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This 1908 University of California master's thesis remains one of the few documents to detail the fires that broke out following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. As Lawrence J. Kennedy noted, he wrote of fires reported to the Fire Department, and is quite candid that others might later be found.

Indeed, by 1989 the number of fires found by Gladys Hansen had risen to at least 60.

Kennedy had full access to the papers of the Committee on History, appointed by Mayor Schmitz and chaired by UC Berkeley history professor H. Morse Stephens. Unfortunately, the committee's papers cannot be found, and only a few scattered documents from that collection have surfaced.

Kennedy's thesis has also been the basis of several later "fire following earthquakes" scientific reports which suggest that, for modern planning purposes, fifty fires will follow a major earthquake in a city of 400,000 population.

SAN FRANCISCO APRIL 18th-21st, 1906

The earthquake in San Francisco on the morning of April 18th, 1906, started more than fifty fires. The acting Chief of the Fire Department, John Dougherty, had fifty-two reported to him, but we are of the opinion that two of these were developed from another fire, leaving fifty of his accounted for. Testimony given in the trial of a suit on an insurance policy produced two not recorded by Mr. Dougherty, and it may be that there were others not reported, so that we cannot fix the number anymore accurately than to say more than fifty. The ultimate work of these fires was the destruction of a large part of the City, which is matter of general knowledge, and not relevant to the subject of this paper. But to tell how the different fires progressed, or were stopped, and the different directions they took, because of topographical, climatic and other circumstances is the particular purpose of this investigation. The sources of information are many, the important ones being personal narratives of persons whose interests, namely, homes, stores, or offices, led them to pay particular attention to the spread of the fire and makes their statements as to time more reliable than those of the casual observer; reports of policemen who worked on the fire lines; reports of Army Officers in charge of Dynamiting; and most valuable of all, reports of the firemen who were actually engaged in fighting the flames and who consequently knew better than any one else the direction which each particular fire took. We have of course taken into consideration the fallibility of the human mind under conditions so unusual, and statements as to time, are never accepted as absolutely correct, and in this paper we shall only attempt to give the approximate hours.

The time during which the City burned is divided into four periods, not of equal duration, but into which the event seems to divide itself for territorial and other reasons. The first period will cover the breaking out of many fires in many places immediately after the earthquake, the stopping of some of these fires by the Fire Department and others, and the progress of the survivors up to about 1 P. M. the first day. The second period will take the fires burning at that time and trace their progress until midnight of the first day. The third will cover in two sections the spread of the fire up to Van Ness Avenue, North of Market Street, and to Twentieth and Dolores Streets in the Mission, and the fourth will be a short and simple report of the fire which started at Van Ness Avenue on the 20th of April and burnt east joining the fire from the north which burned to North Beach.


As soon as their apparatus could be arranged, and the horses that had run away were caught, the fire companies situated in different parts of the city started out to look for fires in their respective districts. The [phrase not readable in typescript] most of them found what they sought. At London and Paris Streets near the County line, at Clement Street in the Richmond District, in the Mission, in the Western Addition, and all through the merchantile districts on both sides of Market Street embryo fires were discovered. The Earthquake had broken down the fire alarm system, communications between the fire companies was cut off, and centralized effort in the merchantile district where the more dangerous fires had started was impossible, as it would have been disastrous. Before taking up the down town fires with whose progress we have to do, more particular mention should be made of some of the fires which eventually were left beyond the lines of the burned district.

