Guardians of The City SFFD Home Page - San Francisco Fire Department Museum
Notable Fires:

H. S. Crocker & Co.
October 8, 1885
Box 37 - N. W. corner Battery and Bush, 2:08 a.m.
SECOND ALARM at 3:40 a.m.

In 1885 if an alarm is received from the original alarm box, it shall be considered a General Alarm

../../images/fires/1885 Crocker Bldg.

The force of the Department has been taxed to its utmost capacity at different fires during the past year, particularly at the Crocker, Bancroft and Brannan-street fires, which demonstrated most conclusively that the present force is inadequate to cope with a large fire and hold in reserve sufficient force for an emergency, which may arise during the progress of a large fire where the entire department is necessarily engaged.

October 8, 1885; Station 37; time, 2:08 o'clock A. M. Fire in the large five-story brick building, .Nos. 215, 217 and 219 Bush street, known as the Crocker building, occupied by H. S. Crocker & Co., stationers, printers and lithographers. The fire commenced in the basement, and had been burning some time before the alarm was sent in. When the doors were forced open, the cellar or basement was one mass of flames from front to rear, shooting up the elevator shaft and firing the light material upon each floor. The district force was found inadequate, and a second alarm was sent in. The fire was confined to the building in which it originated, which, with its contents, was destroyed. At this fire two noble and brave firemen, Martin Hannan, Assistant Foreman, and Peter F. Healey, hoseman, of Engine Company No. 4, lost their lives in the discharge of their duty, and several members of the department were more or less injured by the falling in of the first floor of the building. The fire was under control in four hours, and required the services of twelve engines (of the department’s 14), three hose companies (of the department’s 7), and three truck companies (of the department’s 4). Loss estimated at $500,000.


During the year there were eight deaths in the Department. The saddest I am called upon to announce was the fate of Martin Hannan, Assistant Foreman, and Peter F. Healey, Hoseman, of Engine Co. No. 4, who were burned to death in the fire in the Crocker Building on the morning of the 8th of October, 1885. These brave men, who during life were known as fearless and ever ready to face any danger in carrying out the maxim of the Department, "we strive to save," in company with others equally intrepid, entered the burning building on the ground floor and were directing streams where in the judgment of the engineers they would do the most good, when it was discovered that the floor was weak, tottering and in an unsafe condition. The men were at once ordered out of the building, but not responding in time to the order to "back out," the floor, which had burned away, fell into the basement and poor Hannan and Healey were precipitated into the fiery pit below, and in a moment were beyond all human aid. Their companions more. fortunate, escaped, but not without injury.

When Death summoned these men while in the discharge of their duty, those who were dependent upon them were bereft of protection. This fact was made known through Col. Charles F. Crocker by telegraph to Charles Crocker, Esq., his father, the owner of the building, then in New York, and on the following day I received a letter of which the following is a copy:

San /Francisco October 9, 1885.
David Scannell, Esq., Chief Engineer S. F. F. D.,

Old City Hall, San Francisco:

I have just received a telegram from my father, who is in New York, in which he requested me to distribute $5,000 among the families of, and to those dependent upon, the firemen who were killed and injured at the late fire on Bush street. He says distribute the money where it will do the most good to the most needy. In accordance with his instructions I enclose to you a check for $5,000, and would ask you to carry out to the best of your judgment, his wishes.

Very truly yours,


In answer to this letter containing so generous a gift, the promptings of a noble mind and a generous heart full of sympathy for those who were so suddenly rendered almost helpless, I sent a reply as follows:


Col. C. F. Crocker:

Allow me, on behalf of the widow and child of one and those dependent on the other of the brave men who lost their lives on last Thursday during the fire of the Crocker Building, and on behalf of those members of the Fire Department who at the same time and place met with accidents, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter containing a check for $5,000, and to return to Charles Crocker, Esq., the donor, the heartfelt thanks of the bereaved and the distressed, as well as those of the Board of Fire Commissioners and myself, for the very generous and timely assistance. The money will be distributed in accordance with the needs of those for whose benefit it is intended.

Respectfully yours,


The publication, in the daily papers of the letters, moved a large number of citizens to make unsolicited contributions to a fund for the relief of the relatives of the deceased and those firemen who were injured. These contributions paid in at headquarters of the Department, amounted to the sum of $7,751 90, the principal donations being as follows :
Charles Crocker, Esq. $5,000 00
H. S. Crocker & Co 500 00
H. S. Crocker & Co. (salvage) 29 90
George C. Schreve & Co 100 00
Occidental Hotel 100 00
California Sugar Refinery . 100 00
Schweitzer, Sachs & Co 150 00
Greenbaum, Weil & Michaels 100 00
Small sums from $1 to $50 amounting to 1,672 00
Total amount subscribed $7,751. 90

Upon consultation with the Board of Fire Commissioners as to the distributed of this fund, I apportioned it as follows :
To Peter Healey (guardian): $3,551 90
To family of Peter Healey 250 00
Mrs. Martin Hannan (widow) 3,250 00
Michael Hannan (father) 250 00
Philip McMahan, Engine No. 5 100 00
N. J. Barbetta, Engine No. 12 100 00
George E. Burr, Hose No. 1 250 00
Total amount paid $7,751 90

A Total Loss of Over $500,000, and Insured for $205,000
Scenes and Incidents of the Fire.

1885 October 9

At 2:10 o'clock yesterday morning A. J. Soule, of Morse's patrol, turned in an alarm of fire from Station 37. The Fire Department responded promptly to the alarm and found their services needed to rescue the five-story brick building Nos. 215 to 219 Bush street, occupied by H. S. Crocker & Co., importing stationers, printers, lithographers and bookbinders. When the firemen reached the burning building the ground floor was filled with dense smoke, and it was a matter of great difficulty to locate the fire, which seemed shouldering somewhere in the back portion of the basement. The Bush-street doors were forced open and a search made to discover in what direction to direct the streams of water. An attempt was also made to reach the fire through the Occidental Hotel and the buildings on Sutter and Sansome streets. It was not long before District Engineer Sands, with the lines of hose of Engines 9 and 10, opened a way to the fire through the hat importing establishment of Friedlander & Koch, at Nos. 21 and 23 Sansome street, and from the rear windows of the same managed to play two streams into the second story and ground floor of the Crocker building. A small open space wide enough to admit of one person, surrounded the building, and it could be seen that the fire was still further below in the basement, burning with great fierceness, because the firemen could not reach it or check it at the first start.


The flames had now made great headway, and the elevator served as an immense flue through which the fire reached the upper stories, and burst with a roar through the roof, illuminating the streets for many blocks in every direction. It was apparent to all that the fire was of no ordinary magnitude, and at 3:40 o'clock Chief Scannell ordered a second alarm sounded. The greatest caution was necessary in working within the burning structure, for it was impossible to ascertain just what progress the flames had made, and it was found that the floors might fall at any moment because of the great weight of presses, type and other stock upon them. In spite of the caution exercised, two brave and daring firemen met a fearful death in the terrible flames. District Engineer Sands, after affecting an entrance on Sansome street, reached a couple of planks from the rear windows of Friedlander & Koch to an opposite window in the second story of the burning building, through which the lines of hose played. Sands saw the danger which surrounded the men and warned the Chief of it. The firemen were ordered to retreat, and had hardly done so when Martin Hannan, Assistant Foreman, and Peter Haley, extraman of an engine company, advanced across the gang-planks in the absence of the Engineer, end stepped into the burning building.


