Placer County CA - Disasters ...

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1855: June 9th
Placer Herald (Auburn) -
Auburn in Ashes - Loss over $200,000 - Eighty Houses Consumed!!!

On Monday last about two o’clock PM, a fire broke out in one of the China-houses on the side of the hill below the Methodist Church, which spread with fearful rapidity. The flames soon crossed the street to Dr. Kinzie’s Drug Store, thence to the Diana Bowling Saloon, Keehner’s Bakery, Geo. H. Stephens’ Livery Stable; the Empire and Orleans hotels soon followed in quick succession. Before the flames had spread this far, every citizen and visitor in town who could be spared from the fire was at work carrying to the adjacent hills and ravines such valuables as could be seized hold of. Those residing on the south side of town were unable to secure much from the devouring element. The fire seemed fairly to lick up the buildings as it went, until it reached Barney and Woody’s new stable which was in the course of erection; but nothing could stay the raging element – on it went until nothing was left but the neat row of cottages on Court House hill owned by the Bear River Water Company, Judge Fitzsimmons, H. R. Hawkins, and E. G. Smith. Through the great exertions of the members of the Board of Supervisors and other gentlemen, the court house was saved. In this connection, we would mention the faithful labors of a Negro man named Jackson who assisted a great deal towards saving this public building. The loss of our two commendations-hotels will be sensibly felt, and we fear it will be a long time before we shall “see their like again.” Messrs. House and Echols, the landlords, have been heavy losers. The office of the Placer Press has sustained a very heavy damage, making it necessary for the proprietors to almost entirely renew their establishment. The Temple Saloon that stood on the hill went like a flash of powder, and the “Old Auburn House” opposite, a ’19 relic with its well-seasoned boards was a fit subject for the flames. By vigorous exertions Allen’s Livery Stable was saved. The houses from where the fire broke out on both sides of the street, extending as far as the Methodist Church were consumed. This portion of the town was principally occupied by Chinamen, several of whom are heavy losers. When the flames caught from the Orleans Hotel to the Mechanic’s Hall, many of our citizens at the north end of town had had time in saving many of their effects and were better prepared than many of our citizens for the reception of the fire. From the Hall, the flames went to Oberdeener’s and the large store house of H. T. Holmes. The upper story being occupied by the Pacific Express Co., Post Office, and Alta Telegraph Co., and adjoining the Concert room. Apparently but a moment intervened when Wicke’s Drug Store, Placer Herald office and the National Hotel were on fire, extending thence up street, east, meeting the other point of the fire. The time occupied in the burning was one hour and twenty-five minutes. The town has gone, what of that! In twelve months we will have a prettier and much better one. It has been reported that the remains of a Chinaman were found amid the ruins of one of their houses, but we have been unable to satisfy ourselves of the correctness of the report.
Confusion -
Our office is all confusion – we occupy a portion of the blacksmith shop situated on the ravine, and editorials, such as they be, are written amid the delectable neighing of horses, sound of hammers, and noises generally. Office in pie-type, paper, books, bed clothes, chases, a mixture; and thus we issue our paper this week, and perhaps we shall have to do so the next one; but in ten days we shall have a new office and go ahead again.
Thanks Direct -
We owe special thanks to Philip Lynch of Dolan’s Bar, A. S. Smith, and W. W. Caperton of Gold Hill, and Wm. A. Johnson of this place; and other gentlemen with whose names we are not familiar, for their timely and energetic assistance in removing our office.
At Their Old Stands -
Many of our citizens have resumed business in temporary structures at their old stands, as near as we can ascertain as follows:  Wicke’s Drug Store; Oberdeener’s Book Store; Orleans Hotel; Empire Hotel; Keehner’s Bakery; Crescent City Livery Stable; Van Mater’s Tin Shop; Goodkind’s Confectionary; Wells, Fargo & Co.; Hyneman’s Clothing Store; Newman & Co. Clothing Store; Parkinson & Co.; Geo. Willment; Robt. Gordon; and S. E. Rousin’s Meat Market. Mr. Echols of the National has opened at H. R. Hawkins’ residence; Credit of the Gem Restaurant will be found at the Methodist Church; the Temple Saloon is at Allen & Co. Livery Stable; Geo. Stephens has erected a temporary stable for his livery horses on the side of the hill above the Crescent City Stable; the Lawyers and Physicians are at the Court House; the Pacific Express Co. Office, Telegraph Office, and Post Office, at Mr. Martin’s residence; and the Placer Herald and Placer Press in the blacksmith shop just opposite. Those who want to shave will find Stevens’ Saloon somewhere on the side of the hill in the rear of the Orleans.

