Denver Firefighters Museum documents timeline of big fires

DENVER -- In the early morning of April 19, 1863, a fire began in the heart of the downtown business district of Denver.

There was a lot of wind. It was very dry outside. There had not been a lot of rain so it spread from building to building. Pretty big, pretty fast.

Denver was only 5 years old then. It didn’t even have a fire department. So who put out the fire?

It would have been regular citizens. They would have had buckets in their homes and businesses, and they would have filled them with water and they would have run out and tossed them on the fire.

Lessons were learned. Three years later, the first volunteer fire department was formed and new building codes were created.

The most important code: No more pine in downtown building construction.

They started building new structures out of stone and brick.

In 1962, there was a four-alarm fire at 17th and Stout streets where 150 firefighters and 26 trucks were needed to put it out.

One person was killed, a hotel waitress. She was in the basement, in a dressing room. She died from smoke inhalation.

Fast forward to Wednesday when a huge black column of smoke signaled the beginning of another dangerous fire in the Mile High City.

The lesson learned: No matter how advanced the firefighting techniques become, huge fires will still happen and will still need to be fought by brave men and women.