Nyosen Hamada, Chased by the Fire, Drowned in the Water. Source
From an early age we are taught that fires are one of the biggest dangers to human life. Colourful mascots visit schools educating kids about the dangers of playing with matches and the importance of smoke alarms, while we are all born with an innate fear of fire.
It is arguably the single most important discovery in human history, and yet it has been responsible for some of the most infamous disasters of all time. Read on as fire safety and home security experts Checkfire Group (Fire Seals Direct) and Banham take you through five fires that changed the world.
Rome - 64 A.D.
It is the most enduring image of Emperor Nero, fiddling as Rome burned during the great fire of 64 A.D. There is no actual evidence that this is what happened - the fiddle wasn't even invented in 64 A.D. - yet the fire that gutted the heart of the Roman empire still eventually led to the downfall of the hated leader, when he built one of his grandest palaces atop of the ruins - a show of opulence and lack of compassion that was the final straw for Nero's embittered subjects.
The Great Fire of London - 1666
The Great Fire of London of 1666 was actually at least the sixth time the Capital had burned between 1130 and 1666, however it is the latter incident which is most and, oddly enough, fondly remembered. Despite making thousands of London's citizens homeless, the Great Fire only claimed the lives of six people, while it is also thought that it finally dispensed with the Great Plague that had ravaged the city the previous summer.
The flames destroyed many of the filthy slums that had harboured the disease, effectively sterilising the land and giving the authorities an impetus to rebuild afresh.
Chicago - 1871
Another fire that proved to perhaps be ultimately beneficial (despite claiming the lives of nearly 300 people) was the fire that swept through Chicago in 1871. Over 17,000 buildings were destroyed and 90,000 were left homeless, however its slow spread ensured a limited number of people died.
Much like the Great Fire of London, the Chicago fire allowed for a complete rebuild and improvement of the city, providing the foundations for the city to become one of the USA's great metropolises. The incident also led to fire-fighting reforms that helped the Chicago FD become one of the best in the country and provided a template for other large cities to follow.
Tokyo - 1923
Back in 1923 Tokyo suffered a major disaster which comprised of two devastating elements. The first was a massive earthquake at lunchtime when much of the city was cooking - leading to a number of small fires which swept through the rubble and led to a death toll of around 140,000.
The fire spread so quickly because of high winds from a nearby typhoon off Japan's coast, and what's more, a tsunami created by the quake added to the damage further still. A veritable Dooms Day.
Texas City - 1947
This last incident in our list of history's greatest fires may not have shook the world - but the largest industrial explosion the US has ever seen certainly shook the surrounding area - literally.
A small fire on a docked freighter may not sound like much of a big deal, but when you consider that this freighter was carrying 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate fertiliser (the same material used to carry out the Oklahoma City bombing), you might be able to see the problem.
The blast was so massive that over 1,000 buildings were destroyed and almost 600 people died - including the entirety of the Texas City volunteer fire service who were tackling the blaze. The shock waves were felt 250 miles away in New Orleans, while windows were shattered in Houston 40 miles away. After the explosion the only identifiable part of the ship was the anchor - after it had been thrown a mile through the air.
This guest blog was written by John Rooney on behalf of Fire Seals Direct and Banham - home and commercial fire safety equipment specialists.