San Francisco Fire Department Headquarters Competition-School of Architecture - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, April 25, 2013

San Francisco Fire Department Headquarters Competition

Submission Deadline: 31 July

The sun had yet not risen when the sirens began to sound. It was the morning of Wednesday, April 18, 1906 and the city of San Francisco was shaken awake by an earthquake measuring 8.25 on the Richter scale. Having received the strong quake shocks for over a minute, the city was badly damaged and the residents rushed out to check the condition of their property, to protect their families and control the damage. But the worst was yet to come.

sffd poster

More than 30 fires were reported throughout the city as a result of gas leaks caused by the earthquake. San Francisco began to burn, and would continue to do so for four days and four nights. The water network had also been seriously damaged by the quake, preventing firefighters from controlling the fire by the usual means. Yet this did not prevent them in their attempt to save the city, and they resorted to using all the tools at their disposal. They dynamited entire blocks in hopes of creating a firewall, fought the flames with hoses where the supply hadn’t been cut and installed water pumps to use water from the bay to control fires closer to the coast. As we all know the firefighters’ attempts to save the city were unsuccessful and 80% of the city was reduced to ashes before the fire was extinguished. After the disaster and over the subsequent years, some of the measures taken by firefighters were strongly criticized, but what nobody forgets is that they remained active during the four days of the tragedy, risking their lives at all times to try to save the city and citizens they served. Many a survivor have told their story of a law enforcement officer entering their homes when they were about to collapse and taking them to open areas or guiding them to safe shelter from the flames that kept advancing. The American people will not forget the courage of all those men who faced what even today, after 100 years is remembered as the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.


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