1857: February 7th
Placer Herald (Auburn), reprinted from Iowa Hill News Extra, 2-2-1857
Destruction of Iowa Hill by Fire

This morning at 3 o’clock, the alarm of fire was given. In a few minutes, the central portion of the town was in flames. The fire was first discovered in the back part of the City Bakery and is supposed to have been the work of an incendiary as there had been no fire in the building for baking purposes since Sunday at 10 AM. The east side of Main Street from Temperance Hall to McCall & Co. Brewery is swept, with the exception of Mr. Colgan’s brick store or the goods therein. The Post Office was in this building. On the west side of the street, the fire extended from the office of the News to Hill’s Reservoir. The dwelling houses in the rear on either side of Main Street were all saved. About one hundred buildings and tenements are destroyed. It is almost miraculous that no lives were lost. The material of the News printing office was all moved but by tearing away a building between it and the St. Louis house, and by the indefatigable exertions of our citizens, our office was saved and the fire arrested on the west side of the street. We are under deep and lasting obligations to friends and our citizens generally for their generous and timely assistance. It is almost impossible to approximate at anything near the loss sustained. So rapidly did the flames extend, that the fire-proof cellars under most of the large stores were of little use, there being no time to remove merchandise into them. Up to the time of our going to press, P. J. Edwards’ safe had not been opened. Probably all his papers are preserved. A meeting was held today at 12 o’clock for the purpose of devising means for the alleviation of the destitute. Messrs. Ladd, Crutcher, Hotchkiss, Rich & Bennett of Iowa Hill, Wm. D. Lawrence of Bird Flat, Housel of Grizzly Flat, Brown of Wisconsin Hill, Reno of Independence Hill, and Trask of Roach Hill were appointed committees to receive subscriptions. A meeting will be held at 3 o’clock for the purpose of taking into consideration the widening of the streets.
2 o’clock -
The work of re-building has commenced. Two houses have been moved on to Main Street, teams are busily engaged in hauling lumber for the reconstruction. Our town has suffered a severe stroke, but the indomitable will and untiring perseverance of our citizens will cause Iowa Hill to soon resume her place among the first of mountain towns. The Telegraph office has been removed to the News office and was in working order by 9 o’clock AM. The disordered condition of our office prevents giving more particulars. We will issue an extra tomorrow.
Later. Tuesday, 2 o’clock PM -
Today, the smoldering ruins are being cleared away, and the somewhat saddened countenances of yesterday are changed to those of animated courage and perseverance. The work of re-building is progressing rapidly. Mr. McKinney yesterday moved a building upon the rear of his lot in which he will carry on his business until a more substantial store can be erected. Mrs. Conner also moved a building temporarily upon the site of the St. Nicholas. Mr. Walworth and Garity have their foundations laid – the former designed for a boarding house and the latter for a store. Mr. Creamer, the popular and untiring proprietor of Creamer’s Hotel has commenced the erection of a hotel 30 by 75 where he will resume his business and be sure to meet his numerous patrons. He has opened for the present in Temperance Hall. Egbert & Co. Grocers saved some of their stock in the cellar; they have a large stock on the road. J. A. Barber saved a portion of his stock and will soon be afloat again. All the goods which were moved into the cellars were preserved, thus showing their fire-proof qualities. Molbourn saved a great portion of his stock of clothing and is preparing to resume his business. Geo. Haycock has commenced a building on the Alta lot where Block will continue to vend the “choicest brands” of principles and apples big as pumpkins. “Try one, gentlemen.” P. J. Edwards has commenced a building upon the site of his old office. His books and papers are o.k. Justice Watson has commenced a building opposite to where the Boomerang stood. McCall & Co. are at their Brewery – will commence their saloon tomorrow. Betts & Greenbouer, Star Bakery – are building. Bennett & Co. of the Empire Stable have moved to the building in ear of the Peacock Stable lot. Main Street has been surveyed by Mr. Young, twenty feet wider than originally.

