This region of palaces was the next to fall a prey to the insatiable flames. Early Thursday morning a change in the wind sent the fire westward, eating its way from the water front north of Market Street toward Nob’s Hill. Steadily but surely it climbed the slope, and the Stanford and Hopkins edifices fell victims to its fury. Others of the palaces of millionairedom followed. Huge clouds of smoke enveloped the beautiful white stone Fairmount Hotel, and there was a general feeling of horror when this magnificent structure seemed doomed. To it the Committee of Safety had retreated, but the flames from the burning buildings opposite reached it, and the committee once more migrated in search of safe quarters. Fortunately, it escaped with little damage, its walls remaining intact and much of the interior being left in a state of preservation, warranting its managers to offer space within it to the committees whose aim it was to help the homeless or to store supplies. Some of the woodwork of the building was destroyed by the fire, but the structure was in such good condition that work on it was quickly resumed, with the statement that its completion would not be delayed more than three months beyond the date set, which was November, 1906.
In the district extending northwestwardly from Kearney Street and Montgomery Avenue, untouched during the first day, the fire spread freely on the second. This district embraces the Latin quarter, peopled by various nationalities, the houses being of the flimsiest construction. Once it had gained a foothold there, the fire swept onward as though making its way through a forest in the driest summer season.
An apochryphal incident is told of the fire in this quarter, which may be repeated as one example of the fables set afloat. It is stated that water to fight the fire here was sadly lacking, the only available supply being from an old well. At a critical moment the pump sucked dry, the water in the well being exhausted. The residents were not yet conquered. Some of them threw open their cellar doors and, calling for assistance, began to roll out barrels of red wine. Barrel after barrel appeared, until fully five hundred gallons were ready for use. Then the barrel heads were smashed in and the bucket brigade turned from water to wine. Sacks were dipped in the wine and used for fighting the fire. Beds were stripped of their blankets and these soaked in the wine and hung over exposed portions of the cottages, while men on the roofs drenched the shingles and sides of the houses with wine. The postscript to this queer story is that the wine won and the firefighters saved their homes. The story is worth retelling, though it may be added that wine, if it contained much alcohol, would serve as a feeder rather than as an extinguisher of flame.
A striking description of the aspect of the city on that terrible Wednesday is told by Jerome B. Clark, whose home was in Berkeley, but who did business in San Francisco. He left for the city early Wednesday morning, after a minor shake-up at home, which he thus describes: