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First-Lieutenant Raymond W. Briggs wrote his report about early dynamiting operations May 10, 1906 at The Presidio. The report was addressed to Captain Le Vert Coleman who headed overall 1906 San Francisco earthquake dynamiting operations.

Briggs details the political interest in dynamite operations, and early consulted with Abraham Ruef, the political boss of San Francisco for permission to demolish specific buildings on the edge of the Barbary Coast in a vain attempt to keep the fire from spreading into the Financial District and upward, toward Nob Hill.

In response to your request of yesterday for a report of the buildings dynamited by me on April 18, before you assumed command of the squad, I have the honor to submit the following:

Early on the morning of that date I was directed by the post commander to take the kit wagons of the field batteries stationed here, load them with black powder, wire, fuse, etc., and report to the Mayor of San Francisco to assist in blowing up buildings to arrest the fire.

I accordingly reported to the Mayor as soon as practicable. The use of this powder was naturally not desired, if stick dynamite could be procured, and, as it was learned that there was some of the latter on hand at the discharge camp, Angel Island, this was sent for.

Upon its arrival, in conjunction with a battalion fire chief [Michael Murphy], a fire commissioner (name not recalled), and I believe, Mr. A. Ruef, I went to Montgomery Street and began the destruction of such buildings as were agreeable to these gentlemen.

These buildings were never more than three or four doors away from those already in flames, and ran from Clay to California Streets, between Sansome and Montgomery.

Permission was then obtained from the Mayor to start on the east side of Montgomery Street, and, beginning at the corner of that street and Commercial Street, the building there was destroyed.

But while preparations were being made for the destruction of the adjacent building an independent fire was noticed starting in the cellar of a store east of the subtreasury on Commercial, between Montgomery and Kearny.

An attempt was made to put out this fire, but as there was no water to be obtained it was soon seen to be a vain endeavor.

A building between the fire and Kearny Street was then blown down. Here the supply of stick dynamite gave out, some of that which arrived from Angel Island evidently having been sent to other points on the fire.

A number of wagons came up loaded with giant powder - dynamite in granular form - but I hesitated to use this, knowing that its combustion was a matter of flame and that any building destroyed by it would, In addition, be set on fire, as would also result if black powder were used.

I was urged as a last resort to use it, however, and consequently I destroyed a building on the west of Kearny at the corner of Clay and also the one adjacent.

Both immediately caught on fire, and in the second, which had been a cheap lodging house, bits of bed clothing, etc., which had become ignited at the combustion were thrown across Kearny to the west side, and soon that block was on fire.

This illustrates well the difference in the use of stick dynamite.- dynamite with an inert base - and dynamite in granular form, which has an active base.

As you assumed charge of the party during the destruction of these latter buildings, this completes my report.

Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.

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