The fire began inside the John E. Hurst & Company building, causing an explosion that sent flames on to adjacent buildings. In minutes, surrounding buildings were ablaze and the fire continued to sweep through parts of downtown, in large part due to wind and lack of standardized fire-fighting equipment. Calls for help were telegraphed to other cities including Philadelphia, New York, and Washington D.C., who sent assistance.
According to the Fire Museum of Baltimore, some 1,231 and 1,200 National Guardsmen were needed as part of the effort. In about 30 hours, 140 acres of downtown Baltimore had burned, taking down 1,526 buildings and 2,500 businesses in its fury.
Two years later, The Baltimore Sun reported that the city had risen from the ashes and “One of the great disasters of modern time had been converted into a blessing.”
The Sun’s Jacques Kelly (whose grandmothers were present in Baltimore when the fire occurred) speaks more on the fire that ravaged and destroyed parts of downtown Baltimore and its aftermath:
“Slideshow: Great Baltimore Fire of 1904” at The Baltimore Sun.