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To the Custom-house employees, the Appraiser's office attaches, detachments of troops and marines from the regular army and navy goes the honor of saving the Appraiser's building, the square block of stores and warehouses directly west of it, and Station B of the postoffice on the north line of Jackson street, above Sansome. The work of these firefighters demonstrated the benefit of even a little water.

The Appraiser's building is equipped with an artesian well, and on the roof, a 5,000 gallon tank hold the water pumped for flushing the toilets and general cleaning purposes. On the morning of the earthquake, when Appraiser John T. Dare reached the building before 8 o'clock, and saw that fire threatened the south or Washington street end of the building, he organized a bucket brigade and ordered that no water be used in any hose.

At each window he stationed one of a depleted force of Custom-house employees and Appraiser's attaches with mops and wet sacks, ordering them to douse any embers that fell on the window sills and to moisten any smouldering window frames. This work was kept up throughout the day, and by nightfall the fighters, completely fatigued by a hard day's toil, were rewarded with an assurance of success by the flames dying down on the low and dynamited Washington street buildings. All night a patrol watched the roof of the building and guarded the water tank with the same care and caution as though it were a bank vault.

Thursday the building was never in danger, and the watchers and fighters had a chance to rest. Early Friday morning, however, the north or Jackson street end of the building was threatened and the same tactic was employed as on the Washington street end, only that the fighting force was increased by the soldiers and marines, who fought like heroes in the face of heat that was almost overpowering.

A guard was detailed to patrol the roofs of the buildings on the square block west of the Appraiser's structure with buckets of water, maps and axes, and were ordered to smother all others and chop away any burning cornices. Their work was complete, and not one of the burning buildings in that location suffered more than a few hundred dollars damage as a result of the fire.

The building which housed Station B of the Postoffice was saved in precisely the same manner, although surrounded on three sides by the roaring flames and having a large hole rent in its roof by the failing of a heavy wall on it due to the earthquake, the soldiers and marines checked the flames with their wet sacks and mops and saved all the records, mails, stamps and money held in the office.

"The precision and determination with which these firefighters worked is beyond description," said Appraiser John T. Dare, yesterday, in speaking of the saving of this lone district in the heart of the northern burned section. "Never, even in war, did the soldiers and marines face the dangers they encountered in their glorious battle with flames, and never did the patriotic spirit of the few civilians and Government employees rise to such a height as when these soot and smoke grimed warriors, all but exhausted, came back to their superior officers and with the proper salute informed them that the danger had passed and the section was saved.

"If no official recognition is given to these men, their uphill victory will go down in the history of the city as one of the most remarkable and self-sacrificing acts of the calamity."

San Francisco Chronicle
MAY 7, 1906

Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.

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