The Chicago Fire of 1871 started around 9:00 p.m. on October 8 and ended on the morning of October 10. The fire killed an estimated 300 people and left 100,000 of the city's 300,000 people homeless. It caused an estimated $200 million in damages and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. The event left an area of almost four miles long and almost a mile wide in ruins.
Popular belief states that the fire started when a cow kicked over a lantern in a barn behind the home of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary at 13 DeKoven Street. The dry summer weather and abundance of wooden buildings made the city vulnerable to fire. The fire was one of the greatest disasters of the nineteenth century.
The fire company that arrived first was exhausted from battling another fire the previous night. Several other companies arrived later, but the fire was already out of control. After two days, rain began to fall and the fire died out, leaving a completely leveled city. It had destroyed Chicago's business center as well as the city's neighborhood of immigrants.
Despite the devastation caused by the fire, most of Chicago's physical infrastructure and transportation systems remained intact. Of the 300 people who died in the inferno, the firefighters only recovered approximately 120 bodies.