The Worst Fire in the History of Expo 67

Be careful where you leave your cigarette butts…

By Carmen Desmeules (translated by Emilie Gosselin)

Photo credit – City of Montreal Archives

On May 30, 1967 at Expo 67, a fire crawls over the Nationalist China Pavilion.

The Ambassador of Formosa (the former name for the island of Taiwan) declares: “No obstacle will keep us from participating at Expo 67 and celebrating with you the Canadian Centennial.” The pavilion, the interior of which is completely destroyed, is to be rebuilt and reopened on Friday, June 30, to the delight of the Chinese citizens.

It seems that the fire would have been caused by a cigarette butt left in a theatre room.

It was by far the worst fire on site during the Exhibition. Only the roof and exterior walls were spared. In the afternoon, an alarm is sounded for a bomb threat near the Cuban pavilion. Not long afterwards, they assess that there will be no victims nor damages.

For statistics: out of a total of 8 300 incidents on site, one suicide attempt is recorded, as well as 50 people who fell in the water, 321 false alarms, 39 bomb threats, 345 hospitalizations, one birth and 20 natural deaths. The fire department contained 216 fires, including the major one at the Nationalist China Pavilion.

Sources: Library and Archives Canada

To find out more about Expo 67, read this article