Response of the San Francisco Fire Department
to the Berkeley Conflagration of
September 17, 1923
This is an extract from the Report on the Berkeley, California
Conflagration of September 17, 1923, issued by the National Board of
Fire Underwriters Committee on Fire Prevention and Engineering
The Berkeley fire began in Wildcat Canyon around noon, and by
2:20 p.m. spread by fierce Santa Ana winds had rolled into the city
limits. At 2:30 p.m., aid was requested from Oakland, Alameda,
Emeryville, Piedmont, Richmond and Hayward. The Oakland Fire
Department had 13 fires burning at the time of the call and was not
immediately able to provide assistance.
At 3:30 p.m., The Oakland Fire Department had not responded to
the aid request, and Berkeley Chief of Department G. Sydney Rose then
...ordered the fire alarm operator to call assistance from San Francisco:
due to congestion of the lines this call had to be put through at the Berkeley
exchange under the personal supervision of Manager Glover of the Pacific
Telephone and Telegraph Company, said the Underwriters report.
San Francisco responded to the call for aid with four engines, two
hose wagons, two chemicals and one fire boat. Engines are
pumpers, each having hose body and chemical tank: hose wagons each
carried 2,000 feet of hose: chemicals having double 100-gallon tanks.
Engine companies consist of 6 men each; chemical companies, 2 men each;
fire boat crew, 7 men. The fire boat left the San Francisco water front at
4:15 p.m., proceeded to the Berkeley wharf and reported to Chief Rose at
about 5:00 p.m. Later, after collecting a wagon load of hose, the crew of
the fire boat worked a line from Engine 5 of the Oakland department west
along Ridge road to Euclid avenue.
Engine Companies 5 and 9, and Chemical Company 3 left the city
on the 4:20 Southern Pacific Ferry, landed at the Oakland mole and
reported to Chief Rose shortly after 5:00 p.m.
Engine Company 9 was assigned to the hydrant at Vine and Oxford
streets where, with the assistance of the hose company from Richmond, two
1,000-foot lines were worked along Vine and Spruce streets to Cedar street
and along Vine to Arch street, checking the fire at both locations.
Engine Company 5 was sent to Euclid avenue and Ridge road, but
finding no water at that location helped control a fire at the municipal
dumps at the foot of Cedar street, following which the company was sent to
the Durant avenue fire station, working later in the evening along the east
side of the burning district.
Chemical Company 3 was sent to the Durant avenue fire station,
working later on the dump fire and the east side of the burned area.
The remaining San Francisco companies left 20 minutes later.
Engine 12 worked two 1,000-foot lines from Shattuck and University
avenues until 10:00 p.m. Engine Company 2 was sent to the Durant avenue
fire station, worked at municipal dump fire and later worked at the south-eastern
corner of the burned area. Chemical Company 4, after
extinguishing several roof fires, was stationed at the Regent street fire
In 1992, Captain Frank Treanor of the San Francisco fire boat Phoenix, said the Company
Journal for September 17, 1923, as entered by Relief Pilot Flanison, indicated
that the fire boat departed San Francisco at 4:15 p.m. and tied up at the West
Berkeley Pier at 4:45 p.m. A further notation from the relief pilot
indicated that the fire boat was ordered to go home at 9:15 p.m. which
gave the fire boat company almost five hours of land firefighting duty in
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