Atlanta, GA Fire Destroys 100 Blocks, May 1917

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Fire In Atlanta Razes 100 Blocks; Loss $2,000,000

Wide Residence Area in Northeast Swept by Flames Starting in Storage Building.

Soldiers Called To Aid

Dynamite Used Vainly to Prevent Blaze Reaching Mansions on Ponce de Leon Av.

Firemen Finally Check It

Thousands Left Homeless, but City Cares for Them-One Woman Dies from Shock.

Atlanta, Ga., May 21.-Fire that started late this afternoon in an obscure negro section at Decatur and Fort Streets swept a broad path through the residential section of Atlanta, devastating scores of blocks and destroying many of the city’s finest homes and hundreds of negro houses. Although the flames were not under complete control tonight, they have been checked half way through the exclusive Ponce de Leon Avenue residence section and fire officials believed there was little danger of a further spread to any extent.

First estimates of the damage place it at $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. So far as can be learned, the only life lost is that of a woman who died from shock.

The fire was confined to the northeastern part of the city, and the only business houses burned were several warehouses near the point of origin. In a rough estimate it is thought that fully 100 blocks were laid waste.

A high wind carried the flames with a speed that outran the efforts of the Fire Department. Within an hour after the first alarm the fire began to assume the proportions of a conflagration, and fire officials called in several hundred men from Fort McPherson Officers Training Camp to aid in the fight. Appeals for help brought fire equipment from half a dozen neighboring cities.

The dramatic struggle with the flames reached a climax at nightfall, when the fire fighters made a strong stand at Boulevard Place and began dynamiting a wide area to protect the Ponce de Leon section. This effort was only partially successful, and an hour later the dynamiters had to begin work over again at one point two block beyond the avenue.

The soldiers, firemen and private citizens blew up whole blocks of houses. Now and then a home on the north side of Ponce de Leon Avenue would catch fire, but for almost two hours these outbreaks were stopped. Then the flames gained a foothold across the street, swept on a block to Vedo Way, and moved slowly on in a northeasterly direction. Late tonight, however, Fire Chief Cody announced that the fire had been brought under control.

Several hundred buckets were rushed to Ponce de Leon Avenue when the fight centered there. Each soldier was supplied with one and whenever a tiny blaze started on a roof it was quickly extinguished. The presence of soldiers directing traffic, guarding household goods, and keeping people from the danger zone gave the appearance of martial law.