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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Cisterns Used/Not Used
San Francisco Fire Department
1906 Great Earthquake and Fire

CALIFORNIA & MASON STREETS: 20,000 gallons

April 18th

Then the cistern at California and Mason Sts. was made use of (Engine 12) in a desperate but unsuccessful effort to save the Hopkins Art Institute.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

DUPONT (now Grant Avenue) & BUSH STREETS: 29,000 gallons

April 18th

We next reported to Acting Chief Dougherty and were ordered to Bush and Dupont sts. [sic], where we connected to the hydrant on the North west corner. We were able to obtain a supply of water and led our line to the alley back of the California Theatre. The north west corner of Pine and Kearny streets was on fire, there was also a couple small fires back of the Cal Theatre. The wind was blowing so hard that the fire spread very rapidly and we were forced to move backward, it was here we lost some of our hose and came near losing our engine. We took up the remainder of our hose and moved to Sutter and Stockton sts. [sic], and after being ordered to move several time finally arrived at the quarters of engine # 5 at about 2 A. M. April 19th.

From the report of Captain Schmidt, Engine Co. No. 28, 301 Francisco Street, 1897 Truckson-LaFrance, 3rd-size, double, 500 GPM

DUPONT & CALIFORNIA STREETS CROSSINGS: 30,000 gallons

April 18th

At my suggestion Engine Company #28 proceeded to the cistern located at the Corner of California and Dupont Streets, and led a line of hose down the hill pumping the water contained in said cistern, amounting to about 35,000 gallons, into the cistern where Engine Company #2, was located.

From the report of Captain Brown, Engine Co. No. 2, 22 O'Farrell Street, 1904 Clapp & Jones 2nd-size, Double, 700 GPM

We then connected to the cistern at California and Dupont sts. [sic], & pumped same to the cistern at Montgomery and Cal., sts. [sic], and pumped all the water out of these cisterns.

From the report of Captain Schmidt, Engine Co. No. 28, 301 Francisco Street, 1897 Truckson-LaFrance, 3rd-size, double, 500 GPM

DUPONT & WASHINGTON STREETS: 25,000 gallons

April 18th (after 12 pm)

Engine #20 was moved from Sansome and Pacific to this cistern and pumped to the Oakland Engine where we led a stream to Clay and Kearny Streets and made a stand untilthese cisterns became empty.

From the report of Chief McCluskey, District No. 1

the available companies took suction from the cisterns at Montgomery and California Sts., Montgomery and Commercial and Pacific and Sansome Sts. When these were exhausted, they retired to the cisterns at Dupont and California and Dupont and Washington Sts. When all these cisterns were exhausted, while the fire was still advancing, these companies went up to Powell St.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

DUPONT & PACIFIC STREETS: 28,275 gallons

Later in the night of the 18th, or nearly in the morning of the 19th We moved to another cistern on Pacific and Dupont Streets, one engine located there and another at Stockton and Pacific Streets we led a line south along Dupont Street.  We stayed here until we were compelled to move as to the two cisterns holding respectively 25,000 to 28,000 gallons were empty.

From the report of Chief McCluskey, District No. 1

DUPONT & VALLEJO STREETS: 30,000 gallons

April 19th (in the afternoon)

I also ordered Engine #5 to this cistern, where they led a line down to Montgomery Ave., to try and prevent the fire from crossing Pacific Street.

From the report of Chief McCluskey, District No. 1

DUPONT & GREENWICH STREETS: 32,000 gallons

April 20th

The fire was then sweeping over Telegraph Hill rendering it impossible to reach the only unused cistern at Dupont and Greenwich Sts.,

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

POWELL & BROADWAY STREETS: 14,728 gallons

April 20th

Cisterns were used at Montgomery and Pacific, Dupont and Pacific, Stockton and Pacific, Stockton and Broadway, Powell and Broadway, Stockton and Vallejo and Dupont and Vallejo. A stream was also lead from a Government boat at Filbert St. pier to Broadway and Powell Sts., but without avail.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

MONTGOMERY & COMMERCIAL STREETS: 32,000 gallons

April 18th (in the morning)

After exhausting the supply in the cistern at Dupont and California, Engine Company #28 proceeded to the cistern located at the corner of Commercial and Montgomery Streets and pumped the water there-in contained into the cistern at California and Montgomery Streets.The members of Engine Companies Nos. 2 and 31 managed the line, doing great work, and prevented the fire from crossing Sansome Street at that point until about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when the fire advanced along Montgomery Street, from Sacramento Street, and we were compelled to abandon the cistern.

