Vancouver Is Ashes

By (author): Lisa Anne Smith

On the morning of June 13, 1886, a rogue wind fanned the flames of a small clearing fire-and within five hours, the newly incorporated city of Vancouver, British Columbia, had been reduced to smoldering ash. Vancouver is Ashes: The Great Fire of 1886 is the first detailed exploration of what happened on that pivotal, yet seldom revisited day in the history of Canada’s third-largest city. Lisa Anne Smith tells the story with numerous archival photographs. She uses eye-witness accounts to describe flames sweeping down wooden sidewalks “faster than a man could run,” houses that were constructed of freshly milled lumber, which virtually exploded in the onslaught, as well as hair-breadth escapes of Vancouver citizens from all walks of life. She records how two businessmen lying face-down in a patch of gravel bid each other goodbye, while a young married couple cling to a makeshift raft, and a mother and her children cower in fear beneath a stable blanket in a shallow ditch. Strange, often unlikely stories emerge in the aftermath, such as the pile of ice discovered amidst the burned out wreckage and the near-miraculous survival of a downtown hotel. Ramifications of the catastrophe that continued into the days, months and years following are examined, resulting in some surprisingly positive, as well as negative conclusions. Part proceeds from sales of Vancouver is Ashes are being donated to the Vancouver Firefighters’ Charitable Society.


Lisa Anne Smith

Lisa Anne Smith was born in Burnaby, B.C. and has been an avid fan of B.C. history for much of her life. She is a longtime education docent at the Museum of Vancouver and is a member of Native Daughters of B.C., owners/operators of Old Hastings Mill Store Museum, Vancouver’s oldest building. Over the last five years, she has done extensive research in the archives on Vancouver’s great fire of 1886, which is now seeing publication with Ronsdale Press as Vancouver Is Ashes in 2014. Her published books include Our Friend Joe: The Joe Fortes Story (Ronsdale Press, 2012) and Travels with St. Roch: A Book for Kids (2001). Lisa lives in Vancouver with her husband, two grown children, and Sunny, the world’s least intelligent but most loveable golden retriever.


“An engaging page turner. This is how history should be written.” – John Atkin
“This is wonderful! To feel like you were there during the fire, read this. I mean it. READ THIS BOOK.” – Mike McCardell, author of Haunting Vancouver
“An inspired, evocative weave of survivors’ terrifying first-hand accounts, meticulous research and powerfully vivid prose. It’s the Vancouver history book we have all been waiting for.” – James Johnstone, Vancouver historian


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200 Pages
9in * 6in * .4in


April 30, 2014


Ronsdale Press



Book Subjects:

HISTORY / Canada / Post-Confederation (1867-)

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