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On the morning April 18th our company had just returned to quarters after being on duty most all night, when the earthquake occurred. All letgoes dropped to the floor, and the horses ran out of their stalls; while we were adjusting things to their places, we received a still alarm and reported at once to the Gray Brick Yard, corner, Bay and Powell streets, where a fire had started, caused by a tall brick chimney falling on the brick kilns. I ordered Lieutenant J. McGowan to pull box #629 corner Stockton and Bay streets, but received no answer; he then tried box #197, Bay and Mason streets, and box 352 near Dupont [now Grant Ave.] and Bay streets, with the same results. The telephone at our quarters was tried but was out of order as we could get no reply.

Driver J. Sweeney then went to the quarters of Engine Co. No. 5 and Chemical No. 5 to notify them of this fire. Engineer J. Pendergast was sent to notify engines # 3-20-8- & 31. We led several lines from different directions but could obtain no water; finally we obtained a supply of water and got the fire under control. We left our lines in charge of the employees of the brick yard and returned to quarters for a new supply, and proceeded to Montgomery and Commercial streets where I left Lieutenant McGowan in charge, and reported to the Superintendent of Engines J. Riley but received no orders.

While returning I tried the hydrant at Merchant and Sansome streets, but received no encouragement as no water could be obtained. Under orders of Acting Chief Dougherty our company, with Engines No. 2 and 31, connected to the hydrant at California and Kearny streets, but could find no water. We then connected to the cistern at California and Dupont streets, and pumped same to the cistern at Montgomery and California streets, and pumped all the water out of these cisterns. We also tried the cisterns at Commercial and Montgomery and led to [the] cistern at California and Montgomery streets and pumped water to California and Montgomery but without success.

Battalion Chief M. O'Brien ordered us to detail three men to assist Lieutenant [Raymond] Briggs of the Presidio, in dynamiting. I detailed Lieutenant McGowan, A. Stoffer and A Bernstein; these men assisted in the dynamiting which occurred on the south side of Clay St., along Leidestorff; Commercial east of Montgomery along Leidesdorff; Sacramento east of Montgomery along Leidesdorff to Halleck streets.

Battalion Chief O'Brien ordered out company to take up our hose, and stand fast at Pine and Montgomery streets; we then received orders to go in line at Sacramento and Dupont streets, and late Wednesday afternoon by leading from Sacramento and Powell to Commercial and Kearny streets, we checked the fire from spreading west until our water gave out We next reported to Acting Chief Dougherty and were ordered to Bush and Dupont streets, where we connected to the hydrant on the Northwest corner. We were able to obtain a supply of water and led our line to the alley back of the California Theatre. The northwest corner of Pine and Kearny streets was on fire, there was also a couple of small fires back of the California Theatre. The wind was blowing so hard that the fire spread very rapidly and we were forced to move backward. It was here we lost some of our hose an came near losing our engine. We took up the remainder of our hose and moved to Sutter and Stockton streets, an after being ordered to move several times finally arrived at the quarters of Engine No. 5 at about 2 a.m. April 19th.

After a short time we received orders from A. Ruef [Abraham Ruef, political boss of San Francisco] to go to the cistern at Pacific and Kearny streets, we led our line down Montgomery Ave. [now Columbus Ave.], and assisted by Hose Co. No. 1 of Oakland and Chemical No. 3 put up a hard fight and saved the Montgomery Block. About 7 a.m. Thursday, April 19th, A. Ruef returned and ordered all hose taken off the wagon but one tier, with a detail of two men he sent the wagon to the Lombard St. wharf to report to John Bermingham of the Cal. Power Works. The men detailed to haul this powder were acting Lieutenant J. McGowan and Hoseman A. Bernstein and they were on duty until 9 p.m.

Our Engine was next ordered to Pacific and Stockton streets where a fire was raging at the same time. While we were in this vicinity the southeast corner of Jackson and Stockton streets was dynamited. Battalion Chief McClusky ordered Hose Co. No. 1 of Oakland, with us, after we had pumped all the water from the cistern, to proceed to Stockton and Broadway. Here we did good work, and were able to stop the fire on the East side of Stockton at the Nymphia [half-buried Gold Rush-era ship used as a house of prostitution]. While here our Engine pumps gave out and we had to obtain a relief engine from the Ferry Building [the Fire Department's Corporation Yard at Drumm and Sacramento], and worked in this vicinity.

After the Prescott House was dynamited we stopped the fire from crossing to the East side of Montgomery Ave. Under orders of Battalion Chief McClusky we next connected with a saltwater line running from a fire tug stationed at the foot of Stockton St., fourteen blocks to Broadway and Mason streets; through three engines, obtaining our fresh water [for the engine's boiler] from a cistern at Broadway and Stockton streets, but after J. Bermingham had dynamited the southwest corner of Broadway and Stockton streets, the fire crossed to the east side of Stockton St., and the north side of Broadway. We left this vicinity about 9 p.m. April 19th.

About 2 a.m. Friday April 20th we received orders from Battalion Chief McClusky to lead a line from the foot of Mason St., through three engines a distance of eleven blocks to Taylor and Filbert streets. we were able to obtain the necessary supply of fresh water and worked in this district until driven out by the fire.

About 2 p.m. on Friday we received word from the Colonel of the 22nd Infantry to lead a line from the foot of Powell St. to Chestnut St. We were soon forced to abandon this position; the fire was spreading in our direction very rapidly.

Battalion Chief McClusky at about 3 p.m. had ordered our Company to the Presidio. The following day, Saturday [the] 21st I reported to Acting Chief Dougherty that I was at the Presidio, and we remained there for several days.

Act. Lieutenant J. McGowan
Lieutenant W Everson
Engineer J. Pendergast
Driver J. Sweeney
Hoseman A. Stoffer
Hoseman A. Bernstein
Hoseman A. Banker
Hoseman M. Ryan

Return to 1906 Earthquake and Fire Report.
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