How many days did the fire last?  

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The fire burned for about two days beginning October 8, 1871. Murphy shows that the city was essentially like a tinderbox, ripe for exactly the kind of conflagration that broke out that October. It had mostly wooden structures, and was experiencing a severe drought that had lasted through most of the summer of that year. Though attempts to extinguish the blaze initially met with success, it eventually spread throughout the city. The disaster had its greatest effect on working class people, and Chicago's wealthier citizens blamed them for the fire (as evidenced by the now-debunked myth that the fire started when Mrs. O'Leary kicked over an oil lamp while milking a cow in her barn.) Overall, Murphy shows that during those two terrible days, a number of mistakes, instances of bad luck, and simple oversights enabled the fire to spread and destroy as much of the city as it did. 


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