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Tombstone Fires - Tombstone Tips, Issue #014
May 03, 2018

Insider Info Newsletter

May 2018


~ ~ Tombstone Fires

~ ~ April Events/Insider Update Review

~ ~ The Latest at Tombstone Travel Tips


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Fires were a dangerous occurrence in Tombstone's history. Especially in the 1800s, when many buildings had wood-frame & canvas construction. In the springtime, predominate winds come in that can blow up to 40 MPH. They're generated from weather systems coming through from West to East, North of AZ. Humidity decreases further & winds spread flames.

Spring is a very dry time in AZ. Usually very little, if any rain. Summer rains usually don't begin until July. 2 major fires in Tombstone's early history had severe downtown effects. 1 resulted in vast devastation. We'll review the fires that affected the city of Tombstone through its history.

From Prescott's Weekly Arizona Miner

Friday, June 24, 1881 - Page 3

#1 - June 22, 1881: the 1st Fire

~ ~ 3 doors East of the Oriental Saloon on Allen Street was the Arcade Saloon. Bad liquor was about to be loaded on a wagon. The bartender looked inside the barrel to find the measuring rod that dropped. Accounts say he was smoking, or maybe lit a match to see better.

~ ~ The result was an explosion of the fumes from the barrel! Amazingly he wasn't hurt, but sparks went everywhere. Nearby buildings went up in flames quickly. The fire spread Westward along Allen Street to the corner, consuming the Oriental.

~ ~ The volunteer fire department came. A bucket brigade was formed. As much as they tried, much was lost. It burned East to 7th and West to the corner at 5th. It went North to Fremont, South to Toughnut. The monetary losses totaled nearly $245,000.

~ ~ Everyone got right to work rebuilding. In 6 months time, new buildings were up. Construction was improved with more adobe, masonry & plaster. A 2nd fire company was organized. They set out getting better fire-fighting equipment. They also built a fire-house - still there on Toughnut St.


#2 - May 16, 1882: The Precursor

~ ~ Mrs. Morton owned a home in which she rented out rooms. Located on Toughnut between 2nd & 3rd. She was elderly, in ill-health. That evening she tripped as she went to the kitchen. She dropped her oil lamp. The area burst into flames.

~ ~ She wobbled toward her front door yelling for help. Mr. Webster Street, a local lawyer, was relaxing across the street on his porch. He & a friend helped her get outside. Her house burnt down.

~ ~ The fire department came, but the fire still spread to 6 other buildings. A commercial structure which burnt was the American Lodging House owned by Mr. & Mrs. Grant. And they had only just paid off their mortgage!

Scene Looking North from Corner of 5th & Allen
Schieffelin Hall on Right
Golden Eagle Rubble Center Bottom

#3 - May 26, 1882 - The Worst Fire in Tombstone History

~ ~ Tivoli Gardens was a saloon on the North side of Allen Street, between 4th & 5th. Just behind there a fire began & quickly spread to a garden area with canvas roofing. In no time at all that whole block was up in flames. Then it jumped south to extend to Toughnut.

~ ~ It spread in areas north of Fremont. Block upon block of downtown buildings were burning. The fire department did what it could with water trucks & bucket brigades. The city water system was being built, but not yet online. So fire hydrants were not yet available.

~ ~ Some buildings were saved. Milton Joyce put up a great effort to successfully save the Oriental which was rebuilt after last year's fire. Schieffelin Hall & the Epitaph Office on Fremont were saved. Mollie Fly took her lodging fittings to a safe place. Her boardinghouse was saved in the end. Nellie Cashman organized her own bucket brigade which saved her American Hotel. The Russ House also escaped.

~ ~ The deluxe hotels along Allen Street - Browns, the Cosmopolitan and the Grand were all destroyed. None were rebuilt. The Occidental, Alhambra, Campbell & Hatch, and Haffords Saloons all burned. The Golden Eagle Brewery was gone - but rebuilt as the Crystal Palace.

~ ~ One person was found dead in the charred rubble. To see more details on these major Tombstone fires - Click Here!

Alhambra Saloon Engraving

Billy Fee was his Name
From Tucson's Arizona Weekly Citizen - Sunday, July 23, 1882 - Page 3

#4 - July 20, 1882 - Scary!

~ ~ On June 26, 1882 city fire hydrants were in place to be tested. It was a success. Too bad it was a month too late for May's devastating fire. City water was here!

~ ~ Most people were in bed on the 20th of July when the fire whistle sounded! Fire was blasting through the New Orleans Restaurant on the Southeast corner of Toughnut & 4th.

