, a new kind of drama was only just beginning. Nearly 100,000 people were homeless and searching through the burnt rubble for their families.
By weaving personal accounts of actual survivors together with the carefully researched history of Chicago and the disaster, Jim Murphy constructs a riveting narrative that recreates the event with drama and immediacy. And finally, he reveals how, even in a time of deepest despair, the human spirit triumphed, as the people of Chicago found the courage and strength to build their city once again.
Praise for The Great Fire
"Vivid firsthand descriptions by persons who lived through the 1871 Chicago fire are woven into a gripping account... Absorbing and riveting reading." — The Horn Book, starred review