At the corner of 22nd and Mission Streets, a fire broke out in Lippman's Dry Goods Store, which for purposes of identification we shall call the "Lippman Fire" and for a while a large residential district was threatened. Six engines worked here for four or five hours, finding water about two blocks distant, and finally prevented the fire from spreading. At the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Buchanan Street another dangerous blaze sprung up, and took all the attention of a large part of the fire department until ten o'clock, burning five houses before it was controlled. Drug Stores were very popular places for fire immediately after the earthquake. At Pacific and Leavenworth Street, at Polk Street and Austin Avenue, at Hayes and Laguna Street, on O'Farrell Street near Taylor, and in Mack & Co's. large wholesale establishment fires originated in drug stores. Two policeman also report that they extinguished a young blaze in the basement of Wakelee's Drug Store under the Occidental Hotel. To list all of the fires, without attaching a map of the City would merely produce a jumble of streets and avenues in the reader's mind, and is not essential to our purpose. A collection of fires around Sixth and Folsom Streets, others further East to the South of Market Street, and a number in the wholesale district states the condition of affairs downtown.

On the East side of Steuart Street, near Mission a fire started in a lodging house known as Alice's. It was a frame building, and burnt rapidly. It spread South, and across to the west side of the street, igniting the Sperry Flour Company's warehouse, which ran through the full depth of the block to Spear Street. From here the fire spread rapidly to the South, crossed Mission to Blythe and Tropp's Lumber yard at the Southeast corner of Spear and Mission at ten o'clock, and burning south in the block bounded by Spear, Stuart, Mission and Howard, reached Allen and Higgins Lumber Yard at the Northeast corner of Spear and Howard about 12:30 P.M. The buildings on both sides of Mission Street, east of Steuart, which maps of the burned district indicate as not having burned, were saved by the men of 1 Engine and 9 Engine, who had streams of water from the tug Governor Irwin at the Mission Street Wharf.

Going a little further west, two fires started on the east side of Fremont Street, one in Mack's wholesale drug store, between Mission and Market, and one in the plant of the Martel Power Company between Mission and Howard. The Mack fire spread to the west of Fremont Street, but did the most damage in the other three directions. To the north it was communicated to the Spreckels building at Fremont and Market and to W.W. Montague's large hardware establishment to the east of the Spreckels building on the south side of Market, it crossed Beale to Holbrook, Merrill & Stetson's about 9:30. To the south the fire in the Martel Power Plant had spread rapidly through the block. At noon the block bounded by Fremont, Beale, Mission, and Howard had been destroyed, the block to the north was burned from Market Street to the Hendy building, and the fire was rapidly eating through the block in which Holbrook, Merrill & Stetson's was situated.

Still further west, south of Market, there were more fires. On Howard Street near Third, was a Chinese Laundry in a wooden building. Fire was left in the furnace all night, and when the earthquake occurred a fire started. This fire spread in both directions along Howard Street, and when it reached Third, spread south to Folsom where it was checked in its southerly progress. It reached Second Street at 12 o'clock. At this fire a hard fight was made by firemen who relayed water from cisterns at First and Harrison Streets and at Second and Folsom Streets.

At No. 282 Natoma Street, near Fourth, fire broke out in a small frame dwelling house. Spreading to the north, it crossed Minna Street, reached Mission Street at about 9 o'clock, and crossed to the Grand Opera House at 9:30. Burning through to Market, it destroyed the buildings along the south side of Market Street from Third to Fourth by noon. The Call building was on fire at 11 o'clock. This same Natoma Street fire burned east to Third Street, crossed Third at the Oaks Hotel, at Minna and Third and was burning in that block at the end of the first period.

Fires which started on 6th Street near Mission, at 5th and Minna, on the west side of Mission between Harrison and Folsom, and in one or two other places in that vicinity spread north toward Market Street, to the south, and west toward Seventh Street. At noon Folsom Street was the southern limit, and water pumped from the sewers helped to check the fire there for some time. These fires have been very thoroughly gone over in two recent insurance trials. But the transcript of testimony is not yet available for earthquake history purposes. This states sufficiently the conditions in the South of Market district.

