Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I became interested in fire history in 2008 when I was a graduate exchange student at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. It was in Rosalva Loreto López’s graduate seminar on urban environmental history where I first learned of this important...

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Introduction: Modernity and Its Accidents

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pp. 14-27

The simple combination of heat, oxygen, and fuel brings fire into living form. Its flames, the visible manifestation of fire, are capable of mesmerizing beauty and incalculable destruction. From the moment of its birth, fire fights for...

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1. Fighting Fire, Fighting Fear

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pp. 28-38

Stories of a gruesome fire in February 1866 circulated in the Mexico City press, provoking a collective sense of dread that lingered for several months. The fireworks shop on San Antonio Abad Street, which held a large supply of explosive powder, had...

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2. Science of Regulation

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pp. 39-50

Mexico City’s transformation into the “ciudad científica” began in the second half of the nineteenth century when, as historian Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo explains it, “the city and science acquired a scandalous coexistence.” He claims that the scientific...

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3. Controlling the Flames—The Fire Brigade

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pp. 51-66

During the first several decades of the nineteenth century, paid and trained firefighting brigades became fixtures in major metropolitan centers such as Paris, London, and Boston. This municipal service symbolized modern urban life and functioned...

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4. Engineering Safety

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pp. 67-91

In 1870, engineers investigated one of the biggest fire mysteries in the capital’s history. Residents awoke on the night of March 17 to the sound of ringing cathedral bells. The repeated clanging of the bells signaled that a fire had erupted and prompted...

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5. Inventing Protection

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pp. 92-124

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, the capital required more protection against fires than ever before, and public servants helped provide some of that protection. By 1900 Mexico City had experienced prosperous commercial development. It housed...

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6. Insuring Progress

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pp. 125-142

A popular anecdote retold among insurance agents begins with a stranger asking an insurance adjuster what he does for a living. The insurance adjuster quips that he is in the business of “buying ashes.”1 This humorous characterization of insurance...

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7. Healing the Hazardous City

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pp. 143-160

The final layer of the story of fire safety in Mexico City goes down to the level of the human body. Damaged lungs, infected wounds, scarred tissue, psychological trauma, and excruciating death can all follow exposure to flame or smoke.1 High injury and...

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Conclusion

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pp. 161-167

Fire’s survival requires that it gnaw away at the materials that make up the city—wood, cloth, floorboards, and shingles. Its unrelenting search for fuel can make its behavior erratic and cause it to spread quickly and without respect for traditional property boundaries...

Notes

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pp. 168-211

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 212-231

Index

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pp. 232-237

Back Cover

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