DUBLIN'S GREAT FIRE 1875
Often named the 'Liberties Whiskey Fire'. The Liberties is one of the oldest parts of the city. The dwellings were not built to withstand the destructive power of the flames. Thatched straw roofs and walls made of flammable wood interwoven with twigs or tree branches were commonplace.
A bonfire was lit in the Liberties. Subsequently a blaze broke out at Malone's bonded warehouse bursting open 1,800 large barrels of whiskey! The golden liquid poured out into the streets. It was summer time, thus extremely warm. The leaping flames began to attack the walls of one house on Chamber Street where the occupants were holding a wake, they had to flee with the corpse and in shock, look at the scene in front of them. Their earthly possessions going up in smoke!
The flames then consumed a tannery full of leather hides. Squealing pigs, coach horses, goats and geese ran through the narrow streets and laneways. The Coombe Maternity Hospital and the Carmelite convent on Ormond Street seemed certain to meet its fate. Suddenly a wind turned the flames away.
At the time of the 1875 fire, Dublin's fire brigade service was just 13 years old. The head of the Dublin Fire Department was a returned emigrant. He had learned his fire-fighting skills in New York. His experience proved successful in bringing the Liberties fire under control. He ordered the locals to stop throwing water on the flaming spirits, as that would only spread the fire. Instead, he had his men load horse manure onto carts and dump it in the path of the flowing whiskey. The inferno was blocked and the firefighters set about saving the surrounding buildings as best they could.
The most incredible aspect of the fire is that of the 13 people who died, not one died of smoke or flames, it was from the free flowing alcohol. Large numbers sought comfort from their trauma in the free-flowing alcohol. Many taking off their hats and boots to collect the flowing whisky which was cascading down the streets.
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