Pueblo Firefighters
Historical Society

Major Fires of the

Pueblo Fire Dept.


- Grand Opera House Fire -

March 1, 1922

Above is a post card of the Grand Opera House block at the corner of W. 4th St. and Main Street. Below left is the entrance of the Opera House. Below right is the interior seating of the theater. There were 63 offices inside, and the building took up the entire half block. 

Below is the stage of the Grand Opera House, which was 75 feet across.

    The building was built in 1890, and designed by reknown Chicago architect Louis H. Sullivan, who has been called the "Father of Modernism." Sullivan employeed a young Frank Lloyd Wright in his firm, before Wright struck out on his own. Before it was destroyed, the building was valued at half a million dollars.

    At 1:15 in the morning0f March 1, 1922, a fire broke out in the dance hall on the top (fourth) floor of the Grand Opera House block. Three alarms were turned in by 1:30, bringing every piece of equipment the fire dept.had and fireman they could find. It burned its way to the scenery loft above the stage, and soon the falling and flaming scenery drapes ignited the stage. By 1:50, the roof had collapsed. The red sandstone exterior blocks were three feet thick, and withstood the water and the weather. Oh, and we mention it was 22 degrees below zero that night?

    Above is the picture the next day, with ice everywhere. The frigid temperatures froze hoses to the ground, and two firemen ended up with frostbite. After the fire was out, they had to pull the frozen hoses behind the trucks back to the fire station to thaw out, before they were able to wash and hang the hose. They fought the fire from the Federal Building and Post Office across the alley (to the right in the above picture), pulling hoses up the interior of the building, stationing two in windows and one hose line on the roof.

    The entrance to the Grand Opera House after the fire. Look again at the picture above of the entrance, and then this one. Below is the 4th Street side of the Opera Block, at left with a few firemen resting, and right is closer view.



Central Block Building Fire

August 29, 1953

    Above is a post card of the Central Block Building around 1910. This view has Main St. running to the left and 1st St. running to the right. To the left of the Central Block Building is where the Standard Paint and Glass Co. would be housed in 1953. To the right is the McCarthy Building.

    Built in 1890 out of red sandstone, the Central Block building was designed with a large court in the center, running the entire five stories of the building. There were 160 offices located in the building in 1953. The building had just had its outside sandblasted the year before, and was in the process of modernizing.

     In the pre-dawn hours of August 29, 1953, a small fire broke out in the basement of the Standard Paint and Glass Co., at 114 W. 2nd Street. Within minutes the fire had spread to the first floor, then the second, which housed the Cosmipoliton Hotel. The wind fanned the flames, and soon the Central Block Building was on fire. Initially, all 35 firefighters on duty responded to the fire. Within 25 minutes of the first company's arrival, the roof collapsed, due in a large part to the open middle atrium of the building. Firemen on top of the Southern Colorado Power building were blown down when the roof of the Central Block collapsed. Pueblo Fire Captain C. C. Wood, on top of the Power Co. building at the time, was quoted as saying, "We started running fast. Don't know where, just fast."

    It was decided to take a defensive strategy, but the intense heat of the fire caught the McCarthy Building, across the alley from the Central Block on fire. This building housed the McCarthy Funeral Home on the first floor, and the Grand Hotel on the second and third floors. All the guests of the hotel were evacuated, and there were no bodies in the mortuary at the time. You can see the window of the second floor corner office, under the Central Block name. This was the office of the United Steelworkers of America. Inside the office was the original charter of the International Association of Fire Fighters (the I.A.F.F.), of which Pueblo was a founding member and chosen as Local No. 3. The union held their meetings in the Steelworkers union hall. The Steelworkers Union charter was also in this office. Both documents were rescued by the firefighters.

    There was one fatality in the fire. 88 year old O. G. Pope, an attorney with a small office and apartment on the third floor, was roused by the caretackers (Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Cross) of the Central Block Building when the fire in the Standard Paint building started to spread. Pope refused to leave his apartment, saying the fire was of no great proportion and wouldn't get into the Central Block. By the time the fire caught in the Central Block Building, it was too late to get Pope out. The building was valued at $1,000,000.

- Ice House Fire -

October 23, 2007