The Nurse - Fire!

Setting the Scene

Cobalt's first nurse, Mrs. Annie Saunders, was left homeless a month after her arrival when a dynamite explosion destroyed her house.

A photograph of a miner sitting on dynamite boxes at the Nipissing mine.

Miner sitting on dynamite boxes

Dynamite was so common that many people built their homes out of discarded dynamite boxes. Accidents were inevitable.

A photograph of blasting activity in Cobalt, 1904

Blasting, Cobalt, 1904

Fires were common in Cobalt, fueled by hasty construction and overcrowding. In 1909, a massive fire started in Joe Lee's New York Café. It quickly spread through the crowded alleyways that were crammed with garbage and debris.

The volunteer Cobalt Fire Department was not equipped to deal with a fire of this magnitude. They were short of fire hoses and the fire engine had no horses to pull it!

A photograph of the fire cart outside of the Cobalt Fire Department

Cobalt Fire Department, ca. 1909

At one point, firefighters tried dynamiting some houses that were in the fire's path in order to turn the blaze back on itself; the explosion simply started more fires and one man was killed in the blast.

"The dead man, a foreigner, was blown up with a building being destroyed by dynamite to check the flames. Warnings were shouted to him, but he did not understand English, and received the full blast of the explosion."

- Manitoba Free Press, Saturday, July 3, 1909

A photograph of the dynamiting of building during the 1909 fire in Cobalt to try and stop progress of fire.

Dynamiting of buildings to stop the progress of fire, July 2, 1909

The fire raged through the mining camp for several hours, leaving half the town a desolate wasteland.

A photograph of Haileybury Road showing the devastation of the fire, July 1909.

The aftermath of the fire, Haileybury Road (now Lang Street), July 1909