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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Reports of Fire Officers
San Francisco Fire Department
1906 Great Earthquake & Fire
Battalion Chief W.A. Cook, District No. 2
Housed with Chemical Co. No. 3, 412 Bush Street

On the 18th inst.m at 5, 13 A. M. our quarters were carried down by the dome of the California Hotel; All hands were in bed at the time except Hoseman Maroney who was watch at that time. The roof and third and second floor came down through the apparatus floor to the cellar. Apparatus floor resting on coal pile; Third floor occupied by the late Chief and his wife; Second floor occupied by Chemical Crew and Operators; All went for the stairs except John Coyne who fell through the coal hole. When the crash ceased we started at once to dig for the Chief and Mrs. Sullivan, assisted by the "Bulletin" employees and J. O'brien [sic], Police Officers Berg, Welsh, Farrell and Tutenberg. While so digging the Chief walked from the rear of the pile. P. Gallagher and Jerry Collins, Chief's Operator, assisted him into the St. George Stables. Chief's Operator drove him away at once to the Hospital. Mrs. Sullivan was taken out shortly afterwards and we carried her into the California Hotel where a Doctor took charge of her.

At that time I was requested by someone in the Hotel to try and save Doctor Stinson who was buried in his room on the 8th floor. I with P. Gallagher and John Coyne went at once to the 8th floor where we found that his room was full of bricks and the floor badly caved in from the heavy weight. Thinking that he might be alive we dug for him and found him but he was dead.

Looking out of the window from the 8th floor of the Hotel I saw fires in every direction and hearing that there was no water I called for volunteers to get the horses and chemical engine out. The buggies were smashed and buried. We removed the debris from one side of the house to the street getting the horses out and apparatus in two pieces, putting a large bolt in for a kingbolt. I then ordered one man to put the fire out in the heater by covering it with wet ashes. Then taking extra charges of soda and acid we proceeded. We past several large fires and went to work on a small fire on Davis St. between Pacific and Broadway. Putting this fire out we recharged the chemical, and put a small fire out on Front St., between Vallejo and Broadway; then to the corner of Davis and Vallejo Sts., then to the freight carson [sic] East St. between Broadway and Vallejo St.

When chemical was discharged we got two small streams from Steamer Topeka, sending the chemical back to recharge at Chemical 5, getting water from a well opposite Chemical 5. This was about 2 P. M. or thereabouts, when Foreman Short of Engine No. 1, of Oakland reported to me with Engine 4, and Hose 1, of Oakland. I then left Chemical in charge of Hoseman Maroney and took the Oakland Company up to Pacific & Sansome Sts., and led from a cistern to Washington St., working with Battalion McCluskey and Murphy. Later the same evening I worked with Chief Dougherty and McCluskey on Merchant St., in rear of Hall of Justice.

Somewhere about midnight, or early on the morning of the 19th, I took Engine 28 and Oakland Hose Company No. 1, to Pacific & Montgomery, leading down to Montgomery & Washington, and around Montgomery Block and Washington Sts. to Montgomery & Sansome. I then worked with Chief McCluskey on Stockton, Clay, Washington Sts. and Montgomery Ave. After this I held a consultation with Chief McCluskey and Chief Murphy about getting water from the Bay, as I had been informed by Captain Wolf of the 22nd U. S. Infantry, that the transport tugs were at our disposal. On their advice I led a line from the Bay at the foot of Stockton St. to Engine 31, st [sic] Filbert & Stockton Sts., obtaining our first water from a well. From here we led to Engine No. 5, at Washington Square and then to an Engine at Stockton & Broadway, and down to Powell and Broadway, where I delivered the stream to Chief McCluskey.

I obtained my hose from the Corporation Yard No. 2, and returned to the Water front, taking a line from a tow boat at the foot of Broadway we led up Broadway to Montgomery. Here we met Lieutenant Freeman of the United States Navy with a line from the United States Navy Fire Boat, and by coupling our lines together we led up Montgomery Ave., and around the County Jail, working there until early on the morning of the 20th when I left these lines in charge of Lieutenant Freeman.

I then returned to the Water front and led two lines from the Tug Boat Pilot, at the foot of Vallejo St. up to Kearny St., where I was joined by Captain Sullivan of Engine 12. Backing down with the fire to Sansome St. where we were drive out on the afternoon of the 20th. I then assisted Captain Wagner of the 22nd U. S. Infantry to lead two lines from the Governor Markham which was lying near the Haslett Warehouses and then left these lines in charge of Captain Wagner and returned, led a second line from the Pilot to the Gibraltar Ware houses [sic]. We worked in this vicinity until daylight of the 21st, and then Truckman Wilson of Truck 2 in charge of these lines. I next went to the foot of Vallejo St., and led a line from the Tug Boat Sea Fox to the freight sheds where we worked all day, moving along the water front from Broadway to the Sea Wall.

W. A. COOK.
Battalion Chief.

From the files of Battalion Chief Fred J. Bowlen, S. F. F. D.