1857: July 25th
Placer Herald (Auburn),
Michigan Bluff Destroyed by Fire – Loss Estimated at $150,000 – One Hundred and Fifty Buildings Burned

The flourishing village of Michigan Bluff was almost wholly destroyed on Wednesday afternoon of this week. The fire originated in the U. S. Bakery on the west side of Main Street, immediately connected with the adjoining buildings, and sweeping onward with irresistible force soon laid the principal part of the town in ashes. We have been unable to obtain a statement of individual losses but have been furnished with a carefully prepared list of those who have been sufferers by the conflagration. On the west side of Main Street as follows:  Squires & Kemble’s house; M. Hoffman, dwelling; shoe store; Marcus & Co., two stores; Jarvis, blacksmith shop; Page & Co., machine shop, clothing store; Wm Proctor, Lafayette Restaurant; U. S. Bakery, W. Meizenbach & Co.; Brown & Crane, grocers; Graham, drug store; Polits, clothing store; M. Eugler, provision store; L. Newman, clothing store; Dickenson & Co., butchers; Wells, Fargo & Co.; W. Cory; J. Lewis, cigar store; J. Rosenbohm, liquors; W. W. Cunningham, boarding house; Oriental Hotel, Moody; S. T. Leet & Co., provision store; Empire Saloon, Evans & Co.; Greenwood’s boarding house; Fisher’s city hotel; U. S. House, Watkins & Co.; E. Stanford, provisions; C. Smith, dwelling; Palmer, dwelling; Bennett, dwelling; Foggarty & Dilty, blacksmiths; Palmer & Co. East side of street:  Mrs. Farrell; French house; J. J. Wilson, Physician; C. C. Reed’s house; W. Shear, fruit and cigars; C. W. C. Rowell, law office; Drs. Waters & Noble, Drugs & Co.; D. Byrne, ball alley; Dr. Favor, drugs, etc.; Morrill & Co., barber; Pelican Saloon, Walker; S. Reinstein, clothing; Sims & McDonald, butchers; J. W. Bradly & Co., provisions; Alhambra Saloon, Miller; Quartz Rock Saloon, McComb & Co.; French House, J. Claressy; Fleishman & Co., clothing; A. A. Mason, tin shop; Duntin & Co., shoemakers; James Reynolds, house; Post Office; Several houses occupied by Chinese; J. Levins, dwelling; John Hurandner, machine shop; E. Stanford, dwelling; three dwelling houses. Sweeping across from Main to Church, the fire destroyed all the buildings on the south side of that street. Burland’s Livery Stable, situated on a street leading out from Main, shared the same fate. Nearly all the buildings on both sides of Main Street in the rear of the town were burnt; also a double row of buildings on the “Flat” below the town. Some of the merchants were fortunately provided with fire-proof cellars and saved the entire or a large portion of their stocks, or else the loss would have been much greater. Among those are Brady, Leet, and Stanford. The cellars of Politz and Newan, we understand, did not stand the test, and they lost most of their stocks of clothing. The only accident occurring during the fire was to Mr. Robert Piper who was severely, though not dangerously, burned. This is a heavy blow to the Bluffs. The accumulation of years of industry and toil has been swept away in an hour. But with that energy peculiar to Californians, they are already re-building their town. Many of the citizens are desirous of selecting a new site, as the mining operations are gradually extending within the town limits, but the high price at which lots are held upon the proposed new location may prevent a removal. Burland has commenced a new livery stable, and Eugler a business house upon their old lots. We hope the citizens of the Bluffs will study their true interests in rebuilding their town and have wide streets. The narrow streets of our mountain towns are a grievous fault in building, and when a fire does come, they never can be saved. We sympathize with our fellow citizens in their loss, but we know they are not the people to be disheartened, but before the summer is over will have a more substantial and handsomer town than the old one ever was.

