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Spokane Falls, which would later become Spokane, was devastated by fire in 1889. Due to problems with a pump station, the city had no water pressure during the fire. Firefighters were reduced to demolishing buildings with dynamite to isolate the flames. Thirty-two blocks were completely destroyed.

Superintendent of Waterworks Rolla A. Jones was found blameless in the investigation that followed, but he resigned regardless. The disaster sparked a wave of safety legislation, including prohibiting wooden buildings in the downtown area, establishing a professional fire department, and pushing for the installation of new, electric fire alarms.