San Francisco suffers a third and fourth fire

June 14, 1850 fire

On Friday, June 14th, 1850 at eight in the morning the fire started in a bakery on the east side of Kearny Street between Sacramento and Clay. The wind blew in hard from the west across the city toward the bay, and the flames spread rapidly the two blocks to the water’s edge, then between Montgomery and Sansome. Like the second fire another three hundred buildings were destroyed and again the damage amounted to three or four million dollars.

By now it had become all too clear to everyone that the flimsy wood frame buildings, lined with paper or cotton cloth, were terribly unsafe and any fire that began in the usual winds that came in from the ocean would be impossible to put out. So, while most of the burned area was still replaced with the same old wooden construction, a number of brick structures were also erected, particularly on the west side of Montgomery between California and Jackson. Organization of the fire companies continued as did work on the wells and cisterns to supply water to fight the fires.

SF June 14 1850

But early in the morning of September 17th, 1850 flames erupted from the Philadelphia House, a saloon on the north side of Jackson between Kearny and Dupont, or today’s Grant Street. The winds were calm but all the buildings in that area were wood framed and the flames spread quickly, destroying everything in the blocks bounded by Montgomery, Washington, Dupont and Pacific Streets. This fire leveled only a hundred and fifty buildings and caused a half million dollars in property loss.

SF fire September 17, 1850

SF Firemen

Soon after the Philadelphia House incident, several smaller fires broke out. One was at the City Hospital on Clay near Powell where the less fortunate were cared for. A valiant effort from the fire department and some concerned citizens saved the patients, but the building was a total loss. Then, on December 14th, several warehouses on Sacramento Street between Montgomery and Sansome burst into flame, however the greatly improved abilities of San Francisco’s firemen blocked the spread of this fire into a rich and crowded district nearby. Still, the flames destroyed a million dollars worth of goods.

 

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