From the report of Captain Brown, Engine Co. No. 2, 22 O'Farrell Street, 1904 Clapp & Jones 2nd-size , double , 700 GPM

the available companies took suction from the cisterns at Montgomery and California Sts., Montgomery and Commercial and Pacific and Sansome Sts. When these were exhausted, they retired to the cisterns at Dupont and California and Dupont and Washington Sts. When all these cisterns were exhausted, while the fire was still advancing, these companies went up to Powell St.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

MONTGOMERY & CALIFORNIA STREETS: 32,000 gallons

April 18th

At this time, 7 A. M., we were ordered by Acting Chief Dougherty to take up a position at a cistern located at the Corner of California and Montgomery Streets  and pumped the water contained in this cistern into Engine Company #31, which was stationed at California and Sansome Streets.

From the report of Captain Brown, Engine Co. No. 2, 22 O'Farrell Street, 1904 Clapp & Jones 2nd-size , double , 700 GPM

the available companies took suction from the cisterns at Montgomery and California Sts., Montgomery and Commercial and Pacific and Sansome Sts. When these were exhausted, they retired to the cisterns at Dupont and California and Dupont and Washington Sts. When all these cisterns were exhausted, while the fire was still advancing, these companies went up to Powell St.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

PACIFIC & SANSOME STREETS: 30,000 gallons

April 18th, 10:00 am

Engine #20 takes the cistern and leads a line to an Oakland Engine at along Sansome to Washington Streets, where we started putting water on the fire for hours on the Appraisers Building and also on the building known as the Montgomery Block, stopping the fire at this point.  The cistern was emptied by this action.

From the report of Chief McCluskey, District No. 1

PACIFIC & MONTGOMERY STREETS: 30,000 gallons

April 19th

After a short time we received orders from A. Ruef to go to the cistern at Pacific and Kearny sts. [sic], we led our line down Montgomery ave., to Montgomery st., and assisted by Hose co., # I of Oakland and Chemical # 3 put up a hard fight and saved the Montgomery block. About 7 A. M. Thursday April 19th.

From the report of Captain Schmidt, Engine Co. No. 28, 301 Francisco Street, 1897 Truckson-LaFrance, 3rd-size, double, 500 GPM

STOCKTON & WASHINGTON STREETS: 25,000 gallons

April 18th  (in the afternoon)

I moved the Oakland Engine to Stockton and Washington Streets to a cistern and had them pump to the cistern at Washington and Dupont Streets where Engine #20 pumped it to Engine #31 at Washington and Kearny Streets, We worked for several hours and finally succeeded in saving the Hall of Justice, only to have it burn after we had left to head off the fire in another direction.

From the report of Chief McCluskey, District No. 1

STOCKTON & BROADWAY STREETS: 20,000 gallons

April 19th, the early morning of the 19th until late Thursday afternoon

We, Engine #20, Engine #31 and an Oakland engine, moved to this cistern leading a line along Stockton to the South where we worked trying to prevent the fire from along Stockton.

From the report of Chief McCluskey, District No. 1

STOCKTON & PACIFIC STREETS: 25,000 gallons

Later in the night of the 18th, or nearly in the morning of the 19th

We moved one engine to this cistern and  led a line south along Dupont Street.  We stayed here until we were compelled to move as to the two cisterns holding 28,000 gallons was empty.

From the report of Chief McCluskey, District No. 1

Our Engine was next ordered to Pacific and Stockton sts. [sic] where a fire was raging at that time. While we were in this vicinity the S. E. corner of Jackson and Stockton Sts., was dynamited. Batt. Chief McCluskey ordered Hose Co. #I of Oakland, with us, after we had pumped all the water from the cistern, to proceed to Stockton and Broadway. Here we did good work, and were able to stop the fire on the East side of Stockton at [sic] the Nymphia.

From the report of Captain Schmidt, Engine Co. No. 28, 301 Francisco Street, 1897 Truckson-LaFrance, 3rd-size, double, 500 GPM

STOCKTON & VALLEJO STREETS: 20,000 gallons

April 19th

In the meantime the fire was spreading over Russian Hill, and descending on the North Beach district. As there was not a drop of water in any of the mains, the companies were forced to resort to the remaining cisterns in that district, most of which had a capacity of only 20,000 gallons and were rapidly exhausted without materially checking the fire. Cisterns were used at Montgomery and Pacific, Dupont and Pacific, Stockton and Pacific, Stockton and Broadway, Powell and Broadway, Stockton and Vallejo and Dupont and Vallejo.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

FREMONT & MISSION STREETS: 20,000 gallons

We have not found a report of when, or by which company, this cistern was used.

