Earthquake Fires

Are you ready for earthquake related fires?

There could be hundreds of fires within minutes of a large earthquake

Flames reach for the sky following the Northridge Earthquake

When destructive earthquakes strike, the often disrupt fuel and water lines that feed our homes. It’s important to know how to shut off the gas line leading to your home. If you smell gas in your home after an earthquake, you could have a natural gas leak. You need to know where your home’s gas line shut off is. Following the instructions in the video above can help you avoid tragedies like fires and explosions following an earthquake.

Earthquakes can be deadly, but they often do far less damage than the fires that follow them

In 1906, the Great San Francisco Earthquake changed history and began a series of scientific studies that have had a tremendous impact on pre-earthquake preparation, building construction, and general scientific knowledge about earthquakes. The Great San Francisco Earthquake was deadly and destructive. We all know that. But one thing not commonly known about that famous earthquake, was that most of the people who died and most of the buildings that were destroyed, weren’t a direct result of the ground shaking. Most of the death and destruction was because of the enormous fire that followed the earthquake.

At 5:12 AM, a foreshock hit hard enough to be felt widely throughout the San Francisco Bay area. About a half minute later, the primary earthquake ripped through the city, with the epicenter near San Francisco. Violent shocks and strong shaking lasted nearly a full minute.

It was after the shaking stopped that some of the worst destruction occurred, including:

  • Fires destroyed about 28,000 buildings and 500 blocks – ¼ of San Francisco.
  • A San Francisco resident cooking breakfast on a stove that’s chimney was damaged during the quake, started the 24-hour-long “ham and eggs fire” which destroyed a 30-block area, including parts of City Hall and Market Street.
  • Fires burned for three days and three nights; some were as hot as 2,700°F.
  • The Navy contributed to putting out fires by running water lines and providing water to the city’s fire department for their steam engines.
  • As a result of the fire, more than 250,000 of the city’s 400,000 residents were left homeless.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake in California was more localized, but extremely dangerous, and it took the area longer than a year to recover from the damage. As with San Francisco and other quakes, significant damage occurred as a result of fire following the quake.

Within minutes of the Northridge earthquake, LA City firefighters were en route to multiple fires in the San Fernando building. In the period from 4:31AM through midnight, there were approximately 110 earthquake related fires. More than 70% of those fires occurred in single or multiple family fires.

The LAFD had challenges fighting these fires, as a side effect of the quake was more than 1,400 breaks in water main systems. Los Angeles firefighters resorted to using water tankers and drafting water from swimming pools to help them in extinguishing some of those fires.

Picture of San Francisco Earthquake
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