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Monday, April 19, 2002


April 18, 1906

By Ron Henggeler

Shortly after 5:00 am. on April 18, 1906 an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale ripped through sleeping San Francisco, toppling buildings, exploding gas mains, and trapping thousands of citizens between tons of stone, broken wood, and twisted metal. Herds of cattle stampeded madly through the streets. The air reverberated with the panicked screams of the doomed and dying.

The worst was yet to come. For the next three days a devastating fire swept through the city, lighting up the night sky a hundred miles away. Fire winds estimated at 80 mph whipped through the streets. The smoke and ashes rose 6 miles into the sky. Nearly 300,000 structures were destroyed, and over a quarter million people were left homeless.

These pictures are taken from a collection of souvenir booklets I have that were published in the months following the earthquake and fire.

The burning city, seen from the bay on the morning of April 18.



The business district of San Francisco burning, as seen from the Fairmont Hotel.


Fire about the United States Mint, Fifth Street.



The Call Building, Market Street.



Looking south.



The advancing column of fire, as seen on Wednesday, April 19, from Market and Webster.


Aftermath: Market Street from the Ferry Tower, showing a trolley line in operation and railroad tracks being laid to remove the debris.