The fire broke out in the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ in The Liberties area of Dublin when a malt house and bonded warehouse went up in flames. The blaze narrowly missed a convent and a maternity hospital but engulfed the largely impoverished area of Dublin.
In this poor part of nineteenth-century Dublin, it wasn’t uncommon to have farm animals living either inside or outside these tenements. As a result, panic-ridden animals ran through the street and only added to the mayhem of lava-like whiskey running alongside them.
Dubliners ran through the streets with their pots, pans and even boots in an effort to scoop up as much of this flaming uisce beatha (Irish Gaelic for whiskey) as they could. As one paper noted: ‘Two corn-porters, named Healy and M’Nulty, were found in a lane off Cork-street, lying insensible, with their boots off, which they had evidently used to collect the liquor.
The Dublin Fire Brigade arrived, under the leadership of Captain James Robert Ingram, who had been a fire officer in the New York Fire Department, and was renowned for his “unconventional” strategies to control fires. On one occasion he had ordered his men to resist putting out a fire on a blazing ship in Dublin harbor, and asked the Royal Navy to sink it instead. Ingram knew that to pour water on the fire would be disastrous as the whiskey would float on top of it like petrol and spread the fire throughout the city.
Instead, he sent for soldiers and ordered them to pull up paving stones and pour a mixture of sand and gravel on the whiskey. But he soon realized that wouldn’t be enough as the whiskey started to seep through the sand. Horse manure. Heaps of it lay in depots around the city. Ingram ordered that it be brought to the Liberties by the cartload and shoveled back onto the streets, from where it had once come, to form dams. As the burning whiskey met the damp manure it was soaked up and the fire slowly began to subside.
In 2014, a new whiskey was released by Malone’s Whiskey Company in honor of this fire, known as The Flaming Pig, a liqueur whiskey with hand-crafted spices.
13 people lost their lives to the deadly fire, however not a single one to flames or burns. Instead, the cause of death was alcohol poisoning from drinking the hot manure-filtered whiskey from the dirty Dublin streets.