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Mar 08

1905 Fire destroys a city block

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San Luis Obispo fire hose team at a muster in Ventura, 1904. Horses were used to pull hose carts long distances.

 

fire-sweeps-thrugh-a-block.jpgOctober 10, 1905
Today we are fortunate to live in an age where the areas cities have professional full time fire fighters or well trained volunteers with excellent equipment. They have agreements for mutual aid and good highways, telephone and radio communication to coordinate firefighting.In the early 1900′s a fire could be a disaster.
Until 1916 the City of San Luis Obispo relied on horse drawn hose carts and water pressure could be iffy. Often today’s firefighters can contain the damage to one building. Early in the 20th century it was another story.
Quoting from Benjamin Brooks’ Morning Tribune:

FIRE SWEEPS THROUGH A BLOCK
Disastrous Morning Blaze
Fanned by a Northeast Gale
Twelve Buildings Destroyed With a Loss of $30,000
The Flames Make Nearly a Clean Sweep

Shortly before 2 o’clock Monday morning the most destructive fire in the history of this city broke out in the rear of the old stable on Higuera street, at one time occupied by M Sarmento, with a livery business.
The fire was well under way before an alarm was turned in and was soon fanned into a roaring, seething mass of flames by the strong north wind which blew a perfect hurricane. The elements went hand in hand with the red demon as it placed its clutch upon building after building and left only complete ruin in its pathway.
For a time it looked very much as if the Beebee residence on the corner of Broad and Marsh Streets was doomed and if had ever been added to the victims of the destroying elements the flames could easily have jumped across Marsh street and swept like a torrent through the residence district to the southward. The firemen did the very best of work in saving the Beebee residence and through their efforts in this particular, cut short the maddening rush of the flames. Once Across Marsh Street with the heavy wind prevailing, the flames could have easily have traveled as far as Islay street to the southward and gone with a sweep clear to the Pacific Coast Railway yards
***
Some of the fire boys had their faces blistered but they stood their ground and fought like demons to save the Beebee residence, knowing full well that it ment not alone the safety of that particular structure but the protection of the homes of hundreds of citizens in the residence district to the southwest.

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The article outlined the damage had hit hardest in the block of Higuera between Nipomo and Broad Streets.
Nine horses and a dog died in the fire, at least one person suffered burns trying to rescue horses and was treated by Dr. Stover.
At one point the Jack house was threatened but firefighters on the roof doused flames every time a spark lodged.
Lost in the fire were the Sarmento barn, Socialist headquarters (Ed Kelshaw residence), Youngloves’s blacksmith shop, Guthrie stables, Luistania Hotel, barns, houses owned by Dr. Thos Norton, W.D. BeeBee, P.B. Prefumo and Mrs. Thomas B. Higuera, 76. Higuera Street was named after her late husband. She had no insurance for her adobe home.
One month later the city would loose another landmark to fire, the Ramona Hotel.
Some of the old brick buildings in town have metal shutters you never see pulled over the windows. This was a fire resistant design feature.
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