Church of the Company Fire

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Watercolour painting of the fire from 1913; now in Fire Museum of Santiago

Church of the Company Fire is the largest fire accident ever by death toll in the world. It occurred on 1863 December 8 in Santiago, Chile. About 2000 to 3000 people are said to have been killed in the fire accident.[1]

Church of the Company of Jesus was a Jesuit church in Santiago, Chile.The day of the fire was the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The fire started at 7 P.M. when an oil lamp had ignited the place and it caught fire. About 2000-3000 people inside the church got roasted.

The cleanup of the bodies took about ten days, and since most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, they were placed in a mass grave at the Cementerio General de Santiago. A Santiago newspaper printed the names of over 2,000 known victims, and the same paper also printed a list of the objects saved by the priests and their value, which led to public outcry against the priests who had saved valuable objects but not people.

The tragedy, and the fact that one of the contributing factors was the lack of an organized fire-brigade, motivated José Luis Claro y Cruz to organize the first Volunteer Firemen's Corps in Santiago, on December 20 of the same year. Fire brigades in Chile, even today, are still made up only of unpaid volunteers. New fire regulations also resulted, and the tragedy contributed to the partial secularization of Chilean government over the next two decades.[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. Lambert, David (2003). "Chapter two: Cities on Fire - Blazing buildings". Repairing the Damage. Fires & Floods. Bilbao: GRAFO, S.A. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-237-51798-4. Retrieved 22 December 2015. Perhaps the deadliest of all church fire disasters occurred in 1863, in a Jesuit church in Santiago, Chile. Some records say that 2500 people perished
  2. Serrano, Sol (2008). ¿Qué hacer con Dios en la República? Política y secularización en Chile (1845-1885). Mexico, DF: Fondo de Cultura Económica, passim.