Synopses & Reviews
At 5:12 a.m. on the morning of April 18, 1906, San Francisco was struck by one of the worst earthquakes in history, instantly killing hundreds. The ensuing fires that ravaged the city for days were responsible for the deaths of as many as 3,000 more. In all, 522 blocks and 28,188 buildings were leveled, and some 200,000 people dislocated.
This watershed event in American history has never before been told with the richness of historical detail and insight that our foremost historian of fire, Dennis Smith, brings to it in San Francisco Is Burning. Smith cinematically recounts this terrible tragedy through the stories of the people who lived through those terrible daysfrom a valiant naval officer who helped save the citys piers and wharves to Eugene Schmitz, the crooked mayor, to the debonair scoundrel Abe Ruef, the most erudite city boss in American history. Throughout, Smith reveals many unknown details about the event, from the citys great vulnerability to firedue to its corrupt and hasty building practicesto the widespread racism the quake unleashed and the atrocities committed by national guardsmen. Told with verve and a seasoned firefighters knowledge, San Francisco Is Burning is the gripping and definitive account of one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century.
"Firefighter turned author Smith (Report from Ground Zero) performs an exhausting autopsy on the temblor and subsequent fire that devastated San Francisco 100 years ago. With 92 chapters, the narrative effect is one of a nervous cameraman trying to take in everything (the chapter on Enrico Caruso jumping from his bed at the Palace Hotel is one paragraph long) and managing to make a distant event seem even more remote. The author takes aim at the procedures of the official response and the chain of command, considers whether the army did more than the navy and presents 'what-if' scenarios that will appeal most to students of how to manage a natural disaster. An 'especially cruel irony' was the fact that saloons were ordered closed on the day of the fire, yet there, in bottles, jugs and kegs, 'was undoubtedly enough wine to extinguish the early fires.' Smith too often pauses to backfill the careers and family histories of various personalities or discuss the tectonics of earthquakes. His firefighter's-eye-view of the disaster will have a tough time competing with Simon Winchester's terrific A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, due out in October. (Sept. 26)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A former New York City firefighter, Smith details the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco and reveals little known details through the stories of those who lived through the terrible days.
About the Author
Dennis Smith, a former New York City firefighter, is the founding editor of Firehouse Magazine and the bestselling author of eleven books, including Report from Ground Zero, Report from Engine Co. 82, and A Song for Mary. He is currently chairman of First Responders Financial Company.