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San Francisco Fire Department
Marina District Operations - Continued

The situation at the Marina District fire as understood at the Communications Center was not clear because of the grossly overtaxed radio communications system. However, commercial television stations had begun to broadcast live reports from the fire scene and Deputy Chief Farrell was better able to understand conditions on the fire ground as seen from a live picture transmitted by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. airship Columbia that had been hovering near Candlestick Park to televise the third game of the World Series.

He ordered Assistant Chief Harry F. Brophy of Division No. 2 to the Marina District fire to assume Incident Command.

Video from the airship was simultaneously broadcast nationally by ABC News and was seen by Chief Postel at the Urban Fire Forum in Boston.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) immediately arranged through White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu to fly the Chief to San Francisco aboard an Air Force jet which also carried members of the San Francisco Bay Area Congressional delegation.

Chief Postel arrived at Dulles International Airport aboard a chartered jet from Boston and was then driven to Andrews Air Force Base by a battalion chief from the Fairfax County, Virginia, Fire Department for the flight to San Francisco.

The Air Force jet arrived at Moffett Naval Air Station near San Francisco and Chief Postel was then flown by FBI helicopter to Central Fire Alarm Station.

Chief Postel was back on duty in San Francisco at 11:30 a.m., October 18.

At 6:29 p.m., Assistant Chief Brophy, upon arrival at the Marina District fire, radioed to the Communications Center, "Send PG&E out here to the area of Cervantes and Fillmore. You've got major gas in the area - major gas leak." Moments later, Battalion Chief Abell radioed, "Our fire here is still out of control. We've got a lot of companies, but we're having trouble with water."

Battalion Chief Shannon had earlier attempted to have engines draft salt water directly from the Bay, but this was unsuccessful because of low tide conditions.

At 6:40 p.m., Assistant Chief Brophy ordered the Communications Center to dispatch all available hose tenders with five-inch large-diameter hose and associated valves to the Marina Yacht Harbor at the foot of Divisadero Street. He reported to the Communications Center, "We have three blocks that are going to be involved. We'll have to give away some houses to make a stop, but we need hose. We have the [staffing] to pull it; we've got a lot of volunteers, but get [the hose] here!"

At 6:45 p.m., Battalion Chief Abell reported the fire was moving west, and at 6:49 p.m., Assistant Chief Brophy radioed that there was difficulty positioning the fireboat Phoenix in the Marina Yacht Harbor because of low tide conditions, and there was the possibility of insufficient draft to berth the vessel.

At 6:59 p.m., Assistant Chief Brophy reported that water from the three-engine relay had reached the fire and firefighters and citizen volunteers were attempting to make a stop. Chief Brophy also reported the fire was spreading north, half way along the block toward Jefferson Street and citizen volunteers and firefighters were attempting to keep the blaze from consuming the block.

At 7 p.m., the fireboat Phoenix had been maneuvered into position despite the low tide conditions.

"I reported in to Chief Brophy," said Battalion Chief Hickey, "and told him, 'If we could get some lines from the [fire]boat, we could make the stop right here.'"

Assistant Chief Brophy responded, "Okay, let's give it a try."

By this time the crew of Engine No. 2 had completed laying the three-inch hose which came from Engine No. 31 at the Marina dock. Members of Truck No. 2 used water relayed by Engine No. 2 from Engine No. 31 began to attack the fire on the north from Jefferson and Divisidero streets. The truck company aerial was used as a water tower and thousands of gallons of salt water were used to help stop the northerly progress of the Marina District fire.

It was Battalion Chief Hickey's understanding that victims were still trapped within the fallen four-story apartment building at the southwest corner of Divisidero and Jefferson streets and it was therefore necessary to stop the northerly swing of the Marina District fire to protect these possible victims.

Members of Engine No. 3, 5 and 36; Truck No. 3 and 5 and Rescue No. 1, two off-duty firefighters from the Tiburon, Michael J. and John A. Hickey - both sons of Battalion Chief Hickey - as well as off-duty firefighter Philip A. Tripp of the Novato Fire Department, reported to the scene with protective clothing provided by the Presidio of San Francisco Fire Department and were immediately put to work.

Aftershocks continued to shake damaged structures within the Marina District as this pickup company broke down the door of 3745 Divsadero Street to gain entry to the roof. Battalion Chief Hickey was concerned about the stability of the structure because of recurring aftershocks and said, "I ordered Lt. Jack Conway to bring two large lines into the first floor of the structure and then up to the roof, and then I ordered one [large line] to be brought over the fire escape to act as a supply line and as a possible escape route. We could feel the building shaking."

Members of Engine No. 36 then breeched the wall of the third floor of 3745 Divisadero Street and pulled the large lines across rooftops to the wood-frame building immediately adjacent to the fire.

These large lines were led in anticipation of saltwater being supplied by the fireboat Phoenix which had just completed the extraordinarily hazardous docking at the Marina Yacht Harbor.

Lieutenant John T. Conway, who was on the rooftop, became concerned with fire conditions and advised Chief Hickey that the situation was rapidly deteriorating, and that the company could not stay there much longer without water. Chief Hickey advised Lt. Conway to stay as long as possible, because water from the fireboat Phoenix would soon be available.

Seven buildings were on fire at Beach and Divisadero streets as firefighters and citizen volunteers led three-inch lines from the boat to the fire. The crew of Hose Tender No. 22, Department personnel with civilian volunteers, under the direction of members of the Department, also dragged a five-inch line to the front of 3745 Divisadero Street, and with two of the associated valves, provided salt water to the pickup company within and atop the structures for the frontal attack on the fire.

An endless supply of saltwater from San Francisco Bay, pumped by the fireboat Phoenix at 9600 gpm with a pressure of 150 psi, allowed fire companies and citizen volunteers to move in for the attack.

At 7:27 p.m., Battalion Chief Abell notified the Communications Center that one-half block was still fully involved in fire, but the exposure buildings were covered. Water from Capt.Costella's three-engine relay from the lagoon of the Palace of Fire Arts was, at the time, protecting the the western flank, as well as exposures on the south and east of the Marina District fire.

The northerly front of the fire began to develop its own wind and intense heat caused the tar upon rooftops to bubble, and the boots of these firefighters began to stick to the roofing materials. Steam and smoke was also seen rising from their turnout coats.

At about 8 p.m., inspection of the High Pressure system by San Francisco Fire Department Bureau of Water Supply personnel was completed and Pump Stations No 1 and No. 2 were brought on line.

This endless supply of 10,000-gpm saltwater pumped at 300 psi, along with saltwater supplied by the fireboat Phoenix, allowed fire companies to begin to bring the Marina District fire under control.

Battalion Chief Hickey's pickup company fought the fire for more than two hours, stopping the northerly spread of the fire within the wood-frame structure two buildings to the south of 3745 Divisadero Street.

Bluxome Street Collapse and Other Major Incidents or return to the Table of Contents

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