In 1915 in Langres, a disaster happened which changed the landscape of the town and its cultural life for many long years: the fire at the theater.
It was in this theater with its majestic décor that a public rehearsal took place for the first time on 16th August 1915. It was given by military actors before officers and their families who were watching a patriotic play « His Son » and a comedy « The Good Doctor ». After an enjoyable evening, they left the theater at around half past midnight. A short time later, a neighbour gave the alert and watched from his home as the disaster began. Soon the alarm bells rang out over the whole town and help arrived on the scene.
Unfortunately measures to reduce water consumption and waste in the particularly hot summer of 1915 held back their intervention. When water did finally arrive, it was already too late to save the building. The rescue party concentrated on the neighbouring houses to avoid the fire spreading. A team of soldiers, police officers and gendarmes surrounded the site of the fire.
Le Spectateur dated 22nd August gave a detailed account of the catastrophe: « At around half past one, a terrible noise was heard; it was the roof of the theater and the chandelier which collapsed throwing millions of sparks out into the sky. The sight was magnificent in its horror. Almost the whole town was lit up by the reflection of the flames, and in the air a kind of luminous mist floated forming a halo which must have been visible from a great distance. »
In the face of the size of the fire, the neighbourhood has to be evacuated. So « Light infantrymen and foot soldiers tried to save the furniture, and the sight of these hasty removals in the night was lamentable » (En Avant, 22 August 1915). Furniture was deposited on the pavement, cars had to be taken out from the neighbouring garage which was touched by the flames, and cans of petrol and oil from the nearby grocery store « La Ménagère ». Some untrustworthy people took the opportunity to help themselves to objects left standing in the street. At 4 o'clock in the morning, the fire was under control, but only the walls of the theater remained.
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