Crossing to the other side of Market Street, and returning back to the Ferry district, a fire whose origin, around California and Davis Streets, has not been determined to our satisfaction, rapidly devoured the Hanford Block, which occupies most of the block bounded by California, Market and Davis Streets; it crossed California Street, and Drumm Street, and burned along the north side of Market to the East. About ten o'clock it had reached the Terminus Hotel, a large brick building which had recently been built. Fire also started in a building on Davis Street near Clay, reported by a fireman as the Armour Packing House, and rapidly spread East. Before noon the buildings opposite the Ferry Building along East Street, from Market to Clay had all been burned. The fire from the Hanford Block crossed Davis Street to the West, and at 9:30 A.M. Baker and Hamilton's large store at Pine and Davis was afire.

In the basement of a building on Sansome Street north of Pine, a fire started with the earthquake shock and spread to adjoining buildings. On the south was the Anglo-California Bank, which was on fire at 8:30. The Daniel Meyer building, on the east was soon reached and then the old Payot-Upham building on the Northwest corner of Battery and Pine Streets. This Sansome Street fire also spread south, and by nine o'clock was in the very fine Mutual Life Building at the Southeast corner of California and Sansome Streets. With the assistance of another fire from the building at the northwest corner of California and Battery, it had burned the whole block bounded by California, Pine, Sansome and Battery long before twelve o'clock, and had crossed Battery Street to the east, and was burning toward Front Street.

Further north, a fire originated with the earthquake in the store of the California Fireworks Company on Front Street near Sacramento. This fire burned west, north across Sacramento and Clay Streets, mingling with the fire coming west from Davis Street. Burning north and west it reached Washington Street at Battery, at 11:30, and the Appraisers' Building was threatened for the first time. The fire did not cross Washington Street west of Battery, though east of this street it was burning north toward the south side of Telegraph Hill.

Another section of the City now comes into prominence. In a house on the south side of Hayes Street, about 75 feet east of Gough, a woman started a fire in her stove to cook breakfast, about 9 o'clock. The chimney had been rendered defective by the earthquake, and fire broke out. This fire is popularly known as the "ham and egg fire", and may truthfully be said to have burned over more territory than any other single fire. The fire department was all engaged, and no concerted action to stop it was possible. It crossed Gough Street to the west, Franklin Street to the east, and Hayes Street to the south, and long before noon was well on its way. At about 1 P.M. the St. Nicholas Hotel at the intersection of Market and Hayes Street had been reached; at the same time St. Ignatius Church and College at Van Ness and Hayes was on fire, and flying embers started a fire on the roof of Mechanics Pavilion. It was also burning in a northwesterly direction, having reached Gough and Grove Streets.

To summarize the condition of affairs at the end of what we have called the First Period was somewhat as follows: the sporadic fires in the outlying districts had all be extinguished, including the Lippman fire and the large fire at Golden Gate and Buchanan Streets. Three sections of the city had burned or burning, namely, South of Market Street, from Sixth Street to the Water Front; North of Market from the Ferry to Sansome Street, and what is known as Hayes Valley. By determined effort with cistern water, the fire was held at Sansome Street, from Pine Street north to California, and at Battery from California north to the Appraisers' Building. The eastern boundary of the North of Market Fire was East Street. South of Market the Steuart Street fire had reached Spear and Howard, the Fremont Street fires had reached into the blocks east of Beale Street, from Market Street South across Howard; South of Mission Street the fire from the Chinese Laundry, had burned east to Second Street and south to Folsom along Third. All the south line of Market Street from the Call Building west to Fourth Street was on fire, and further west Seventh Street was the west line, and Folsom the south line of the fires which started in the Sixth Street section. The Hayes Street fire had burned South to Oak Street and the St. Nicholas, east to Van Ness Avenue and Mechanics Pavilion, north to Grove, and had crossed Gough to the west. From Sansome Street west to the City Hall, the north side of Market Street was still intact.


