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Notable Fires:

Destructive Conflagration!
$200,000 Worth Of Property Destroyed!
Probable Incendiarism.
July 15, 1854

Yesterday morning, about 6 o'clock, the City Hall Bell rung out the alarm of fire. This was the third signal of five in the course of the twenty four hours, and this time the warning proved not to be a false one.

It is a fact pretty well established that the fire had its origin in the kitchen of the Golden Gate Hotel, on the corner of Oregon and Davis streets. There is a rumor afloat, for the truth of which we cannot vouch, that the fire was not accidental. Be this as it may, to many this conflagration has proved most disastrous. So fiercely and with such appalling rapidity did the flames spread destruction on all around, that many were unable to save the smallest portions of their property. The space between Washington, Jackson, Front, and nearly to Drumm street, was entirely consumed by the ravage of the devouring element.

All the houses on the block bounded by Front. Washington, Jackson and Davis streets are leveled to the ground, nothing remaining but the blackened foundations whereon they stood.

All the buildings on the east side of Davis street between Washington and Jackson are destroyed, as are all on the south side of Jackson street from Davis on past Randell’s Coal Yard. Several large frame houses on the north side of Washington street shared the same fate.

All of these buildings were of wood, and built on piles over the water. These are the only locations where a fire of any consequence could occur in the whole city. Owing to these lots not being filled in it is impossible to erect any other than wooden buildings.

Here was the time and place to see of what metal San Francisco firemen are made. Never did, and never would flesh and blood exert itself with more energy and desperate determination than did these men on this occasion. Every nerve, every muscle, was strained to the utmost in their untiring and almost superhuman efforts to save life and property from destruction. Well may California boast of her Firemen. Owing to the tide being out, great difficulty was experienced in obtaining a supply of water. The engines were put into scows and vessels near, and every available means were used that could be suggested, nor were they without avail. The San Francisco Hotel was saved almost miraculously. The St. Charles Hotel was scorched all over the side exposed to the fire, in such a manner that it is almost impossible to tell the color of the paint with which it was painted, and yet it suffered no further injury owing to the firemen's exertions. Engine Co. No. 13 dragged their engine from the Mission, and then worked like heroes after their arrival, notwithstanding the toil they had undergone before arriving on the scene of action. It is useless to attempt to particularize the acts of each particular company—their deeds speak for themselves. Let any one visit the spot and see for himself, and the only surprise he will probably manifest will be that the whole quarter of the town in the neighborhood of the fire was not laid in ashes.

In consequence of the bustle and haste attendant upon removing goods, furniture, &c., during the excitement of such scenes as these, the loss was very extensive. Large quantities of provisions were thrown overboard, and a very large amount was destroyed by fire. It is said that flour to the amount of $60,000 was lost.


Disgraceful to human nature is the fact that, daring the prevalence of fires and amidst such scenes as these here detailed, are wretches calling themselves human beings, who prowl around amidst the desolation caused by the fire seeking for plunder, and stealing whatever they can lay their hands on with impunity.

Several of this description, whose claims to be of the human kind are about as substantial as those of the wolf or jackal, were arrested yesterday. One man, named McDermot, was taken to the Station House, for attempting to swindle on a pretty large scale. While the fire was raging he entered the St. Charles Hotel with his boots off, and stated that he was one of the victims of the fire. He was treated with much hospitality, and articles of wearing apparel were furnished him. He tendered a $700 check to the barkeeper, asking him to take care of it for him. On claiming a coat in the hotel that was the property of a gentleman living there, suspicion was aroused, the check was examined, found to be worthless, and Mr. McDermot handed over to a police officer, who escorted him to the Station House.

We were informed that a lady, boarding at the Golden Gate, had made an affidavit stating that she had lost $7,220. A boy was arrested and taken to the Station House who had picked up two slugs amongst the ruins of this hotel.

Two men were brought into the St. Charles Hotel, one with his arm broken, and the other with his head broken. Both were conveyed to the hospital.

A lady fell overboard, and was rescued with great difficulty. She truly had a most fortunate escape, but owing to the exertions of tome gallant fellow, who plunged boldly into the water, her life was saved. Numbers of the firemen were injured, fighting manfully with the fire, and several other accidents happened, the particular of which could not be ascertained.

There was a flying report that several persons had been burned to death, but it is believed to be without foundation, having been informed by persons present daring the time the fire lasted that they knew nothing at all about it.

A wretch was taken to the station house for mutilating the hose belonging to one of the companies.

The rigging of a ship caught fire. She was cut adrift and the fire extinguished.

A man in moving his goods from a store on Washington street, had a trunk, containing $500 and a valuable casket of jewels, stolen.
Two members belonging to No. 4 fell overboard, but were fortunately rescued.

Several parties who were burnt out have removed already and commenced business, although their losses were very severe.

At one time great apprehensions were entertained for the safety of the steamers Yankee Blade and Brother Jonathan.

Thanks are due Mr. Hillman, of the Temperance House, for refreshments furnished the Firemen yesterday morning during their arduous labors at the fire.

Most of the losers by this fire are poor people, consequently the losses will be more severely felt. Many of the stores in this quarter were small ones, and by their destruction the owners have lost their all.

It is asserted that one man was drowned by falling through a hole in the planking, and that the body has been recovered.

Since writing the above, we learn that a woman with her child was burned to death in the Golden Gate Hotel.

The City Hall bell was not rung for some time after the fire had broken out. It is said that the man in charge was found sleeping by a boy who informed him of the circumstance.

It is almost an impossibility to famish an accurate statement of all the buildings destroyed and the losses sustained in detail. The following is as complete an account as could be obtained in time for this morning's issue.


David McKay's grocery store, on Davis street, entirely destroyed.
Irving House, on Jackson street.
The flour store of King, Barrol & Co., on Front street between Washington and Jackson.
The flour store of Adams, Welch & Co., on Davis street. Loss, $3000.
Constitution Restaurant, corner of Jackson and Davis streets.
Drug store, Dr. Haines proprietor, on Jackson street, between Front and Davis, $500.
The brass foundry of J. J. Ayres, between Washington and Jackson streets.
Emerick and Tannans, corner of Front and Jackson streets.
Steam engine manufactory, Bills proprietor, and drinking saloon alongside.
American House, corner of Davis and Jackson, loss estimated at $5,000.
Flour store of Spencer 4 Co., on Jackson street; warehouse between Washington and Jackson.
Provision store of A. J. Downer & Co., corner of Front and Oregon streets, contents saved.
Randall & Co s coal yard, on Jackson street, between Davis and Drum, and two buildings next to this.
Clothing store, Shoebridge & Childs.
Drinking saloon, Charles Wiaeger, between Front and Davis.
Boarding house on Oregon street, Mrs. Knight proprietress.
Grocery of Lyons & Co, corner of Davis and Washington streets.
Hardware store, S. H. Hendersten owner, corner of Oregon and Davis, loss estimated at $10,000.
A house called the Ocean Spray, the Jackson House, the Plunket House, Shamrock and Sierra Nevada— all destroyed.
A butcher's shop, and a boot and shoe store adjoining the Nicarauga House, were all destroyed.
The Pacific Restaurant, and the Union Restaurant, both between Davis and Drum.
Stringer's coal yard, on Washington street.
Waddington & Co., grocery store, corner of Jackson and Davis.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 5, Number 194, 15 July 1854 — DESTRUCTIVE CONFLAGRATION! [ARTICLE]

Extracted from original sources with grammar and spelling as published.

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