At about 5:00pm in the afternoon, July 8, 1892, a dropped pipe in Timothy Brine’s stable at Freshwater Road ,the top of Carter’s Hill began what became the worst fire in St. John’s history. Initially the fire did not cause any widespread panic, however a series of bad coincidences caused the fire to spread and destroy virtually all of the east end of the city, including much of its major commercial area before being extinguished.
Rev Moses Harvey witnessed the stages of the fire and remarked to his friend that it “was a bad day for a fire. A high wind from the north-west was blowing, hurling the sparks far and wide on the roofs of the clusters of wooden houses. For a month we had hardly any rain, and the shingled roofs were like tinder.” The situation was worse because of work completed earlier in the day on the water mains. Although water flow was re-established by 3 p.m., two hours before the fire began, water pressure was insufficient to force water up into the higher sections of the city where the fire began. W. J Kent remarked that the “flames therefore made headway before water was procurable, and as a very high westerly wind was furiously fanning the fire it began to spread rapidly.”
An hour into the blaze, people of St. John’s realised that the fire could not be contained in the area of Brine’s farm. Because locals believed stone walls would withstand the flames, residents moved valuables into numerous stone buildings in the city. One of the most common refuge areas was the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The nave and transepts of the church were filled with valuable property belonging to numerous families including that of the Anglican bishop of the day, Lleweyn Jones. Unfortunately the cathedral also fell victim to the ravenous fire. The fire was far from finished; the wind caused offshoots of the main fire to consume new sections of the city while the main fire.