During the next twelve hours of the fire they intermingled and fused together and presented a more organized effort, and one important new member was added late in the evening. We left the fire north of Market at Sansome Street. The united energy of the three fire companies, and the supply of cistern water kept it there until the middle of the afternoon. Meanwhile, north of California street the fire was creeping west from Battery, along Sacramento and Clay Streets. A well organized guard kept it from crossing Washington Street to the Appraiser's Building. Dynamiting was resorted to as a preventative measure, and a squad of men under Lieutenant Briggs of the United States Army started to work. Along Liedesdorff Street, from California to Sacramento, along Commercial Street west of Kearny, and along Clay Street west of Montgomery buildings were blown up. But the progress of the fire was not stopped. It crossed Sansome Street at Sacramento about 2 P.M. and spread south and west. To the north, the fire which threatened the Appraiser's Building before noon at Battery and Washington, had burnt to Sansome Street along the north side of Washington, and it seemed improbable that Government property would be saved. But it was, with the aid of employees, marines from the Revenue Cutter Bear, and an Oakland Fire Engine. Along East Street as far as Pacific was on fire.

Having crossed Sansome Street, the fire rapidly followed the dynamiters, along Commercial and Sacramento Streets, and burned south to California Street; the Kohl Building at the northeast corner of California and Montgomery only partly damaged. West of Montgomery the fire spread South across California, and west to Kearny, and at 8 P.M. the territory from Clay Street on the North to Bush Street on the south, between Sansome and Kearny Streets was burnt or burning. About this time, having exhausted their supply of dynamite, the explosive crew blew up a drug store at the corner of Clay and Kearny Streets with Giant powder. Some bedding from the lodging house upstairs having been ignited was thrown to the west side of Kearny Street, and Chinatown was at the mercy of the flames. A little later the fire crossed Kearny at Pine and California, and at 9 o'clock it had crossed to the southwest corner of Bush and Kearny Street. In this direction it burnt south along the west side of Kearny Street, as well as in the blocks east of Kearny Street, and by midnight almost the whole retail section had been destroyed. Fire which crossed from the south side of Market Street to the Crocker Building helped in this. After burning out the Crocker Building, this fire destroyed the Mechanics Institute Library, crossed Post Street and joined the fire from the north, and also spread west, reaching the Chronicle Building about 12 o'clock midnight.

This brings us near to the territory burned by fire not of earthquake origin. About 9 o'clock P.M. a fire was started in the Alcazar Building on the north side of O'Farrell Street between Stockton and Powell. The story is that it was started through the carelessness of some soldiers who had started a camp-fire to make some coffee. Whatever its origin, a fire did start, and burnt through two large furniture stores to Geary Street, opposite Union Square and east to and across Stockton Street. It also crossed O'Farrell to the Orpheum, and spread west. Between 12 and 1 o'clock it had burnt to Grant Avenue near Post Street, and to Powell and O'Farrell.

In the manufacturing district south of Market Street, the fire we left at Spear and Howard Street crossed to the west side of Spear Street, near Howard, shortly after 12 o'clock. The men of Engine Company No. 9 prevented the fire from crossing Howard Street to the south with water from tug boats. The fire from the west of Beale Street had burned south and east, and by 4 o'clock had reached Main Street, from Market south to Harrison. The fire from Third and Howard reached the Shot Tower, at the southeast corner of First and Howard Streets, at half past 1 o'clock, and crossed Fremont near Folsom between 3 and 4 o'clock. The fire north of Howard Street between Third and Second Streets finally got to the Palace Hotel, after the tremendous fight made to save it from a private water supply, at 3 o'clock, and at half past 3 it was all ablaze. From it the Grand Hotel took fire, and early Wednesday night practically the whole south side of Market Street from the Ferry west was burned down.