1859 - October 15th
Placer Herald (Auburn) -
Great Conflagration of Auburn - Fifty-Eight Buildings Destroyed - Loss $119,250

The citizens of this place were startled by the dreaded cry of fire on Sunday morning last, about twenty minutes after seven o’clock, which, unfortunately, was the warning note of sad disaster. Many had not arisen from their beds at the time, but the alarm soon brought out the whole population, who went to work with almost superhuman energy to combat the fierce element and to remove valuables to secure places.

From all the information we can obtain, the fire originated in a small frame building (two doors south of the American Hotel) occupied by some colored men as a restaurant, the stove pipe from which passed through the roof near the side of the Globe Saloon, a building adjoining. It is the belief that this pipe had become unjointed, and a fire having been kindled in the stove, the sparks communicated to the Globe Saloon. There is much difference of opinion on this – some believing it to have commenced in the saloon and being the work of an incendiary, as the flames appeared to burst from that building first. But we have learned nothing to convince us that such was the fact and adhere to our first conviction, that the fire was accidental, caused by sparks from the stove pipe of the first mentioned house, which communicated probably to the saloon first. From the place where first seen, the fire spread rapidly on all sides, enveloping building after building in rapid secession and driving their inmates forth in haste. The great tongues of flame seemed to lap up the houses from their very foundations, so soon did they disappear under the wasting element. But few minutes elapsed before both sides of the street were in flames, which then ran north and south, with a fury that seemed to threaten the total annihilation of the town; but fortunately the walls of the brick houses proved bulwarks that broke the force of the storm and enabled our citizens to make successful fight against further destruction. From the American Hotel to Russell’s orchard on the west side of the street, and from the residence of Wm. McDaniel (opposite Russell’s) to the Banking House of Hall & Allen on the east side, all the houses were destroyed. These included Wells, Fargo & Co.’s office, the Gem Hotel, Vanmater’s Hardware and Tin Store, Crescent Livery Stable, Lafayette Saloon, Globe Saloon, the old Methodist Church, three clothing stores, and a large number of other houses, principally business establishments occupied by whites and Chinese. For some time, there was great danger that the fire would pass the American Hotel (fire proof) in the rear and take Zentmyer’s  Livery Stable, and the Empire and Orleans hotels as the kitchen of the American (a frame building) was soon upon fire, but at this point, a determined stand was taken by quite a number of persons who stationed themselves upon the American and the livery stable, fought with the energy of despair, and happily conquered the fire being checked within fifteen feet of the livery stable. While this hard work was being done, the houses on the south of the American to the top of the hill were all destroyed, and the flames had reached down to the block of brick buildings that line Commercial and Main streets, and sweeping upward toward the Court House, for a time threatened all that part of the town by its rapid approach to Wilment’s store. But here more hard and successful work was done, and the flames now lessening by reason of the brick walls encountered were stopped within a few feet of Wilment’s, and the storm of desolation ceased. The time of the fire occupied about three-fourths of an hour, the number of houses destroyed were fifty-eight, exclusive of stables and out-buildings; the loss was carefully taken amounts to over $119,000. This is a sad disaster to our prosperous town, and a loss that falls heavily upon many of our citizens, but they seem to rise superior to their misfortune and with an energy only known to Californians, have commenced to rear structures upon the blackened foundations of the old, that will soon obliterate the marks of misfortune. Many of the houses destroyed were occupied by Chinese, some of whom lost very heavy stocks of goods. One individual alone lost as much as $8,000. The aggregate loss of the Chinese, as made up by themselves, is $40,000. This is considered a fair estimate. The buildings destroyed were all frame, and many of them, those occupied by Chinese, of little cost. Unfortunately, their contents were generally much more valuable. The brick buildings, several of which were severely tried, and particularly the American Hotel, stood the brunt nobly and have inspired our citizens with more confidence in their value than heretofore. The roof of the American was much injured – six or seven holes being burned through – and many of the iron shutters badly sprung – that had it not been for Mr. Stephens, the owner of the house, assisted by a number of others who remained upon the roof and inside during the whole time the flames were burning upon the walls, the American would have been lost. As it is, it is damaged some $5,000, which amount we have been informed has been allowed by the insurance agency. The center brick block and Hyneman’s brick building sustained some injuries, but not great. Before the embers had cooled, busy preparations began for rebuilding, and before dark we observed some lumber on the ground ready for the morrow. In looking over the burned district, we observe that nearly every lot is to be built upon forthwith, and the busy music of hammer and saw on every hand gives assurance that Auburn will arise from its ashes larger than ever in a few short weeks. Several brick buildings are to be erected – Gillespie & Co. and B. Levy, clothes, have already contracted for fire proofs to be build forthwith, and others are about making similar arrangements. Those will be a great security against fire, and render impossible in the future a desolation so great as the present.

