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Fires and Explosions

Worst U.S. Forest Fires

Whether you're talking about forest fires or kitchen fires, factory explosions or arson, when fires get out of control, the damage can be devastating.

1666
Sept. 2, England: “Great Fire of London” destroyed much of the city, including St. Paul's Cathedral. Damage £10 million.
1835
Dec. 16, New York City: 530 buildings destroyed by fire.
1871
Oct. 8, Chicago: the “Chicago Fire” burned 17,450 buildings and killed 250 people; $196 million in damage.
1872
Nov. 9, Boston: fire destroyed 800 buildings; $75 million in damage.
1876
Dec. 5, New York City: fire in Brooklyn Theater killed more than 300.
1881
Dec. 8, Vienna: at least 620 died in fire at Ring Theatre.
1900
May 1, Scofield, Utah: explosion of blasting powder in coal mine killed 200.
1900
June 30, Hoboken, N.J.: piers of North German Lloyd Steamship line burned; 326 dead.
1903
Dec. 30, Chicago: Iroquois Theatre fire killed 602.
1904
Feb. 7, Baltimore, Md.: blaze spread through downtown Baltimore. More than 1,500 buildings were destroyed. Damages $150 million, but no lives lost
June 15, New York City, NY: the steamship ferry General Slocum ignited on a voyage to Long Island; over 1,000 dead.
1906
March 10, France: explosion in coal mine in Courrières killed 1,060.
1907
Dec. 6, Monongah, W. Va.: coal mine explosion killed 362.
Dec. 19, Jacobs Creek, Pa.: explosion in coal mine left 239 dead.
1908
Jan. 13, Boyertown, Pa.: fire in Rhoads Opera House killed 170 people who were attending church-sponsored stage performance.
March 4, Collinwood, Ohio: fire in Collinwood school killed 176. Led to revision of fire codes for schools.
1909
Nov. 13, Cherry, Ill.: explosion in coal mine killed 259.
1911
March 25, New York City: fire in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fatal to 145.
1913
Oct. 22, Dawson, N.M.: coal mine explosion left 263 dead.
1917
April 10, Eddystone, Pa.: explosion in munitions plant killed 133.
1917
Dec. 6, Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia: Belgian steamer collided with ammunition ship Mont Blanc, which was carrying over 2,500 tons of explosives. Explosion leveled part of Halifax and left about 1,600 people dead.
1921
Sept. 21, Oppau, Germany: ammonium nitrate exploded destroying the BASF plant and nearby houses, killing 430 people.
1923
May 17, Beulah, S.C.: fire started by a candle during a Cleveland school play killed 77.
1928
May 19, Mather, Pa.: coal mine explosion left 195 dead.
1930
April 21, Columbus, Ohio: fire in Ohio State Penitentiary killed 320 convicts.
1937
March 18, New London, Tex.: explosion de-stroyed schoolhouse; 294 killed.
1940
April 23, Natchez, Mississippi: 209 die when a packed dance hall erupts in flames during a performance by Walter Barnes and His Royal Creolians Orchestra. The blaze is fueled by decorative Spanish moss covering the building's rafters, which generated flammable methane gas once burned. Among those to perish were Barnes and nine members of his band.
1942
April 26, Manchuria: explosion in Honkeiko Colliery killed 1,549.
Nov. 28, Boston, Mass.: Coconut Grove nightclub fire killed 491.
1944
July 6, Hartford, Conn.: fire and ensuing stampede in main tent of Ringling Brothers Circus killed 168 and injured 487.
July 17, Port Chicago, Calif.: 322 killed when ammunition ships exploded.
Oct. 20, Cleveland: spilled liquid natural gas exploded, killing 130.
1946
Dec. 7, Atlanta: fire in Winecoff Hotel killed 119.
1947
April 16–18, Texas City, Tex.: most of the city destroyed by a fire and subsequent explosion on the French freighter Grandcamp, which was carrying a cargo of ammonium nitrate. At least 516 were killed and over 3,000 injured.
1949
Sept. 2, China: fire on Chongqing (Chungking) waterfront killed 1,700.