The fire which started on Sixth Street, near Howard, and on Sixth near Harrison had burned west almost to Eighth Street, when dynamiting along the street was resorted to about one o'clock. Fire, however, got across Eighth Street at Folsom, burned south to Harrison and then burned east along Harrison. It was joined by an incendiary fire which was started on the east side of Sixth Street near Harrison and then swept over the territory that was still intact south of Folsom Street. It crossed Fifth, Fourth and Third Streets in its easterly sweep, reaching Second and Harrison at four o'clock P.M. It burned rapidly to the south across Bryant and Brannan Streets from Seventh Street east, and at ten o'clock the freight sheds along Townsend Street were threatened. An organized fight by the Fire Department and naval forces with plenty of water from the Channel, kept the fire from crossing Townsend Street, and before one o'clock A.M. it was under control along Townsend from Second to Eighth Street. Other firemen, with water pumped by tugs from the bay, stopped the fire in an irregular line from Second Street to Main, saving the Mail Dock and water front. The fire also spread southwest as far as Tenth and Bryant Street.

West of Ninth Street, the fire crossed from the North side of Market, and reached Twelfth Street at midnight. The South side of Market Street, from Twelfth Street west to the Power House at Valencia had been dynamited during the afternoon.

During the afternoon and evening the Hayes Street fire spread over a large territory. In its Westerly course it worked from Gough Street to Octavia and spread south to Fell Street, and North to Golden Gate Avenue. It reached Octavia, between Golden Gate Avenue and McAllister Street at 12:30 o'clock A.M. of the 19th. To the north it worked its way to Golden Gate Avenue, where, west of Van Ness Avenue, it was stopped during Wednesday evening. But east of Van Ness Avenue, it crossed Golden Gate Avenue at Polk Street, about 9 P.M., and was held at Turk Street for some time. It crossed Market Street from the St. Nicholas Hotel early in the afternoon and also spread south along Franklin to Market.

The fire which had started in the Mechanics Pavilion at the end of the first period, burned the district north of Market Street along Larkin, was burning in the Larkin Street wing of the City Hall at 8 P.M., and burned east along McAllister to Hyde.

The situation at midnight of April 18th, speaking generally, was about as follows: All the district from Market Street South to Townsend, excepting the Mail Dock, from the Ferry to Eighth Street, had been destroyed, and the line of fire was from Tenth and Bryant Streets diagonally to Twelfth and Market. The fires north of Market had become one, with the exception of the "Alcazar Fire", and had reached Kearny Street from Market to Sutter, and Dupont Street from there north into Chinatown. The "Alcazar Fire" had burned along the north side of Market from Grant Avenue to the East and Geary Street to the North. The Hayes Valley fire had destroyed practically the whole of the territory bounded by Market Street, McAllister Street, and Octavia Street, and was burning north across Golden Gate, east of Hyde, and south into the Mission.

PERIOD THREE - part 1.

Bearing in mind the conditions at the end of the period just covered, it will not be hard to follow the fires during the following thirty hours. We shall take the north of Market Street fires, and carry them to Van Ness Avenue, and to the north, and then go back and try and follow the Mission fire to Twentieth and Dolores.

Working almost due west through Chinatown and the remaining portion of the retail district, the fire spread along Post, Sutter, Bush, and streets farther north, it gradually destroyed building after building, and around three or four o'clock of the nineteenth Powell Street became its resting place. The Alcazar fire burnt up Powell Street and at two o'clock A.M. the St. Francis was on fire. Going north to Sutter, this fire joined the fire from Kearny Street. At three A.M. Old St. Mary's Church on California Street was burned, and a little later flying embers ignited the colored church on the west side Powell Street near Bush. Another street which the authorities had thought to make the western limits was crossed, and all thoughts of the fire stopping east of Van Ness were given up. The usual west wind failed to help the firemen in their fight. Powell Street was for some distance an admirable place for an ordinary fire to go out. Union Square, occupying the block bounded by Post, Geary, Stockton and Powell ought to have helped in the fight, but fire burned all around it. The block above Post Street, was only partly filled with buildings, as excavations for a new structure were in progress. Above Pine, toward Nob Hill the block was occupied by the Stanford House, which set well back from the street, and should have been easy to save; and north of California to Sacramento, was the magnificent new Fairmount Hotel, with a wide terrace on the east. But the vulnerable block, with its wooden church steeple, broke the chain of fortification, and everything must burn.

