The Great Toronto Fire, April 19, 1904 - Page Banner


"The weather in Toronto on the evening of 19 April, 1904, was cold and blustery. The air temperature was below freezing (24° F) and snow flurries were occurring accompanied by strong winds from the northwest at 30mph. All was quiet in the heart of Toronto's mercantile area. Few people were on the streets as almost all the buildings in the area had been closed since 6 p.m. At 8:04 p.m., a police constable patrolling his beat in the area saw flames shooting skyward from the elevator shaft of the Currie Building, 58 Wellington St. and immediately turned in an alarm. Before the resulting conflagration was extinguished, it would destroy approximately 100 buildings, causing a property loss of $10,350,000."

Toronto Fire of 1904   
G. W. Shorter   
Fire Study No. 13   
Division of Building Research   
National Research Council   
Archives of Ontario, Pamph 1964 #55   

The exact cause of the fire was never determined but it levelled nearly 20 acres of land and over 5,000 jobs were lost, at least temporarily.

Photo: [Toronto, [1904], (detail)
Click to see a larger image (83K)

[Toronto, [1904], (detail)
Alexander Thurtell Brown fonds
Black and White Photograph
Reference Code: C 302-3-0-44S 15008
Archives of Ontario, I0016404

Fire fighters and equipment from many other communities answered the call for help and continued to arrive throughout the night from places as far away as Hamilton, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Brantford, London and Peterborough.

In total, over 250 firefighters helped fight the blaze and used between 9.5 and 11 million litres of water (between 2 and 2.5 million gallons) of water. There were five injuries, including Fire Chief John Thompson who broke his leg in a fall. Fortunately, no lives were lost but the fire, which lasted less than 9 hours, dealt a serious blow to the commercial heart of the city.

Photo: Front Street after the Toronto Fire, April 19, 1904
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Front Street after the Toronto Fire
, April 19, 1904
Photographer unknown
Black and white print
Edwin C. Guillet collection
Reference Code: F 2178-1-0-22, S 5198
Archives of Ontario, I0006700

Photo: Parkdale's first fire brigade, Toronto, 1888
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Parkdale's first fire brigade, Toronto, 1888
John Boyd
Black and white print
Reference Code: C 7-1-0-0-63
Archives of Ontario, I0003768