They were working somewhere near the centre of the ground floor, when suddenly, with a crash, it fell into the basement, and the two men went down into an awful sea of fire. A ladder was pushed down to the basement and ropes let down to them. The unfortunates were heard to make one or two faint calls for help, and then the flames swept with a roar round about them, and their voices were forever stilled. One of No. 9's men said : " We were in the alley. From the ground floor of this building a ladder was rested across to the side door, on the main floor of the burning building. For some time the fire kept below the main floor, and did not show to us above it. Just before the accident there were three men that I saw on the main floor. These were Hannan, Haley and Joe Burnett. They were told that the floor was burned off and was about to fall. Burnett was near the door and stepped outside. The floor went down with a crash, and Hannan and Haley with it. They could not get out. It seemed to me as if they heard the shouting, telling them to get out, and stepped back into a pit of fire. It was all fire

”We beard one or both of the men shout “Oh, we are gone ! It was impossible to save them. A ladder was put down but it was of no use. It was not of any use for us to perish in there, for we could not have saved them. .When we were ordered up here (to the Sansome-street building) the bricks had begun to fall in the alley, and it was dangerous there.”

One of the men who was killed is reported to have been caught by a heavy safe, which fell upon his legs, pinning him to the floor. he cried for help, and begged some of the firemen to cut his legs off with an ax and drag him from the flames, bet when it was possible for assistance to reach him he was burned to death.


It was not long before every one of the five stories gave way and piled the basement full of burning debris. The air was filled with whirling and eddying scraps of burning and charred paper, and the streets many blocks distant from the scene of the conflagration were littered with the fragments. It is not expected that any vestige of the remains of the lost firemen will ever be recovered, although all day long a vast amount of water was poured upon the spot where the men were supposed to be buried. Long before daylight a great crowd gathered in Bush street, near the fire, and all day that thoroughfare was blocked between Montgomery and Sansome with a host of curious sightseers. Nothing was left of the establishment but the four walls ; a more complete wreck could not be imagined.


Is as yet a mystery. John D. Yost, of H. S. Crocker & Co., said he could not account for it. One of the employees of the firm was in the establishment as late as 10:00 o'clock Wednesday night, and everything was then all right apparently. The boilers used by H. S. Crocker & Co. were outside of the building. The-fire originated within the basement, some distance ahead of the large Corliss engine. Mr. Yost's impression was that the fire did not originate because of the engine fires. " I have been trying to form a theory as to the origin," he said, " but have been unable so to do, as yet."

Hannan, one of the men lost, was a native of California, twenty-eight years of age and a harness-maker. He left a wife and family. Haley, who was aged about twenty-three, was unmarried. He was a tinsmith and a native of Massachusetts. He received his appointment as a fireman on the 10th of last December. Burnett, who so narrowly escaped going down with the main floor, has previously met with disaster, having been injured recently at the New Montgomery-street fire. McMahon of Engine 5 had a narrow escape. He fell into the flames in the basement when the floor went down and was burned quite badly, but not dangerously. His comrades pulled him out with a rope. From his accident and his subsequent absence from duty grew the groundless rumor that he, too, had perished.


The ground floor of the building was used by the stationery department of H. S. Crocker & Co. The second floor was the printing department of the establishment, the composition department being on the east side end the pressrooms on the west. Sixty persons were employed on this floor, and besides the weight of the type there were on the floor about twenty presses, among which were Gordons, five Peerless, one Nonpareil, one chromatic, one Globe and six Taylor cylinder presses, besides one large and three small Catting presses. The third floor was rented as a manufactory by George C. Shreve & Co., the jewelers at 106 Montgomery street. They employed from fifty to sixty polishers, jewelers and lapidaries and three silversmiths. Each man lost his set of tools, costing from $15 to $150. The holiday orders had occasioned a large amount of work for Shreve & Co., and the firm had a full complement of men. Besides their actual loss by the fire, they will suffer on account of the necessary suspension of work by reason of the loss of tools and the want of a workroom. But the manager of the firm was on hand yesterday morning and gave notice to the workmen that they could expect to be called to work just as soon as they replaced their tools and a place was found for them. The diamonds and other valuables used in the jewelry business are locked up nightly in three fire-proof safes, which have yet to be found in the debris, and until they are found, and their condition noted, no idea can be formed of the loss. So far as the machinery is concerned Shreve & Co.'s loss will also be a total one. They had quite an extensive establishment, using from twelve to fifteen polishing lathes, three rolls valued each at $500, four lapidarist's machines valued at $1,000, two large shear cutters and a drawing bench costing $1,000. A $1,500 bronze statue is ruined.


On the fourth floor were the rooms of the Railroad Gazetteer, the four or five rooms occupied by Chamberlain & Ingalsbe, designers and engravers on wood, besides the lithographing establishment under Max Gumpel, where they had several presses weighing many tons. The remainder of the floor was need as a storeroom for paper and envelopes. In the fifth floor was the bookbinders' establishment, which was one of the most extensive of the coast, the firm of Crocker & Co. doing all the printing, bookbinding and lithographing for the Central Pacific Railroad and kindred institutions.

The Fire Patrol reached the fire in advance of the Department, and even then the floor was hot and smoke was coming up in the rear from the basement, near the engine-room. Covers were put on all the goods and were lost when the floor fell. Through the building, in every floor, was a well-way allowing light from a skylight in the roof to reach the different floors. This opening, it is thought, hastened the progress of the flames after the first floor was reached by the fire, acting as a flue for the fast-spreading flames.

By the fire about 200 persons are thrown out of employment.

Another account of the death of the two firemen, as given by an eye-witness, is as follows: One of the firemen who had been taking his " turn " as hoseman a few seconds before the crash came, said to his companions, Haley and Hannan : Boys, this floor is getting shaky and I am going to get out, for I think I feel it going down.” The others had not noticed the peculiar sinking of the floor, and laughingly replied that they were all right. "Well," said the other, "I don't propose to run the risk of being buried in that hell in there," and he got out just in time to see the whole floor go down. The centre portion gave way first, throwing the two men headlong into the boiling sea of fire, and as they were engulfed in the burning mass and knew that they were doomed, their screams were simply heartrending. "Oh, my God ! " was the despairing shriek of one, and " Oh, my mother ! " the last words uttered by the other. Their sufferings were but momentary, however, for, as a fellow fireman expressed it, "H— 1 is said to be awful hot, but that was hotter."