1862 - March 29th
Placer Herald (Auburn)
Great Fire at Iowa Hill

The important town of Iowa Hill has been again devastated by fire. For particulars of the sad calamity, we are indebted to an extra issue from the office of the Dutch Flat Inquirer:  We announce with regret the destruction by fire of our beautiful sister town Iowa Hill. On yesterday morning at 7 o’clock, the Star Bakery situated on the north side of Main Street was discovered to be on fire, and before any assistance of an effectual nature could be rendered, the flames had attained such headway as to utterly defy every exertion to save the town. Every business house, together with the theater which had been purchased for public school purposes, was destroyed; the burnt district embraces every house but one from the two halls – Mason’s and Odd Fellow’s – down to within fifty feet of Hill’s Reservoir. We are happy to learn, however, that the most of the business houses were insured, which materially lessens the losses, which would have otherwise been enormous notwithstanding many saved most of their goods by fire-proof cellars. The only signs of the town on the main street are the fire-proof building occupied by Mr. Hall and cellars, one occupied by the Garity Brothers and one occupied by Smith & Snitzer, and the two vaults. The houses on each of the back streets were not injured in the least, being occupied by families who displayed their liberality and kindness to an eminent degree by seeking to supply all who had met with misfortune a home. The fire is supposed to have originated from carelessness of the Chinaman who was employed at the bakery. This is the second time that Iowa Hill has suffered from the destroying element. It is sad to contemplate the affliction of our friends at this time. Just having passed through one of the most severe winters ever experienced, all who depended on their daily exertions stood in need of accommodations for the necessaries of life and looked to the merchants for this assistance, which it will now be impossible for most of business men of that place to render. We learn that but about one fourth the business portion of the town will be re-built. There was no accident to human life attending the fire, but one approached disagreeable consequences:  Mr. Reed in assisting in the cellar of Rosenberg was so painfully oppressed by the bad air that he was taken out senseless, but soon recovered upon having the proper restorative administered. Mr. Ladd also was sensibly affected in a similar manner by visiting his cellar while in a heated condition, but nothing serious, we believe, resulted in either case.

