San Francisco Fire Department
While the crew of Engine No. 41 was scrambling on the south side of the fire, Engine No. 2 of the Presidio of San Francisco Fire Department responded to the north side of the fire from Marina Boulevard, but found no water in the City domestic low pressure hydrant because the main had been broken by either the main earthquake shock or by lateral earth spread caused by liquefaction.
These firefighters repositioned the Presidio Fire Department apparatus on Divisadero Street north of the fire building and then led a small line into the structure. This small line was charged from Presidio Fire Department Engine No. 2's water tank and provided protection for the San Francisco firefighters inside 3701 Divisadero Street until those rescuers were driven away by spreading fire and dense smoke.
The Presidio Fire Department crew continued this operation until the engine's water tank became empty. The Presidio Fire Department crew then repositioned the apparatus on Jefferson Street to the north.
Truck No. 9, along with Battalion Chief Shannon, arrived from Cervantes Boulevard. Battalion Chief Shannon found Engine No. 41 connected to the High Pressure hydrant at Beach and Divisadero streets as the south side of the fire building was becoming fully involved. Members of the crew of Truck No. 9 assisted the crew of Engine No. 41 in this attempt to get an adequate water supply to the fire.
Battalion Chief Shannon established his command post at Beach and Divisadero streets.
Lieutenant Vincent J. Nolan of Truck No. 9 saw that shoring was needed to keep the tottering facade of 2090 Beach Street from fully collapsing and trapping the firefighters within the structure. He asked citizen volunteers in the area to pull shoring materials from the rubble of other wrecked structures to halt any further collapse.
This use of shoring materials, known as scantling, by citizen volunteers stabilized the structure and allowed search and rescue operations to continue during numerous aftershocks.
Firefighter Gerald R. Shannon of Truck No. 9 entered the 2090 Beach Street where other firefighters were searching for victims. He returned to the street to get assistance because another victim was found buried more deeply in the rubble.
He then went around the building to the Divisadero Street side where the fire was extending, and entered with Captain Boudoures of Truck No. 10.
Firefighter Shannon found a woman trapped in the wreckage. For almost two hours Firefighter Shannon, Captain Boudoures, Firefighter Jerome M. (Duke) Polizzi of Truck No. 2 and others struggled to rescue her while the fire across the street threatened to extend into the wreckage of the fallen structure.
Several times during the rescue, fire ignited the building and firefighters used what water they had to extinguish exposure fires, along with a bucket brigade spontaneously formed by citizen volunteers.
Lieutenant Nolan wrote: "There were exposure fires igniting on the side of the collapsed building, caused by the radiant heat from the fully-involved building across the street. We grabbed a ready-line [a pre-connected one-and-one-half-inch diameter hose, 150 feet in length] and began hitting the exposure fires, trying to also keep [Firefighter] Jerry Shannon and [Captain] Bob Boudoures cool. The heat was so extreme that we couldn't turn our faces toward the building for more than a moment.
"We stayed on the line until it felt as though our pants were on fire and then were forced to retreat.
"We started to attack in teams of two, hitting the fires as long as we could and then calling for relief to cool off. While this was going on, the building across the street was exploding from pockets of gas and collapsing."
After finding the trapped woman, Firefighter Shannon prepared to return to the street for more rescue tools. But the woman pleaded for him not to leave. Firefighter Shannon stayed with the woman and comforted her as other firefighters passed rescue tools into him. He said, "...after I saw her, I just couldn't leave... "
After several hours of struggle, as repeated aftershocks threatened to collapse the remaining portions of the structure, Firefighter Shannon was able to free her from the wreckage.
Battalion Chief Shannon found that the low pressure hydrant system was dry shortly after he arrived on the scene. He also found that, although there was some water in the High Pressure system, the supply was inadequate to stop the spread of the fire.
The Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS) was being bled dry by five breaks in the South of Market Street area where a combination of lateral earth spread and severe liquefaction caused some portions of the gridded main system to fail during the earthquake.
The 750,000-gallon AWSS tank at Clay and Jones streets, which supplies the High Pressure hydrants in the lower zone, emptied within 40 minutes.
Because the AWSS supplies water by gravity to the High Pressure hydrants from sea level to 150 feet in elevation, these breaks were responsible for the loss of water in the Marina District High Pressure hydrants. There were no breaks in the High Pressure system in the Marina District.
At 6:16 p.m., one hour and twelve minutes after
the initial earthquake shock, and after water from the High Pressure system
had been fully expended, Battalion Chief Shannon special-
Off-duty Battalion Chief Greg W. Abell, responding to the Emergency Duty Recall Signal, drove his car directly to the Marina District fire and reported to Battalion Chief Shannon.
At 6:17 p.m., Battalion Chief Abell, now acting Battalion No. 4, ordered the Communications Center to dispatch a hose tender with five-inch hose and the associated valve system to the Marina District.
The Communications Center dispatched Engine No. 22 with Hose Tender No. 22 and advised the units to take a lead from the fireboat Phoenix as soon as it berthed in the Marina Yacht Harbor.
Engine No. 10 commanded by Lt. William P. Shore was in the Marina District, south of the fire zone, manually closing numerous PG&E street valves to stop gas leaks, and at 6:13 p.m. responded to the Marina District fire.
Lieutenant Shore found the southern approach blocked by automobiles, so he circumvented the congestion and approached the fire by driving east on Beach from Baker Street.
Lieutenant Shore found that Truck No. 10 was the only unit on that exposure of the fire. The crew of Engine No. 10 then tested and found water in the High Pressure hydrant on the northeast corner of Beach and Broderick streets.
Two three-inch supply lines were led from the hydrant to Engine No. 10 positioned on Beach Street just west of the fire.
Initially, the hydrant supplied about 40 psi pressure, but that significantly dropped as the fire fight went on.
Truck No. 5 also responded to the fire from the collapsed building at Cervantes Boulevard and Fillmore Street. Lieutenant John R. Donham, Jr. and members of his company operated one of the large lines that was supplied by Engine No. 10 on Beach Street.
At this time, 2101 Beach Street, the buckled four-story structure on the southwest corner at Divisadero Street, caught fire at the third floor. Hose streams were used to extinguish the incipient fire and to cool the front of the building. This action prevented the fire from jumping Beach Street to the south.
Operating in this area was extremely dangerous
for both firefighters and citizen volunteers. The building at 2101 Beach
Street threatened to collapse during frequent aftershocks. If the fire
were to jump Beach Street it would spread into another block of severely-
The stand made here by firefighters with this limited water supply and citizen volunteers operating hose lines and a bucket brigade was responsible for stopping the spread of the Marina District fire from the block of origin.
Chief John J. Hickey of Battalion No. 2 was in the area of City Hall shortly after the earthquake, when he was flagged down by citizens who reported trapped people in the elevator of the Brooks Hall parking structure, two stories below James Rolph, Jr. Civic Center at Polk and McAllister streets.
He called Engine No. 36 on the Department radio and ordered members of that company to respond and tear away the elevator doors to rescue four occupants, one of whom was experiencing breathing difficulties.
Upon hearing the order to Engine No. 36, Rescue No. 1 responded to Brooks Hall, but the rescue had been completed and Battalion Chief Hickey then formed an ad-hoc task force composed of Rescue No. 1, Engine No. 36 and Engine No. 3 which had just come in- service from another call. This task force then responded in the direction of the Marina District fire.
While responding along Polk Street, Battalion Chief Hickey became aware of many PG&E natural gas leaks but continued to the Marina District fire because of the severe conflagration risk. He had noticed that smoke from the fire was now being pushed along by a light westerly wind that had risen, and there was a commensurate increase in the size of the fire. He ordered Engine No. 36 by Department radio to check High Pressure hydrants along Chestnut near Divisadero Street for water, but the pressure in each hydrant was too low for suppression operations. Chief Hickey then ordered the task force to respond to the Palace of Fine Arts.
At 6:12 p.m., Engine No. 21 had cleared the scene of a reported natural gas leak at 700 Grove Street in the Western Addition, and was directed by Department radio to the Marina District fire several miles distant.
Upon arrival, Capt. Guido J. Costella of Engine No. 21 was ordered by Battalion Chief Shannon to attack the fire from the west along Beach Street. While responding, Capt. Costella tested the low pressure system at Divisadero and Bay streets and found no water, so he planned to use the High Pressure hydrant at the northeast corner of Beach and Broderick streets. This hydrant was already in operation and was providing some limited water to Engine No. 10. However, the hose line leading from the Gleeson valve to the engine was soft, which indicated that the hydrant capacity had been exceeded.
Captain Costella ordered his company to Beach and Baker streets, one block to the west. There, the crew of Engine No. 21 tested the High Pressure hydrant at the southeast corner and found it was apparently capable of supplying sufficient pressure. The crew of Engine No. 21 attached a Gleeson valve to the hydrant and led two supply lines to Beach and Broderick streets. It was Capt. Costella's intent to have his apparatus act as a manifold. However, when the two supply lines were charged, the flow ceased.
At this point, Engine No. 14 arrived at Beach and Broderick streets, and members of Engine No. 21 then broke their lines and connected them to Engine No. 14.
Captain Costella planned to have Engine No. 21 supply water by draft from the lagoon of the Palace of Fine Arts but found all access blocked by automobiles. Finally working through the congestion, the crew of Engine No. 21 began to draft from the lagoon and supplied two lines to Engine No. 14.
Upon arrival at the lagoon of the Place of Fine Arts, the task force and Battalion Chief Hickey found that Engine No. 21 was just being positioned to begin drafting operations. He said, "I told the officer of Engine No. 3 to bring [large line] leads from the fire to Engine No. 21. "After they finished, they [members of the task force] could meet me at the fire corner." Engine No. 3 led a third line from Engine No. 21 to the fire.
Engine No. 21 supplied Engine No. 14 which in turn relayed water to Engine No. 10. Engine No. 3 was directly supplied from Engine No. 21.
This water supplied by Engine No. 21 was instrumental in preventing the fire from further extending westward along Beach Street.
Battalion Chief Hickey and Chief's Aide Joseph
D. Driscoll left their buggy at the lagoon of the Palace of Fine Arts because
of severe traffic congestion and then ran to the fire, but were driven
away by the extreme radiant heat and earthquake aftershocks.