On Friday night the fire that had worked its way from Nob’s Hill to North Beach Street, sweeping that quarter clean of buildings, veered before a fierce wind and made its way southerly to the great sea wall, with its docks and grain warehouses. The flames reached the tanks of the San Francisco Gas Company, which had previously been pumped out, and on Saturday morning the grain sheds on the water front, about half a mile north of the ferry station, were fiercely burning. But the fire here was confined to a small area, and, with the work of fireboats in the bay and of the firemen on shore, who used salt water pumped into their engines, it was prevented from reaching the ferry building and the docks in that vicinity.
The buildings on a high slope between Van Ness and Polk Streets, Union and Filbert Streets, were blazing fiercely, fanned by a high wind, but the blocks here were so thinly settled that the fire had little chance of spreading widely from this point. In fact, it was at length practically under control, and the entire western addition of the city west of Van Ness Avenue was safe from the flames. The great struggle was fairly at an end, and the brave force of workers were at length given some respite from their strenuous labors.
During the height of the struggle and the days of exhaustion and depression that followed, exaggerated accounts of the losses and of the area swept by the flames were current, some estimate making the extent of the fire fifteen square miles out of the total of twenty-five square miles of the city’s area. It was not until Friday, the 27th, that an official survey of the burned district, made by City Surveyor Woodward, was completed, and the total area burned over found to be 2,500 acres, a trifle less than four square miles. This, however, embraced the heart of the business section and many of the principal residence streets, much of the saved area being occupied by the dwellings of the poorer people, so that the money loss was immensely greater than the percentage of ground burned over would indicate.
Fighting the Flames With Dynamite.
Shaken by earthquake, swept by flames, the water supply cut off by the breaking of the mains, the authorities of the doomed city for a time stood appalled. What could be done to stay the fierce march of the flames which were sweeping resistlessly over palace and hovel alike, over stately hall and miserable hut? Water was not to be had; what was to take its place? Nothing remained but to meet ruin with ruin, to make a desert in the path of the fire and thus seek to stop its march. They had dynamite, gunpowder and other explosives, and in the frightful exigency there was nothing else to be used. Only for a brief interval did the authorities yield to the general feeling of helplessness. Then they aroused themselves to the demands of the occasion and prepared to do all in the power of man in the effort to arrest the conflagration.