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Notable Fires:

October 17, 1989

Museum's "Turbo Chief" Pressed Into '89 Earthquake Service
1960 American LaFrance, manufacturer's #1001, 900 Series
1000 GPM triple combination pumping engine
Formerly the jet engine powered "Turbo Chief" engine

On October 17, 1989, soon after Loma Prieta Earthquake hit the Bay Area, the Department announced a recall of all off-duty personnel.  Every available member of Station 10, at 655 Presidio Avenue, twenty three in all, reported for duty. (One member was on vacation in England. He cancelled his trip and returned to the City.)  Upon arriving at the fire station, the recalled members found the regular in-service rigs, Engine 10 and Truck 10 already at work at the fire in the Marina which was within the station's first alarm area.  Richard Bracco, the Captain of the Station 10, who was assigned to Engine Co. 10, was part of the recall.  When he arrived, he assumed command of the firehouse, and began a search for a relief engine or truck.  None were to be found.

The Department's Museum is located in a separate building on the north side of Station 10, and since the apparatus floor of Station 10 has additional space to store apparatus, two pieces of the museum's apparatus collection were stored in the firehouse: a 1902 75' Gorter Water Tower and a 1960 American LaFrance, manufacturer's #1001, 900 Series 1000 GPM triple combination pumping engine, formerly the jet engine powered "Turbo Chief" engine.

Captain Bracco was aware that the Turbo Chief had been a reserve relief engine just four years earlier.  He also knew that the sponsor of the Museum at the time, the St. Francis Hook and Ladder Society, had an active apparatus preservation and restoration program headed by firefighter Gil Aymeric.  Gil, who was assigned to the airport division, was a director of the Society.   As the Museum apparatus superintendent, Gil had been to Station 10 many times to work on the engine.  Captain Bracco had been a member of the Department's Muster Team, and knew that in the summer of 1989 the Turbo Chief had been entered into pumping competitions at various firemen's musters throughout the state.  With all of the facts, Captain Bracco was confident that the Turbo Chief was in fine working order. 

The Turbo Chief carries a full complement, 1000 feet, of 3 inch large line hose, and 300 feet of 1 ½ inch small line hose.  Captain Bracco, unable to find a regular relief engine, prepared the Museum's engine for service.  The Turbo Chief's 500 gallon water tank was filled, and the pump tested for prime.  All of the available fittings and appliances from the storage closet of Engine 10 were placed on the rig, as well as personal hand tools, flashlights and chain saws provided by the recalled station members.  Captain Bracco assigned several of the recalled members to the Turbo Chief engine.  Lieutenant Tom Underwood, regularly assigned to Engine 10, was put in charge, with Firefighter Al Jones, as driver, Al Markel, Neil Morrison and Tim Connell on the crew as firefighters.  Captain Bracco then notified the Department Central Fire Alarm station that Engine 10-A was in-service and ready to respond calls of alarms. The time was 1950 hours.

For the next four hours, Engine 10-A, the Museum's Turbo Chief, was the only engine on the North side of the City that was available to respond to alarms.  All other regular in-service engine companies from the northern side of the City were at the Marina Fire.  They were: Engine Co. No. 16, stationed in the Marina; Engine Co No. 2, from Chinatown; Engine Co. No. 28, from Telegraph Hill; Engine Co. No. 41, on Nob Hill; Engine Co. No. 3, from Polk Gulch; Engine Co. No. 5 and Engine Co. 38, the Western Addition; Engine Co. No. 10, Pacific Heights; Engine Co. No. 21, from the Haight; Engine Co. No. 31, the Inner Richmond; Engine Co. No. 14, the Outer Richmond and Engine Co. No. 34, from near the Cliff House.

The crew of Engine 10-A quickly found themselves on runs covering an area between Nob Hill, normally covered by Engine 41, to the Ocean Beach, normally covered by Engine 34, and to the South into the Haight-Ashbury that is normally covered by Engine 21.  During the next five hours, Engine 10-A was the only engine available in this vast area.  Engine Co. No. 10-A responded to eight calls of alarm in that five hour period.  The engine's run list is below.

Engine 10, with their 1975 American LaFrance returned from the Marina Fire after eight hours of service time, at 0110 hours and went back into service (In-service: a unit is available to answer calls. Out-of-service: a unit is engaged with a call or other business.)  Engines, 10 and 10-A, then alternated calls of alarm until 0800 hours.  Truck 10 returned to quarters from the Marina Fire.  Recalled members were added to each of the crews by Captain Bracco.