Between Pine Street and Geary the line of fire worked west burning everything thoroughly. The district of alleged fire-proof buildings had been passed over, the St. Francis being the last, and to the west lay block after block of residences, family hotels and apartment houses. North of Pine Street the fire stopped at Powell Street for a short time and burned around the Fairmount along Sacramento, Clay and Washington Streets, and early Thursday morning crossed Washington Street to the North. A new section along the ridge of Nob Hill, and down across to Russian Hill became the fire's prey.

In the district south of Geary Street to Market, the fire burned vigorously, to the south and to the west. The buildings along the north side of Market Street from Kearny to Powell, which had been saved by the firemen when the south side was all afire on the 18th, were burning by 4 A.M.; the west side of Powell, from Geary down to Eddy was burning at 4 A.M., and the Flood Building still stood. But at about 4:30 it succumbed to the heat and fire got into it at the 8th floor. Practically everything from Market Street north along Powell to Clay was gone, and the fire was going west.

As we are treating the whole of the City north of Market street as one section, it would be well to insert here that at five o'clock in the morning, the Hayes Valley fire was finally stopped at the west along Octavia Street and south of Fell Street it was stopped half a block east of Octavia. Twenty-four hours after the earthquake, the firemen, possibly assisted by some dynamiting, had stopped the fire at Octavia Street, a permanent boundary of the "burned district", by strenuously effort, assisted by neither wind, hills, or vacant lots. Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, the property of the University of California, was the next prominent landmark to be destroyed. For a long time the presence of water in cisterns on top of Nob Hill helped the firemen in a desperate effort to save the building. Because his sentences cover many points of interest during the April days, I will quote from the report of the Captain of 3 Engine ' "We then played a stream on the Mark Hopkins Institute and surrounding building until the water supply in that cistern [California and Mason streets] was exhausted. I then put Engine 3 to work on the cistern inside the grounds of the Institute. While working on the Institute we were visited by Mayor Schmitz, who came into the building to encourage us in our good work, and left orders to work our best in trying to save the Institute. Under the direction of Battalion Chief O'Brien, we continued working until the fire surrounded us in a very threatening manner, and to save our apparatus we had to leave there."

From here the fire burned west, destroying the famous residences of Nob Hill. Across California Street it went around the Fairmount to the North, and crossing back from Sacramento Street, got into the Fairmount from the west, about eight o'clock on the morning of the 19th. All forenoon it burned north toward Russian Hill, west toward Van Ness Avenue, and then again east along Pacific and Broadway toward Montgomery [Columbus] Avenue and Barbary Coast.

During the night the fire below Geary Street had burned very rapidly, and as early as 2:30 o'clock A.M. was working along O'Farrell Street west of Mason. At Jones Street it would meet the fire from the Hayes Valley, which had burned east to Leavenworth and north to O'Farrell Street. At 11:30 o'clock on Thursday, the 19th, the fire from Clay Street south to California had reached Jones Street and extended south to Sutter and Leavenworth. Some dynamiting at different corners along Larkin Street, and at Sutter Street and Polk did nothing to stay the fire's progress. At 1:30 P.M. it had reached Hyde and Clay Streets, and Larkin and Sutter. North of Washington Street the direction taken by the fire was more north than west, and in that section had reached Pacific Street by noon, and was slowly but gradually assuming a westerly direction.

At three o'clock dynamiting and back-firing was started on the east side of Van Ness Avenue from Washington Street to Sutter. South of this the firemen had water and were prepared to meet the fire when it reached Van Ness Avenue. At 4:30 P.M. the line of fire was at Polk Street, and the buildings along Van Ness were burning. With the exception of the district between the south side of Clay and the north side of Sutter, Van Ness became the western boundary of the fire. Again the effort of the fire department and volunteers had stopped the fire. In this they were assisted by the width of the street, but without the human effort this would not have held the flames in check.

