FEDERAL REPORT ON SAN FRANCISCO FIRE.
Captain Sewell, who was appointed by the Federal government to report on the results of the earthquake and fire at San Francisco, reports that, before these two disasters, the city’s buildings were almost entirely of frame or ordinary brick construction. Of fireproof buildings, socalled, there were only forty-five, and of slowburning, mill-construction buildings, such as are found in New England, only a very few, and these were not up to the Eastern standard. Within the burned area, therefore, all frame buildings and practically all with timber floors were destroyed, with their contents. Practically, also, all the socalled fireproof structures were gutted. As compared with Baltimore, the reports points out that the “average loss on the buildings of Class A. termed ‘fireproof’ or skeleton construction, is considerably in excess of the average loss on ‘fireproof’ buildings in the Maryland city. This cannot he stated with absolute positiveness in the absence of a detailed estimate. The fireproof buildings had been erected according to the building laws of San Francisco, which provided for three types of commercial buildings.” 1 he damage done by the earthquake was at least as great as ten per cent, of that done by the earthquake and fire: but it was “localised in a remarkable degree. A group of buildings would be almost totally destroyed, and buildings almost in contact on’ all sides escaped without damage, though in many cases the damaged buildings were superior in every way to their neighbors. Owing to tbe remarkable variation in intensity of the shock from point to point, the measure of damage done to an individual building is by no means a measure of tbe excellency or inferiority of its construction. In dynamiting steelfraine buildings the only result was to knock a few basement columns off their foundations and bring down a portion of the floor construction. Good results can scarcely be obtained by dynamiting steel-frame structures to stop a fire. It is practically impossible in the time available so completely to demolish a steel-frame that the combustible material could be properly handled, and it would burn more freely and more disastrously than j Pie ft intact. So far as resistance to the fire is concerned, the only buildings that presented anything of interest were the monumental public buildings [the city hall, the new postoffice building, the united States Mint and the Custom House] and tbe commercial fireproof buildings of Class A. The fire did not get into the Mint nor the Custom House; but it did some damage to the postoffice.” The report states that ifi the fire the collapse of protected steel-frames due to the destruction of fireproof coverings at a comparatively early stage was a matter of common occurrence: that columns covered with cinder concrete did not suffer, although the concrete was seriously damaged: that interior partitions not of brickwork were a total loss, and furred ceilings were also very largely a loss. Only office vaults built of brickwork came through a fierce fire without damage. The opinion is given that tbe fire was appreciably hotter than that of Baltimore, and that temperatures in excess of 2.000° Fahr. were not at all uncommon. It was also noticeable “that the earthquake did not cause the collapse of any of the fiocr construction in any of the fireproof buildings, nor the collapse of any partitions. It is a matter of some surprise that there was no damage to floor construction made of hollow tiles, and that the partitions of the same materials were not shaken down by the earthquake. Just how much damage was done by the fire to cinder concrete slabs is a little difficult to determine, for the reason that most of the cinder concrete used in San Francisco is evidently a very inferior article. Reinforced concrete floor slabs, some of cinder, some of stone, were on the point of collapse from heat alone. Some terra-cotta floor arches had totally collapsed.