At the 0800 hour shift change each day, the on-coming driver is responsible to check over the apparatus to assure its proper working condition.  It was found that the 1975 American LaFrance of Engine 10 had an alternator was not working properly and needed to be replaced.  Engine 10 was placed out-of-service and driven to the Central Fire Shops for the repair.  This left the Turbo Chief in-service at a time when everyone was awaiting the first big after-shock.  At 1016 hours Engine 10-A, now with Captain Bracco in the seat, was detailed to the Marina Fire command post to assist with the over-hauling of the fire. The Turbo Chief and crew remained working there for the next four and a half hours.

Upon return to quarters from the fire watch, Captain Bracco found his first line engine was back from the shops and in service.  Having Engine 10 back in service again doubled the coverage of the Pacific Heights District and the surrounding area.

At 0800 hours on Thursday, October 19th, the Department removed all relief pieces from an in-service status, and returned them to a reserve unmanned status.  Engine Co. No. 10-A was placed out of service, and returned to the apparatus roster of the Museum.

For the next five days, with the daily number of alarms received way above normal, the Department staffed every unit with an additional firefighter.

Alarms Answered By The Museum's "Turbo Chief"
Engine Company No. 10-A - October 17, 1989
October 17, 1989
2030 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
1025 Jackson St (at Mason)
Smoke Odor - False
30 Min Service
2100 Hrs
Unit Dispatch 
1750 Franklin   (at Sacramento) 
Shut Off Gas
20 Min Service
2130 Hrs  
Unit Dispatch
3020 Pine (at Lyon) 
Shut Off Gas
20 Min Service
2210 Hrs
Box 4134 
428 Grove St   (at Gough)
Fire-in-Building - Stand-by
15 Min Service
2240 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
220 Lombard (at Steiner)
Shut Off Gas
30 Min Service
2352 Hrs
Box 4134
1604 Golden Gate (at Scott)
Fire-in-Building - Cancelled by radio
October 18, 1989
0036 Hrs
Box 7112
Arguello & Balboa Streets
Street Box Only - False
10 Min Service
0100 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
1275 Broadway (at Webster)
Auto Fire - Working fire, fully involved
25 Min Service
0130 Hrs
Box 4262
Baker & Sutter Streets
Street Box Only - False
10 Min Service
0147 Hrs
Unit Dispatch 
2141 Geary (at Divisadero)
Alarm Bell - Reset                               
20 Min Service
0248 Hrs
Unit Dispatch 
3445 Jackson (at Maple)
Shut Off Gas
10 Min Service
0258 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
2545 Lyon (at Green)
Shut Off Gas
20 Min Service
0711 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
 Divisadero & Broderick Streets
Assist Unit at Scene
Not needed
1016 Hrs
Unit Dispatch 
Divisadero & Beach Streets
Fire Watch - Command Post of the Marina Fire
4 hrs 30 Min Service
1504 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
2410 Clement (at 25th Ave)
Gas Leak - False
20 Min Service
1841 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
Van Ness & Bush Streets
Smoke Investigation - False 
15 Min Service
1857 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
Larkin & Grove Streets
Smoke Investigation -  False 
5 Min Service
2045 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
600 Laurel (at California)
Alarm Bell Reset                        
15 Min Service
2308 Hrs
Box 4263
Baker & Pine Streets
Street Box - False
10 Min Service
October 19, 1989
0651 Hrs
Unit Dispatch
2633 Greenwich (at Lyon)
Alarm Bell - Reset
20 Min Service
8 hours 50 minutes
25 hours 20 minutes
34 hours 10 minutes

Meritorious Award Request Submitted Regarding The Members of Station 10

The Captain of Engine Co. No. 10, Richard Bracco has respectfully submitted to the Chief of Department, Frederick Postel, a recommendation that the members of Station 10 receive a meritorious award for (in part) "using ingenuity and decisive action on October 17, 1989.  With the fire raging in the Marina District, and the absence of relief apparatus, the members of Station 10 outfitted the Museum's 1960 American LaFrance "Turbo Chief" with available Department hose, equipment and appliances, and augmenting said equipment with their own personal tools, flashlights and chain saws, placed the unit into service as Engine Co. No. 10-A.  If not for these immediate actions, the entire northern area of the City would have been left unprotected.  Engine Co. No. 10-A was the only available engine from 1950 hours to Midnight covering an area from Nob Hill to the Ocean Beach in the Outer Richmond District."  

