Friday, June 12, 2015

With a Little Help

These shoes were discovered outside a house known as #flatland

Once the fire was out, it was time to take stock of the dead and the damage. More than 20 people were known to have died but there more than likely many more who perished in the flames. A mother and child were found the next day in a well where they had sought shelter only to be suffocated when the fire at the oxygen. 

One account states, "a man named Fawcett with a magnificent team of bays and a face like stone" drove directly into the heat of the fire where no one could have lived. Calcined horse and human bones mixed with the iron tires and ashes of a wagon were found on Hastings Street. I wonder why would the man do that? What was so important he sentenced himself, and his beautiful animals, to death?

In many places iron melted because the heat was so intense. The bell of St. James Church became a pool of bronze where the church had once stood. The deck timbers at the shore end of the the city wharf caught on fire. The survivors who were crowding the structure, tore them out of the ground and threw them into the water. 

Many of the survivors were taken aboard ships in the inlet while others stood in the water, waiting and praying the fire wouldn't reach there. Father Clinton held a nine-year-old boy in his arms as he stood in the water, watching the flames come closer. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the wind died down and the blaze burned out.

Men from the clearing gangs who were cut off at the Regina Hotel survived the inferno. They were penned in on all sides by fire, they went from room to room, soaked every blanket they find in water and swathed the hotel in them. A bucket brigade sluiced down the roof and other beat out every spark and blaze they found. Fortunately, there was a wide, unoccupied clearing around the hotel that helped. Once the summer hurricane was over, the Regina Hotel was the only standing building in all but the fringes of Vancouver.

The men gathered in the bar and drank beer in silence and gratitude. One them, an Irishman, crossed himself and prayed as he opened the first bottle.

Burned and injured people were attended to at the mill and Spratt's refinery. Burns were dressed with oil and flour and wrapped in leaves. An improvised morgue was set up at the north end of the False Creek Bridge and a refugee camp at the south. The people of Vancouver slept in the city's ashes.

The smoke from the burning city was seen in Port Moody and New Westminster. By 3 o'clock, unable to reach anyone in Vancouver on the single telephone line, the Royal City knew what had happened. The smoke overhead dropped bits of burned paper. As I have written before, there were squabbles between these towns and Vancouver but now was the time to put politics aside.

The New Westminster council voted $9,000 out of public funds to help Vancouver. Doctors and women collected medical supplies and bandages, food, clothing and household goods were donated. By 6 o'clock in the evening, a long relief caravan was inching its way along the Westminster Road to the stricken city. They passed crowds of refugees going to neighbouring communities where every door was opened to them.

By 3 am, lumber wagons were coming in from Fraser communities, nails and tools were unloaded
by the light of lanterns and the flickering of still burning tree stumps. By daylight, tents and building frames were standing. 

It took less than twenty minutes for Vancouver to burn to the ground. In twelve hours, the city was rising again. Thanks to a little help from our neighbours.

Thanks to the book Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

No comments:

Post a Comment