There were many contributing factors to the Great Fire of 1835. The city’s water supply had been depleted by small fires over the summer, the city was over crowded, the wind stoked the flames while keeping the water away, and subzero temperatures froze hydrants and hoses making it impossible to fight the flames. The flames could be seen states away and firefighters from Brooklyn and Philadelphia were brought in in an attempt to fight the flames. The fire did around 20 Million Dollars worth of Damage to New York City and destroyed nearly 700 buildings, including the ‘fire proof’ Merchant Exchange. The fire also did major damage to printing and publishing district. Only two out of New York’s six morning newspapers survived the fire, leaving many writers and compositors without work. My focus however isn’t on how much damage the fire did, but why it leveled a portion of the city.
To start, fire trucks back then weren’t what we’re all used to now. Where we have large gleaming red trucks, they had horse drawn carriages and buckets.

old fire engine

They didn’t have air tanks or fire repellant gear and technology to pump water from engine to hose had just been invented. Fire hydrants weren’t readily available like they are today and there was often a distance between a water source and the fire. There was also the issue of how many firefighters were on the job. At the time of the fire, there were only about 1,200 firefighters in a city in the middle of an economic boom. Though this is just my opinion, I think that the fire wouldn’t have been as devistating if the city hadn’t been overcrowded.