The Night Portland Burned: One Terrible Night of Horror, July 4, 1866
The Night Portland Burned: One Terrible Night of Horror, July 4, 1866
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The Night Portland Burned: One Terrible Night of Horror, July 4, 1866

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After a fun-filled Fourth of July in 1866 something went terribly wrong.  Many have speculated on the cause.  A firecracker?  Spontaneous combustion of oily rags in the paint shop of the boatyard?  Whatever the cause, the firefighters had no chance against the great blaze fueled by strong winds and the easily consumed wooden buildings.  Within 18 hours one third of the city of Portland, Maine and 10,000 of its 13,000 inhabitants were homeless. The fire started at the corner of Maple and lower Commercial Street and spread across the city and up Munjoy Hill destroying everything in its path before burning itself out at the edge of Eastern Cemetery.  Losses were estimated at 15 million dollars.  People from all over the country reached out to the people of Portland.  Many of the heroes and citizens are named in this program that originally aired in 1976.  Don MacWilliams of television station WCSH uses archival photographs, drawings, antique firefighting equipment and written accounts to tell the story and many of the interesting side stories too.  It is a fascinating piece of Maine history. 
27 minutes
(From the Maine State Library Collection)

 


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