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Chicago Building Permits Digital Collection 1872-1954

Fire Reports, June 1933 - December 1968

The Chicago Building Permits Collection also contains 12 ledgers of fire reports from 1833 to 1968.  Starting from the Chicago Building Permits Collection, select City of Chicago Fire Reports, then select the reel that covers the date you are interested in.


Important to Know

  • There is no overall street index to the fire report ledgers.  Each ledger begins with a handwritten index for that ledger.  
  • To find the history of fires at a known address, you must look up that address 12 times. See the table below for the starting pages for every fire report index.
  • The first volume of fire reports shares a reel with a Building Permit Ledger book.  To get to the first fire reports, select Fire Reports: Jun 19, 1933-Apr 23, 1951, then scroll ahead to page 181.
  • The Fire Report reels often contain 3 ledgers.


Fire Report Index Locations

Reel UID Title Dates Index start
CBPC_FR_01 Fire Reports 1933-1945 p. 182
CBPC_FR_01 Fire Reports 1945-1951 p. 465
CBPC_FR_02 Fire Reports Sep 1951 - Mar 1956 p. 4
CBPC_FR_02 Fire Reports Book 3 Apr 1956 - Feb 1957 p. 288
CBPC_FR_03 Fire Reports Book 4 Feb 1957 - Dec 1957 p. 4
CBPC_FR_03 Fire Reports Book 5 Jan 1958 - Jul 1958 p. 285
CBPC_FR_03 Fire Reports Book 6 Jul 1958 - Jun 1959 p. 566
CBPC_FR_04 Fire Reports Book 7 Jun 1959 - Aug 1960 p. 4
CBPC_FR_04 Fire Reports Book 8 Aug 1960 - Jan 1962 p. 288
CBPC_FR_04 Fire Reports Book 9 Jan 1962 - May 1965 p. 569
CBPC_FR_05 Fire Reports Book 10 May 1965 - Nov 1966 p. 4
CBPC_FR_05 Fire Reports Book 11 Nov 1966 - Dec 1968 p. 284

NOTE: The Index start page refers to the page number in Digital Reel.  You can click on the page number at the top of the screen, type in the desired page number and jump to that page.


Using the Fire Report Street Indexes

The handwritten fire report indexes devote a page or two for each letter of the alphabet.  In some cases a street name may appear on the wrong page, if its proper page was running out of room.  In the example below, there is an index entry for Ashland Ave. on the "B" index page.

The page numbers that are reported in the index are the page numbers stamped in the upper left and upper right corners of the page images on the microfilm.  They do not correspond to the page numbers on the reel that Digital Reel reports.

The addresses are not listed in order within each alphabetic page.  You will need to scan the page carefully to find a specific address.


Finding a Fire Report

Use the VIEW FILM feature to scroll ahead in the reel, pausing to pay attention to the page numbers as shown on the images.  You may need to select a page, then Zoom in to see the page numbers.  Be careful not to scroll ahead into the next Fire Report ledger book.  Here is the fire report  for that entry on Ashland.  Note that there is a slight discrepancy in the street address between the index and the actual report. 


Interpreting Fire Reports

The format of the fire report forms does not change significantly over time.  Some of the terminology changes, and a couple of fields get added, but there are no major changes to interpreting the reports.

The reports are rarely filled in completely.  The most common information conveyed is:

  • Address
  • Date
    • There are two dates that can be recorded, the date of the inspection and the date of the actual fire.
    • The fire date will be reported in the lower right hand corner of the form, where the beginning digits of the year "19" are printed
    • The inspection date will appear after the word "Inspected".
  • Owner name
  • Cause of fire
  • Amount of damage (expressed in the percentage of the property damaged)
  • Type of Construction, i.e. whether the structure is wood, brick or another material.  Older forms express this as "Whether Brick or Frame", with "Frame" indicating a wood building. You may see the term "Ord" here. This is assumed to mean "Ordinary construction". This is a term firefighters use to indicate buildings with non-combustible (masonry, brick) external walls, but combustible (wood) interior frames or beams.

Noteworthy or large fires may have several entries in the report ledgers, with one entry for each address impacted.  Below is the first of 39 separate reports for buildings on Halsted St. and Exchange Ave. for the May 19, 1934 Union Stock Yards Fire.


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