I quote again from Sheahan & Upton’s Work:
“The huge stone and brick structures melted before the fierceness of the flames as a snow-flake melts and disappears in water, and almost as quickly. Six-story buildings would take fire and disappear for ever from sight in five minutes by the watch. . . . The fire also doubled on its track at the great Union Depot and burned half a mile southward in the very teeth of the gale—a gale which blew a perfect tornado, and in which no vessel could have lived on the lake. . . . Strange, fantastic fires of blue, red, and green played along the cornices of buildings."
[1. “History of the Chicago Fire,” pp. 85, 86.]
Hon. William B. Ogden wrote at the time:
“The fire was accompanied by the fiercest tornado of wind ever known to blow here."
“The most striking peculiarity of the fire was its intense heat. Nothing exposed to it escaped. Amid the hundreds of acres left bare there is not to be found a piece of wood of any description, and, unlike most fires, it left nothing half burned. . . . The fire swept the streets of all the ordinary dust and rubbish, consuming it instantly."
The Athens marble burned like coal!
“The intensity of the heat may be judged, and the thorough combustion of everything wooden may be understood, when we state that in the yard of one of the large agricultural-implement factories was stacked some hundreds of tons of pig-iron. This iron was two hundred feet from any building. To the south of it was the river, one hundred and fifty feet wide. No large building but the factory was in the immediate vicinity of the fire. Yet, so great was the heat, that this pile of iron melted and run, and is now in one large and nearly solid mass."
The amount of property destroyed was estimated by Mayor Medill at one hundred and fifty million dollars; and the number of people rendered houseless, at one hundred and twenty-five thousand. Several hundred lives were lost.
All this brings before our eyes vividly the condition of things when the comet struck the earth; when conflagrations spread over wide areas; when human beings were consumed by the million; when their works were obliterated, and the remnants of the multitude fled before the rushing flames, filled with unutterable consternation;
[1. “History of the Chicago Fire,” p. 87.
2. Ibid., p. 119.
3. Ibid., p. 121.]
and as they jumped pell-mell into wells, so we have seen them in Job clambering down ropes into the narrow-mouthed, bottomless pit.
Who shall say how often the characteristics of our atmosphere have been affected by accessions from extraterrestrial sources, resulting in conflagrations or pestilences, in failures of crops, and in famines? Who shall say how far great revolutions and wars and other perturbations of humanity have been due to similar modifications? There is a world of philosophy in that curious story, “Dr. Ox’s Hobby,” wherein we are told how he changed the mental traits of a village of Hollanders by increasing the amount of oxygen in the air they breathed.