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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Reports of Fire Officers
San Francisco Fire Department
1906 Great Earthquake & Fire
Captain Schmidt
Engine Co. No. 28, 301 Francisco Street, at Stockton Street
Apparatus: 1897 LaFrance 3rd size, steam engine, 600 GPM
April 19th our Engine pumps gave out and we had to obtain a relief engine from the ferry building

On the morning of April 18th our company had just returned to quarters after being on duty most all night, when the earthquake occurred. All letgoes [sic] dropped to the floor, and the horses ran out of their stalls; while we were adjusting things to their places, we received a still alarm and reported at once to the Gray Brick Yard, cor., Bay & Powell streets, where a fire had started, caused by a tall brick chimney falling on the brick kilns. I ordered Lieu't J. McGowan to pull box # 629 cor., Stockton and Bay sts. [sic] , but received no answer; he then tried box #197, Bay & Mason sts. [sic], and box 352 near Dupont and Bay sts. [sic], with the same results. The telephone at our quarters was tried but was out of order as we could get no reply.

Driver J. Sweeney then went to the quarters of engine co., #5 and chemical #5 to notify them of this fire. Engineer J. Pendergast was sent to notify engines # 3-20-8 & 31. We led several lines from different directions but could obtain no water; finally we obtained a supply of water and got the fire under control. We left our lines in charge of the employees of the brick yard and returned to quarters for a new supply, and proceeded to Montgomery and Commercial sts. [sic], where I left Lieu't McGowan in charge, and reported to Sup't of eng. [sic], J. Riley but received no orders. While returning I tried the hydrant at Merchant and Sansome sts. [sic], but received no encouragement as no water could be obtained. Under orders of Acting chief Dougherty our company, with engines # 2 & 31, connected to the hydrant at California and Kearny sts. [sic], but could find no water. We then connected to the cistern at Cal:- and Dupont sts. [sic], & pumped same to the cistern at Montgomery and Cal., sts. [sic], and pumped all the water out of these cisterns. We also tried the cisterns at Commercial and Montgomery and led to cistern at Cal., and Montg., sts. [sic], & pumped water to Cal. & Montg. but with out [sic] success.

Batt., chief M. O'Brien ordered us to detail three men to assist Lieu't Briggs of the Presidio, in dynamiting. I detailed Lieu't McGowan, A. Stoffer and A. Bernstein; these men assisted in the dynamiting which occured [sic] on the south side of Clay st., along Leidssdorff [sic]; Commercial east of Montgomery along Leidesdorff; Sacramento east of Montgomery along Leidesdorff to Halleck Sts.

Batt. Chief O'Brien ordered our company to take up our hose, and stand fast at Pine and Montgomery sts. [sic]; we then received orders to go in line at Sacramento and Dupont sts. [sic], and late Wednesday afternoon by leading from Sacramento and Powell to Commercial and Kearny sts. [sic], we checked the fire from spreading west until our water gave out. 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.

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. A. Ruef returned and ordered all hose taken off the wagon but one tier, with a detail of two men he sent the wagon to the Lombard st., wharf to report to J. Birmingham of the Cal. Powder works. The men detailed to haul this powder were acting Lieut. J. McGowan and Hoseman A. Bernstien [sic] and they were on duty until about 9 p. m.

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 at [sic] the Nymphia. While here our Engine pumps gave out and we had to obtain a relief engine from the ferry building, and worked in this same vicinity.

After the Prescott House was dynamited we stopped the fire from crossing to the East side of Montgomery Ave., Under orders of Bat. Chief McClusky we next connected with a salt water line running from a fire tug stationed at the foot of Stockton st., fourteen blocks to Broadway and Mason Sts.; through 3 eng, obtaining our fresh water from a cistern at Broadway and Stockton sts. [sic] We stopped the fire from crossing to the North side of Broadway, but after J. Birmingham had dynamited the S. W. cor of Broadway and Stockton sts. [sic], the fire crossed to the East side of Stockton st., and the North side of Broadway. We left this vicinity about 9 p. m. April 19th.

About 2 a. m. Friday April 20th we received orders from Batt. Chief McCluskey to lead a line from foot of Mason St., through three engines a distance of eleven blocks to Taylor and Filbert Sts., We were able to obtain the necessary supply of fresh water and worked in this district until driven out by the fire.

About 2 p. m. on Friday we received word from the Colonel of the 22nd Infantry to lead a line from the foot of Powell St., to Chestnut St. We were soon forced to abandon this position the fire was spreading in our direction very rapidly.

Batt. Chief McClusky at about 3 p. m. had ordered our company to the Presidio. The following day, Saturday 21st I reported to Acting Chief Dougerthy [sic] that I was at the Presidio, and we remained there for several days.

Act. Lieut. J. McGowan
Lieut. W. Everson
Engineer J. Pendergast
Driver J. Sweeney
Hoseman A. Stoffer
Hoseman A. Bernstein
Hoseman A. Banker
Hoseman M. Ryan

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