SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT HISTORY
A stranger viewing the seal of the City of San Francisco might ascribe the Phoenix thereon to the tragic fire of 1906. But the "fire bird" had been chosen over fifty years earlier to commemorate the very birth of the City.
In April 1848, the community of San Francisco consisted of less than two hundred buildings and had a population numbering about one thousand. Yet, by the close of 1849, due to the gold strike, it was estimated the population numbered close to twenty-five thousand, and was growing by about four thousand immigrants per month.
There was no such thing as a home to be found; scarcely even a proper house could be seen. Both dwellings and places of business were either common canvas tents or rough board shanties erected helter-skelter every which way, with little regard for life safety or fire hazard. This conglomeration of structures could truly be called "The Combustible City."
The heart of San Francisco was destroyed by fire six times in a period of eighteen months. Yet, each time, following the example of its mythical symbol, the City had risen anew from its smoldering ruins.