What Caused the Great Fire of London?

The Great Fire of London occurred due to the failure of Thomas Farrinor, the king's baker, to extinguish the fire in his oven at the end of the day in September 1666. Sparks from the oven ignited the nearby firewood, setting his house on fire.

In the mid 1600s, most of the property owners of London constructed their homes and buildings of oak lumber and covered them in tar to prevent leaks. They located buildings in close proximity, aiding in the spread of this great disaster. Hot, dry winds carried sparks, created by the bakery fire to the Star Inn, across the street, igniting the hay and fodder inside. From there, the fire spread to Thames Street, igniting warehouses containing flammable materials including tallow, coal and lamp oil. Between the ignition of the bakery and the time the fire was brought under control, five days later, over 13,000 homes and 90 churches were engulfed. Over 100,000 people were homeless at the end of the fire.

Rebuilding of London began within weeks of the Great Fire. Due to the destruction, residents constructed new buildings with stone and brick. The city eliminated narrow alleys and increased the width of the street. However, it was not until the 18th century that the city established permanent fire departments.