~ ~ Next door was a truck-house for the new Hook & Ladder Company building. That structure was also going up in flames! People were running out into the street in panic.

~ ~ But now with the fire company's access to quick water with great pressure - the fire was out in 20 minutes. One man suffered serious burns.

~ ~ But over-all everyone gave a sigh of relief!

Fly's Boardinghouse & Gallery Burns

#5 - Still More Fires Through the Years

~ ~ Many of the local mines suffered fire break-outs in production equipment. The Grand Central had a destructive fire on May 26, 1886. The Contention mine & all supporting buildings were destroyed in a December 21, 1891 fire. The Tranquility Mine lit up on January 11, 1906 - wiping out its hoist & frame-work. And it happened again on March 7, 1948! The Lucky Cuss had a similar fire on November 28, 1907 - it took 8 months to get back on-line. The shaft of the Silver-Thread mine burned on February 11, 1934. Another mine shaft - the Oregon/Stonewall burned on May 7, 1967.

~ ~ The Toughnut Mine shaft burned on the afternoon of January 13, 1957. Possibly started by adolescents, quick firefighter action saved it from spreading as a brush fire.

~ ~ September 14, 1888 - The Occidental Hotel, on the Northeast corner of 4th & Allen burned down. Built 5 years earlier, after the major city fire. Started by an overturned oil lamp. The charred remains stood there for years.

~ ~ July 2, 1915 - The historic Fly Boardinghouse & Photo Gallery flared up with no hope for saving! Many early Tombstone & Arizona photos were lost. A resident was badly burned.

~ ~ A fire hit one of Tombstone's early newspapers - The Prospector, on July 26, 1917. Caused by a lightning strike. They still got the news out by pulling an old hand press from storage.

~ ~ On September 10, 1917, the home of Dr. Randolph was gone. It was on the hillside across the Tombstone gulch - the oldest, nicest home - now ashes. May 7, 1919 the Sunnyside Hotel burned down.

~ ~ March 23, 1921 - A large Tombstone conflagration, possibly from train sparks. Blinn Lumber was taken, as was McPherson's ice storage & property of Sheriff Hood's.

~ ~ May 20, 1924 - Biggest fire since 1882. Along the corner of 5th & Allen it went West along the South side of Allen Street to 4th. Some of the buildings there were saved.

~ ~ May 26, 1942 - Fire took the Southeast corner of 5th & Allen Street. Down went the historic Owl Cafe (former Bucket of Blood Saloon) & Tourist Hotel + an adjacent bowling alley.

~ ~ Loma de Plata burns on October 9, 1953. Built in 1902 on Empire Hill above town, by Grand Central mining engineer E.B. Gage. Then a Russ House fire takes the insides on January 20, 1959. The outer walls remain.

~ ~ Another major business district fire consumed part of Allen Street on May 23, 1957. Began in the Cattleman & Miners Bar, zoomed through attics & almost got to the Crystal Palace - but was stopped there. 3 businesses were gone.

~ ~ Scattered fires were set around town during Helldorado 1995. The Marshal commented there isn't an arson problem but "there are a lot of crazies out there."

~ ~ June 6, 1998 - Another significant fire took place on this date. It destroyed the historical home of Virgil Earp, the Southwest corner of 1st & Fremont Streets. See our latest web page related to this home & block - Click Here.


From Yuma's Arizona Sentinel
Saturday, July 29, 1882 - Page 1

~ ~ Fires are a terrible thing. They destroy the works that people have created & put their labors into. Often they bring financial crunches & even ruin.

~ ~ But Tombstone has recovered again & again from some devastating fires. This is just one of the reasons it has that well-known knick-name - The Town Too Tough to Die!

We hope we'll see you in town, checking out historic buildings that haven't succumbed to fires! Let us know how you like the history. Tell us what you did while you were here. Just reply to this newsletter for easy input! (Let us know if we can use your comments - credit with just a first name & last initial; or only initials; or anonymous.)


Beers 'N' Balls 2018

~ ~ Was a fun time over there at Four Deuces! Lots of people stopped by. Some of the usual players were there fixing their "Mountain Oyster" recipes!

Like Gene!

* * Rose Festival

* * Another great Rose Festival. The parade was fun, as usual.

Rose Parade Showgirls


What's going on this month:

[Be sure to check for the Wyatt Earp event announcement at Schieffelin Hall by his Great Grand-nephew during Wyatt Earp Days!]

or next month - check out our Events Page:
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Until Next Month,

Karen & Bill McGowan
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