The Harford Circus Fire occurred in July of 1944 in Hartford, Connecticut. Between 7,500 and 8,700 people had attended the circus show that ended in a fire. Of that number, over one hundred died in the fire. Emmett Kelly, a clown, tried to put out the fire that was spreading across the canvas with a bucket of water, but the fire was too quick for the small amount of good he could do.
Sadly, of the 168 people who died, most of them would have been able to escape if they had remembered one simple fact: to escape all they needed to do was duck under the edges of the canvas because they were under a tent. This small bit of common sense could have made a huge difference. This should be a reminder to always try to stay calm and not panic in these types of situations.
Later investigations found Ringling Brothers negligible for not fireproofing the tent, and several executives went to jail. One of the survivors, Charles Nelson Reilly, an actor and director who had been thirteen during the fire, used it as part of his stage show, "The Life of Reilly". Reilly did not attend many plays despite his position as a director because the crowds reminded him of the day of the circus fire.