1868 May 8
At a few minutes after twelve o'clock last night, those who ware still up and in the neighborhood of the Montgomery street part of the town were startled by a loud, rattling explosion, not unlike a discharge of a volley of musketry or the prolonged crash of a falling wall.
The sound appeared to come from the south end of Montgomery street. Hundreds of persons instantly hurried from either end of the street, and met on the corner of Bush and Montgomery streets. Here they found Steam Fire Engine No. 2, and her men —who were engaged in pumping out cisterns, having; just finished that on the corner of Pacific and Kearny, and been summoned to pump out the cistern on this corner. Here they learned that a gas explosion had caused the noise. A few moments previously the cover of the cistern had been rained, and whilst one of the firemen (J.J. Kelly) was in the act of lowering a lamp for the purpose of seeing the water, the carbonated hydro fen gas, or a collection of gas from a leaking pipe, took fire and shot up a flame that filled the mouth of the cistern, and rose to the height of fifty feet, throwing the heavy suction pipe into the air and severely burning about the hands and face the following named persons, who were grouped about the cistern:
David Mulrain, contractor, who has charge of the cisterns to keep them in repair.
J. J. Kelly. Foreman of No. 2.
Thomas Sands, extra man,
J. Stockinger, extra man, and a citizen, not a fireman, named James Barton.
The wounded men were conveyed into Thayer & Wakelee's drug store in the Occidental Hotel block. In a very short time Doctors Bates, Holland, Bowie and McNulty were summoned and on hand to render surgical aid. The employees of the drug store energetically exerted themselves, and in a few moments the injured men had their burns properly dressed with linseed oil and lime water, and bandaged with lint. The sufferers' injuries, although painful, are not serious. They must have all been looking over the mouth of the cistern, as their wounds are all in the face, on the head, and on the hands. The hair of a number of them was singed. When the explosion occurred, a number of persons passing up and down Bush and Montgomery streets observed a column of light flame shooting up from the mouth of the cistern to a height of fifty or sixty feet, and presenting a magnificent spectacle. The night being very clear and calm, the explosion was heard at a great distance, people coining from far out on Market street, fearing to witness a similar tragedy to that which occurred at Wells, Fargo & Co.'s buildings a few years ago. The cistern where this accident occurred, we learn, had not been opened for a long time, and doubtless the accumulation of gas therein was very great. Some entertain the idea that there was leak in the gas pipe at this point, inasmuch as the smell of gas was very strong after the explosion. The escape of the injured men, and in fact of others standing immediately above the cistern, is indeed miraculous, for the heavy suction, a portion of the sidewalk, and the ponderous engine were all raised by the force of the explosion. After their wounds were dressed the injured men were conveyed in as comfortable a condition as possible to their several places of abode.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 20, Number 6628, 8 May 1868 — SAN FRANCISCO, FRIDAY, MAY 8. LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. [ARTICLE]
SAN FRANCISCO, FRIDAY, MAY 8.
Extracted from original sources with grammar and spelling as published.