During the progress of the fire from half-past 2 to 4 o'clock, and while the conflagration was confined to the interior of the building, the guests of the Occidental, having been aroused from their slumbers by the puffing of the engines and the hoarse cries of the firemen, watched with interest and curiosity the efforts of the brave fire laddies to subdue the flames. The absence of any illumination served to lull them into a fancied immunity from any danger to the hotel, but when the tongues of flame began to dart from the roof and distribute a shower of sparks over the adjacent housetops, the occupants of the various rooms could be seen hastily packing up their effects and the hegira of inmates then began. Although assured by the manager and attaches that the hotel was in no danger, as every precaution had been taken to guard against the roof taking fire, the more timid of the guests still insisted on seeking safer quarters. Although there was no panic, the ladies of the house were much excited and could be seen scurrying through the hallways and down the stairways, carrying huge bundles of their hastily-gathered valuables, some of them groaning under the weight of two plethoric grip-sacks. All these sought refuge in the neighboring hotels, but returned to their old quarters to-day when assured that all danger was over.


Assistant Chief Engineer Riley stayed at the scene until nearly 5 o'clock, when he was forced to retire, owing to the oppression caused by the smoke. He worked like a Trojan all day and was fortunate in escaping without injuries, although he was at the time of the falling of the floor almost prostrated by the smoke and heat, and was obliged to be carried from the building.

During the day the following firemen were brought to the City Receiving Hospital for treatment :
John Burr, of No. 2 Truck, a sprained knee with contused wound.
Felix Desmond, of same truck, received a severe wound by a heavy box falling on his shoulder.
Frank Donovan, of No. 2 Engine, was cut on the left arm above the elbow by a piece of broken window-plate. J
John Burns, of No. 4 Engine, was cut on the right hand.
Charles Bell, of the same company, was able to seize Fireman Burnett by the collar and drag him from the building just as the first floor gave way. Nicholas Barbetta, of No. 12 engine, fell through a trap-door into the basement and struck on a pile of broken glass. He escaped with a few slight cuts on the legs, and though ordered home by Coroner O'Donnell, he stuck to his post like a hero.


The building was originally owned by Grissim, Henderson & Henning. who made a lucky turn in 1860 in the Gould and Curry and Ophir excitement. In 1862 it was sold to the Reiss brothers, who owned the Cosmopolitan Hotel adjoining, and the upper stories were connected with their first purchase. In 1865 the whole of the hotel was burned out, while it was under the management of Tubbs & Patten, and although the loss of property was heavy, there was no loss of life. This fire virtually ended the career of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, and a few months later Charles Crocker bought the property from William Sharon and converted it into stores. The Grissim block, as it was always called, was soon occupied by the firm of H. S. Crocker & Co., who found their quarters on Sacramento street altogether too small. The building occupies the westerly half a of 50-vara and runs from Bush street to the centre of the block. The effect of the terrific heat was to ruin the shell and throw the entire walls so much out of line as to ruin them beyond recovery. Architect O'Connor has notified Mr. Crocker that he must raze the walls as soon as the firemen have left the place. Up to a late hour last night the street was thronged with spectators gazing with silent faces upon the unsightly pile and listening to the steady rush of water from the tireless engines upon the heated mass in the basement. Dense volumes of smoke continued to rise from the four walls, showing that though partially subdued there was still a great deal of fire in the ruins.


The entire less by the fire is not yet known, and it may be some time before the exact damage and the amount of insurance can be definitely ascertained. The firm of H. S. Crocker and Co., are the heaviest losers — their loss on stock alone, according to Mr. John D. Yost, a member of the house, being about half a million, of which $205,000 is covered by insurance in the following companies: California, for $10,000; Union of New Zealand, $10,000; State Investment, $5,000; Union of San Francisco, $10,000; Commercial Union of London, $10,000: Transatlantic of Hamburg, $5,000 ; Hamburg aid Bremen, $2,500 ; Liverpool, London and Globe, $15,000; Royal, Norwich Union and Lancashire, $13,000 : North American, ; Phoenix of London, $5,000; British America, $5,000 ; Western, Toronto ; $5,000; Fireman's Fund, $5,000.
Shreve & Co. decline to state either loss or the amount of insurance, though Mr. Shreve asserts they are fully protected. Two of their safes are in ruins. Schweitzer, Sachs & Co. had a stock on hand valued at about $600,000, the loss on which by water is estimated at about $1,000 ; insured for $261,000. Davis Bros, Toklas & Co., on Sutter street, were damaged only to a small extent, their insurance amounting to $273,000.
Hecht Bros. & Co.' were also slightly damaged by water ; insurance not given.
Freidlander & Koch and Greenebaum, Weil & Michaels suffered losses by water seeping into the basements of their stores, where heavy lines of goods were stored.
The building occupied by Crocker & Co: was valued at from $75,000 "to $100,000. It was not insured, as it has been the custom of Mr. Charles Crocker, the owner, to insure his own property.
Chamberlain & Ingalsbe, designers and engravers on wood, who did all of Crocker & Co.'s work and owned their own tools, lose $2,000 ; no insurance. Rosenstock's new building, adjoining the Crocker building, and as yet uncompleted, was scorched considerably and the roof burned through. The tin plates on the roof were also much warped, but there is no reparation for the $1,000 or $1,500 loss that will accrue to the owner.
Mr. John D. Yost, manager for H. 8. Crocker & Co., has temporarily opened an office with N. P. Cole, the furniture manufacturer across the street.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 12992, 9 October 1885 — FATAL FLAMES. [ARTICLE]

Further Particulars of Thursday Morning's Fire.
The Loss Estimated at Three-quarters of a Million
Scenes After the Burning— Bracing the Tottering Walls.

1885 October 10

Viewed yesterday the wreck caused by the holocoast (sic) of Thursday morning appeared even more complete than on the day before, and the picture of ruin was as complete as could well be imagined. How the four walls escaped being dragged down and in by the falling floors surpasses comprehension, for the tumbles did not leave even the end of a beam in the brick work. Many experienced men remarked on the cleanness of the inside of the walls, which bad scarcely a dozen projections over their entire surface. The Fire Department's architect made a careful examination of these walls early yesterday morning, and the result was that a party of workmen who were endeavoring to get at the debris were immediately driven out and the street ordered closed. This was done by the police, and Chief Scannell then notified Colonel Fred Crocker to secure the walls temporarily against falling, and to remove them as soon as the firemen could conclude their labors. Mr. Crocker, acting for his father, spared no expense in executing the command, and protested that he would rather lose $100,000 than have any further injury or loss of life result from the building. The job of


At the top was a most perilous undertaking, and the brave young fellow who volunteered for the service of fastening the grapnels was watched by hundreds, who fairly held their breath as he climbed along the narrow ledge with only ten inches of foothold and a precipice of over a hundred feet on either side. His terrible passage was hampered by his being compelled to lug the huge hooks, weighing over fifty pounds each, after him, together with the huge hawsers intended to be used as the guy ropes. Two of these grapnels were made fast about the middle of the front, and the ropes were then hauled taut so as to hold the trails in, by means of jigger tackles made fast on the roofs of Rosenstock's new building on the west and that occupied by Schweitzer, Sachs & Co. on the east. The same sort of gearing was put in place on the rear wall, and the side walls were guyed wherever a projection afforded an opportunity to fasten a rope. The iron front was then shored up by means of huge timbers braced from the ground, but this operation was not concluded until nearly dark, and the lateness of the hour forbade an investigation of the debris. All day long Chief Scannell and the District Engineers were besieged by the firemen with petitions to be allowed to search for the bodies of their cremated comrades, "but the officers did not consider the venture safe, and refused for fear that the search would result in