1ST & FOLSOM STREETS: 29,000 gallons

April 18th (early in the morning)

Engine 35 soon took the cistern at Folsom and First Sts. and pumped to the other engines, and after this also was exhausted,

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

1ST AND HARRISON STREETS: 100,000 gallons

April 18th

Engine 35 retired to the cistern at First and Harrison Sts. The fire had reached such proportions, however, that this cistern also, although having a capacity of 100,000 gallons, was drained without checking it, and the companies were forced to go to the foot of Third St., where by draughting (sic) from the Bay, the fire was prevented from crossing Townsend St.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

2ND & FOLSOM STREETS: 51,000 gallons

April 18th (early in the morning)

When the fire broke out in the Chinese wash house on Howard St. near Third, Engine Co. 4, whose quarters were across the street, could obtain no water from the hydrant, and was obliged to go to the cistern at Folsom and Second Sts., from where a stream was obtained by doubling up with Engine 10. This cistern was soon exhausted.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

19TH  BETWEEN FOLSOM & SHOTWELL STREETS: 100,000 gallons

April 19th (Thursday, late in the evening)

By placing Engines #10 and 25 at a cistern on 19th and Shotwell Sts., we gave battle to the fire which was then sweeping along Mission St., between 19th and 20th Sts., and were successful in extinguishing the same at the N. E. Corner of Mission and 20th Sts.

From the report of Chief Conlon, District No. 9

At about 10 P. M. April 19th, we received instructions from Battalion Chief Conlon, to go to the cistern on 19th Street between Shotwell & Folsom Sts. With the aid of Engine No. 10, we led a second stream from this cistern up Capp St., towards Twentieth St. This stream stopped the fire from crossing Capp St., and saved the East side of the block. By connecting with several engines a line was extended from Twentieth & Church St. to Mission St., and a strong stream obtained. Another line was led from the cistern on 19th St. near Shotwell St., and with the aid of these two streams the fire was extinguished at this point on April 20th, at about six A. M.

From the report of Captain Radford, Engine Co. No. 25, 2547 Folsom Street, Amoskeag 2nd-size, Double, 700 GPM, Reg. #716

22ND & SHOTWELL STREETS: 100,000 gallons

April 18th (in the morning)

We (Engine #7 and Chief Waters) located a cistern at 22nd and Shotwell Sts, containing 100,000 Gals., and with the aid of Engine #24 which was stationed at 21st and Valencia Sts., we had the fire out in a short time.

From the report of Chief Waters, District No. 7

Cisterns Not Used

UNION & LEAVENWORTH STREETS: 20,000 gallons

April 20th

The fire was then sweeping over Telegraph Hill rendering it impossible to reach the only unused cistern at Dupont and Greenwich Sts., and the companies were forced to retire to the Seawall in a final effort to stay the conflagration.

From the report of 2nd Assistant Chief Shaughnessy

RAILROAD & 11TH AVENUE SOUTH STREETS
RAILROAD & 15TH AVENUE SOUTH STREETS

These two cisterns were quite a distance from the 1906 Fire Line.

RELATED ARTICLES

FIRE CISTERNS WERE SUCKED DRY, SAYS CHIEF MURPHY
SAYS DEPARTMENT KNEW WHERE THEY ALL WERE AND MADE USE OF EVERY ONE.
1906 June 5

A story that the Fire Department overlooked some water that might have saved property during the great fire is vexing its. members. The story is that water in several covered "reservoirs"—the firemen call them cisterns— that have been kept filled for years to meet emergencies was entirely overlooked — the firemen standing directly on top of it and only escaping, being drowning because the covers of the cisterns did not break under their weight.

"We used the water in every cistern that held any," said Battalion Chief Thomas Murphy yesterday. "Property owners may, rest assured that nothing thin enough to run through a hose was overlooked. We knew exactly where every cistern was and sucked everyone dry. Besides pumping this water on the fire, we used it In the boilers of the engines pumping water from the bay, as salt water can't be used in boilers.

A few of these emergency cisterns had been condemned and had not been filled for years. Three of these were at Filbert and Powell streets, Broadway and Dupont street, and Ohio street. They were built to hold about 30,000 gallons each, but in later years had become sieves, and could not be filled. I superintended the pumping out of all the cisterns in the commercial district myself. Chief McCluskey, Captain Cook of chemical 3 and myself saw that the water in those elsewhere was used.

"Some of these cisterns had not been drawn, upon for fifteen years. All save the condemned ones were always kept full, and they have all been refilled and are full now. This fire demonstrated that they are of great value and that we should have more of them. The one at Vallejo and Dupont streets entirely checked the fire, and it didn’t cross Pacific street at Dupont, but got across farther up.

Chief Murphy gave the location of the serviceable cisterns, their, capacities and the days on which they were used as follows: April 18, Montgomery and California street's, 32.000 gallons, Montgomery and Commercial, 32.000; Montgomery and Sansome, 30,000; Pacific and Stockton, 25,000 ; Fremont  and Mission, 20,000; First and Folsom, 30,000. April 19— Stockton: and Broadway, 20,000; Stockton and Vallejo, 20,000; Dupont and Vallejo, 30,000; Broadway and Powell, 14,700.

Source: San Francisco Call, Volume 100, Number 5, 5 June 1906 — FIRE CISTERNS .WERE SUCKED DRY, SAYS CHIEF MURPHY [ARTICLE]

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