|Honolulu's Chinatown Fire of 1900
January 20, 1900
In late 1899, bubonic plague began to sweep through Chinatown in Honolulu, Hawaii. The authorities ordered a quarantine, mass fumigations and the burning down of infected houses. On New Year's Eve, officials began to set a series of controlled fires to destroy infected areas and rodent breeding grounds. On the morning of Jan. 20, 1900, embers from a controlled fire spewed onto the roof of Kaumakapili Church and it burst into flames. Fireman watched helpless as Chinatown began to burn out of control. Firebreaks were attempted by blowing up and tearing down buildings. But, it proved ineffective. The area was still under quarantine, and the quarantine lines were enforced as citizens tried to flee the area. The huge fire burned for 17 days, destroyed 38 acres and 4,000 homes, left 7,000 people homeless,but no lives were lost from the fire. After the disaster was brought under control, the Board of Health successfully set an additional 31 controlled fires. Four months later, Honolulu was deemed plague-free.