ELEVENTH AND BRYANT STREETS
The following is a brief report of our experiences after the earthquake and during the fire which destroyed this city on April 18th, 1906.
Immediately after the earthquake our entire Fire Alarm System was entirely disabled and out of commission. The floor of our Engine House was badly buckled up and in the basement the foundation wall on the East side was over fourteen inches out of alignment. We immediately hitched up our horses and pulled out apparatus out of the House into the Street, where I had occasion to notice that the walls of the Jackson Brewery had collapsed through the effects of the earthquake. We received word that a building situated on 9th St., between Bryant and Brannan streets, had also been shaken down and on our arrival we rescued a family by the name of O'Toole. His wife was buried under the debris and we could not remove her. Proceeding then to 11th and Folsom streets, we endeavored to remove three women killed in a house adjoining the Jackson Brewery and could render no assistance as these people were buried under such a mass of debris that it would have taken considerable time and much larger a crew.
A fire had originated in a Drug Store located on the Northwest corner of 12th and Howard streets, and while proceeding to this place we had considerable difficulty, as the street was badly cracked near 9th St. to Bryant St. It was impossible to secure any water from the hydrants in this vicinity, and we had occasion to bring the hydrants situated on the corner of 8th and Howard streets, 8th and Folsom and 8th and Harrison streets, owing to the fact that a water main supplying the hydrants had broken at 8th and Brannan streets. About this time we made an effort to draft water from the sewers at 8th and Howard streets, and 8th and Folsom streets, but this also proved unsuccessful.
Word reached us that the tanks of the Hibernia Brewery contained 50,000 gallons of water, and on our arrival we were unable to make any use of this water, as the pipes connecting with the tank (located on the roof) were too small to make connection with our Engine.
In the afternoon we met Civilians hauling boxes of dynamite and also fuses and caps in a buggy, and with this we attempted to check the progress of the fire by dynamiting both sides of Langton St., between Folsom and Harrison streets. This was also unsuccessful, as we had no water to extinguish the flames which originated after dynamiting. At 8th and Brannan streets we located a sewer full of water, and Engine Number 6 was immediately put in operation and with assistance of Engine Co. 29 we pumped same until the supply ran out.
We were successful in saving the Southern Pacific Passenger Depot at Third and Townsend streets, owing to the fact that water was obtained from the tanks of a Steamer [Juliette] located in the Channel; again it became impossible to continue any further as the fresh water used in our Engine had to be carried by my men in buckets, and this water arriving at different intervals made it impossible to keep up the necessary steam pressure in our boilers.
After 12 p.m. we moved to 11th and Brannan streets, and again secured a small amount of fresh water contained in the condensers in the Engine Room of a power house owned by the United Railroads, [on Bryant at Division St.] with this we were able to save the South side of Harrison St., between Eleventh and Fourteenth streets, and the West side of Eleventh Street to Bryant Street.
Receiving word that it was impossible to obtain water in the Southern part of the City known as the Mission we then proceeded to our Station, after having been continuously on duty from 5:15 a.m. April 18th, 1906, until noon Friday April 20th, 1906. We were unable to occupy our Station until April 28th, 1906, owing to the unsafe condition of the premises after the earthquake.
My crew consisted of Lieutenant J.A. O'Brien, Engineer, Fred Orr, Driver, David Burke, Hoseman James Flood and James Fay.
In order to correct the erroneous impression that our Fire Department was not up to the standard of efficiency [I] would state that had it been possible for us to obtain water we would have been in a position to extinguish the fires which had originated immediately after the earthquake.
Samuel Spear, Stoker.
Return to 1906 Earthquake and Fire Report.