The fire gap and the greater durability of nineteenth century cities

L. E. Frost, E. L. Jones

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29 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses the economic and townscape effects of large-scale urban fires and the marked reduction of the problem in developed world cities during the nineteenth century. At that time a ‘fire gap’, or divergence between the increasing urban population and the falling absolute number of fires, demonstrably emerged. The paper outlines two processes - construction and rebuilding in less flammable materials, and increases in house lot size - which made for a more durable urban environment. This fortunate result, which in general owed little to the effects of urban planning and replanning, was largely a product of rising incomes. Examples are drawn from cities in Britain, North America, and Australia, and are contrasted with cities in the pre-modern Third World.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-347
Number of pages15
JournalPlanning Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes

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