A Fiery Prelude

Saturday, October 7, 1871

A week of several small fires appears to climax with what would become known as the Saturday Night Fire.  It begins late in the evening and soon devastates twenty buildings on the city’s Near West Side, leveling the area bounded by the South Branch of the Chicago River and Van Buren, Clinton, and Adams streets.  Damage is estimated at a million dollars.  In a grim rehearsal for the far larger catastrophe the following evening, a southwest wind fans the flames, blowing embers toward the center of the city.  The fire will not be put out until the following afternoon, leaving firemen exhausted and their equipment in need of repair.