South of Washington, the fire had at this time, 6 P.M., crossed Hyde Street, and was coming on toward Van Ness Avenue along Jackson Street.

The fire seems to have first crossed to the west of Van Ness Avenue at or near Sacramento Street. As early as 6 P.M. the Spreckels stable on Sacramento Street was afire, as were the buildings adjoining on the west; this fire crossed Sacramento to the South and burned as far west as Franklin Street. Dynamiting, and water relayed from Laguna Street stopped the fire along Franklin Street, and along the north side of Sutter Street about 3 A.M. of April 20th and the Western Addition was saved. As the fires further north reached Van Ness they were prevented from crossing, and all the sections west of Van Ness was out of danger. Going back to the section around Russian Hill we find the fire had burned during the day all the section south of the hill, west to Van Ness, and east of the Hill had burned north beyond Union Street, and east across Montgomery Avenue. On the morning of the 20th April it reached the west base of Telegraph Hill and had again threatened without success the Appraisers' Building.


The fires which had crossed Market Street into fires which had progressed west as far as Twelfth Street and Market, and Tenth and Bryant, gradually burned southwest. With the salt water supply at Eleventh and Bryant, the fire was prevented from burning southeast across Harrison Street during the night of April 18-19. It spread in an irregular line from Eleventh to Fourteenth Street, from Harrison to Howard, and a successful fight, with the private supply of water, kept it from crossing Howard Street to the east. This fight lasted all day of the nineteenth. In its westerly progress it reached Fifteenth and Capp Street in the morning of the nineteenth, and dynamiting did not stop it there. The buildings in this section were for the most part of wood, and there was little opposition to the flames. It spread west along Fifteenth Street to Mission, and then both sides of Mission from Fifteenth to Sixteenth were dynamited.

During the same period the fire from the north of Market Street, working in a more westerly direction had reached Fourteenth and Dolores Street. It burned along the east side of Dolores Street, to the north and to the south. On the north it was stopped, the evening of April 19th, at Clinton Park with water brought across Market street from a hydrant on Buchanan Street. The width of Dolores Street, and the great work of the citizens in connection with the Fire Department, prevented the fires crossing Dolores to the West, and it became the final boundary of the burned district in the Mission, From Clinton Park, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth, to Twentieth Street.

All during the day and night of the 19th, the citizens and Fire Department, and dynamiters, worked to stop the fire as it burned south, and all the time the fire burned on. Crossing Fifteenth Street about 11 o'clock A.M. it crept along Mission and Capp Streets and Pattosien's large department store at Sixteenth and Mission was dynamited; but the fire crossed Sixteenth and burnt west to Valencia. At seven o'clock P.M. the fire was burning toward the south, between Sixteenth and Seventeenth, from Howard Street to Guerrero. At about 10 or 10:30 o'clock it had reached across Eighteenth Street at Valencia. Buildings on the north side of 19th between Guerrero and Dolores, were set afire, an attempt to stop the fire by back-firing. At eleven o'clock water was found in a hydrant up on the hill at Church Street, near Twentieth, and if apparatus could be got up there a chance to stop the fire at Twentieth Street presented itself. At this time the northeast corner of Twentieth and Dolores Streets was dynamited, and with water to stop the fire from crossing both streets, things began to look better. The horses were not able to pull the engines up the hill so they were dragged up by volunteers, and soon a stream of water stretched down Twentieth Street ahead of the fire.

Further south water had been found in an old cistern at Nineteenth and Folsom Streets. A series of engines in relay formation pumped water from this cistern to Capp Street, then the easterly boundary of the fire. During the evening of Thursday it had reached as far south as Nineteenth Street, west of Capp, and here it was held. At five o'clock on the morning of the twentieth of April, the fire was checked, from Capp to Mission, midway in the block from Nineteenth to Twentieth Streets, and along Twentieth from Mission to near Valencia.

