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Captain, San Francisco Fire Department Fire Engine Company 2,
stationed at 22 O'Farrell Street, near Market

This is a brief and detailed report of the operations of Engine Company No. 2, of the San Francisco Fire Department during the recent conflagration:

On the night of April 17, 1906, at about 11 o'clock Engine Company No. 2 responded to a second alarm of fire from the vicinity of Mason and Francisco Streets, where a cannery building [at the northeast corner of Bay and Mason] was afire, and worked on the same until about 3 a.m. April 18th, 1906, at which time the fire was gotten under control and we returned to our quarters No. 22 O'Farrell Street, arriving there about 3:30 a.m. The members of the company after putting the equipment etc., in proper condition, retired. At about 5:20 a.m. April 18th, 1906, we were awakened by the shock of the earthquake and all the members of the company immediately repaired to the apparatus floor, harnessed their teams and prepared for action. When in the street the first intimation of fire we noticed was in the neighborhood of Bush and Kearny streets. We immediately went there and found the house of Chemical Company No. 3, S.F.F.D. wrecked, and lamented Dennis Sullivan, Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department and his wife [Margaret], buried in the ruins.

We tendered our assistance in the rescue of our late chief and his wife and then responded to a fire call from Market and Kearny streets. Arriving there we connected with the hydrants and found that there was not a water supply. In an endeavor to locate water. we tried all the hydrants on Market Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets, down 4th to Mission Street, and along Mission Street.

At this time I was informed that a fire was burning at O'Farrell and Taylor streets.

The fire, which had started in an Drug Store at [the] northwest corner of William and O'Farrell streets, underneath a large apartment house, had assumed quite serious proportions. but we were enabled to extinguish same with sand that we secured from a building in the course of construction in the immediate neighborhood.

We then proceeded to Geary and Stockton streets, where we were confronted with a most heartrending sight. A large dwelling building ["The Geary," a lodging house at 239 Geary Street, across from Union Square] had fallen by reason of the earthquake and an incipient blaze was in progress. We immediately proceeded to work and extinguished it.

A number of men and women were pinned in the ruins. and members of my company started the work of rescuing those unfortunate people. the acts of heroism displayed by them receiving the applause and other marks of approbation of a large gathering of citizens and the residents of that neighborhood.

In carrying out one of the unfortunate victims of this house, a stairway gave out under our combined weight and I sustained as a result of the consequent fall, a dislocation of the small bones in the heel of my right foot and a badly sprained ankle.

After seeing to it that the fire was entirely subdued in this building, I called upon the police and the citizens standing about to take up the work of rescue.

Seeing that they had the matter well in hand we left this place. It might be well to say that we were unable to procure any water with which to fight the fire above mentioned in this neighborhood.

At this time the fire was raging in all parts of the city and we tried to locate water in a dozen places, viz: Third and Mission streets, New Montgomery and Mission Streets, Second and Mission streets, along Market to Main Street, then along Davis Street, Battery, Sansome, Montgomery; Sutter, Bush, Pine and California streets.

At this time, 7 a.m., we were ordered by Acting Chief Dougherty to take up a position at a cistern located at the corner of California and Montgomery streets.

At about 8 a.m. my injuries were dressed by a member of the hospital corps who happened along in this neighborhood, and again about 4 o'clock of the same day it was dressed by Dr. Jones, Surgeon for the Police Department of this City and County.

Upon our arrival at this location the fire was burning fiercely in the lower district. Originally there were 35,000 gallons of water in this cistern.

Engine Company No. 2 pumped the water contained in this cistern into Engine Company No. 31, which was stationed at California and Sansome streets. At my suggestion Engine Company No. 28 proceeded to the cistern located at the corner of California and Dupont streets, and led a line of hose down the hill, pumping the water contained in said cistern, amounting to about 35,000 gallons. into the cistern where Engine Company No. 2 was located.

