On Good Friday fire engulfed New Orleans, leaving four-fifths of the town in ruins. The conflagration began at a private home, where candles burning unattended ignited the curtains. Church bells were customarily used to alert citizens to a fire, but, according to one account, local priests balked at ringing the bells on a holy day, thus preventing timely containment of the blaze. Driven by a robust south wind, the fire spread quickly. New Orleans had no official firefighting force, only soldiers and samaritans armed with water buckets; in the end, 854 of her 1,100 buildings were destroyed.