A few minutes before 10 p.m. on January 15, 1895, a signal came into the Butte fire department from call box 72 indicating a fire near Utah and Iron Streets. Firefighters rushed to the scene in horse-pulled carts and began fighting the fire in the Kenyon-Connell Warehouse. Shortly afterward there was a small explosion in the warehouse. The men drew back, but after nothing significant occurred they resumed their positions, not knowing that tons of dynamite were illegally stored in the warehouse. The warehouse then exploded with such force that it blew shrapnel miles away, broke out windows throughout the city, and killed all those at the site. Civilians were awakened from their slumber and came running to help. The fire jumped to the Butte Hardware Company warehouse, which also held massive amounts of dynamite. It exploded in short order. Ultimately, 58 lives were lost in the Great Explosion of 1895.
Because of this catastrophe, the Montana State Firemen’s Association fought for better life insurance for its members, and today still has one of the best policies in the state of Montana. Butte Mayor William Thompson instated an ordinance in the spring of 1895 prohibiting explosive materials from being stored within three miles of city limits.
Over time this disaster faded from the memories of the citizens of Butte. In 2015, however, a group of citizens came together to create a memorial for the lives lost that terrible night. The memorial was completed in 2023 and can be seen at the Butte Fire Department Station #1, on the corner of Mercury and Idaho Streets.
Dave BraatenButte Historical Memorials