San Francisco – 1906

A tremendous earthquake took place in San Francisco in the morning hours of April 18, 1906. The San Andreas fault ripped open with a rupture stretching 296 miles. The quake was felt from Los Angeles to Oregon. In San Francisco, stoves and lamps that were overturned and quickly caused buildings to catch fire. The earthquake destroyed the city’s water mains, making it nearly impossible for firefighters to fight the blaze. As a result, the fire lasted for three days until firefighters decided to dynamite entire blocks to prevent the spread of the fire. This decision was made after Fire Chief dennis T. Sullivan died in the earthquake and was ineffective. This disaster took its toll, killing 3,000 people and destroying close to 300,000 structures. This fire was one of the biggest in U.S. history and one of its largest natural disasters.

The landmark Palace Hotel was burnt to the ground, and many important scientific specimens were lost as laboratories went up in flames. From nutrition to botany and even state artifacts, all became part of the causalities of the San Francisco earthquake fire. The army was called in to assist with the clean up and control of the city, and thousands of temporary homes were built for the displaced residents.

It was estimated that $400 million in damages resulted from this disaster. Rebuilding began almost immediately and was completed, for the most part, by 1915. Since then, survivors of the blaze have met every year on April 18 at Lotta’s Fountain, in the financial district of the city.


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