On the evening of February 7, 1904, Brigadier General Lawrason Riggs, Commander of the Maryland National Guard's First Brigade, hurried to Baltimore's ornate city hall on Holliday Street for an urgent meeting with George M. Upshur, president of the Board of Police Commissioners. These men faced a crisis: Baltimore's central business district was in flames and the conflagration was rapidly spreading. Unlike an earlier fire in 1873, this blaze had thwarted all attempts to check its progress and city officials were faced with a devastated city in chaos. An overwhelmed fire department had already appealed to outlying fire districts for help, but Riggs and Upshur were meeting to decide on more important measures to contain the imminent danger and establish order during what promised to be a difficult period of recovery. They decided to call out the Maryland National Guard. The decision would prove fateful. Over 2,000 guardsmen served with distinction under extreme conditions during the Great Fire and its aftermath. The actions of the Guard wrote a new chapter in the history of Maryland's militia, eventually leading to the establishment of a more professional organization capable of responding to any crisis, civil or military.