From tumbling brick that might be dislodged by their exertions in manipulating the heavy debris. The fire continued to burn all day in various portions of the ruins, and two streams were kept busily engaged in smothering the blazes as they worked their way to the surface. From the fire wall of the Rosenstock building the view of the vast pit was awe-inspiring and terrifying. A hundred feet below lay the wrecks of the five floors, with all their costly burdens of machinery and indestructible material piled in confused masses. Giant beams, blackened and charred, and broken like straws, lay in all positions and directions. Huge iron columns and pillars were twisted out of all semblance to their original shape, and long lengths of gas and water piping were tangled like threads. Sullen clouds of blue smoke floated slowly from the smouldering (sic) timbers, as if loath to leave the scene of destruction, and it seemed the thickest from just over the terrible grave of poor Hannan and Healey. Although there was not much breeze blowing, the heat sent heavy masses of air rushing upward, and on these currents white paper cinders were whirled and eddied about until they looked like restless birds darting hither and thither in pursuit of smaller denizens of the air.


In this connection is the immense amount of paper that escaped destruction, when solid timbers of great size were entirely consumed, and huge masses of iron were warped by the heat. Especially was this the case with large packages of paper closely packed, many of which were found to be burned to a depth of only a couple of inches. This discovery inspired a member of the firm of Crocker & Co. with the hope that the books of the printing establishment might have escaped with no little injury that the debts due the firm could be ascertained. An employee located the spot where the secretary containing the accounts should have fallen, and was fortunate enough to discern a portion of it through a crevice in the wreck. He was about to go after it, but, notwithstanding the vexations caused by the delay, he was restrained by the firemen. Mr. Yost's private office, in the extreme northeast corner of the ground floor, seems to have escaped with less injury than any other portion of the building, and many of his books and papers were rescued unharmed, but for a slight singing and soaking. The machines and the half-dozen safes in the building are all out of eight, their superior weight having carried them to the bottom of the basement, where they are buried beneath twenty feet of debris. On account of the danger from the tottering walls, no prospecting of the ruins was allowed yesterday, even in spots where the lack of fire permitted it ; but the bracing being satisfactorily concluded, the work will be commenced to-day.


Will be made by the firemen in search of the bodies of Hannan and Healey, and this will be commenced by daylight. The firemen expect that they were not entirely consumed, on account of the preserving effect of the water in the basement, where it is nearly ten feet deep, and even at the time and place where they fell it must have attained a depth of several inches. The search will be commenced at 9:30 this morning with as many men from the various truck companies as can be spared. A relief engine from the Corporation Yard was placed at the disposal of the Underwriters yesterday and was kept busily employed all day in pumping out the cellars of the Sansome street firms that were flooded by the water from the stone area between their rear and the burned building. By attaching an auxiliary pump the engine was worked up to a capacity of 1,850 gallons a minute, but even with this enormous emptying flow the water was still several inches deep in many places at dark last evening, and the pumping was kept up all night.


Here are not nearly so large as at first claimed, and a prominent insurance man stated yesterday that an average of $10,000 would cover the losses of each of the firms affected. The insurance companies claim that there has been a disposition to squeeze them evinced by the losers, and for that reason particular care was exercised by the Board of Underwriters in selecting the various committees of adjusters. For the firm of Schweitzer, Sachs & Co. the loss adjusters are T. E. Pope, B. Faymonville and Vandyke Hubbard; in the case of Greenbanm, Weil & Michaels they are W. L. Chalmers. Alfred R. Gorrey and H. M. Grant, and in the cases of Friedlander & Koch, and Davis Bros., Toklas & Co., they are Z. P. Clark, J. W. Staples and W. L. Chalmers. Hecht Bros.' losses will probably be adjusted by stipulation. Shreve & Co. are unwilling to make any estimate of their loss until they can recover and investigate the contents of their, two large safes, which contained all their precions (sic) stones and metals used in manufacturing. Their tools and machinery, however, were worth, it is claimed, nearly $ 25.000, and they carried an insurance of $30,000. Crocker & Co.'s safes contained all their policies, and so far they are only certain of an insurance of $203,000, divided among thirty-three companies, the largest single policy calling for $ 20.000. For two days before the fire extra men had been employed by the firm for the sole purpose of storing the new invoices of goods in the basement.


Include about $1,000 worth of furnishings in the rooms of the Misses Chamberlain and Ingalsbe, the designers and engravers on wood, who are without insurance. Four lines of hose belonging to Engines Nos. 2, 4 and 5 and Hose No. 1, aggregating about a thousand feet, were lost when the ground floor went down, and the Fire Patrol lost sixty rubber covers, worth nearly $30 apiece. About half the tin roof of the Rosenstock building was ruined by the heat, and there are a few other minor losses reported in the neighborhood. It will be several days before an aggregate of the losses can be compiled, but the most experienced gentlemen who have paid the subject any attention think that the figures will be in the neighborhood of $750,000.


Charles Crocker, the owner of the building, has been in New York for some time, but a dispatch (sic) from the agent here informed him of the fire and also of the death of Hannan and Healey, and the injuries sustained by other members of the Department. This latter news evidently distressed him much more than the loss of his building, for the telegram he sent in answer was all regarding the unfortunates and contained nothing of his personal loss. The contents of his telegram and the solid form assumed by his sympathy may be best imagined from the following letter, which Chief Scannell received at an early hour yesterday forenoon:

David Scannell, Esq., Chief Engineer San Francisco Fire Department
— My Dear Sir :
I have just received a telegram from my father, who is in New York, in which he requests me to distribute $5,000 among the families of, and to those dependent upon, the firemen who were killed and injured at the late fire on Bush street. He says distribute the money where it will do the most good to the most needy. In accordance with his instructions, I enclose to you a check for $3,000, and would ask you to carry out, to the best of your judgment, his wishes.
Very truly yours,
Charles F. Crocker, Jr.

