The Kent City Fire
Kent County, Michigan
(Grand Rapids Herald, Sunday, April 22, 1907)

The fire, which occurred on April 22, 1907, was caused by a Pere Marquette Railroad locomotive sending sparks to the roof of Fullerís Furniture Store. The wind was gusting to 40 miles per hour and whipped the sparks into an inferno which devoured most of the downtown of Kent City.

The town settled in 1848, was unincorporated with no fire department. It left half the village of about 400 people in ruins and 25 families homeless. Surprisingly, no one was hurt.

Neva Saurís family, who was eight years old at the time, lived above her fatherís store, A. H. Saur, on the northeast corner of Muskegon and Main streets. They kept wet blankets on the store. That building is no Master Supply Company, 7 East Muskegon Street, one of the few remaining in Kent City from the time period.

There was virtually nothing but ashes left between the railroad tracks and Muskegon Street, charring about 100 acres. The fire jumped to outlying farms, burning down fences nearly a mile and a half away. Thirty-three buildings burned to the ground. The estimated damages were $57,750. Among the buildings destroyed were Kent City Hotel, Fullerís Furniture Store, Kent City Exchange Bank, the post office, a Methodist church, the railroad depot, town hall, eight homes, which did not include those living above commercials businesses.

By the time firefighters and equipment arrived by special train, the worst of the danger was over. The firefighters spent five hours pouring water on smoldering fires, drawing the water from a creek dammed an hour before their arrival.

The town became Tent City for a while as people sought to keep businesses operating. Within two years Kent City incorporated as a village. By the 1920ís there was little to show where the fire had been. Businesses were thriving again.

Created: 22 November 2007