San Francisco

San Francisco's occurred on May 3, 1851, and there were plenty of advance warning signs in the form of previous blazes that had been barely contained. This fire was far worse, destroying more than half the city and killing 30 people. San Franciscans showed even at this early date a tenacity and survivor's mentality that led them to start rebuilding immediately. That sort of persevering spirit would stand them in good stead in the decades to come.

The Chicago fire caused chaos, shown here at the Randolph Street bridge on the night of October 8, 1871, as the city's residents flee the inferno. Before it was over, some 250 were killed and 95,000 left homeless. (Library of Congress)

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