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The year 1906 was a disaster for the city of San Francisco and its residents. It was on 18th April of that year that disaster struck San Francisco in the shape of a great earthquake. The city was shaken to its foundations and most of it was razed to the ground. But the ruptured gas lines worsened the tragedy by creating a fire that continued to blaze in most parts of the city for three days post the earthquake.

The earthquake of that year would measure 8.25 on the modern Richter scale, and thus would be even greater than the 1989 quake measuring 6.7. The earthquake struck at 5.15 in the morning, a time when most of the city's residents were fast asleep- and the ground beneath them shook in a way that would seem to devour the city as a whole. The quake destroyed the city's infrastructure- transportation, communication, power, sewer, and water systems and this acted as a catalyst to the fire that raged on for three days.

The fires resulting from the ruptured gas lines soon engulfed this Northern Californian town in flames. Government buildings, hotels, schools, offices all burned to their complete destruction and all that was left of them was the charred remains. The Fairmont Hotel, which had been just constructed, was totally destroyed in the fire before it could start business.

The earthquake and fire conspired together to char approximately 490 city blocks. The distressed citizens fought with their misfortune to try to find their relatives, friends and family members lost in the rubble. The doctors and nurses of the city worked 24 hours and took care of the injured, often without medications and other tools as the hospitals were also in ruins, many without power for days.

When the firefighters and common citizens working together finally recovered from the three-day stretch of destruction, they evaluated the damage. The number of buildings completely destroyed was 25,000 and those structurally damaged and requiring a great deal of time and money to rebuild and reconstruct were twice as many. The damages calculated on the turn-of-the-century dollar rates went way above $350,000,000 in cost. Many businesses and homeowners abandoned their dreams to relocate and rebuild in an area considered safer. It took the city many years to get back on its feet.

The earthquake and the fires left more than 250,000 men, women, and children homeless. However, the silver lining was that these bleak times brought out the true human spirit, as citizens came together to welcome friends, family members, neighbors, and even strangers into buildings that were not destroyed during the devastation. The San Franciscans quickly began rebuilding their city and even created shelters for those left out in the cold.

Tragically, between 450 and 700 individuals were killed in that three day period. Horror stories emerged as the days went on, with men, women, and children recounting the terrible sights of humans burning alive in the streets. Entire families were killed, and a substantial number of children were left orphans due to the disasters. Again, the city banded together and worked as one to help the survivors.

The great earthquake and fire of 1906 shaped the city’s mindset. This event will forever be etched in the memory and history of San Francisco.

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Penelope Banchit is the chief editor for F san francisco, the web's premier resource for information about san francisco. For more articles on san francisco visit:

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