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Golden Fire Hydrant.

Gold Fire Hydrant - 1906 Earthquake

Field review by the editors.

San Francisco, California

On April 18, 1906, in the immediate aftermath of the massive San Francisco earthquake and devastating fires, a single fireplug, "The Little Giant," saved the Mission District from burning up.

The earthquake, estimated to have been a 7.8 magnitude rupture along the San Andrea fault, rumbled through at 5:45 am. Water mains broke all over the city, cisterns were dry, and as more buildings caught fire, firefighters were overwhelmed. The conflagration ate whole neighborhoods, expanding south towards the Mission.

Golden Fire Hydrant.

At the last moment, someone discovered a working hydrant up the hill on Church St. The horse team pulling a fire wagon was exhausted and couldn't get up the incline. Hundreds of refugees and residents pushed the equipment to the fireplug, which became a hydraulic hub for several days.

Amazingly, the little hydrant is still connected to municipal water mains, and is in service. It might have a tough time saving the Mission District now, at least during our visit, when a hybrid SUV driver was obstinately parked up against it while he yakked on his phone.

Every year since the 1960s, on April 18 at 5:45 am, a ceremony is held in which relatives of the disaster's survivors spray-paint the hydrant with a fresh gold coat. A plaque in the sidewalk notes its prowess.

Gold Fire Hydrant - 1906 Earthquake

Church St., San Francisco, CA
20th St. and Church St., SW corner of Mission Dolores Park on the east side of Church as it starts to climb the hill.
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