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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 124 years ago

The Spokane Falls Review can be forgiven for employing hyperbole when describing Spokane’s Great Fire of Aug. 4, 1889.

In its Aug. 6, 1889, edition, the paper called it “the most devastating fire that ever occurred in the history of the word, according to population.”

(The word “word,” we can surmise, was a typo for “world.”) It no doubt seemed like history’s worst cataclysm to those who were in the midst of it.

Here’s how the Review described the scene:

“The terrifying shrieks of a dozen locomotives commingled with the roar of the flames, the bursting of cartridges, the booming of giant powder, the hoarse shouts of men, and the piteous shrieks of women and children. Looking upward a broad and mighty river of flame seemed lined against the jet black sky. Occasionally the two opposing currents of wind would meet, creating a roaring whirlwind of fire that seemed to penetrate the clouds as a ponderous screw, while lesser whirlwinds danced around its base, performing all sorts of fantastic gyrations.

“In this manner the appalling monster held high carnival until about 10 o’clock, when with a mighty crash the Howard Street bridge over the Spokane River went down.”

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