Chicago: Before and After the Fire

The city of Chicago presented a great message to the modern world, that no matter how fast an area is growing there still needs to be some significant planning to keep the infrastructure up to date with the population of the city that it is supposed to provide services to. This is the major lesson of the great fire of Chicago in 1871 was that when a community grows too fast then there are going to be dangerous risks that are created by so many people living in such a small area. The town of Chicago experienced a boom in population after the Civil war, it went from a large town of 100,000 to a population ten times that in the matter of a few years. The growth was due largely to the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the ability for businesses of all kinds to ship their goods from one end of the country to the other.

The Dangerous Changes

As more and more people flooded the area to find work and to seek their fortunes, there was a need for housing and it needed to be built fast. Since there were no building codes or other restrictions on the manner in which buildings were constructed, thousands of less than adequate structures were built and inhabited. There were also no really organized fire and police forces established. Each was run on a shoestring budget that had a lot of volunteers in the fire department and very few full time fire professionals. When it comes to safety features and inspections of buildings there were none of these either. All that seemed to be important was finding a way to rent a room and it didn’t matter how or with what a building was constructed.

Changes in Chicago

In hindsight it shouldn’t have been surprising that much of the city was burned in one tragic event. There were some positive results that came from this event. First of all, building codes were developed and city streets were planned out in order to help prevent the overcrowding that occurred before the fire. Another change was in the fire department, as the city made the establishment of a professional fire fighting force as one of its highest priorities. This allowed for a systematic plan for fighting fires along with maintenance of fire hydrants so that adequate water will always be available when a fire emergency breaks out. The great Chicago fire was a tragic event, but in the misery of its aftermath, steps were taken to keep other similar events from taking place in the future.