San Francisco Fire Department
Truck No. 16 had responded to 1771 Greenwich Street on a first-aid medical emergency at 5:17 p.m. While at this incident, Capt. Robert C. Jabs heard Lt. Braden's radio transmissions and upon completion of the incident on Greenwich Street, he and his company began to respond to the assistance of Engine No. 16.
However, he was stopped by two off-duty San Francisco police officers who reported collapsed buildings on Divisadero Street with people trapped inside.
Captain Jabs then ordered the truck company to respond to Divisadero and Beach streets.
Upon arrival, the crew of Truck No. 16 found two
Captain Jabs notified the Communications Center that he had 10 or 12 buildings fully or partially collapsed with trapped victims, and one of the buildings was on fire. He requested immediate assistance.
Both apartment buildings were precariously pitched over Beach Street and threatened to further collapse from the numerous earthquake aftershocks.
The crew of Truck No. 16 found trapped victims in the wreckage of 2090 Beach Street and Capt. Jabs ordered Firefighters Howard W. Cross, Jr. and Wayne A. Martin to begin rescue operations in the building. He then, along with Firefighters Thomas R. Bailon and John H. Reed and citizen volunteers, entered 3701 Divisadero Street to begin search and rescue operations.
There were many citizen volunteers and they, in fact, were the first on the scene and had heard voices calling for help. Captain Jabs, with citizen volunteers, attempted to reach victims through the exterior side wall of the building, but the attempt was proving difficult when Firefighter Bailon inside the structure called out, "I've found them!" Captain Jabs, with four or five citizen volunteers, entered the building. Firefighters Bailon and Reed had cut open the floor and found a man and woman trapped below.
Then, a strong Richter-magnitude 5 aftershock rocked the fallen structure followed by a loud explosion.
Smoke began to fill the wreckage and Capt. Jabs saw flames rolling from the front of the building. However, the firefighters continued to work to save the trapped victims.
Captain Jabs ordered power saws and jacks brought into the burning building. The crew of Truck No. 16 worked on as the fire rapidly spread. The crew heard voices calling from the outside, "The building is going to collapse!" Captain Jabs looked through the window and saw the top floor fully involved in fire.
The trapped man was able to crawl from the hole
cut through the floor by the firefighters. Captain Jabs, with the aid of
a citizen volunteer, carried him across a partially-
The crew of Truck No. 16 continued this effort to rescue the trapped woman until extreme heat and dense smoke drove them from the building.
At 5:34 p.m., the Communications Center dispatched Engine No. 41 and Truck No. 9. to the Marina District .
Engine No. 41 had just come in-service from a unit dispatch at Howard and New Montgomery streets in the downtown area, several miles from the Marina District. Truck No. 9 also responded from several miles away.
At 5:39 p.m., the Communications Center also dispatched Truck No. 10, which had just gone in-service from Box 3162 at O'Farrell Street and Van Ness Avenue near Civic Center, to Divisadero and Beach streets.
Upon arrival, Captain Robert G. Boudoures of Truck No. 10, radioed the Communications Center that "...we have a lot of smoke and a building collapse. We're going to need assistance." He found Truck No. 16 on the scene, but no engines. Heavy smoke was coming from 3701 Divisadero Street. Citizens also told him there were trapped people in other collapsed buildings.
Captain Boudoures sent Firefighters Joseph R. Conway and John R. Porter to assist Truck No. 16 in the wrecked building at 3701 Divisadero Street. Then, Capt. Boudoures, along with Firefighters James W. Jenkins and John J. Carvajal attempted to find a woman trapped in the building at 2090 Beach Street.
However, they were soon forced to leave the building because of a severe natural gas leak from a PG&E main. They closed the PG&E gas valve and again entered the building to begin the rescue attempt. They were soon joined by Firefighter Porter.
But again, the crew of Truck No. 16 was forced to retreat from the building because the fire from 3701 Divisadero Street was radiating such intense heat that it caused the building at 2090 Beach Street to catch fire.
The rescue attempt was still underway at Fillmore Street and Cervantes Boulevard as Battalion Chief Shannon saw the smoke column rising from the fire. He heard Capt. Boudoures of Truck No. 10 asking the Communications Center for assistance, and he ordered Engine No. 41, which had just arrived at Cervantes Boulevard, to respond to the column of smoke.
Engine No. 16, Rescue No. 2 and Truck No. 5 were engaged in the continuing rescue at Cervantes Boulevard and Fillmore Street, so Battalion Chief Shannon ordered members of Engine No. 38 and Chief's Aide David W. Jackson, along with the driver of Engine No. 6, to take Engine No. 16's apparatus to the fire.
When the successful rescue operation ended at 2 Cervantes Boulevard, Battalion Chief Shannon ordered Truck No. 5 and the crew of Engine No.16 to the fire. He also ordered the driver of Engine No. 38 with his apparatus to stay in place because the PG&E main was still spewing gas and there was a serious and continuing threat of fire in the vicinity.
Battalion Chief Shannon then responded to the fire along with Truck No. 9 which had also just arrived at Cervantes Boulevard.
Engine No. 41, commanded by Lt. Peter M. Cornyn, was the first San Francisco engine company to arrive at Divisadero and Beach streets.
"Upon arrival," wrote Lt. Cornyn in his report, "the scene was as follows: The four-story building at the northeast corner of Divisadero and Beach had collapsed on to Beach Street, covering the low pressure hydrant, with approximately a floor and a half [of the building] still standing. The four-story building at the northwest corner had collapsed on to the sidewalk on Beach Street with approximately two stories still upright [but] at a 75 degree angle.
"This building was on fire in the northeast corner. The fire at this time was not of great magnitude. In front of this building was a High Pressure hydrant about two feet from the building, with the top of the building hovering over the High Pressure hydrant. On the southwest corner was a four-story building with the first floor buckled about three feet and the building was leaning toward Beach Street."
The driver of Engine No. 41 positioned the apparatus along Beach Street next to the fire building at 3701 Divisadero Street to utilize the engine's pre-connected master-stream nozzle. The engine was connected through a Gleeson Pressure Reducing valve to the High Pressure hydrant on the northwest corner of Beach and Divisadero streets, but there was little water. Later, the burning structure collapsed upon the hydrant.
A Gleeson valve is designed for use with the Auxiliary Water Supply System which normally supplies High Pressure hydrants and is necessary to reduce water pressure to engines and to large-diameter hose and the associated valve system carried by hose tenders.
With the aid of the firefighters already on the
All lines, as well as the pre-connected master-
The extreme heat from the fire forced the crew to reposition Engine No. 41 to another location on Divisadero Street. Citizen volunteers dragged a supply line to a low pressure hydrant at Divisadero and Bay streets, but there was also insufficient pressure.
Engine No. 16 was then connected to the High Pressure hydrant on the northwest corner of Beach and Scott streets and, again with the aid of citizen volunteers, the crew dragged two supply lines to Engine No. 41, but there was still too little pressure.
Firefighters and citizen volunteers fought the fire and attempted to keep it from spreading with use of the limited water supply from Engine No. 41.
The collapsed building at 2090 Beach Street ultimately
ignited, and firefighters attempting to rescue the trapped woman were driven
from the building by flame and heavy smoke. A one-and-one-half-inch line
from Engine No. 41 was used to put out this exposure fire and cool the
firefighters so the rescue effort could proceed. A bucket brigade composed
of citizen volunteers also attempted to put out this exposure fire with
the use of water leaking from hose connectors.