Austin Fire Museum - Preserving The History And Traditions Of The Austin Fire Department.

1881 Capitol Fire









Texas’ first permanent Capitol Building was built in 1853-55.  As the years went by, the building became worn and dilapidated.  By the late 1870s, the Texas Legislature had already begun the process of drafting up plans for a new Capitol Building.

On November 9, 1881 a state employee requested a wood burning stove for his office due to the incoming winter weather.  The stove pipe was connected to an existing flue in the office.  Unfortunately, the technician did not investigate the existing flue for damage, he just assumed it was safe and complete.  On the first lighting of the stove, a fire developed in the walls of the old, dry, wooden interior of the structure.

The 1853 Capitol Building resided on the same hill as the current Capitol, but the nearest fire hydrant was 700 feet downhill from the Capitol.  By the time the members of Washington Fire Company #1 and Colorado Fire Company #2 laid their lines the hose streams were a mere trickle.  Fortunately, members of the legislature saved many important, historical paintings and documents of Early Texas History.  On the other hand, many other documents and artifacts of history were incinerated within the building.  Several ranking members of the Volunteer Austin Fire Department were on scene within minutes, including John Bremond, Jr., because they worked several hundred feet away in the Texas General Land Office.











Capitol Fires have plagued the Texas buildings throughout their history.  The building that served as the Temporary Texas Capitol Building from 1881-1887 while the current Capitol was being built, burned to the ground in 1899.  In 1983, the current Texas Capitol Building had a devastating fire that almost risked loosing the whole building and resulted in a civilian fatality.