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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Reports of Fire Officers
San Francisco Fire Department
1906 Great Earthquake & Fire
Captain J. Conniff
Engine Co. No. 26 Station 327 Second Avenue
Apparatus: 1897 Truckson LaFrance, #386, 4th size, steam engine, 500 GPM

Immediately after the earthquake which visited this city on April 18th 1906, our company was called to the corner of Third ave., and Clement St. We put out a small fire back of a store, and then proceeded to a house nearby which had been shaken off its foundation; after inspecting it to see if anyone was hurt, we shut off the gas in the street, and went to answer a call at California St., near Third Ave. Arriving there we found that a chimney had collapsed from effects of the earthquake, and had buried a man; by cutting away part of the floor and removing the debris we were able to extricate him, after which we placed him under a doctors care.

We next went to 17th ave., and Clement Street where there were two houses on fire. One that stood in the center of a lot by itself had burned down; the other we put out with water from a well, by forming a bucket brigade. By the time we had returned to quarters we could see several large fires burning in [sic] every direction

As the alarm and telephone system was out of order there was no way of getting into communication with the chiefs or anyone at the head of the fire department. The Captain of our company sent a man in town to find a chief and ask for orders; chief Conlon was located at Golden Gate Ave., and Webster Street, where a large fire was burning and which was extinguished after destroying about twelve houses. Chief Conlon gave us orders to patrol our district and warn everybody not to light fires in their stoves, as all chimneys were down.

After a short time the Chief sent word by messenger to report at once at 12th and Folsom Streets. We canvassed that neighborhood from hydrant to hydrant in search of water, but without success. Chief Conlon instructed us to try all hydrants until we found water; consequently we tried all hydrants until we reached the water front at the foot of Howard Street. The only available water to be found was by drafting from the bay off the Howard Street dock. We obtained fresh water for our boiler from an Italian bark that was lying at the dock. The captain of the bark put his men to work carrying water and assisted us all that day.

From the engine we led our line up Howard Street into the large lumber yards at Spear Street; we worked in that vicinity all day, and helped to stop the fire from reaching the wharves. About 4 o'clock P. M. April 18th the fresh water gave out, and we then got fresh water from the Government fire tugs, as they were condensing water for their own use. At about 10 o'clock the first night the fire tug moved to the mail dock, where the fire was raging amont [sic] the box factories and lumber yards.

We followed around the water front until we met them again, and doubled up with their lines; running a stream up several blocks to meet the fire. We worked there all the night of April 18th., and had the fire under control for several blocks around that vicinity. On the morning of April 19th., we took up our lines and moved into the Mission district.

We were able to obtain a small supply of water from a broken water main and by doubling it up with other lines fought the fire in the vicinity of 12th and 13th streets all day on April 19th., and up to the morning of April 20th. As the small supply of water to be obtained was being used by other companies, and finding that we could be of no further service, we left for our quarters in the Richmond district at 7 A. M. friday [sic] April 20th.

Our work along the water front was under the supervision of Batt. Chief Wills, and while working in the Mission Batt. Chief Conlon directed our movements.

(Signed) Captain J. Conniff
Engine #26.

Lieut. M. Drury
Engineer P. Hughes
Driver J. Cahill
Hoseman W. Lintott
Hoseman J. Owens
Hoseman L. Andrews
Hoseman E. J. Sheddy
Hoseman M. Ryan
Stoker H. Welch

From the files of Battalion Chief Fred J. Bowlen, S. F. F. D.