More than 13,000 homes, businesses, and structures, including St Paul’s Cathedral, were destroyed by fire 350 years ago. This left a majority of people from the City of London homeless.
London was largely destroyed in 1666 when a fire started in a bakery on Puddling Lane shortly after midnight. Only six deaths are recorded, but it is suspected many more lost their lives.
The battle against the fires was eventually won because of the strong winds dying down, the use of gunpowder to create firebreaks, and demolition of buildings.
In a crowded city built largely of wood, fires were common. However, following this fire, stone and brick were largely used in the rebuilding of the city.
On the River Thames a giant wooden replica of 17th century London has been set ablaze to mark the anniversary of the Great Fire of London.
Tim Marlow, the artistic director of the Royal Academy of Arts, said it was a unique event.
In the years after, rose from the ashes a London which is more recognisable to today (minus the skyscrapers). The process took over 30 years, but many more precautions were put in place.
Before the fire, houses were built from wood and had thatched roofs.
But to prevent such disasters again, houses were largely built of stone and brick. The streets were also made wider to allow for better access and more distance between buildings. Plus, no houses were built obstructing access to the river.
From it also came fire brigades which were formed by insurance companies as a way of recouping the costs of fire extinguishing.
These are all lessons which we benefit from today.
Although fires are a daily occurrence, they are in no way as devastating as they once would have been. Building practices are now focused on making it as hard as possible for a fire to spread.
Today we can even contain a fire to one room with fire doors and an array of intumescent products.
We also have the ability to react a lot quicker. Smoke alarms, when working, provide an early warning system. This allows us to get to safety and call the emergency services.
But we also have methods of extinguishing fires in our homes. Fire blankets and fire extinguishers are available to anyone and are relatively simple to use. And as such, that means we can act to prevent a small fire from getting out of control.
However, there are still lessons to take from the Great Fire which is relevant today.
The fire itself started when the King’s baker Thomas Farynor forgot to put the fire out in the oven before going to bed. When a spark dropped out onto a bundle of straw, the house was soon set alight.
Today, fires still start because people leave fires and cooking food unattended. As likewise, by not switching off electrical items like heaters, phone chargers and appliances when no-one is around.
By simply making sure everything is turned off and safe before going to bed or leaving the house, many fires can be avoided.
And similarly, make sure things which can burn are kept away from things that create heat. So as well as not storing straw next to your oven, keep candles well away from curtains. And also keep furnishings and clothes away from heaters.
Thankfully, large-scale fires like that of 1666 are things of the past. But there is still need to protect our individual homes and businesses from potential fire hazards.