1954
May 26, off Quonset Point, R.I.: explosion and fire on aircraft carrier Bennington killed 103.
1956
Aug. 7, Colombia: seven army ammunition trucks exploded at Cali, killing about 1,100.
Aug. 8, Belgium: 262 died in coal mine fire at Marcinelle.
1958
Dec. 1, Chicago: fire at Our Lady of Angels, a Roman Catholic grade school, resulted in deaths of 90 students and 3 nuns.
1960
Jan. 21, Coalbrook, South Africa: coal mine explosion killed 437.
Nov. 13, Syria: 152 children killed in moviehouse fire.
1961
Dec. 17, Niteroi, Brazil: circus fire fatal to 323.
1962
Feb. 7, Saarland, West Germany: coal mine gas explosion killed 298.
1963
Nov. 9, Japan: explosion in coal mine at Omuta killed 447.
1965
May 28, India: coal mine fire in state of Bihar killed 375.
June 1, nr. Fukuoka, Japan: coal mine explosion killed 236.
1967
May 22, Brussels, Belgium: fire in L'Innovation department store left 322 dead.
July 29, off North Vietnam: fire on U.S. carrier Forrestal killed 134.
1969
Jan. 14, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii: nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise ripped by explosions; 27 dead, 82 injured.
1970
Nov. 1, Saint-Laurent-du-Pont, France: fire in dance hall killed 146 young people.
1972
May 13, Osaka, Japan: 118 people died in fire in nightclub on top floor of Sennichi department store.
1972
June 6, Wankie, Rhodesia: explosion in coal mine killed 427.
1973
Nov. 29, Kumamoto, Japan: fire in Taiyo department store killed 101.
1974
Feb. 1, São Paulo, Brazil: fire in upper stories of bank building killed 189 people, many of whom leaped to their deaths.
1975
Dec. 27, Dhanbad, India: explosion in coal mine followed by flooding from nearby reservoir left 372 dead.
1977
May 28, Southgate, Ky.: fire in Beverly Hills Supper Club; 167 dead.
1978
July 11, Tarragona, Spain: 140 killed at coastal campsite when tank truck carrying liquid gas overturned and exploded.
1978
Aug. 20, Abadan, Iran: nearly 400 killed when arsonists set fire to crowded theater.
1982
Dec. 18–21, Caracas, Venezuela: power-plant fire left 128 dead.
1986
Dec. 31, San Juan, P.R.: fire in Dupont Plaza Hotel set by three employees, killing 96 people.
1989
June 3, Ural Mountains: liquefied petroleum gas leaking from a pipeline alongside the Trans-Siberian railway near Uta, 72 mi east of Moscow, exploded and destroyed 2 passing passenger trains, killing 575 and injuring 723 of an estimated 1,200 passengers on both trains.
Oct. 23, Pasadena, Tex.: an explosion followed by a series of others and a fire at a Phillips Petroleum Co. plastics manufacturing plant killed 23 and injured 132 people. A large leak of ethylene was presumed to be the cause.
1990
March 25, New York City: arson fire in the illegal Happy Land Social Club, in the Bronx, killed 87 people.
1993
May 10, nr. Bangkok, Thailand: fire in doll factory killed at least 187 people and injured 500 others. World's deadliest factory fire.
1999
March 24, Chamonix, France: fire in Belgian truck carrying margarine and flour in the Mont Blanc tunnel trapped dozens of cars. Death toll was at least 42.
2000
Oct. 12, Aden, Yemen: U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole was heavily damaged when a small boat loaded with explosives blew up alongside it. Seventeen sailors were killed in what was apparently a deliberate terrorist attack.
2000
Nov. 11, nr. Kaprun, Austria: cable car transporting skiers to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier broke into flames in a mountain tunnel, killing 156. It was Austria's worst Alpine disaster.
Dec. 25, Luoyang, China: at least 309 people were killed in fire at shopping center. Most of the victims had been attending Christmas party at unlicensed disco in building.
2002
Jan. 27, Lagos, Nigeria: explosions at military depot triggered a stampede from the surrounding neighborhoods. More than 1,000 killed; many of the victims drowned in two muddy canals as they tried to flee.
