The San Francisco Earthquake and the "Ham and Eggs Fire"

When the phrase “natural disaster” is brought up, many think of the Great Chicago Fire. However, with over 3,000 casualties, the San Francisco Earthquake remains one of the United States’ worst natural disasters.

On the morning of April 18th, 1906, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 ripped through the city, destroying houses, buildings, and infrastructure alike. San Francisco resident Emma Burke is quoted in Popular Mechanics as saying that the earthquake “made such a roar that no one noise could be distinguished.”


The disaster’s enormous force had damaged the city’s gas lines and caused dozens of fires to break out across the city. The largest, dubbed the “ham and eggs fire” was lit after a local family attempted to cook their breakfast.

During the next three days, the city was ravaged. Damages from the disaster are estimated to have cost over $400 million – roughly $6.2 billion in today’s dollars. The city has since been rebuilt and is now bigger than ever, but the people of California still commemorate the disaster each year, gathering at Lotta’s fountain to honor first responders and promote disaster readiness.

Photo credit: The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco

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