This recommendation is now being considered by the Department's meritorious review committee.

St. Francis Hook & Ladder Society
Newsletter Extra
The October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

The Society wishes to thank everyone for the many concerned telephone calls and letters that have been received inquiring about the status of the Museum after the Tuesday, October 17th Earthquake.  Our visiting Australian friends from the Melbourne Fire Brigade, who had been here in August, were able to get through to Museum director Bill Koenig on Wednesday evening.  They wanted to know that everyone was alright, and they asked if there was anything they could do.  The Box 15 Club, sponsor of the Los Angeles City Fire Museum, in a letter received three days after the quake offered to send money to rebuild the Museum, as did many other groups from around the world.

The Department is working on a comprehensive report of the actions taken by each company on October 17th.  The Society eagerly awaits issue of this report. Note: The Department does not have a record of what each company did during the 1906 Fire.

A Thank You To Society Members

A special thanks to all the of Society members who preserved and maintained the 1960 American LaFrance "Turbo Chief" since her retirement from active Department service in 1985.  When beyond all belief a call to active duty came, she was ready to serve the citizens of San Francisco in one of their most trying moments.  To anyone and everyone who ever worked on Gil Aymeric's maintenance team filling-up the water tank, flushing out the radiator, changing the oil, pumping up the tires, or who washed, cleaned, polished, adjusted, and generally cared for and assisted with the preserving of the "Turbo Chief" -  thank you, your time was well spent.

                                                                                                                        John Grimes
                                                                                                                        Chairman, Board of Directors

Phoenix Saves the Marina Phoenix Saves the Marina

The Loma Prieta Earthquake was an instant media event. On October 17, 1989, thanks to cameras overhead in the Goodyear blimp, the world watched as the Phoenix and the S.F.F.D. fought the conflagration at Beach and Divisadero Streets in the Marina. The start of the third game of the World Series flickered off the world's TV screens to be replaced, almost instantly it seemed, by graphic pictures of flames and collapsed buildings, bridges and freeways.

Fireboat Engineer Nate Hardy has vivid recollections of that evening: "I was doing some welding just outside the shop area on the pier, when the project I was working on started moving. I knew immediately what was happening, but I wasn't worried. Then everything began falling off the shelves and parts of the pier began separating, leaving a gap of probably 12 inches each time a shock wave rolled through. All of a sudden it got very quiet, and I looked up at the Bay Bridge and saw people walking around. Then I knew it was a bigger quake than I had thought it was. But, I didn't realize that already people had died. Engine 35's box came in and they left, and very shortly The Embarcadero was completely blocked. People came in to offer help. The [S.F.F.D.] radio was going nuts. I couldn't figure out why the boat hadn't gotten a box. There were broken gas mains everywhere. Then Radio called us. . ."Fireboat Phoenix

At about 6:00 PM Phoenix was called to respond to the Marina, but only Pilot Arvid Havneras, Engineer Hardy and Lt. Bob Banchera were left to man the boat. "We could see a fire in Oakland, then Richmond called to ask for our help with a big gasoline spill, and we could see a huge cloud of gray smoke over the Marina. I immediately went below to get the pumps running and then came topside to help if I could as Arvid maneuvered right in through the crowded yacht harbor. Incredibly he was able to get us in close to Divisadero St. without hitting anything despite the rapidly dropping water level. Volunteers were all over the dock; some were dressed in business suits, other in shorts and sneakers. With their help we quickly pulled out as much 3 inch hose as we could. We hooked up three lines to an engine on shore and began pumping right away. Soon we had ten lines working. We pumped continuously for 15 hours with two pumps wide open - 6400 GPM. [This was over 5.5 million gallons of water.] We had plenty of fuel, but we could have put out a call to tugs in the area to bring us some if we had run low. We have tremendous pumping capacity. We could pump water from The Embarcadero back up the hill to Twin Peaks Reservoir, if such a thing were ever needed." Let's hope that quake never comes.

The Phoenix crew received the highest praise from all sides for its outstanding work Earthquake Night. The fireboat saved the Marina.

For more information about the Phoenix, see our Fireboats page.

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