10 Most Devastating Fires and Explosions in U.S. History

Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Iroquois Theater Fire

Located at 24–28 West Randolph Street, between State Street and Dearborn Street, in Chicago, Illinois, the Iroquois Theater was laughingly dubbed “Absolutely Fireproof” in advertisements and playbills. This was clearly far from the case as the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) captain who made an unofficial tour of the theater days before the official opening noted that there were no sprinklers, alarms, telephones, or water connections.

The cause of the fire is believed to have been a result of an electrical short circuit setting fire to a curtain. Despite the efforts of a stagehand, the fire spread quickly, so on the afternoon of December 30, 1903, 603 people would lose their lives, making this the deadliest theater fire and the deadliest single-building fire in U.S. history.

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