San Francisco may well be the most resilient city that ever was.   That statement I make after contemplating many factors.  The location was not conducive to the formation of a major city.  Gold seekers flocked to this unlikely spot in record numbers in just a few years.  San Francisco had more than its fair share of bad boys, too.  These elements created an opportunity for serial disasters.  Possibly the most prominent feature was that residents did not let adversity deter them.

Immigration ran rampant after the discovery of gold in California.  The population was just a few hundred before 1849; however, people overran the city after the word got out.  Makeshift buildings fabricated of two by fours and treated canvas became “hotels” for the weary as sleeping accommodations.  These structures were tender boxes when fire broke out.

Few places on the steep bay-side were anywhere near flat.  Steep terrain made construction difficult.  The shallow cove was not conducive to easy access by seagoing ships.  The intense wind almost always made life difficult. This wind was a contributing factor when the city experienced fires.

The unprecedented population growth aggravated adherence to law and order. Various gangs roamed the streets unabated.  Possibly the most treacherous group was known as the Sydney Ducks (see separate article). Criminals from Australia came to San Francisco on pardons dolled out by the Australian government if the criminal left the country. The Ducks gladly entered the new territory to wreak havoc on unsuspecting prospectors and citizenry of San Francisco.

Seven devastating fires, each nearly destroying the entire city, occurred between 1849 -1851.  High winds were present with each conflagration. The building materials certainly played a significant role.  Pine two by fours and treated canvas obviously will burn with intensity.  The Sydney Ducks were responsible for all but two of the seven fires.  They ignited the fires to conceal their looting and causing mischief as the city burned.

Photo: William Coulter/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

Seven fires in just a few years seems incredible. There were natural contributors; however, the raucous Sydney Ducks were the culprits that initiated the conflagrations.  Why did it take so long to control these bad boys?   How did the city ultimately deal with this pariah?

I suggest you read my novel Equal and Alike to get the answers.  Equal and Alike may be purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookbaby, and other purveyors of books.  See for more information.