Plans under way to remember 1916 Augusta fire

On a gusty night in March 1916, an unattended iron in a tailor shop sparked a fire that swept through downtown Augusta and consumed 25 blocks of residential and commercial buildings.

This week, a group began discussing ways to commemorate the centennial of one of the city’s most devastating events.

“We all agreed without exception that March of 2016 will be here before we know it, and it’s never too soon to get started,” former Augusta mayor Bob Young said.

The fire started in the Dyer building at Eighth and Broad streets and quickly spread through downtown to East Boundary. Fire engine companies from Waynesboro, Atlanta, Macon, Aiken, Charleston, Greenville and Columbia came to assist, but ill-fitting couplers rendered their hoses useless.

What had been the business district and more affluent section of town was reduced to a forest of chimneys and charred rubble. About 3,000 people were left homeless and damages totaled more than $10 million. No one was killed.

Young and representatives from Historic Augusta, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department met Tuesday to begin discussing ideas to commemorate the disaster’s centennial.

A few preliminary ideas include a display or parade of fire equipment, a walking tour of areas destroyed by the fire and placement of a historical marker near the fire’s origin.

Young said he hopes more groups with interest in the event will add more ideas. The group will meet again after Masters Week to continue discussion and to start forming a game plan. He said he hopes over the next couple of years that residents will find mementos from the homes or buildings that were destroyed. Though it’s doubtful few remain who witnessed that night, he hopes people will share stories that have been passed down from parents or grandparents who were there and that the committee will be able to come up with a way to capture and share them.

“It certainly wouldn’t be something to have a celebration, but certainly some sort of commemoration might be appropriate,” Young said.

Anyone with ideas they’d like to contribute or who is interested in planning events related to the memorial can e-mail Young at mayoryoung@comcast.net.

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WANT TO HELP

Anyone interested in planning events for the centennial of the March 1916 fire in downtown Augusta can e-mail Bob Young at mayoryoung@comcast.net.

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