Boston Author Examines the Great Boston Fire of 1872 Through the Lens of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem

Above photo courtesy of Stephanie Schorow

The Great Boston Fire of 1872 exemplified the 19th-century conflagrations that were blazing across the United States at that time. The massive fire, which came just nearly a year after the Great Chicago Fire, burned for two days in November. It swept through Boston, leaving the downtown in ruins and a population devastated and in shock. It turned out to be one of the most expensive fires per acre in U.S. history. But most people were unaware of just how close Boston came to destruction.

So said Boston-based author, Stephanie Schorow, who took the opportunity at this year’s Conference & Expo to use the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem concept to examine the conditions that led to that fire 150 years ago. Her session, built on the material in her newly published book, “The Great Boston Fire: The Inferno that Nearly Incinerated the City,” took us back to this fateful time in history and helped distill the lessons we can learn from today.

“When you examine the fire [from the point of view of the Ecosystem], we can see why it was so devastating,” Schorow told a packed room of attendees, “and why the solution to urban conflagrations has to be multi-faceted.” Disasters, she said can be interpreted as a series of events or a system, rather than one single event.

In addition to her research, Schorow, a former reporter for the Boston Herald, the Associated Press, and the Stanford Advocate, and a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, introduced a wealth of archived materials to help tell her story. Items such as period photos, drawings, and maps, gave attendees a first-hand look into the 1872 fire and how it greatly impacted the Boston community.

At the start of the presentation, NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute Director, Meghan Housewright, introduced the Ecosystem concept to help set the stage for Schorow’s story.


Stephanie Schorow and Meghan Housewright

Following the session, attendees joined Schorow in the 125th Anniversary Lounge where she signed copies of her book. You can learn more about Schorow and the Great Boston Fire of 1872 by visiting her website. More information about the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is available at nfpa.org/ecosystem. 

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LisaMarie Sinatra
Communications Manager, Public Affairs Office

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