HOW THE MONET WILL BE DISTRIBUTED. The accompanying check was drawn in favor of Chief Scannell and the money was at once placed to his credit, with the banking firm of Crocker, Woolworth & Co. The Chief at once wrote to young Mr. Crocker, acknowledging the receipt of the check, and called a meeting of the Fire Commissioners for 3 p. m. At that hour all were present, together with a number of engineers and foremen, and the news of the generous gift was received with great feeling, one grizzled old fire-fighter remarking that if Mr. Crocker could do a similar amount of good with every $5,000 of his wealth, there would be no estimating the immensity of his alleviation of distress. On motion, after the meeting had time to realize the appreciation of the poor fellows' sacrifice, it was resolved that the Chief pay over $250 to each of the families of Hannan and Healey, to relieve their immediate necessities, and that afterwards the Board act in conjunction with him in agreeing upon a distribution of the remainder of Mr. Crocker's bequest. It is likely that the injured men will decline any portion of the money, and leave it all for the helpless ones who were dependent on the toil of the dead men for support. Commissioners Sloss and Siebe were appointed a committee to draft appropriate thanks, and their labors resulted as follows :

To Charles Crocker, Esq., New York City:
At a meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners, held this day, it was unanimously resolved to tender the sincere and heartfelt thanks of the members of this Board to you for your kind consideration for those who, by the accident in the Crocker building, were deprived of protectors and those who at the same time were injured. The timely aid, unsolicited as it was, is the more appreciated. (sic)
The Board of Fire Commissioners,
Frank A. Edwards, President.

This was unanimously adopted, and then telegraphed to Mr. Crocker in New York. The meeting then adjourned, and a subscription to further swell the purse was immediately started, with E. B. Vreeland, Secretary of the Board, as Treasurer. The subscription will remain open at the office of the Commission for all who desire to subscribe, and in consideration of the unfortunate condition of the surviving relatives, these should be many.


Are almost destitate, (sic) and the aid could not be better placed. Martin Hannan, the eldest of the two unfortunates, was a native of California, aged twenty-four years, and resided with his wife and child on Natoma street, near second. The little one is not quite three years old, and Mrs. Hannan is far advanced toward a second maternity. Poor Hannan was a harness-maker by trade, and added his earnings at this business to his pay as a fireman. He was acting as foreman of Engine No. 4 in the place of Foreman Curran, who is confined to his bed by a broken leg. He joined the department several years ago, and his conduct as a member of it has been most exemplary. Peter F. Healey, his companion at the fatal moment of the fall of the floor, was twenty-three years of age, and the burden on his young shoulders was even heavier than that of Hannan. By the death of his father and mother, both within the past year, he was left as the sole support of seven younger brothers and sisters, one of whom a girl, is helpless and incurably ill from a paralytic stroke. They reside on Natoma street, near First, and are overwhelmed with grief at the loss of their idolized brother. He was a native of Massachusetts, a tinner by trade, and was appointed to 4 Engine in December last, since which time he has born an equally good reputation with Hannan.

In this connection there has been considerable talk regarding the poor provision made for the families of deceased and disabled firemen. So far the only power in the hands of the Commissioners has been to vote whatever relief they saw fit to men injured at a fire. This money comes from the fund created by the monthly assessment that is levied on every member of the department, and is totally inadequate to provide any great relief for helpless survivors.


This will soon be remedied, however, by the Legislative act of Senator Dougherty, which goes into effect on the 1st of next December. This provides that all foreign incorporated insurance companies shall pay over 1 per cent, of their receipts for premiums to establish a fund for the aid of sick firemen and the needy families of those deceased. Last year the receipts by foreign companies amounted to about $1,200,000, which would give the firemen a fund of $12,000 per annum. The companies promise to fight the law, however, and it may never be enforced. It is expected that the Supervisors will take some action in the present matter in event of the subscription failing to swell Mr. Crocker's generous gift to a sum that will insure the maintenance of the helpless ones left by the sad end of


As yet there is no settled opinion regarding the origin of the fire, and the. cause is not likely to become known. Many contradictory statements are afloat concerning it. Some parties assert that they smelled smoke about the premises as early as 7 o'clock, but this is emphatically denied by an employee of Crocker & Co. who claims to have been on the ground floor as late as 10:30. The firemen are all positive that the fire had a start of some hours, and support this theory by the assertion that closely-packed paper such as was stored in the basement, would take a long time for fire to make such headway as they found when they reached it.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 12993, 10 October 1885 — AFTERMATH OF ASHES. [ARTICLE]

Rescue of the Ashes of a Fire Victim.
Progress of the Subscription (or the Bereaved Families - Mrs. Hannan's Condition- - Crocker & Co. Resume.

1885 October 11

Notwithstanding the immense floods of water that have been poured into the rains of the Bush street fire, the flames continue to prey on the buried debris, and at 9 o'clock yesterday morning, when a detail of firemen commenced their melancholy search for their lost comrades, the scene of their operations was neither comfortable or pleasing. On top the charred timbers and twisted iron columns and shafts were cold, bat half a dozen feet down were found occasional beds of glowing embers that blazed up fiercely on being fanned by the fresh air. The debris was fully fifteen feet deep in the southeast corner of the building, where the search was commenced, and the first tools called into requisition were axes, saws, levers and ropes. The top of the mass was composed almost exclusively of the heavy braces and timbers of the roof, and many of these were so intricately wedged together that it was necessary to chop or saw them in two and then haul them out in sections. Beneath was a mass of finer wreckage, consisting of ashes, plastering, etc., which was removed with shovels and forks. Then came another mass of heavy timbers, representing the remains of one of the floors, and then another layer of dirt and consumed stock, and so on down to the bottom floor, which was reached shortly before noon. About thirty firemen engaged in the hunt, relieving each other every half hour in the pit that they sunk to the bottom of the basement. Engineer Sands and one or two of his comrades who witnessed


Were so positive as to the location where they sank into the flames that the excavation was only made about twenty feet in diameter. After getting pretty well down, the ruins came to be a mass of dirty black ashes of the consistency of stiff mud, mixed with unconsumed bits of timber, wads of soaked paper, hundreds of charred pencils and penholders, half-burned balls of cord, pocket-books, blank-books, bottles of ink end mucilage, and scores of articles that miraculously escaped total destruction. This composition tried the temper of the shovels and the muscles of the wielders, but the latter labored on in silence and without complaint, dreading every moment to come en the objects of their search. The feverish energy with which they worked and the suppressed excitement was more especially marked on account of the nature of the toilers, whose usual disposition is to carry everything with a rush and a hurrah. At first their movements were much impeded by idle onlookers, whose careless remarks roused much indignation, and two young fellows who spoke irreverently of the terrible grave only escaped prompt punishment by Chief Scannell's interference. The Chief at length secured the aid of the police in evicting the idlers from the ruins and the firemen were left to pursue the search for their dead in peace. As the wreck of the first floor was reached the toilers became more cautious in their movements and the shovels ceased to ply for fear of mutilation of the remains.


Was obtained at noon, when a section of the pipeline held by the two victims was found leading into the northern end of the excavation. With their fingers the searchers clawed at the ashes in an effort to follow the pipe to the nozzle, but this proved a difficult task, as the hose was burned and broken so much that the trail was soon lost. Fifteen minutes of this work led to the brass couplings and fittings of the nozzle and then to a steel crisp or hook which Healey always wore in his waistband, to help him sustain the weight of the hose when he was holding the nozzle. At this juncture the excitement was painful, and every movement of the three or four men at work on the spot was breathlessly watched as they slowly sifted the aches through their fingers, not daring to dig too deep, for fear of scattering what they knew must be held together by very slight cohesion. An exclamation of horror from George Silvey, one of the searchers, was the earliest intimation that the terrible hunt was successful, and his find was so very slight that many believed he had made a mistake. All there was of it at first sight was a curved splinter of snow-white bone, projecting through the top of the black ashes. With reverent and careful hands the dirt was scraped away in thin layers, and then the stumps of three more ribs came to view, surrounded by a dim bed of white, calcined (sic) ashes, so different from the general mass that it did not need the experienced eyes of the firemen to tell them that all the earthly remains of one of the brave young victims were in sight. The white dust crumbled, even with the most tender handling, and no piece larger than a man's fist was deposited in the box made ready to receive it.


