The Positive Effects Of The Great Chicago Fire Of 1871

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“Late one night, when we were all in bed, Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed. Her cow kicked it over, then winked her eye and said, ‘There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!’ (Abbott)” In 1871, a disaster arose in Chicago and reshaped the city permanently: a fire scorched around three square miles of land, leveled thousands of buildings, and stole hundreds of lives (“Chicago Fire of 1871”). Although the effects of this tragedy were harrowing, it actually served as the catalyst which allowed Chicago to become one of America’s largest, most influential cities. How could such a devastating event have such positive effects? A crucial element of Chicago’s history, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 can be understood by studying the cause of its severity, its impact on the city, and the recovery efforts of the people. The widespread effects of the fire were caused by adverse weather conditions and the origin of the fire. The months leading up to fire incorporated all the elements necessary for a fire to begin, as a terrible drought plagued the city during the four months prior to the fire: from the months of July to October, less than three inches of rain had fallen (McNamara). This dry climate caused the wooden buildings to become incredibly dry, allowing the fire to spread quickly once it began (Bauer). These factors triggered the formation of convection whirls, walls of fire over one hundred feet high which spun violently like a hurricane. A witness described the
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