BATTALION CHIEF, NINTH DISTRICT,
STATIONED WITH ENGINE COMPANY No. 30, STATION
WALLER NEAR STANYAN STREETS.
Shortly after the earthquake I proceeded with Engine No. 30 to the Park Emergency Hospital, situated on the west side of Stanyan Street, near Frederick and found this building badly wrecked, but were able to remove the inmates from their perilous position. By clearing the debris from in front of the stable (which is situated in the south end of the Hospital building) and cutting the doors off the hinges, we were able to remove the horses and ambulance from the damaged building.
I had ordered the Captain to try the fire alarm boxes in the street, and the telephone in the Engine House, to see if they were in working order; he reported that both the fire alarm boxes and phone were out of commission. I next proceeded to Ashbury and Waller Streets, where a fire had originated from an electric wire; after cutting this we proceeded to Masonic Avenue and Waller Streets and extinguished a fire caused by lighting a fire in a defective chimney, damaged by the earthquake. The citizens in this vicinity were then instructed not to light any fires owing to the defective chimneys in their areas; at the same time cautioning the Captains in this district to patrol the streets and see that these orders were carried out. This fact alone prevented other fires from originating.
While in this neighborhood I observed that a 16-inch water main had broken on the east side of Stanyan Street, opposite the Park Hospital, also in several other places.
On Golden Gate Avenue, near Devisadero Street I noted a number of people working to extinguish the fire originating at this point at the same time ordering my operator to have Engine No. 30 put in operation. The water supply being exceedingly poor, we had same difficulty in confining this fire to that quarter of the block in which it started.
My next move was to report to Chief Shaughnessy who was then extinguishing a fire at the corner of Fulton and Laguna Streets, and as Chief John R. Maxwell was in need of assistance I ordered Engine No. 30 to report immediately at Eighth and Market Streets, and upon my arrival there I noticed a fire was burning in the district bounded by Market, Seventh and Eighth Streets, and was then informed by Lieutenant Edward Kehoe of Truck No. 3 that there was no water to be had in this district.
A foreman, employed at the Railway Tunnels at Baden reported to me that he had a wagon-load of dynamite and offering his services we proceeded to dynamite all the buildings on the East side of Eighth Street, from Market to Folsom Streets, instructing in the meantime a wagon to be sent to Baden for more explosives.
My experience with dynamite did not prove entirely satisfactory, due to the fact that up to this time I had never been called upon to use high-grade explosives; therefore I relied upon the foreman who represented himself as having had experience in this line, to do the necessary dynamiting. I recall in one instance, that after dynamiting the two frame buildings facing Eighth street, next to the northeast corner of Harrison Street, we placed a case of dynamite on the east side of each floor, of the three-story frame building situated on the northeast corner of Eighth and Harrison Streets, and attempted to fall this frame house into the premises previously dynamited; we failed in this however, as the building was blown in the opposite direction into the street.
It was impossible to check the fire at Folsom Street, as it crossed to the west side at this point. After failing in an attempt to obtain water from the hydrants, we then endeavored to pump water from the sewers on Eighth Street, with Engine No. 5 at Bryant Street, Engine No. 16 at Harrison Street and Engine No. 29 at Brannan Street but were unable to do so, consequently Engine No. 29 proceeded to Eighth and streets, where sewer water was obtainable, but was of no use as fresh water was absolutely necessary to feed our engines.
Realizing that it was practically impossible to proceed any further in our attempt to check the fire in this vicinity I ordered the Captains to move their Engines to Sixth Street. In the meantime I assisted the dynamiting crew then destroying the buildings an the north side of Harrison Street, between Seventh and Eighth, this attempt was to save the Children's Playground, but once again proved unavailing.
After this, in our last attempt to save this section, I located the steamer Juliette on the Channel near Fourth Street. This boat contained 5,000 gallons of fresh water in her tanks, and it was impossible for her to leave her moorings as the electricity which operated the bridges had cut off; we used this supply of fresh water to feed our engines. This supply of water alone was accountable for the saving of the buildings owned by the Southern Pacific Railway, and along the south side of to Second Street.
About 10 p.m. that night our fresh water from the Juliette ran out, and through Lieutenant Freeman we were able to obtain 3,000 gallons more [by aid of U.S. Tug Sotoyomo] and with this supply we saved this section of the City and also the large manufacturing plants located on the south side of Harrison Street, between Tenth and Fourteenth Streets.
On Thursday morning April 19, I received orders from Chief Edward F. McKittrick that assistance was needed at Fifteenth and Mission streets, and removed Fire Engines No. 6, 10, 16 and 35, to where he was located at Fifteenth and Capp Streets, and then with my men I inspected hydrants in the district west of Sixteenth Street, but we could not find any available supply.
On my return I witnessed troops dynamiting both sides of Mission Street between Fifteenth and sixteenth Streets.
A 22-inch water main was broken causing a large opening in the street at the corner of Seventeenth and Howard streets, and I had my men dam it with rocks, and bags of sand, making a cistern, and by connecting several lines of hose with Fire Engines No. 10, 21, 25, and 35, we were able to obtain a small supply of water, which we used in this vicinity.
Late Thursday night I relieved Chief McKittrick and obtained the services of Chief William D. Waters and three companies; also Captain John F. Dryer of Truck No. 6 then located at Fourteenth and Market Streets. By placing Engines No. 10 and 25 at a cistern on Nineteenth and Shotwell streets, we gave battle to the fire which was then sweeping along Mission Street, between Nineteenth and Twentieth, and were successful in extinguishing the same at the northeast corner of Mission and Twentieth streets.
I was relieved by Chief Waters and McKittrick at 10 a.m. Friday April 20, and returned home at 12 p.m. after having been on duty continuously for 55 hours.
In order to state an example of the difficulties encountered by the Fire Department in this City on April 18, 1906, I take for instance containing 33,000,000 gallons of water which was badly damaged by the quake and two-thirds of its original capacity had leaked out, to make use of this water we were compelled to use the old pump of Laguna De Merced which had been abandoned for years, its pumping capacity was only 7,000,000 gallons every 24 hours. As the New Water mains had broken through the effects of the quake at Beulah and Stanyan Streets, and Devisadero and Hayes streets, we were forced to use the old mains connecting with Lake Honda Reservoir. Our pressure was only one-third of its natural capacity, and instead of forty pounds pressure to the inch we were only able to obtain in this case 15 pounds.