Analysis of the Impact Theory
Richard Bales is from Aurora, Illinois. He has
spent six years researching and writing The Cause of the
Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O'Leary's Cow, to be
published in the Fall of 2002 by McFarland
Publishing Company. He has very generously agreed to share a
portion of his work here.
film director Mel Waskin contends in his book Mrs. O'Leary's
Comet (1985) that a comet called Biela II caused not only
the Chicago Fire but also huge conflagrations in Peshtigo,
Wisconsin and Manistee, Michigan. Although Waskin gets an
"A" for originality, his work fails to pass serious
muster as a well-reasoned treatise explaining the fire's cause.
notes that fireman Michael W. Conway testified at the inquiry
about seeing blue flames in basements. Conway also remarked that
it appeared as if whiskey and alcohol were burning. Waskin
suggests that cometary gases, which are heavier than air,
settled in the basements and took fire. He adds that these gases
are made up of methane and acetylene and that the components of
these substances are similar to the chemicals that make up
Waskin fails to mention that the commissioners implied that the
blue color might have been caused by the burning of natural gas.
Although this is possible, modern fire science indicates that
the blue color was probably caused by the burning of carbon
monoxide produced in the basements because of poor ventilation.