Was quite indistinct, but the ashes were so different from the surrounding dirt and cinders that they were easily distinguishable, and nearly twenty-five pounds were collected, with but little dirt attached. There were but two features that could be recognized — an elbow joint that had been protected from the consuming flames by a heavy piece of scantling, and one of the feet, which had been immersed in the water on the basement floor. This latter was encased in the foot of a rubber boot, and by it the body was made known as that of poor Healey, who affected that style of gear, while Hannan always wore leather. A few charred shreds of heavy duck made the identification positive, as Healey was known to wear a coat of that description, and Hannan, when he entered the burning building, had on a blue wool overcoat of the army pattern. Healey's next eldest brother was present and as soon as he became aware of the condition of his brother's body he went madly frantic, and had to be removed from the spot, almost as much dead as alive. The only thing contained in the remnant of the rubber boot was the foot, from the ankle down, the leg having been burned off as clean as if cut by a surgeon’s knife. Although the firemen who saw the two men in the moment of their terrible death were positive that they sank into the flames within a yard of each other, a long search failed to unearth any sign of Hannan, and at 8 o'clock the entire ground within the twenty-foot pit had been sifted to the basement floor without result. The constant encountering of masses of fire made the search difficult, and at the hour named it was relinquished by order of the workers' superior officers, who desired to test the stability of the walls before allowing it to continue. Coroner O'Donnell was present, and impaneling a jury on the spot, had the remains viewed, so that the inquest could be held at any future time.


as then removed to the United Undertakers' room, where a handsome coffin was ordered, with directions to have it fastened so that it could not be opened. The funeral is expected to take place from St, Patrick's Church to-morrow, but this has not been definitely settled, as the firemen are anxious for a postponement until the recovery of Hannan's ashes will permit of a double funeral. His body is now supposed to have been either entirely contained or to have been thrown farther towards the west wall than the excavation reached. A line of hose was kept busily at work on the ruins all day yesterday and last night, in hopes of totally extinguishing the fire, so that the search can be resumed to-day. In the search along the basement floor it was revealed that tons and tons of paper are stacked up there in the original piles, with only an inch or two of the outside edges burned off.

No other search parties were allowed within the dangerous walls yesterday, and although all the half dozen safes in the building were located, no attempts at getting them out were allowed. Mr. Crocker and Yost manifest no anxiety over the safety of the contents of their safes, however, and are only anxious to get at their books, ho that they can settle with the Underwriters. The latter have appointed no adjusters for that firm, for the reason that nothing remains to adjust, but as a matter of form a committee will examine the books in order to be able to report that the loss was not less than the insurance. The firm opened an office on California street, near the corner of Sansome, yesterday morning, and by noon was prepared to go on with its printing business. A number of the employees of the firm have been taken in by leading printers, and the firm's orders are being filled at different establishments.


Some difficulty is expected by the insurance companies in arriving at an agreement of losses with some of the firms injured by water, but the matter will be kept quiet if possible, and it is not probable that more than the final conclusions will be made public. The steam pumps on Sansome street found plenty of occupation all day in pulling water out of the cellars, where it still has a depth of several inches in places, and as fast as exhausted fresh supplies seep in from the large body lying beneath the debris of the Crocker building. Friedlander & Koch's cellar floor seems to be the lowest of all, and the Underwriters are endeavoring to gain consent to cut holes into it from the other buildings, and drain them all, so that the pumps can work to better advantage on the larger consolidated body than on the individual pools.


A report was widely circulated yesterday to the effect that Mrs. Hannan, widow of one of the unfortunate men who lost their lives at the Crocker fire, had given birth to a child on Friday night, and was lying at death's door from sheer prostration, both mentally and physically. A reporter of the Alta called at her residence in the afternoon and ascertained the report to be without foundation. Mrs. Hannan was seen, and in the brief interview that followed, the poor woman expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the beneficent aid contributed by Mr. Crocker. "Oh, sir," said she, " I don't know what would have become of me and my baby, and the other whom I expect now at any moment, but for this. We were very destitute, but a great deal of my distress has been alleviated by Mr. Crocker's kindness. God bless.

As she spoke she was sitting upon a lounge, rocking to and fro, enduring the doable agony of labor pains and the terrible anguish consequent upon the horrible fate of her husband, of whom she spoke in the tenderest (sic) terms. Near by sat a girl holding up a bright-eyed infant, a little one eleven months old. This was the first-born, and it is just beginning to walk. It is a little girl. Mrs. Hannan is a young woman, and if she passes safely through the troubles that are upon her now, it will be very largely due to the benefaction which has brought so much consolation, and which has removed from the mother-heart all uncertainties as to the family welfare in the immediate future. Her marriage with poor Hannan was without the consent of her father, who has never forgiven or recognized her since. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Nellie Shanks (Hannan' s sister), is lying so prostrate from grief that her recovery is only hoped for and scarcely expected, unless with the loss of her reason.

The subscription for the further relief of the two distressed families progressed bravely yesterday, but the money was left in so many different places that its aggregate could not be ascertained. Several newspaper offices received contributions ranging from $1 to $50, and at the Fire Commissioners' office about $200 was received, mostly from anonymous donors. The members of the Fire Department make their usual donation of $318, or $1 from each member. There has been no solicitation whatever, and the fact that every contribution is voluntary will go far towards inspiring the members of the Department to brave efforts in the defense of life and property.


The injured members of the Department are all doing nicely, and the three or four that were confined to their beds are expected to be out in a day or two. Captain Jim Riley has discovered anew throat-wash, that acts like a charm on the smoked and scorched tonsils. It has done a great-deal of good to members that were more or less asphyxiated, and will probably be adopted as a standard remedy of the Department.
The members of Engine Company No. 4 were busily employed yesterday in draping the front of their quarters with the sombre (sic) emblems of mourning. The motto, " We Mourn Our Loss,” occupied a conspicuous position over the keystone of the arched doorway, and from this, black and white muslin stretches away in harmonious prodigality. The men yesterday all spoke in the highest terms of praise of Mr. Crocker's generosity, and it is safe to say that the firemen of this city will, should the occasion ever demand it, put forth extra exertions to save any property belonging to the donor of the $5,000, which may be endangered by fire.

Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 held a meeting yesterday morning, and unanimously resolved to tender a vote of thanks to the proprietors of the Occidental and Brooklyn Hotels for voluntarily furnishing much-needed refreshments to the members of the Department during their long siege of the flames Thursday morning. The Commissioners will hold a meeting to-morrow to dispose of the remainder of Mr. Crocker's gift to the bereaved and wounded. The Board of Fire Wardens have not yet determined upon their plan of procedure in regard to the ruins further than to condemn the walls. If they should be determined unsafe they may vote to tear down the walls before allowing the "debris to be removed, which will cause considerable vexatious delay to the owners of the safes now buried in the ruins.

The members of Engine Company No. 2 are mourning over the death of Special Officer George Lowney's dog Prince, who was crushed beneath the wheels of their machine as it rolled down Bush street to the fire. Prince was noted as a good burglar alarm, and was an inveterate follower of the engine every time it was called out of the house, which is located on his master's beat.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 12994, 11 October 1885 — A SORROWFUL SEARCH. [ARTICLE]MORE OF THE FIRE.

At Work on the Ruins — Contents of the Safe of Crocker & Co. and Shreve & Co. in Good Condition.

1885 October 13

The idea that the ashes recovered from the rains of the Crocker fire Saturday morning were those of both Hannan and Healy was completely dissipated yesterday, when the body of the former was found by the searching party. Only a score of men were employed to the search, but owing to the limited space of the ground to be gone over, this number proved amply sufficient, and the greatest difficulty experienced was in keeping back the crowd of volunteer helpers and curiosity-seekers. The pit that was sunk on Saturday was enlarged to the west and to the north, and the latter direction proved the correct one. The first glimmer of a successful consummation of the search shed its rays on the tired toilers shortly afternoon, when Jack Wells, the " chips " of the Department, sunk the hole to the basement floor, and started to follow a narrow passage way between high piles of charred and soaked paper that ran north and south. Less than a dozen feet from where Healey's ashes were found, and a couple of feet lower down, he and Trackman Williams encountered a shred of stout cloth. A tag on this loosened the compact mass of ashes from which it protruded, and the movement was followed by the disagreeable and unmistakable odor of decomposing human remains. The clue was carefully followed up, and in a few minutes the burned, blackened and unrecognizable body of


Was fully exposed to view. From the location it seemed plain that Hannan, on being precipitated into the raging furnace, had not lost all idea of directions, and had struggled toward the north doors. It was farther apparent that when his life was eaten up by the flames that another section of the floor most have fallen over him, in such a manner as to smother the fiercest of the flames, and partially protect the body. It lay in a crouching position, with the two extremities of head and foot exposed to the fire, by reason of their extending beyond the roof that covered the trunk. Both feet and one of the legs half way to the knee were burned entirely away, but white ashes marked them, and they were carefully gathered up and deposited in the temporary coffin furnished by McGinn's undertaking establishment. The right arm projected at a slightly obtuse angle from the side, and the head was burned off, us was that of the left arm, which appeared to have been thrown over the face by way of protection. The head was frightfully burned, the skull being almost entirely destitute of flesh, and the neck was so calcined (sic) that it threatened to drop from the trunk by its own weight. The clothing was scorched and burned throughout, but held together, and the portions of the body beneath it were simply baked externally, but not sufficiently to prevent decomposition making sad ravages, as was seen when the body was stripped at McGinn's Market street undertaking rooms. By tender handling


Were saved from further mutilation, and when they had been gently planed in the coffin it was removed by a ragged path through the rains to the front of the building. An immense crowd greeted the arrival of the coffin in the street, and raced with the undertaker's wagon to its destination, but their curiosity was . properly refused gratification, and, if possible, even the widow will be prevented from viewing the distressing sight. The dead man's badge of membership in the department, No. 42, gleamed brightly from the crumbling breast of his coat, and was removed by one of his comrades for preservation as a relic. The funerals of both men will be held at 2 o'clock this afternoon from their respective late residences on Natoma street. As the dwellings are but a few yards apart there will be but one cortege, and that will include a detail of four men from each engine, hose and truck company in the department. These will meet at the house of 1 truck, on O'Brien street, at 1:30 p. m., and march to Natoma street, from whence they will escort the remains of their late comrade to the cemetery.


After the inquest yesterday, returned a verdict of accidental death, finding, farther, that they had died at the post of duty. In addition to the verdict, the jury made the following recommendation to the Legislature :

Considering the arduous duties required of our firemen, and the extreme danger to life and limb each a calling subjects them, we recommend that the Legislature at its next session increase the pay of call men in this Department to a earn equal in proportion to the services demanded, the present pay of $35 per month being ridiculously small and out of all proportion to the pay in all other Departments of our city government.


A large force of men went to work on the debris of the fire at an early hour yesterday morning, and at the rate they worked yesterday the interior will be cleared in three or four days. Prior to commencing general operations on the wreck a gang of men went over the entire front wall and removed all dangerous timbers that seemed likely to fall. Two of the party were armed with a long pole, on one end of which was fastened a strong, sharp hook, shaped something like a sickle. To this was attached a long line, and the hook being fastened in the timbers, the remainder of the force hauled on the rope until the piece gave way, or they became satisfied that it was immovable. This precaution taken, the work of cleaning oat the debris progressed rapidly. Timbers of too large size to be conveniently handled were sawed into sections, and then carted away by a force of half a dozen teamsters. Cartload after cartload of paper, ashes, small timber, and general wreckage of a fine character was forked and shoveled oat and carried away, and hundreds of loads remain. The ironwork was segregated, and of course has a small value as old metal, if nothing else. No more safes were unearthed, but it is probable that those remaining will be removed late to-day or to-morrow.


Was of the Hall pattern, and the owners express great satisfaction over its fireproof qualities. When the books were dried of the all-penetrating steam yesterday every entry was found to be legible, and not a paper was rendered indistinct by the terrible dual baptism of fire and water. Both of Shreve & Co.'s safes were of the Mac-Neale & Urban pattern, and contrary to the expectations that prevailed on Sunday on their dingy outward appearance becoming known, both were opened by means of the combinations, and are now on exhibition at the warerooms of W. B. Wilshire & Co., the agents, at No. 115 Front street. The paint and outside ornaments were melted off by the heat, and one had a corner broken off and a huge hole sunk in the top by a heavy press falling upon it. The contents of neither, however, were injured in the slightest, even the books not being scorched or singed a particle. The safe containing the bullion and jewels in the process of manufacture was the one most damaged by the fall, but the valuables showed no traces of the ordeal, and even the' carpet linings were as fresh as though the fire had never been. The fact that the combinations worked all right is attributed to the fact that the bolts of safes of this pattern are located in the extreme interior of the doors, instead of within an inch of the exterior, as in most cases.


Shreve & Co. state that their loss is about $30,000 only protected by $18,000 insurance. If the contents of the safes had ; been fully insured, the insurance would have been sufficient to cover the loss on tools and machinery. The adjusters are busily engaged on the Sansome-street losses, but as yet have made no reports.

