Toronto's largest fire was visible from Buffalo, they sent a crew to aid

Randi Mann
·3 min read

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On Tuesday, Apr. 19, 1904, a Toronto Police constable was doing his job, looking out for the safety of the city, when he spotted flames coming from E & S Currie Limited's neckwear factory, located at 58 Wellington Street West.

He spotted the fire at 8:04 p.m. at what is now the TD Bank Tower. Immediately, there were 17 fire halls alerted.

The mayor at the time, Thomas Urquhart, messaged the deputy fire chief to see if he needed assistance. The deputy said, “We need all the assistance we can get.”

The fire was visible from Buffalo, New York. Firefighters from the American city came to help control the fire.

Toronto's largest fire was visible from Buffalo, they sent a crew to aid
Toronto's largest fire was visible from Buffalo, they sent a crew to aid
Front Street West, looking east from Bay Street, April 1904 Photographer: W.J. Whittingham / City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 1408, Item 2)
Front Street West, looking east from Bay Street, April 1904 Photographer: W.J. Whittingham / City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 1408, Item 2)

 Front Street West. Apr. 1904. Courtesy of Photographer: W.J. Whittingham/City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 1408, Item 2)

It was a windy night, giving the fire the fodder to spread quickly. It blazed for nine hours, destroying more than 100 buildings. Wellington Street West and Yonge Street were not too damaged because the Kilgour Brothers factory had an ever so effective sprinkler system.

Area of Great Toronto Fire of 1904 showing the Wholesale district affected (MAPS-R-71)
Area of Great Toronto Fire of 1904 showing the Wholesale district affected (MAPS-R-71)

 "Fire insurance map depicting the area damaged by the fire." Courtesy of Wikipedia

John Croft was the only person who died. He was an explosive expert and he died while clearing the ruins from the fire.

Clearing up after the fire, looking south-east from near Bay Street, April 1904 City of Toronto Archives (Series 402, Item 8)
Clearing up after the fire, looking south-east from near Bay Street, April 1904 City of Toronto Archives (Series 402, Item 8)

 Cleaning up after the fire. Apr. 1904. Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives (Series 402, Item 8)

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Though the fire was officially "under control" by 4:30 a.m. the next morning, small fires sporadically broke out for the next few days. The remains from the fire smouldered for two weeks.

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The fire, dubbed the Great Fire of Toronto of 1904, is the city's largest fire to date. Fifteen years prior, a fire broke out in the St. Lawrence Market area of the city, but it was much smaller in size.

To learn more about the Great Fire of Toronto of 1904, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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Thumbnail: Front Street after the fire. Courtesy of Wikipedia