• GreatFireof1817-for-2021

Event Category: Community Events and Educational Events

  • The Belgian Heritage Center will host three days of programming as a Remembrance of the 150th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1871.  The fires on that day devastated the landscape on both sides of the bay of Green Bay including a large part of the Belgian settlement area in Door, Brown, and Kewaunee Counties.  The fire forever changed the lives of the Belgian settlers and influenced the region for generations.  This is a story of courage, suffering and rebuilding lives after one of the worst natural disasters in United States history.

    The event will begin on Friday, October 8, 2021 which is the anniversary of the fire, with a solemn remembrance vigil.  On Saturday, October 9, 2021 there will be a premier the Great Fire Video which concentrates on how the fire impacted the Belgian settlers.

    In addition, Barb (Englebert) Chisholm will reprise her re-enactment of her great grandmother, Emmerence (Gaspard) Englebert’s story of survival.

    Following the video, David Siegel, Captain with the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, will present “Understanding the Realities of the Great Fires of 1871.” Author, Virginia Feld Johnson, will be on hand to discuss her new book, When the Night Rained Fire: October 8, 1871, Kewaunee County and the Great Fire.  

    The Brussels, Union-Gardner Fire Department will have their trucks on site at the BHC for children and adults to tour.

    On Sunday, October 9, 2021 the re-enactment story will be repeated along with showings of the new video.

    The schedule of events includes:

    Friday, October 8, 2021 (the anniversary of the fire) 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm 

    Remembrance Vigil including:

    • Prayer of Remembrance with Father Edward Looney
    • Reading by Door County’s Poet Laureate, Mike Orlock
    • Candle lighting accompanied by prayers in the Walloon language
    • Tolling of the church bells in the BHC

    The Belgian Heritage Center will be tolling its bells at the conclusion of the remembrance vigil at 6:30 pm on Friday October 8 in remembrance of the lives lost and challenges faced by survivors.  Area churches affected by the Great Fire of 1871 have been invited to do the same. 

    A similar bell ringing will occur in Peshtigo at 8:00 pm on that date.  


    Saturday, October 9,  2021   9:00am – 1:00pm

    • 9:00 am – 1:00 pmBrussels-Union-Gardner (BUG) Fire Department fire trucks on site
    • 10:00 am Reenactment of the experiences of a fire survivor
    • 11:00 am Premier of the Great Fire video; also shown until 3:00 pm on request
    • 11:30 Presentation by David Siegel, Captain, Green Bay Metro Fire Department
    • Author Virginia Feld Johnson


    Sunday, October 10,  2021 10:00am – 3:00pm

    • 10:00 am Reenactment of the experiences of a fire survivor
    • 10:45m Showing of the Great Fire video; also shown on request until 3:00 pm


    The Belgian Heritage Center is located at 1255 County Road DK, Brussels (on the curve in Namur near the historical markers).  For more information on the Belgian Heritage Center, you may visit www.belgianheritagecenter.org.

    If any questions, please contact:

    • Barb Chisholm – mschis1946@gmail.com, 920-493-5969
    • Sandy Orsted – sorsted@hoffman.net, 920-574-7396
    • Ann Jinkins – jinkins.ann@gmail.com, 920-743-1189
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  • Venue:

    Belgian Heritage Center
    1255 County RD DK
    Brussels, WI