Fifteen people were killed in 1929 when firefighters attempted to show off their skills and purposefully set a building on fire.
It has come to be known as the Gillingham Fair fire disaster. On 11 July, 1929, firefighters in Gillingham, Kent, England attempted to demonstrate their abilities by setting a building with nine boys and six firemen on fire and then rescuing them. Unfortunately, it went badly wrong. In the 1920’s, a fair was organized in Gillingham every year to raise funds for a local hospital and a house was constructed of wood and canvas forty feet high for a fire demonstration.
It was staged as a wedding reception, in which two firemen would dress as a bride and groom when the building caught on fire. Their “guests” were other firemen and boys recruited from local naval cadets who waited to be rescued. Usually, the fire was not formally started until the building was completely evacuated, but in 1929, everything went badly wrong.
Fifteen people, nine boys and six men, entered the wooden structure in the anticipation of being rescued, however instead of the false fire that began the show starting, the actual fire was triggered. To this day the reasons why the fire started are unknown, but what is known is that flames took hold of the building and spread extremely quickly, trapping all occupants inside.
The spectators did not realize anything had gone wrong and continued to watch eagerly and even applauded because it looked so real. The fire was extinguished within a few minutes, but had been so intense thirteen people died at the scene. Two victims were initially rescued, but later died from injuries.