Candlelight vigil held on 100th anniversary of Great Fire of New Bern

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) -It is known by many as the worst fire in North Carolina history.

“This fire was life-changing, it was tragic and absolutely life-changing,” said Marissa Moore, Historic New Bern Program Director. “New Bern was unrecognizable 100 years ago today.”

On the morning of December 1, 1922, two fires started in New Bern at about the same time. One at an old lumber yard and the other in a chimney nearby.

Winds were high that day, causing both to combine and begin spreading across more than forty blocks of the city.

The fire destroyed many streets and roads, leaving more than 3,000 people without a place to live.

New Bern Fire Chief Robert Boyd’s parents were living when the fire happened, which is why he said he’ll never forget.

“The thing that really resonates with us is the displacement of people and people having to live in this tent city for months,” Boyd said. “You feel the temperature out here tonight, it’s cool so imagine having to live in a tent after you’ve been out of your comfortable home.”

On a cool Thursday night 100 years later, people gathered for a candlelight remembrance.

The fire happened on a Friday during football season and New Bern High School was in the state championship at the time.

The game was held in Raleigh and the majority of the city’s firefighters left to attend, but while they were there the fire was happening.

“Most of them had gone to the game because they had family members playing or whatever so everyone was there,” Boyd said. “We had fire departments from all over Eastern North Carolina come in. We had Wilmington, Kinston, Washington, and we had Down East. All kinds of fire departments.”

It was a fire that impacted New Bern for many decades, forever known as the Great Fire of 1922.

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