The subscription for the benefit of the bereaved relatives : is making fair progress, and the Fire Commissioners now have $345 on hand, and there about as much more in different newspaper offices. Greenebaum, Weill & Michaels, who were considerably damaged by the fire, sent a check for $100 yesterday. Health Officer Meares sent $20, and Charles Montgomery contributed $25, with an offer to provide the best rooms and attention either of his hotels could command, free for all firemen injured in the discharge of their duty at any time. Since the fire there has been considerable agitation over the lack of provision for worn-out and disabled firemen here, and the non-existence of any provision for the widows or other dependents of deceased firemen. The Dougherty bill, levying an assessment of one per cent, on" the business of foreign insurance companies, will, if not overthrown, bring in a sufficient revenue for these purposes, but that does not go into operation until December. Heretofore the only fund has been that created by assessing each member of the Department $1 monthly, and it has been just about sufficient to pay sick benefits and bury dead members, leaving nothing in the way of


This department being what is known as a "call'* department, the majority of the members only showing up when a call to a fire summons them, a larger tax would not be possible on their limited salaries of $35 a month, yet the men perform as much duty and take as many risks as the members of permanent departments, are not allowed to have any other occupation, and are paid accordingly. The Department of New York City was the first to have any provision made for its disabled members and their families, and it now has the best system for the relief of its brave firefighters of any in the world. Many other large cities have endeavored to follow its plans, but the perfection of the New York system has never been attained. There the relief fund and has numerous sources of revenue, and for years past it has never had less than half a million of dollars in the treasury. The privates in the service are graded, and draw salaries ranging from $80 to $100 per month. Its main source of repletion is the tax on the insurance companies, and the next in size is the revenue from the issue of special licences (sic) to sell or store powder, dynamite, oil, etc., all of which goes into the relief fund. Other contributing sources are the fines imposed on the men by way of discipline, and the penalties imposed by the Courts for special privileges and violations of the fire laws. The Fire Commissioners are the


And have power to invest it as they see fit, and a statute gives them power to draw on the City Treasury should the fund ever fall below $200,000. The Commissioners also have a pensioning power, and any permanently disabled member of the Department may be relieved from duty on half pay. If the disability does not result from duty retirement may be made on one third pay, and partial disability is rewarded by light duties away from fires at half pay. The Commissioners are also custodians of the Life Insurance Fund, which comes from a monthly assessment of $1 on each member of the Department. From this fund $1,000 is paid the heirs of deceased firemen, in addition to a pension of $300 annually in cases of widows or minor children. If excessive mortality depletes the fund it may be replenished from the relief fund, so that there is never any possibility of helpless dependents being left unprovided (sic) for. In conversation with prominent firemen yesterday it was conceded that a permanent department would be an improvement on the present "extra man" system, but to adopt it would necessitate a new charter for the city. The Dougherty bill, however, will bring an income to the Department of $11,000 or $12,000 yearly, which by judicious handling will remove the present tax on the members and provide for their relief arid the assistance of their dependents to a certain extent.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 12996, 13 October 1885 — MORE OF THE FIRE. [ARTICLE]


1885 October 13 In part

Chief Engineer Scannell stated that Hannan and Healey, the firemen killed at the Bush-street fire, would be buried to-day, and invited the Commissioners to be present. The invitation was accepted, and the Board will attend the services in a body.

The Chief also stated that he had paid Mrs. Hannan and Miss Healey $250 each out of Charles Crocker's liberal donation to relieve the immediate neccesities (sic) of the two families. Mr. Scannell said furthermore that he had received many voluntary contributions in aid of the families of the dead and injured firemen, and after the funeral a general subscription would be opened for the same purpose. A suggestion was made for a benefit to help the cause, but after some remarks by Chief Scannell that it would be much better to rely upon subscriptions, the subject was dropped. All the appointments heretofore made were confirmed, and the Board adjourned.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 12996, 13 October 1885 — FIRE COMMISSIONERS. [ARTICLE]

Philip Mediation's Narrow Escape From Cremation
Work In the Ruins.

1885 October 14

Philip McMahon, of No. 5 Engine, who was more seriously injured than any of the firemen who survived the Bush-street disaster, was sufficiently recovered to sit up yesterday and relate his terrible experience in the flames. At the time the floor fell he was at work some twenty feet farther to the rear of the building than Hannan and Healey, but the flooring where he was standing sloped instead of going directly down. He distinctly heard the agonizing shrieks of his two comrades as they sank into the fiery pit, and even in his own peril he thought that no more horrifying sound had ever greeted his ears. As McMahon began sliding down the slope he made frantic grabs at everything that he passed, and finally effected a hold on a goods box just as his feet went over the edge of the broken floor. There he hung for seconds that seemed hours, while the flames lapped his lower extremities. He tried to call out, but the thick smoke choked him, and finally, unable to endure the terrible torture any longer, he wrapped his coat over his head and voluntarily released his hold, preferring speedy death in the furnace below to being slowly consumed. The fall was his salvation, for he rolled through the thickest of the flame and near to an iron-bound window looking out of the basement into the area way. There a willing comrade directed him to an open window only about six feet away, and making a blind, wild plunge through flame and smoke, he stumbled headlong into the arms of his comrades outside. He was insensible a moment later, but prompt attention brought him to, and since Saturday his recovery has been certain if pneumonia, the dread attendant upon smoke asphyxiation, can be avoided. This seems probable now, although McMahon's lungs are very tender from his experience, and require the most delicate treatment. His feet were frightfully burned while hanging over the edge of the floor, and a large amount of flesh has sloughed off. The injury is not permanent, however, and with no bad luck he will soon be around again. He is cheerful over his miraculous escape, which has had more effect upon him by contrast with the fate of his fellows.

The work on the ruins' progressed slowly yesterday on account of the rain wetting the timbers and making them slippery to handle. No other safes were recovered, and less than half the amount of work of the preceding day was accomplished. Several boxes of goods were recovered in a more or less damaged condition, but the value is trivial. Many pieces of machinery were also found unbroken, but the annealing process was so violent that it is not expected that it will be safe to use The larger subscriptions to the relief fund received at the Fire Commissioner's office yesterday included $100 from the Occidental Hotel, $50 from Robert F. Morrow, $50 from Maurice Schmitt, $25 from Main & Winchester, $5 from James Linforth, and cash from two anonymous parties aggregating $15.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 12997, 14 October 1885 — A FIREMAN'S TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE. [CHAPTER]


1884 October 22

The adjusters from the Board of Underwriters have concluded a settlement with H. S. Crocker & Co., the heaviest losers by the late Bush-street fire. The report of the committee is that the firm's total loss amounted to $383,450, and the companies with whom insurance was carried will settle to the extent of $201,253 65. The full insurance was not paid because the insurance on the engine and boilers was separate from that on the stock and other fixtures, and the machinery in question, being located in a separate structure at the back of the building, was but little damaged.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 13005, 22 October 1885 — Crocker A Co.'s Affair*. [ARTICLE]


1885 December 19 In part

The Board of Fire Commissioners have partitioned the Board of Supervisors to pay to Nicholas Barbetta the sum of $100, for injuries received at the Crocker fire. Barbetta is hoseman of Engine No. 12.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 13063, 19 December 1885 — THE CITY. [ARTICLE]

Extracted from original sources with grammar and spelling as published.

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