Fire destroys half the business district of Republic on June 3, 1889.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 6/14/2009
  • Essay 9051
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On June 3, 1889, a predawn fire breaks out in downtown Republic, located in Ferry County in North Central Washington. The fire quickly spreads throughout this just-established gold-mining boomtown. Desperate firefighters use dynamite to stop the spread, in vain. Finally after several more building are dynamited, the flames are checked. Damage is estimated at $100,000 and most of the losses are not insured.

Smoke Pours Out

At 6:30 a.m., smoke was pouring out the windows of a building in the middle of the business district. Before long, the building was ablaze and spreading to the adjoining buildings. In less than two hours, two saloons, two restaurants, and several other buildings along the block were reduced to cinders.

The fledgling fire department "did good service in fighting this calamity" but did not have the equipment to stop the spread (Steele). Many of the townspeople pitched in to help move merchandise out of buildings in the path of the flames. A bank's cash was even carried to a safe location.

Wind carried the fire a different direction and burned down the Eureka News Company's building.

Fighting Flames with Dynamite

Finally, the townspeople resorted to extreme measures -- dynamite. One building was dynamited in order to create a space the fire couldn't jump, but the strategy didn't work. A breeze carried the fire across the street. Finally, more dynamite was brought in. The Coeur d'Alene Saloon and the Republic Trading Company were both dynamited. Finally, the flames were stopped.

When it was all over, more than half of Republic's downtown business district was destroyed. The town was in the midst of its gold boom and rebuilt immediately.

Sources: Richard F. Steele, History of North Washington: An Illustrated History of Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan and Chelan Counties (Spokane: Western Historical Publishing Co., 1904).

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