108 years ago today, San Francisco was a hellish mix of smoke and flame. After the famous earthquake shook the city, broken gas mains fueled a fire that set downtown ablaze. In this picture, you can see what it looked like just before the city's water ran dry.
A combination of poor planning and ill-fated firefighting techniques meant that the fire wound up destroying 80 percent of the city in the wake of the earthquake. As you can see in this photograph, most of the city was standing after the shaking stopped. But when the water ran out, firefighters tried to stop the blaze by dynamiting buildings to deprive the flames of more fuel. That backfired when the dynamited buildings went up in flames too.
Most of the city wound up homeless, living in public parks, housed in tents and shacks provided by emergency responders.
On Twitter, you can see the entire drama unfolding in pictures by following SF_Historian. Here's the tweet about the image above.
As the Call Building smolders, the fire advances to 4th & Market. The last of the water is about to give out: http://t.co/dA2MmOPKcB …
— SF_Historian (@SF_Historian) April 18, 2014
The Call was one of San Francisco's major newspapers in the nineteenth century.
You can read more about San Francisco's brushes with disaster here, in The Bold Italic.