As for clothing, it was in many cases of the scantiest, while numbers of the people had brought comfortable clothing and bedding. Many others had fled in their night garbs, and comparatively few of these had had the self-possession to return and don their daytime clothes. As a result there had been much improvisation of garments suitable for life in the open air, and as the days went on many of the women arrayed themselves in home-made bloomer costumes, a sensible innovation under the circumstances and in view of the active outdoor work they were obliged to perform.
The grave question to be faced at this early stage was: How soon would an adequate supply of food arrive from outside points to avert famine? Little remained in San Francisco beyond the area swept by the fire, and the available supply could not last more than a few days. Fresh meat disappeared early on Wednesday and only canned foods and breadstuffs were left. All the foodstuffs coming in on the cars were at once seized by order of the Mayor and added to the scanty supply, the names of the consignees being taken that this material might eventually be paid for. The bakers agreed to work their plants to their utmost capacity and to send all their surplus output to the relief committee. By working night and day thousands of loaves could be provided daily. A big bakery in the saved district started its ovens and arranged to bake 50,000 loaves before night. The provisions were taken charge of by a committee and sent to the various depots from which the people were being fed. Instructions were issued by Mayor Schmitz on Thursday to break open every store containing provisions and to distribute them to the thousands under police supervision. A policeman reported that two grocery stores in the neighborhood were closed, although the clerks were present. “Smash the stores open,” ordered the Mayor, “and guard them.” In towns across the bay the master bakers have met and fixed the price of bread at 5 cents the loaf, with the understanding that they will refuse to sell to retailers who attempt to charge famine prices. The committee of citizens in charge of the situation in the stricken city proposed to use every effort to keep food down to the ordinary price and check the efforts of speculators, who in one instance charged as much as $3.50 for two loaves of bread and a can of sardines. Orders were issued by the War Department to army officers to purchase at Los Angeles immediately 200,000 rations and at Seattle 300,000 rations and hurry them to San Francisco. The department was informed that there were 120,000 rations at the Presidio, that thousands of refugees were being sheltered there and that the army was feeding them. One million rations already had been started to San Francisco by the department. But in view of the fact that there were 300,000 fugitives to be fed the supply available was likely to be soon exhausted.