The Great Seattle Fire of 1889

Aldo Duran, Reporter


On June 6, 1889, one of Seattle’s worst fire incidents in history occurred, it took place at Victor Clairmont’s woodworking shop on Front Street which in present time is now First Avenue, and Madison Avenue. The incident began when John Back, an assistant, was heating glue over a gasoline fire, with the lack of attention over the burning glue, it started to boil over and spread to the wooden floor board, the small first then causing an entire part of the city to go up in flames.

At the start of the fire, firefighters were having a difficult time finding the exact location because of the large amount of smoke that built up, that it didn’t matter if they found the source in the end, the entire block from Madison to Marion was on fire with the Dietz & Mayer liquor store creating a huge explosion. A major problem that occurred during this event wasn’t just the fire, but also the water supply, as there weren’t hydrates located on that block and the water pipes were small ones made out of wood which burned in the fire. Firefighters desperately tried fighting back the fire as much as they could, by pumping water from Elliot Bay but the tide was too far out and the hoses were not going to be able to reach them, as the winds started to pick up, the fire spread quickly throughout the city. To make it worse, crowds started to harass the firefighters since the water pressure was starting to fall. 

There came a point where it was directed from the Major that the firefighters should blow up the Colman block to stop the fire from spreading even more. Unfortunately the fire jumped past the block. As the fire kept spreading further and further, shacks were ordered to be torn down or blown up to create a fire block, but the fire kept jumping the gaps, Skid Road went up into flames next.  8:pm came along, and the mayor issued that all saloons closed to further notice about the fire. It went into the night till 3am when the fire died, drowned and went out.

Too much damage was done already throughout the 120 acres portion of the city which is around 25 blocks, there was no stats in human losses during the fire, 1 million rats were killed in the fire, thousands of people were displaced, and 5000 men lost their jobs in the fire. 

The city had an estimated $8

120 acres of land that the fire crossed in Seattle

million of losses, but the number does not include the death of people, or the water and electrical services, which would be as high as $20million.