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Some of the fires that broke out immediately following the Great Earthquake were arson, because most insurance policies prohibited the payment of fire losses if the building had been damaged by an earthquake.

Captain Leonard D. Wildman of the U.S. Army Signal Corps wrote this memorandum to the Military Secretary after receiving reports of arson while at the waterfront on April 18.

Fort Mason, California,
April 27, 1906

The Military Secretary,

Department of California:


I have the honor to report that on the morning of the earthquake, on my return from ordering the "McDOWELL" to Alcatraz and Fort McDowell, I was stopped by a fireman who told me that people in that neighborhood were firing their houses, as they were told that they would not get their insurance on buildings damaged by the earthquake unless they were damaged by fire.

This report was not made at the time as, in the rush to do other things, it was neglected.
Very respectfully,

(signed) Leonard D. Wildman
Captain, Signal Corps, U.S. Army, Chief Signal Officer
Department of California

Ist Endt., Hdqrs. Dept. Cal, April 27, 1906
Retd to Capt. Wildman, C.S.O., Dept. Cal., for the name of the fireman that volunteered this information, or if this is impracticable the Company to which he belongs, in order that this matter may be investigated.

Dunning, Mil. Secty.
2d Endt. Hdqrs. Dept. Cal., Office C.S.O., Apr. 28/06
Rtd to the Mil. Sec. Dept. Cal. The name of the fireman referred to in within letter is unknown. He was stationed near Howard St., on the water front; the time can be ascertained by the time the MCDOWELL left her wharf for Alcatraz Isld and Ft. McDowell. I reported it to the Fire Officials whose automobile I stopped.
Wildman, C.S.O., Dept. Cal.
Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.

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