Dawson, YT Fire, Apr 1899


Entire Business Section Destroyed on April 21.


Loss Variously Estimated at From One to Four Millions.

City Helpless Till Navigation Can Be Resumed---People in a State of Panic After the Fire.

SEATTLE, Washington, May 21.---The long-expected catastrophe at Dawson has occurred, and three-fourths of the town lies in ashes, while hundreds of miners and shop keepers, gamblers and saloon men, are living in tents, sleeping on the snow in blankets, or moving up the creeks into the settlements at the mines.

Stark Humes, son of Mayor T. J. Humes of this city, brings a direct and circumstantial story of the loss. He arrived at Victoria this morning, and wires details of the story here.

According to Humes, a veritable panic reigned in Dawson the day after the fire, because hundreds of tons of provisions were burned up, and it will be at least five weeks before any considerable amount can be obtained from the outside.

An area of ground three-quarters of a mile long and four blocks in width was eaten over by the flames, leaving absolutely nothing but ashes. One hundred and eleven buildings were destroyed.

The Fire Department, so-called, was practically unable to cope with the conflagration. The firemen brought out the only engine, but the lack of all facilities for handling the apparatus, and of an insufficient water supply, made the efforts of the force of fire fighters almost ridiculous.

The heaviest losers by the fire are McLellan & McFeeley of Victoria and Vancouver, who had an immense stock of iron and tinware and miners' supplies, taken in at heavy expense, and the Bank of British North America, whose rather flimsy vault did not withstand the heat, the papers in it being destroyed. The band also lost a large amount of gold dust. A rough estimate places the loss in gold and paper money alone at $1,000,000.

Dawson's curse, its low women, caused the conflagration. This is the fourth fire that has resulted from a drunken debauch, in which the demi-monde of the place have figured. Twice before drunken women quarreling overturned lamps, and started fires that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This fire had its beginning in the same way, an apartment over a saloon being the scene of the first blaze. This was as 4 o'clock on the morning of April 21, according to Humes. A saloon adjoining McDonald's theatre, on the water front, was first consumed, and then the flames spread rapidly to the main buildings, and thence across Second Street into the very heart of the business section. Humes describes the incidents of the fire as some serious, others tragic, and some bordering on the grotesque.

The small shopkeepers and restaurants were the greatest sufferers. Some thought only of their stock of provisions. Others saved their hidden buckskin sacks of gold dust at the peril of their lives. As the flames ate their way up Second Street, the women of the disorderly houses fled before them, carrying their treasures. Many were scantily clad, and suffered much from the biting gale that blew from the river's edge.