Fires and Urban Planning in Yangon (1841-1857) – 4/ Fire in 1857: Fire Safety in Business Area and Law Enforcement

For the fire occurred in 1857, from the conclusion on the use of grass-thatch as roofing, law prohibiting the use of the flammable building material was enforced.

Reflecting on the proposal by Dr William Montgomerie and Lieutenant A. Fraser, brick buildings were planned in the civic and business area near the River only, and temporary bamboo huts were built as shelters by the general public.1 The major public market Surati Bazaar was also destroyed by the fire in 1857 and rebuilt.2 Besides, it is hinted that the proposal on water system as one of the fire safety measures was applied to private enterprise only.

‘Progress in the erection of public buildings was also somewhat slow, though the construction of sound buildings was very necessary in a town which being built largely of timber, was peculiarly liable to fires of an extensive nature. Thus although the fire of December 1855 had done much damage, another fire which occurred in October 1857 and destroyed two blocks of buildings including the Surati Bazaar, was reported to be due to the use of grass-thatch as roofing, the rules prohibiting the employment of such material not having been enforced. Measures were thereafter taken for the enforcement of the law; but Rangoon remained lacking in fire-fighting appliances, though the need had been foreseen by Montgomerie and Fraser, both of whom had proposed to establish a water-system that would feed fire-engines. The employment of such mechanism was left entirely to private enterprise, and when fires occurred Rangoon was dependent on such assistance as the engines of the rice and timber mills could give.’

(Pearn, 1939, p.200)

1. Bertie Reginald Pearn, History of Rangoon (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), p.196.
2. Pearn, History of Rangoon, p.226.


Pearn, Bertie Reginald. History of Rangoon. (Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press, 1939).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.