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Notable Fires:

General Alarm
June 18, 1865
Sunday Evening, At Half-Past Seven O'clock
On The Block Bounded By Drumm, Commercial, And Market Streets

The first box struck was Box 3
Stockton and Greenwich streets

The most extensive fire that took place during the year occurred on Sunday evening, June 18th, 1865, at half-past seven o'clock, on the block bounded by Drumm, Commercial, and Market streets. This commenced in the hay barn of Rider & Somers, and was supposed to have been the work of an incendiary, and occurring at that early hour of the evening, under ordinary circumstances, it would not have assumed the magnitude it did ; but, unfortunately for all parties, the Fire- Alarm Telegraph was only in working order sufficient to strike once for Box, No. 3, corner of Stockton and Greenwich streets, thus starting some of the Companies and members of the Department towards that section of the City, instead of the locality where the fire actually was. The correct locality of the fire may have been transmitted to the different Engine Houses notwithstanding the inability of the operator to strike the City-Hall Bell ; but this was of little avail, so far as the general mass of the members of the Department were concerned, as it did not reach them, and it was only some fifteen to twenty minutes afterwards, when some one by hand rang a " general alarm," that they became apprised that an extensive conflagration was under way, at which their services were required.

In this manner did the fire gain such headway that it was found a difficult job to subdue it ; and it was only after superhuman efforts on the part of the firemen, and the destruction of some couple of dozen of buildings, that it was finally subdued. A scant supply of water in the hydrants was again experienced at this fire, and had not the tide in the Bay been favorable at the time, a more serious loss might have taken place. As it was, some of the Steam Engines, as well as Hand Engines,- took suction through the wharf, from the Bay, and after getting in position done most efficient service. Indeed, this can be said of every Company in the Department, as well as of the Independent Companies, for they were all represented, even Young America, No. 13, coming in from the Mission with their Engine, Hose Cart, and Hose Carriage, and getting into service.

The fact that hydrants, placed on small mains, will only supply a few Engines with sufficient water at a time, was again realized at this fire, and induces me to reiterate my former expressed opinion, that they should only be attached to six-inch mains certainly nothing less in size. The number of fires during the year past amounted to about two hundred, of which some forty took place in the month of May, the first month after the completion of the Firm Alarm Telegraph.

DAVID SCANNELL,
Chief Engineer

Source: Department records

Extracted from original sources with grammar and spelling as published.