San Francisco Is Burning by Dennis Smith
The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires

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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 days—from a valiant naval officer who helped save the city’s 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 city’s great vulnerability to fire—due to its corrupt and hasty building practices—to the widespread racism the quake unleashed and the atrocities committed by national guardsmen. Told with verve and a seasoned firefighter’s knowledge, San Francisco Is Burning is the gripping and definitive account of one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century.


About Dennis Smith

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Dennis Smith spent 18 years with the New York City Fire Department. Smith lives in New York City.
Published September 22, 2005 by Viking Adult. 384 pages
Genres: History, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Economics. Non-fiction

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(As Smith writes, America led the world in annual fire losses at the time “and continues this appalling average today,” with fire-related costs something like six times greater than those of Europe.) In the end, the San Francisco blaze was “bigger than any metropolitan fire in history,” killing m...

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Publishers Weekly

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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.

Aug 15 2005 | Read Full Review of San Francisco Is Burning: The...

News Review.

Not that we need any reminders of disaster, but the centennial of the great San Francisco earthquake is coming up, so expect to hear a great deal about the ruin of an April morning in the city by the bay.

Oct 20 2005 | Read Full Review of San Francisco Is Burning: The...

Ben Casnocha

Dennis Smith, author of Report from Ground Zero and former New York City firefighter, turned his journalistic skills and disaster-zone experience to the biggest metropolitan fire in history: San Francisco in 1906.

Apr 02 2007 | Read Full Review of San Francisco Is Burning: The...

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