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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

Reports of Fire Officers
San Francisco Fire Department
1906 Great Earthquake & Fire
Captain F. Nichols
Truck Co. No. 4, 1648 Pacific Street
Apparatus: Rumsey, 1st size, tillered

After the earthquake which occured [sic] in this city on April 18th 1906, we found that the stairway in our building had been moved out of place from effects of the quake, and some of the apparatus was knocked down. Our company had been out all the night previous to the earthquake, and were tired and worn out when we were forced to start work on the memorial April 18th.

Immediately after the quake we hitched up, and kept our teams and wagons in the street in front of our quarters. We had been there but a short time however when we received word from chief O'Brien to report at Sutter & Polk sts. [sic], (where a fire had orginated [sic] from effects of the earthquake), in a dance hall. We were able to extinguish this fire however as there was a small supply of water to be obtained. Our next move was to Ellis and Polk sts. [sic], where we rescued an old lady from a building, where she had been pinioned.

We were ordered back to our quarters and instructed to patrol our district, and inform all persons to refrain from lighting fires in their stoves as it was dangerous. These instructions were not carried out, and we were called to put out several small fires as a consequence. All these alarms came by messenger however, as the fire alarm system was rendered useless by the earthquake.

At about 3 P. M on April 18th we reported to the chief at Ellis and Polk sts. [sic], and in company with engines # 8 & 22 and truck 10, fought the fire in the vicinity of Polk street, from Ellis to Turk, all night on Wednesday the 18th and all day on Thursday April 19th. We were able to obtain a fair supply of water during this time, and managed to save this district by using hose stream three blocks long. Thursday evening however, our supply of water ran out, and the fire which was then raging up Ellis street, destroyed all of the territory we had protected up to this time.

After this we were forced to change our position to Polk and Van Ness Ave., but as our supply of water was inadequate, we had little success and late on Friday afternoon, April 20th., we returned to our quarters. We were then called back to Van Ness avenue, and worked along this street all of Friday night, working down as far as Vallejo St.

While in this vicinity I witnessed the dynamiting which occured [sic] on Friday night. After a consultation between the Mayor and several other officials, to decide who was to have actual charge of the operations, and after it was finely settled that the fire chief was to take full command; a crew of soldiers started dynamiting operations in this vicinity. The building on the south east corner of Van Ness and Vallejo street, also the one adjoining were dynamited. This crew then proceeded to Broadway, and blew down a couple building on the north side of Broadway between Van Ness and Polk street: they also dynamited three buildings in the center of the block on the north side of Broadway, between Polk and Larken [sic] streets, and the north west corner of Larkin and Broadway. Dynamiting seemed to be the only way to check the spread of the flames, but in this they were not successful. Our company had canvassed all of the district between Union and Turk streets, and Between Van Ness and Hyde, but were unable to find or obtain any water at all in this district. It was not until Saturday that the fire was finally stopped at Van Ness Ave.