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Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward burned 100 years ago this weekend

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If you thought the Interstate 85 fire was bad, you don’t know about the Great Atlanta Fire

Smoke billows as the city burns, seen from a distant rooftop.
The fire burns through the city.
via City Data

Old Fourth Ward has become a hot neighborhood over the last few years, with the Beltline attracting new residents and inspiring a building boom.

But 100 years ago this Sunday, the neighborhood was hot (much more literally) for a different reason: a massive fire, the likes of which the city hadn’t seen since Sherman.

While the exact origins of the O4W inferno are unclear (unlike a similar blaze the same day on the flipside of town), the fire started around noon at the southern edge of the district—a largely industrial area, with warehouses chockfull of flammable cotton and textiles.

Fed by the wooden-roofed homes that had sprung up as Atlanta grew rapidly in the early 20th Century, the conflagration raged northward, decimating everything in its path.

Firefighting equipment of the day was no match for the inferno, and brigades from outside the city were summoned to help.

In just 10 hours, the fire chewed through nearly 2,000 structures across a 300-acre swath of the city, displacing roughly 10,000 residents.

The progress of the fire was stopped only by proactively dynamiting houses in the path to create a break.

When it was all over, the neighborhood had incurred $5 million in damage—more than $100 million today. But, miraculously, not one fatality was attributed to the flames. A woman on North Boulevard, however, died of “shock” when informed her house was burning.

A map of the progression of the fire.
Atlanta History Center via Fire in the 4th

Now, 100 years later, the neighborhood is gearing up to celebrate what it’s become since the fire.

Saturday, the Fire in the Fourth Festival will bring art, music, food, and shopping to the streets that once burned.

Weather forecast: a scorcher.