St. John's two years before the fire.
Government and insurance officials recognized that St. John's was at risk of a large-scale fire long before the 1846 disaster. Houses and commercial buildings lined narrow downtown streets, while merchants' premises crowded the waterfront. Most structures were built of wood and there were few firebreaks.
From D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial, and Foreign Records. 2nd edition. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896. 458. Print.