Vancouver Destroyed By Fire!

13 Jun
Map of Great Vancouver Fire, 1886

Map of Great Vancouver Fire, 1886 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vancouver is Canada‘s third largest, and most beautiful, city, although Victoria might like to contend for the beauty title.  On June 13, 1886, Vancouver was a mass of smouldering rubble.  It was not only costly and inconvenient, but embarrassing, because the first C.P.R. transcontinental train was due to arrive at Port Moody on July 4.  Arrangements were being made to extend the railway into Vancouver, and the arrival of the first train must be a gala occasion (see my May 23 post Vancouver Citizens Celebrate).

The fire began on Sunday afternoon owing to a mistake by a young construction worker, George Keefer. His uncle was one of the contractors building the C.P.R. extension into Vancouver. Young George had been instructed to clear some land along the waterfront, to provide a camping space for a band of Stikine Indians who had been engaged to do construction work. They were due to arrive in canoes. There were big trees to be cleared away and George could think of no quicker way than to burn them. He started a number of fires at strategic places, but suddenly a brisk wind blew up. The flames were carried into the residential district and the entire area was destroyed within an hour. Only Hastings Mill and a few small buildings were saved. Some lives were lost.

As far as it is known, young George was not punished. He lived to see Vancouver become a great seaport, with landing places for ocean liners where he first cleared the space for the Stikine Indian camp.

The rebuilding of the city, which had only been incorporated a few weeks before the fire, was done in record time, even though they did not have today’s modern equipment. By three o’clock Monday morning, teams of horses were bringing in new lumber for buildings. The city fathers put up a tent at the foot of what is now Carrall Street, and directed the work from there. By June 15, twenty buildings were under way. The aldermen also obtained Vancouver’s first loan, for the purchase of a fire engine!

Strangely enough, the fire took place on the anniversary of the day that Captain George Vancouver explored the area in 1792.

So these details are just some of the story. To read more about this, I suggest the Village Chronicler, and The History of Metropolitan Vancouver. Then, there are a few blogs I recommend, such as Past Tense Blog, and Miss604 and Venture Vancouver.


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20 responses to “Vancouver Destroyed By Fire!

  1. L. Marie

    June 14, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Sad. This reminds me of a story a friend told. Her teen son and his friends were making a movie for a class project. They set off fireworks for the movie in an area with a lot of dry brush. Unfortunately, the resulting fire caused a ton of damage.

    • tkmorin

      June 14, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Ooh, how terrible! … and the guilt they would feel for, I’m sure, the rest of their lives … Sad indeed!

  2. seeker

    June 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    This actually changed Vancouver for the better. When was the last time you were here in Vancouver, Tk?

    • tkmorin

      June 13, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      I’ve never been, P.! The only places I’ve visited in Canada are Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. I’d like to visit more of our country, but I’ll settle for reading and writing about it! 🙂

      • seeker

        June 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm

        Canada is just way too big to travel, eh. I still would like to drive across Canada all the way to PEI.

        • tkmorin

          June 13, 2013 at 10:45 pm

          That would be awesome, if not time consuming. The best way would be driving so you could see all the “Mom and Pops” businesses … and stop at parks … ah, that sounds wonderful!! 🙂

          • seeker

            June 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm

            I’ll come and pick you up, if that ever happen. Another pipe dream 😦

          • tkmorin

            June 13, 2013 at 11:10 pm

            Ah, but they are wonderful, aren’t they? 🙂

          • tkmorin

            June 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm

            Wait! You gave me a sad face? No, no, no … Dreams are great! Without them, and living in the moment most of the time, we couldn’t make plans, or hope … Smile, my friend!

          • seeker

            June 14, 2013 at 12:25 am

            😛 😀 😛
            Actually that is a pout. 😛

        • tkmorin

          June 14, 2013 at 10:24 am

          Okay, pouts are allowed!! Heehee. 🙂

          • seeker

            June 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm

            Tank u. 😛

          • tkmorin

            June 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm


  3. J. G. Burdette

    June 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Interesting! So was Keefer ridiculed like Mrs. O’Leary of the Great Chicago fire fame was?

    • tkmorin

      June 13, 2013 at 10:30 am

      LOL I doubt it .. 🙂

  4. NMguiniling

    June 13, 2013 at 8:30 am

    I’m currently restoring an old comic history of B.C., and this fire is mentioned in the comic. Great to have some additional reading about it available on my WordPress reader! Thanks!

    • tkmorin

      June 13, 2013 at 8:33 am

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Would it be copyright infringement to post part of that? It would be cool to see. If you do post, let me know! Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  5. dwkcommentaries

    June 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for Vancouver history.

    • tkmorin

      June 13, 2013 at 7:55 am

      No problem, I aim to please! 🙂


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