At just one place did the fire cross Twentieth Street. This occurred at the southeast corner of Valencia, where what was known as the Harney building caught fire. It was communicated to the south and to the east. Extraordinary efforts were needed to stop this fire. More engines and hose were added to the line from the cistern at Nineteenth and Folsom, six long blocks distant, and to the line from the hydrant at Twentieth and Church Streets. The fire was extinguished at seven o'clock April 20th. No more fires crossed Twentieth Street, the last to reach it was the fire burning along Mission, and this was prevented from crossing by the falling in of the Almora Building, the last large building on the north side of Twentieth Street.

So the third period ended. With the exception of fire in the Italian quarter east of Russian Hill, the great fire seemed to stop. Its western boundary ran along Dolores Street from Twentieth to Clinton Park, then in an irregular line across Market Street and along Octavia to Golden Gate Avenue. From Golden Gate Avenue to Sutter, Van Ness Avenue was the Western limit. From Sutter to Sacramento the fire of Thursday night had extended the line to Franklin Street, and from Sacramento north, Van Ness Avenue was again the boundary. The northern boundary was yet to be changed.


Early Friday morning a number of citizens had stopped the northern progress of the fire from Russian Hill to Van Ness Avenue at Green Street. For a while the section to the north seemed to have been saved. But the over-zealous fire fighters along Van Ness Avenue, exerting all their efforts to stop the fire from crossing that thoroughfare to the west, dynamited the Viavi building at the southeast corner of Green Street and Van Ness Avenue. They had at this time a long line of engines and hose from the Tug Slocum at the foot of Van Ness, and were confident of saving the western section from any harm that dynamite might occasion. Eyewitnesses report that the dynamiting was unnecessary, and that it caused fire-brands to be thrown into the section north of Green, which the residents had worked so hard to save. At this time a strong west wind, which the city had wanted for two days, sprang up, and soon fire was spreading east through the last remnant of residence section east of Van Ness Avenue. In the block between Polk and Larkin it burned to Greenwich Street and was held there by a small band of citizens. Among other things vinegar was used to save the buildings on the north side of Greenwich Street. East of Larkin, it pressed northward to Lombard, and all during the 20th of April spread east, and about 3 P.M. that day joined the fire that had burned from the north during the 19th and 20th, at Montgomery Avenue, in the vicinity of Lombard and Greenwich Street. Up to the time that this "Viavi fire" came over Russian Hill, the Fire Department had a long line of hose from the Tug Boat Golden Gate at the foot of Stockton Street, and were making a desperate effort to stop the fire at Lombard Street. With difficulty the firemen got their apparatus out of the way, as the west wind was driving the fire along at a tremendous clip. The Captain of 31 Engine, who was working on this fire explains it thus: "Chief McCloskey [McClusky] endeavored to hold the fire at Greenwich Street west of Montgomery Avenue [Columbus Ave.], and the men fought it hard until the evening of the 20th, when the fire came over Russian Hill to the west of their position, burning toward the east, a direction opposite to that which it had burned earlier in the day. Dynamite was again used making the fire burn more fiercely; it was now in such close proximity that the apparatus was backed out by hand, leaving the fire to reach the bay shore."

During the night of the 20th the fire burned to the bay shore right up to the sea-wall, destroying everything along the shore from Mason Street to Battery. The section of the water front at the foot of Telegraph Hill was saved by the work of the naval forces and a few fire companies, who in their work lost thousands of feet of hose.

On the morning of April 21st the fire was stopped. The boundary of the "burned district", as shown on the map published since, was settled and determined, and indicates the extent of the destruction wrought by the fire, whose progress we have attempted to outline, and now submit.


-- Submitted with the approval of THE
---the Degree of Master of Arts.

[Signed] Lawrence J. Kennedy A.B. 1906


of the

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