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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. D. Waters, District No. 7,
Housed with Engine Co. No. 7, 3160 Sixteenth Street and Albion Avenue

Imediately [sic] after earthquake which ocurred [sic] in this city on April 18, 1906, I found that the building occupied by engine #7, located at Albion Ave., and 16th st., was slightly damaged from the effects of the quake. Some of the plaster had fallen off the wall and one of the front doors was jammed so that I had some difficulty in getting my buggy out. We received a still alarm and in company with engine #7 we proceded [sic] to 15th and Dolores St. By the time we arrived however the fire had been extinguished.

We next proceded [sic] to 22nd and Mission St. where a fire was raging at that time, and engine #7 stopped on the way to help extricate some dead and injured from the Valencia Hotel ruins, after which they reported at 22nd and Mission. We located a cistern at 22nd and Shotwell Sts, containing 100,000 Gals. (oil), and with the aid of engine #24 which was stationed at 21st and Valencia Sts., we had the fire out in a short time. I next drove to Hayes Valley where I found a fire starting at the corner of Hayes and Gough Sts. Engine #19 was on hand, but as no water could be obtained the fire gained rapid headway. I ordered #7 engine to report at this fire, and also others companies, we could not use the fire alarm system, as it was out of order.

We obtained some water at Oak and Webster Sts. (six blocks away) and by running a line of hose through three engines, were able to use one small stream with very little effect. We were forced to leave this neighborhood, as the dynamiting crew were starting operations on Hayes St., opposite the St. Ignatius church. By connecting engines #21-34-14-19-7 I obtained two streams, and checked the fire from spreading further west than Octavia Sts.

The building occupied by engine #19, located on Market near 10th St. was badly damaged by the earthquake, and the doors were thrown open so that the horses ran away. The apparatus was pulled into the street by hand, and the company responded to a call on Natoma near 10th St. They found that a building had collapsed and that several people were buried in the ruins. The company recaptured their horses and drove down Market to 8th St., to Harrison, to 6th St., trying all hydrants enroute [sic] in an effort to obtain water, but without sucess [sic].

We obtained a small supply of water from a hydrant located on the west side of 6th St, between Folsom and Howard, and worked in that vicinity until the supply of water gave out. This company next reported at Hayes and Gough Sts., and tried to obtain water from the hydrant on the southeast corner but were not successful. Neither could they get any water from the sewer. Word came from Chief Dougherty to send two engines, so I took engine #19, and by working in connection with engines #7-36 & 19, we prevented the fire from spreading west of Octavia St. until the morning of April 19th.

I was notified that the fire was starting at Valencia St., so I ordered the companies to report at that place. I tried all the hydrants south on Valencia St. to 15th St. west on 15th to Guerrero St., north on Guerrero to Hermann & Buchannan Sts. By connecting these engines, we held the fire from crossing Market St. with this one stream. Other engines arrived and I obtained another stream, and in this way we held the fire in check until I was notified that this block was going to be dynamited, and we were forced to leave. The work of the wreckers was not successful, as the block burned up after being dynamited.

We next diverted our attention in an effort to prevent the fire from crossing Guerrero St., and with the aid of these two streams succeeded in saving the entire block between Dubose and Clinton Park. After this engine #27 was ordered to 20th and Dolores Sts., as I understood there was water there. Engine #27 was moved to 17th and Howard St. late Thursday afternoon. Engines #19-27-26 & 21 made their last stand at Dolores and 20th Sts.

BATT. CHIEF DISTRICT #7.

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