WHO IS THE ENGINEER WHO TOOK THE FALL FOR THE GREAT SPOKANE FIRE?
New Historical Fiction Takes on A Cold Case
SPOKANE, Wash., Feb. 24, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — What do water systems, Spokane, Washington, and a lack of new engineers have in common?
According to the ACSE, the shortage of civil engineers combined with dwindling interest from students will create a need for about 25,000 engineers a year for the rest of this decade. With engineers in such short supply, some wonder how this once thriving career is now struggling to find interest. One factor that creates the lack of interest is the profession’s history of seeing engineers publicly alienated.
A glaring example is the first water system designed and built for Spokane Falls, Washington by Rolla A. Jones in 1884. This large engineering project was the bedrock of Jones’ work but, when a large-scale fire overtook downtown in 1889, destroying 32 square blocks, his reputation was sullied.
Though much of Spokane was rebuilt in two years, the aftermath of this catastrophe destroyed the astounding engineering legacy he was building. With so much of the blame and outrage pinned on Jones, he had to shamefully resign. The city council ordered an investigation which proved his innocence in the fire, but, still to this day, reporters use Rolla A. Jones as a scapegoat for this inevitable disaster.
Almost 140 years after the incident ruined Jones’ life, his great-granddaughter, Mitzi Zilka, has written a riveting historical fiction story in an effort to restore his legacy. When asked why she wanted to write this retelling she said, “Being scapegoated for a fire that could not have been extinguished with the technology available at the time was forever painful for him and his family. My grandmother would often bristle whenever the subject was brought up.” Many accounts of Jones and the Great Fire disregarded his family, but, in this accurate account, we see the tragedy ravage his wife, Sadie, as well.
This fictional story brings to life a once beloved historical figure, gives a voice to a family left fighting for the truth to be known, and works to defend the great legacy of an engineering icon.
Water Fire Steam by Mitzi Zilka is available now online and at local bookstores.
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SOURCE Mitzi Zilka
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