But the needs of the three hundred thousand homeless and hungry people in the city could not be met in this way, and immediate supplies in large quantities were necessary to prevent a reign of famine from succeeding the ravages of the fire. Danger from thirst was still more insistent than that from hunger. There was some food to be had, bakeries were quickly built within the military reservation there, and General Funston announced that rations would soon reach the city and the people would be supplied from the Presidio. But there was scarcely any water to relieve the thirst of the suffering. Water became the incessant cry of firemen and people alike, the one wanting it to fight the fire, the other to drink, but even for the latter the supply was very scant. There was water in plenty in the reservoirs, but they were distant and difficult to reach, and all night of the day succeeding the earth shock wagons mounted with barrels and guarded by soldiers drove through the park doling out water. There was a steady crush around these wagons, but only one drink was allowed to a person.
Toward midnight a black, staggering body of men began to weave through the entrance. They were volunteer fire-fighters, looking for a place to throw themselves down and sleep. These men dropped out all along the line, and were rolled out of the driveways by the troops. There was much splendid unselfishness here. Women gave up their blankets and sat up or walked about all night to cover the exhausted men who had fought fire until there was no more fight in them.
The common destitution and suffering had, as we have said, wiped out all social, financial and racial distinctions. The man who last Tuesday was a prosperous merchant was obliged to occupy with his family a little plot of ground that adjoined the open-air home of a laborer. The white man of California forgot his antipathy to the Asiatic race, and maintained friendly relations with his new Chinese and Japanese neighbors. The society belle who Tuesday night was a butterfly of fashion at the grand opera performance now assisted some factory girl in the preparation of humble daily meals. Money had little value. The family that had had foresight to lay in the largest stock of foodstuffs on the first day of disaster was rated highest in the scale of wealth.
A few of the families that could secure wagons were possessors of cook stoves, but over 95 per cent. of the refugees did their cooking on little campfires made of brick or stone. Battered kitchen utensils that the week before would have been regarded as useless had become articles of high value. In fact, man had come back to nature and all lines of caste had been obliterated, while the very thought of luxury had disappeared. It was, in the exigency of the moment, considered good fortune to have a scant supply of the barest necessaries of life.