Events Information

The Great Fire of 1915

Most small towns and villages have a story or two to tell of a time when disaster struck their midst. One such grievous event struck Killaloe eighty-five years ago when the Great Fire of 1915 destroyed the better part of the business block on Lake Street. The conflagration caused an estimated seventy-five to one-hundred thousand dollars in damage.

At about 11:45 p.m. on April 13, 1915, a fire started in Vince Strack’s harness shop which quickly spread to adjacent buildings. The Killaloe Fire Brigade responded to the call. The firemen took turns, four at a time, operating the pump called the Force and Flush. Such effort was required to operate the pump that the men were worn out after twenty minutes.

One of the first women on the scene was Miss Kitty Bell McDonell (daughter of William McDonell). She assisted the Fire Brigade by running through the streets calling, “More manpower for the pump, more manpower for the pump…” No less than sixty men heeded her call and took a turn on the pump.

Local businessman Jake Kizell went to the hotel and placed a ten dollar bill on the bar asking that the men be “looked after”. A drink in those days cost ten cents. After a turn at the pump the men were ushered to the hotel for a drink and then back out to fire duty.

Everyone in town did what they could to help. People were perched on adjacent rooftops, throwing buckets of water, dousing sparks as they landed on cedar shingles and tar coated roofs.

The fire lit up the sky for some thirty miles around, as gasoline and coal oil drums blew up with tremendous explosions that sent burning embers flying one-hundred and fifty feet in the air. Ammunition from two general stores exploded, boxes at a time. Some said it sounded like a war was going on downtown. The explosions were heard in Old Killaloe.

Some of the women prepared sandwiches, coffee and refreshments, while others prepared water soaked blankets to cover windows and fronts of clapboard houses. Many houses were saved by this action, although some were scorched, paint boiled with the intense heat. The fire was brought under control by 3 a.m. It was said that the next day it appeared as though the town were in mourning from the look of all the draped houses.

From the ashes of the Great Fire came a huge building boom. Twenty-one buildings, including stores, shops and dwellings, were erected that year, some of which still stand today.

The ‘Events’ category includes a photographic gallery including photos from the 1928 Flood, Winter Carnivals, Church Pincnics, The Killaloe Craft Fair, and others.

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