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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Reports of Fire Officers
San Francisco Fire Department
1906 Great Earthquake & Fire
Captain J. R. Mitchell
Chemical Engine No. 2, 1421 Market Street
Lieutenant Wm. F. Otto
Truck Co. No. 5, 1819 Post Street

Lieutenant William F. Otto No. 5 Truck #2 Chemical, stated that on the morning of the 18th of April, after the quake no fire alarms were turned in as their system was entirely crippled and practically of no use whatsoever. It was impossible to obtain any water from the hydrants situated on the Corner of Golden Gate Ave. and Buchanan St., also at Webster and Golden Gate Ave., owing to the fact that the water mains in this neighborhood were all broken, therefore his crew worked entirely with their Chemical Engines.

L. Balletto, Hoseman No. 2 Engine stated that on the morning of April 18th, no alarms were received at his station. He was ordered to report immediately at Bush & Kearny Sts., and there helped to remove Fire Chief Sullivan who was badly injured owing to the collapsing of one of the walls of an adjoining building. Later on he tried to obtain water from the hydrant located at Grant Ave. and Market St., and found as the mains were broken it was useless to try to obtain any water in this neighborhood. On the following day he was stationed at Ellis and Van Ness Ave., and remembers that it was impossible to use any of the hydrants in this locality. It was then he started to back-fire the houses from Ellis St. north on Van Ness Ave.

Captain J. R. Mitchell Chemical Engine #2 stated that a Chimney from an adjoining building fell through their sky-light and frightened the horses who broke loose and escaped. No fire alarms sounded at his station, as the earthquake had damaged the whole system. His crew worked for 75 Hours immediately after the quake and helped to extinguish twenty-three fires. Mr. Mitchell further stated that immediately after the quake 51 fires started in different parts of the City, and had it not been on account of the Telephone, and Signal System being entirely disabled by the quake he seems satisfied that these fires which originally started from the effects of the quake would have been extinguished immediately if it had been possible to obtain any water from hydrants. It was not until May 11th, 1906, that the Fire Department was able to use its signals.

Source: E. A. Platt and R. C. Schindler