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The Gillingham Fire Demonstration – Top 10 Bizarre Disasters

The Gillingham Fire Demonstration

The Gillingham Fire Demonstration

Every year the firemen of Gillingham, in Kent, England, would construct a makeshift ‘house’ out of wood and canvas for the popular fire-fighting demonstration at the annual Gillingham Park fête. Every year, too, a few local boys were selected from many aspirants to take part in the charade. On July 11, 1929, nine boys – aged 10 to 14 – and six firemen costumed as if for a wedding party, climbed to the third floor of the ‘house’. The plan was to light a smoke fire on the first floor, rescue the ‘wedding party’ with ropes and ladders, and then set the empty house ablaze to demonstrate the use of the fire hoses. By some error, the real fire was lit first. The spectators, assuming the bodies they saw burning were dummies, cheered and clapped, while the firemen outside directed streams of water on what they knew to be a real catastrophe. All 15 people inside the house died.