This was the region of the newspaper offices, and they quickly succumbed. The Examiner, standing across Third Street from Spreckles, collapsed from the earthquake shock. A flimsy edifice, it had long been looked upon as dangerous. Another building in the rear of this alone resisted both flames and smoke. Across Market Street from the Examiner stood the Chronicle building, a dozen stories high. Firmly built, it had borne the earthquake assault unharmed, but the flames were an enemy against which it had no defense, and it was quickly added to the victims of the fire-fiend.
Farther down Market Street, the chief business thoroughfare of the city, stood that great caravansary, the Palace Hotel, which for thirty years had been a favorite hostelry, housing the bulk of the visitors to the Californian metropolis. Its time had come. Doom hovered over it. Its guests had fled in good season, as they saw the irresistible approach of the conquering flames. Soon it was ablaze; quickly from every window of its broad front the tongues of flame curled hotly in the air; it became a thrice-heated furnace, like so many of the neighboring structures, adding its quota to the vast cloud of smoke that hung over the burning city, and rapidly sinking in red ruin to the earth.
All day Wednesday the fire spread unchecked, all efforts to stay its devouring fury proving futile. In the business section of the city everything was in ruins. Not a business house was left standing. Theatres crumbled into smouldering heaps. Factories and commission houses sank to red ruin before the devouring flames. The scene was like that of ancient Babylon in its fall, or old Rome when set on fire by Nero’s command, as tradition tells. In modern times there has been nothing to equal it except the conflagration at Chicago, when the flames swept to ruin that queen city of the Great Lakes.
When night fell and the sun withdrew his beams the spectacle was one at once magnificent and awe-inspiring. The city resembled one vast blazing furnace. Looking over it from a high hill in the western section, the flames could be seen ascending skyward for miles upon miles, while in the midst of the red spirals of flame could be seen at intervals the black skeletons and falling towers of doomed buildings. Above all this hung a dense pall of smoke, showing lurid where the flames were reflected from its dark and threatening surface. To those nearer the scene presented many pathetic and distressing features, the fire glare throwing weird shadows over the worn and panic-stricken faces of the woe-begone fugitives, driven from their homes and wandering the streets in helpless misery. Many of them lay sleeping on piles of blankets and clothing which they had brought with them, or on the hard sidewalks, or the grass of the open parks.