It was 124 years ago last Sunday (June 13th, 1886) that Vancouver was completely destroyed by fire. It began as a controlled fire to clear brush on the land, however it quickly spread out of control.
The Great Vancouver Fire of 1886
The entire city (only a few months old at the time) was engulfed in flames within 45-60 minutes.
880 buildings were destroyed in Vancouver and 20 people lost their lives. Due to the wooden construction and lack of a fire brigade with equipment to battle the blaze, only stone or brick buildings in Gastown, Yaletown, and parts of the West End survived.
- After the Great Fire the City of Vancouver passed a by-law that all buildings be made of brick and stone only1.
- Through fundraising afterward, Vancouver purchased its first fire engine and it was brought to town July 30th, 1886.
- In 1929 Vancouver City Council named June 13th as “Vancouver Day” — a time of remembrance and thanksgiving2.
- St. James’ Anglican Church at Gore and Cordova is the third church of this name. The very first burned down during the Great Fire and its melted bell now resides in the Museum of Vancouver.3
“In 20 minutes, Vancouver had been wiped off the earth. In 12 hours, it was rising again.” Chuck Davis, Vancouver History
While only a few buildings from the original Vancouver townsite still exist today, it’s amazing to hear about how the city was rebuilt so quickly. Even today it seems as though Vancouver is in a constant state of construction. 124 years later we’re still a fairly young city but at least we are building our own history as we go.