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The Great Fire of Reykjavík

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Written by Elin de Ruyter

You may have heard of the Great Fire of London in 1666, or the Great Fire of Paris in 1897, which is now featured in the new Netflix TV series, ‘The Bonfire of Destiny’, but have you ever heard of the Great Fire of Reykjavík?

black and white photo of several buildings in Reykjavík, burning in the great fire of 1915
Great Fire of Reykjavík, 1915

On the 27th of April, 1915 at 3 o´clock in the morning guests were just leaving a Wedding celebration at Hotel Reykjavík on Austurstræti when they noticed a fire in the hotel. This fire became the biggest and most destructive fire that Reykjavík has ever seen. In a matter of hours, Hotel Reykjavík burned to the ground and then spread to neighbouring buildings, consuming a total of ten houses including Landsbankinn and Edinborg and partially burning others. Nearly all these buildings were made from timber. Sadly, two people died: a worker from the hotel who was asleep in his room at the time and a gentleman trying to save his house.

It was believed that the fire started in Room 28 of the hotel by a gas oil lamp, which were commonly used for lighting during those years. Many say that it was this disaster that spurred Reykjavík into becoming a city. Only about 14,000 people lived in Reykjavík at the time. Because of this event building regulations were changed and more money and thought was put into the Reykjavik Fire Brigade to improve who they hired, how they fought fires and the equipment they used.

For a more detailed account of the Great Fire of Reykjavík you can watch the video below, featuring images from the period by Radio Iceland.

Were any of your ancestors living in Reykjavík in 1915 when this historical event occurred?



Photo Sources:

Photographer: Magnús Ólafsson (1862-1937) taken from the blog written on 25/04/2015 BRUNINN Í REYKJAVÍK 1915:


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