June 20, Jixi, Heilongjian province, China: gas explosion at a coal mine killed 111 people. China's mining industry is one of the deadliest; it is estimated that more than 5,000 mining-related deaths occurred in 2001.
2003
Feb. 18, Daegu, South Korea: subway fire, started by an arsonist, raced through two trains, killing 189 people and injuring more than 140.
Feb. 20, West Warwick, R.I.: fire, caused by a pyrotechnics display at a rock concert, engulfed a nightclub, The Station, killing 100 and injuring more than 150.
July and August, Portugal: fifteen people died during forest fires, intensified by unusually hot, dry air and strong winds, burned more than 350,000 hectares of land, and caused soil erosion that affected water supplies and agriculture. Fire damage costs added up to approximately one billion euros.
2004
July 16, southern India: thatched roof of a school caught fire, killing 94 children.
Aug. 1, Asunción, Paraguay: fire, caused by a gas leak, in a supermarket killed at least 400 people.
Nov. 27, Shaanxi province, China: gas explosion at Chenjiashan Coal Mine in northwest China killed 166 miners. In October, another blast killed 148.
Dec. 30, Buenos Aires, Argentina: a lit flare started a fire at a nightclub, killing 175 people.
2005
Feb. 14, Liaoning province, China: a gas explosion killed 209 miners at the Sujiawan mine. It was the deadliest reported mine disaster in China since 1949.
2006
Jan. 1, Sago mine, W. Va.: thirteen mine workers were trapped underground for more than 40 hours after a methane explosion. Only one emerged alive. Subsequent investigation revealed that lightning was the most likely ignition source of the explosion.
2007
March 19, Ulyanovskaya, Russia: a methane explosion in a coal mine killed 110 people, making it the worst mine disaster in recent Russian history.
May 24, Novokuznetsk, Russia: two months after the Ulyanovskaya explosion, another methane blast killed 38 in the nearby Yubileninaya coal mine.
June 18, Charleston, S.C.: Nine firefighters were killed when the roof collapsed during a fire in a furniture warehouse.
August 25–27, Greece: over 220 separate fires ravage the Greek countryside and endanger ancient Olympic sites around Athens. At least 59 people die in the blazes.
Oct. 21–25, southern, Calif.: 16 wildfires from Simi Valley to the Mexican border are fanned by 50 to 60 mph winds burning 500,000 acres. Three people die, 25 firefighters and civilians are injured, and nearly 1,300 homes are destroyed. Over 500,000 people evacuate their homes while nearly 1,000 firefighters fight the flames.
2008
Feb. 7, Georgia, U.S.: an explosion at an Imperial Sugar Refinery near Savannah, Georgia kills 14 people and injures many more.
May 15, Nigeria: at least 100 people die and many more are injured when a construction vehicle strikes an oil pipeline, causing it to explode in Lagos, Nigeria.
Aug. 10, Toronto, Canada: explosions at the Sunrise Propane Industrial Gasses facility force thousands of people in Toronto to evacuate their homes. Some residents suffer injuries and one firefighter dies.
Oct. 14, California, U.S.: at least two people die and 10,000 acres of land burn when two wildfires hit the San Fernando Valley in California fanned by the Santa Ana winds.
Oct. 30, India: a series of explosions in the northeastern region of Assam kill at least 55 people and wound more than 200 more.
Nov. 15–18, California, U.S.: fueled by hurricane strength Santa Ana winds, three fires burn for several days consuming 40,000 acres of land and hundreds of homes. A state of emergency is called in five counties.
Dec. 11, Russia: an explosion during routine blasts for tunneling at a mine in the Murmansk region of northern Russia kills 12 people and injures 3 others.
2009
June 16, western Indonesia: an explosion at a coal mine in the West Sumatra province kills six people and traps at least 24 more in the 300-foot mine.
2013
Jan. 27, Brazil: A fire breaks out in a nightclub in Santa Maria. The cause of the fire is a flare from pyrotechnics used by a band performing on stage at the club. At the time of the fire, the club is packed with hundreds of students from nearby universities. According to officials, at least 233 people are killed.


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