Did a Cow Really Start the Great Chicago Fire? Test Your Knowledge of Historic Fires!

What caused the Great Fire of London in 1666?

Lightning strike

Bakery oven

Gas leak

Lantern mishap

The Great Fire of London in 1666 is believed to have started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. This small fire from a baker’s oven led to a massive conflagration that consumed much of the city.

What initiated the 1904 Baltimore Fire?


Discarded match

Chemical explosion

Faulty wiring

The 1904 Baltimore Fire was triggered by a discarded match in the basement of the Hurst Building. This seemingly minor act led to a devastating blaze that destroyed a large part of downtown Baltimore.

What unusual cause led to the 1871 Peshtigo Fire?

Meteor shower

Railroad sparks



Railroad sparks are believed to have ignited the 1871 Peshtigo Fire, the deadliest wildfire in American history. These sparks likely came from passing trains, common ignition sources in dry conditions.

How did the 1666 Croydon Palace fire start?

Cooking fire

Sun through a window


Electrical fault

The 1666 fire at Croydon Palace was caused by sunlight magnified through a linen cloth and a glass window, igniting the wooden roof timbers. This unusual solar ignition is a rare but documented phenomenon.

What started the 1736 New York City fire?

Bakery oven

Blacksmith sparks

Tavern fire

Distillery leak

The 1736 New York City fire began in a tavern. This establishment likely had a fire used for heating and cooking which, due to negligence or accident, led to the blaze.

What was the cause of the 1835 New York fire?

Gas leak

Faulty stove

Warehouse chemical

Ice storehouse fire

The 1835 Great Fire of New York was initiated in a storehouse containing whale oil and candles, which had been covered in ice. The contraction and expansion from the ice possibly led to containers breaking, causing the fire.

What sparked the 1916 fire in Parliament Buildings, Ottawa?

Cigarette in a reading room

Faulty heating

Incendiary device

Spontaneous combustion

A cigarette left burning in a reading room was the likely cause of the 1916 fire that destroyed the original Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Which cause is attributed to the 1947 Texas City Disaster fire?

Industrial sabotage

Ship collision

Ammonium nitrate explosion

Oil spill

The 1947 Texas City Disaster was initiated by a fire onboard the SS Grandcamp, which detonated its cargo of ammonium nitrate. This explosion caused one of the deadliest industrial accidents in U.S. history.

What unusual factor contributed to the 1991 Oakland firestorm?

Discarded cigarette

Overgrown vegetation

Electrical lines

Broken gas pipe

The 1991 Oakland firestorm was exacerbated by the dense, overgrown vegetation in the area. This provided ample fuel for the fire after it was ignited, leading to a rapidly spreading wildfire.

What caused the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada?

Campfire left unattended

Hot equipment


Dry conditions

The 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, which resulted in the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history, was traced back to a campfire that was not properly extinguished.

What led to the 1871 Chicago Fire’s ignition?

Stray spark

Overturned lantern

Friction in machinery

Electrical short

The 1871 Chicago Fire, one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century, is popularly attributed to a cow kicking over a lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn.

What caused the 1910 Big Burn in the Northwest U.S.?

Railroad engine sparks



Cigarette butt

The 1910 Big Burn, a massive wildfire in Idaho and Montana, was primarily ignited by sparks from railroad engines operating in the region.

What started the Great Fire of Meireki in Japan, 1657?

Earthquake friction

Woodblock overheating

Temple candle

Cooking accident

The Great Fire of Meireki, which destroyed much of Edo (now Tokyo), was reportedly started by a fire from a temple candle.

What unusual cause triggered the 2007 California wildfires?

Power lines

Glass reflection



The 2007 California wildfires were significantly caused by power lines arcing during high Santa Ana winds, which ignited multiple fires.

What ignited the 1966 New York City 23rd Street Fire?

Faulty boiler

Paint thinner vapors


Electrical fault

The 1966 New York City 23rd Street Fire, which resulted in numerous firefighter deaths, was caused by the accumulation and ignition of paint thinner vapors.

What sparked the 1989 Hamlet chicken processing plant fire in North Carolina?

Fryer malfunction

Smoking in restricted area

Electrical short

Heating unit

The tragic fire in Hamlet was caused by a failure in a hydraulic line to a heating unit, which ignited a massive blaze that trapped workers inside.

What caused the 2005 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire in the UK?

Lightning strike

Static electricity

Mechanical failure


The 2005 fire at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal, one of the largest peacetime fires in Europe, was triggered by static electricity igniting gasoline vapors during tank filling.

How did the Great Porcelain Warehouse Fire of 1908 in London start?

Neglected oven

Sunlight magnification

Broken gas line

Industrial accident

The Great Porcelain Warehouse Fire in 1908 was caused by sunlight magnified through a windowpane, igniting flammable materials within the building.

What caused the rapid spread of the 2018 Camp Fire in California?

Natural gas leak

Electrical transmission lines

Discarded cigarette

Dry conditions

The 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire, was sparked by faulty electrical transmission lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric.

What led to the 1999 Mont Blanc Tunnel fire between France and Italy?


Overheated engine

Truck collision

Electrical failure

The fire in the Mont Blanc Tunnel, which killed 39 people, was caused by a truck’s overheated engine, leading to a massive inferno in the confined space.

Smoldering Start

You might want to keep your day job away from firefighting!

Fire Safety Aware

You’re warming up! Keep stoking your knowledge of historical fires.

Blazing Through History

Incredible! You’ve burned through the questions like a wildfire!

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