A Grand Rapids Press article dated October 5, 1938 describes the composition as having been painted in the nineties and depicting a fire on a rainy night being watched by a crowd of drably garbed men and women. Despite the attribution of the painting to the 1890s, the fire scene Alten actually captured was likely the the extensive fire that took place on April 3, 1905. Dwight Goss' "History of Grand Rapids and its Industries" 1906, noted that "The entire stock of Morse's large department store was ruined or badly damaged."
The George Morse collection, 1938, present location unknown
Mathias Alten Memorial Exhibition
Grand Rapids Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Mathias Alten Memorial Exhibition October 4th - October 31, 1938.
Goss, Dwight, "Chapter XIII Grand Rapids Fire Department" in History of Grand Rapids & Its Industries, Vol. 1 (Chicago, Il: C. F. Cooper & Co., 1906) , pg.555.