“There came out, too, tales of both heroism and crime. The firemen had been at it for thirty-six hours under such conditions as firemen never before faced, and they do little more than give directions, while the volunteers, thousands of young Western men who have remained to see it through, do the work. The troops have all that they can do to handle the crowds in the streets and prevent panics. The work of dynamiting, tearing down and rescuing is in the hands of the volunteers.
“This morning an eddy of flame from the edge of the burning wholesale district ran up the slope of Russian Hill, the highest eminence in the city. All along the edge of that hill and up the slopes are little frame houses which hold Italians and Mexicans. A corps of volunteer aides ran along the edge of the fire, warning people out of the houses. But the flames ran too fast and three women were caught in the upper story of an old frame house. A young man tore a rail from a fence, managed to climb it, and reached the window. He bundled one woman out and slid her down the rail; then the roof caught fire. He seized another woman and managed to drop her on the rail, down which she slid without hurting herself a great deal. But the roof fell while he was struggling with another woman and they fell together into the flames. There must have been hundreds of such heroisms and dozens of such catastrophes. We are so drunken and dulled by horror that we take such stories calmly now. We are saturated.”
One thing to be strictly guarded against in those days of destruction was the outbreak of lawlessness. A city as large as San Francisco is sure to hold a large number of the brigands of civilization, a horde who need to be kept under strict discipline at all times, and especially when calamity lets down for the time being the bars of the law, at which time many of the usually law-abiding would join their ranks if any license were allowed. The authorities made haste to guard against this and certain other dangers, Mayor Schmitz issuing on Wednesday the following proclamation:
“The Federal troops, the members of the regular police force and special police officers have been authorized to kill any and all persons engaged in looting or in the commission of any other crime.
“I have directed all the gas and electric lighting companies not to turn on gas or electricity until I order them to do so. You may, therefore, expect the city to remain in darkness for an indefinite time.
“I request all citizens to remain at home from darkness until daylight every night until order is restored.
“I warn all citizens of the danger of fire from damaged or destroyed chimneys, broken or leaking gas pipes or fixtures or any like causes.”
He also ordered that no lights should be used in the houses and no fires built in the houses until the chimneys had been inspected and repaired.