After exhausting the supply in this cistern, Engine Company No. 28 proceeded to the cistern located at the corner of Commercial and Montgomery streets, and pumped the water therein contained into cistern at California and Montgomery streets.

The members of Engine Companies Nos. 2 and 31 managed to hold the line, doing great work, and prevented the fire from crossing Sansome Street at that point until about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when the fire advanced along Montgomery Street, from Sacramento Street, and we were compelled to abandon the cistern.

Under orders issued by Michael O'Brien, Battalion Chief, we proceeded to Sacramento and Powell streets, where we discovered a hydrant containing a small supply of water and led a line from Engine Company No. 2 down the hill to Engine Company No. 28 stationed at Sacramento and Dupont streets.

The members of my company in conjunction with the members of said Engine Company No. 28, led a line and worked on the fire which was raging along Kearny street, having a fair supply until 3 a.m. the morning of April 19th, at which time the water supply became exhausted.

I have to report that about 7:30 p.m., April 18th, Stoker Maurice Cunningham sustained a sprained ankle in the performance of his duty, at Sacramento and Kearny streets, and was removed to the Harbor [Emergency] Hospital; that he is still under the care of his physician and unable to report for duty.

Acting again on orders received from Battalion Chief Michael O'Brien, we left this point at that hour (3 a.m., April 19th) and proceeded to Eddy Street and Van Ness Avenue, arriving there at about 3:30 a.m. the same morning, and secured a supply of water from the hydrant located at that corner.

We led a line of hose down Van Ness Avenue to Turk Street, thence down Turk to Larkin Street. and with a good supply of water we worked in that neighborhood until midnight of the 19th of April, at which time it was extinguished. [This area saved would burn on the morning of April 20th]

Engine Company No. 2 then proceeded to Franklin and Geary streets, where it was supplied with water pumped from Engine Company No. 34, stationed at Ellis Street and Van Ness Avenue.

My Company led a line of hose to Bush and Franklin Streets where we worked, under Assistant Chief John Willis, until 8 a.m., April 20th, at which time the fire was subdued at that point.

Then by orders by Assistant Chief Shaughnessy, we proceeded to Filbert Street and Van Ness Avenue, arriving there at about 6:30 a.m. April 20th, in company with Assistant Chief Wills. The fire boats, which were stationed at the Northern end of Van Ness Avenue, pumped a supply of water to Engine Company No. 2 and four or five other Engine Companies which were also stationed at contiguous points, and we worked on the fire from this location until it was extinguished.

I have to report that by reason of over fifty hours continuous service, Engineer John J. Mitchell and Lieutenant Edward Lennon became exhausted and were removed to the Government Hospital at Fort Mason for treatment. After confinement there for about six hours they returned and reported for further duty.

The other members of the Company, when opportunity afforded got an hour or two of rest in the doorways and in the streets alongside their apparatus, and the little they had to eat during these fifty hours of continuous service was given to them by kind-hearted people along the route of the fire. Their clothing, of course, was in an extremely wet condition, and our headquarters having been consumed by the conflagration, none had a change, and things remained in this condition until I was able to make arrangements to secure clothing, blankets, tents and other necessary equipment to clothe and shelter them and afford much needed rest.

I wish to say in this connection that all of the members of this company are men of family and all suffered by the conflagration, but in fact of this none of them faltered in the performance of their duty nor asked for leave of absence for a sufficient length of time to save any of their personal effects or those of their families, and that they worked hard, faithfully and conscientiously.

George F. Brown, Captain of Engine Company No. 2.
Company members: Lieutenant Edward Lennon, Engineer John J. Mitchell, Driver Charles Schomel, Stoker Maurice Cunningham, Hoseman George Bury [treated at Harbor Emergency Hospital, April 19, 12:40 p.m. for laceration of right big toe], Hoseman Andrew Cunningham, Hoseman John G. Balletto, and Hoseman Jeremiah L. Collins.

Return to 1906 Earthquake and Fire Report.

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