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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Reports of Fire Officers
San Francisco Fire Department
1906 Great Earthquake & Fire
Captain T. J. Murphy
Engine Co. No. 29, 1305 Bryant Street, at Eleventh Street
Apparatus: 1899 American Metropolitan, 2nd size, steam engine, 700 GPM

The following is a brief report of our experiences after the earthquake and during the fire which destroyed this city on April 18th, 1906.

Immediately after the earthquake our entire Fire Alarm Syatem [sic] was entirely disabled and out of commission. The floor of our Engine House was badly buckled up and in the basement the foundation wall on the East side was over fourteen inches out of elignment [sic]. We immediately hitched up our horses and pulled our apparatus out of the House into the Street, where I had occasion to notice that the walls of the Jackson Brewery had collapsed through the effects of the earthquake. We received word that a building situated on 9th St., between Bryant and Brannan Sts., had also been shaken down and on our arrival we rescued a family by the name of O'Toole. His wife was buried under the debris and we could not remove her. Proceeding then to 11th and Folsom Sts., we endeavored to remove three women killed in a house adjoining the Jackson Brewery and could render no assistance as these people were buried under such a mass of debris that it would have taken considerable time and as much a larger crew.

A fire had originated in a Drug Store located on the North-west corner of 12th & Howard Sts., and while proceeding to this place we had considerable difficulty, as the street was badly cracked near 9th St. on Bryant St. It was impossible to secure any water from the hydrants in this vicinity, and we had occasion to try the hydrants situated on the corner of 8th & Howard Sts., 8th & Folsom and 8th and Harrison Sts., owing to the fact that a water main supplying the hydrants had broken at 8th and Brannan Sts. About this time we made an effort to draft water from the sewers at 8th & Howard Sts., and 8th & Folsom Sts., but this also proved unsuccessful.

Word reached us that the tanks of the Hibernia Brewery contained 50,000 gallons of water, and on our arrival we were unable to make any use of this water, as the pipes connecting with the tank (located on the roof) were too small to make connections with our Engine.

In the afternoon we met Civilians hauling boxes of dynamite and also fuses and caps in a buggy, and with this we attempted to check the progress of the fire by dynamiting both sides of Langton St., between Folsom & Harrison Sts. This also was unsuccessful, as we had no water to extinguish the flames which originated after dynamiting. At 8th and Brannan Sts. we located a sewer full of water, and Engine Number 6 was immediately put in operation and with assistance of Engine Number 29 we pumped same until the supply ran out.

We were successful in saving the Southern Pacific Passenger Depot at Third and Townsend Sts., owing to the fact that water was obtained from the tanks of a Steamer located in the Channel; again it became impossible to continue any further as the fresh water used in our Engine had to be carried by my men in buckets, and this water arriving at different intervals made it impossible to keep up the necessary steam pressure in our boilers.

After 12 P. M. we moved to 11th & Brannan Sts., and again secured a small amount of fresh water contained in the Condensors [sic] in the Engine Room of a power house owned by the United Railroads, with this we were able to save the South side of Harrison St., between Eleventh and Fourteenth Sts., and the West side of Eleventh St. to Bryant St.

Receiving word that it was impossible to obtain water in the Southern part of the City known as the Mission we then proceeded to our Station, after having been continuously on duty from 5.15 A. M. April 18th, 1906, until noon Friday April 20th, 1906. We were unable to occupy our Station until April 28th, 1906, owing to the unsafe condition of the premises after the earthquake.

My crew consisted of Lieutenant J. A. O'Brien, Engineer, Fred Orr, Driver, David Burke, Hoseman James Flood and James Fay.

In order to correct the erroneous impression that our Fire Department was not up to the standard of efficiency would state that had it been possible for us to obtain water we would have been in a position to extinguish the fires which had originated immediately after the earthquake.

(Signed) T. J. Murphy
Capt. Engine #29

Lieutenant J. A. O'Brien,
Engineer, Fred Orr,
Driver, David Burke,
Hoseman James Flood
Hoseman James Fay.
Samuel Spear, Stoker.
James Collins, Hoseman.
Jos. McGinn,
Frank Murray
Jas. Flood.
Me. Carey.
Jas. Fay.