1864 - October 15th
Placer Herald (Auburn)
Another Great Fire in Auburn – 35 Houses Destroyed – Loss and Damages Over $33,000

For the fourth time in the history of Auburn are we called upon to make the unwelcome announcement of a destructive conflagration which has laid in ashes a considerable portion of the town and inflicted serious loss upon its inhabitants. At 8 o’clock yesterday morning, the cry of fire and the rapid ringing of the Court House bell told our citizens that the dreaded element was again at the work of destruction. The fire broke out in a house occupied by Chinese near the top of the hill on Sacramento Street, and although the morning was calm with scarcely a breath of air stirring, it soon became evident that from the compactness of the buildings on the west side of the street, and the fact that they were all built of dry, inflammable materials, that none could be saved. These buildings were generally occupied by Chinese and although the fire made but slow progress, yet the inefficiency of these people prevented them from saving many of their effects. For a long time, the fire was confined to the west side of the street, working down toward the American Hotel. To check it in that direction, several buildings were pulled down in order to make a gap that would not be crossed by the fiery element. This proved useless, however, as the flames enveloped building after building until they reached the brick walls of the American that once more (and for the third time in the great conflagrations in Auburn) proved an effectual barrier. The tongues of fire twisted and lapped about that devoted house, but its staunch walls of brick and iron stayed the destroyer in that direction and saved the buildings that have been erected on the burnt district of last year. This was not accomplished without considerable work as it was necessary to pull down the frame and outbuildings attached to the American in order to save the main structure, Keehner’s saloon and bakery, and Stanton’s Livery Stable. The number of buildings destroyed on that side of the street was twenty-five. For a long time, it was hoped that the fire would not extend to the east side of the street, but the heat was so intense and the materials of the structures so inflammable with no facilities for checking it but by throwing on water with buckets or spreading wet blankets on the houses, that ignition could not be prevented, and finally, with the same slow but certain course the fire communicated to that side and taking one building after another, threatened to consume the main business portion of the town. This was the critical moment, and grave apprehensions were felt for the safety of the whole town. But a sufficient force of men, after considerable exertion, were collected together to fight the fire at Levy’s brick building, and after ten minutes of sharp work by forming lines and passing water rapidly and throwing it upon the right spot, the fire was checked and further destruction stayed. Ten buildings were destroyed on the east side of the street, principally occupied by white persons. More or less damage was inflicted upon buildings in the neighborhood of the fire that were saved in the tearing down of awnings, breaking down doors and fixtures, and in the hasty removal of goods and effects. Even from the buildings burned, more goods were saved than has been usual, except perhaps with the Chinese on account of the slow progress of the fire. The majority of the houses destroyed were occupied by Chinese, and several of their merchants have lost heavily. They had no insurance. The buildings were generally owned by white persons, but that portion occupied by Chinese were cheap structures. The building of Reed & French is the only fireproof destroyed. This was occupied by Chinese with large stocks of goods. In their fright, they failed to close the back doors, and in consequence the goods were destroyed, and the house completely gutted, leaving but the bare walls standing. Had the Chinese possessed their wits but for a moment, house and goods would have sustained but little injury. The origin of the fire is not known, but is believed to be the work of an incendiary. Several Chinese merchants here have been quarreling and litigating for some time; and on Thursday, we are informed, the stock of goods was attached in the house where the fire started. If this is true, a rigid scrutiny into the matter should be instituted by the proper officers.

1869 - October 1st
Placer Herald (Auburn)
Todd’s Valley Destroyed by Fire

It is with feelings of pain we have to announce the almost total destruction by fire of the thriving town of Todd’s Valley in this county on Sunday evening last. The whole business part of the town was destroyed with the exception of A. A. Pond’s fire-proof brick store building and Masonic Hall, the fire-proof store of Read & Hall, and a brick butcher shop. We have not received a list of individual losses, but the aggregate is estimated at $150,000. The fire was undoubtedly the work of a villain who, unfortunately, so far has escaped the hangman’s noose. The fire started in the Pacific Saloon, a building in the center of the village that had been unoccupied for some months. We sincerely sympathize with our neighbors of Todd’s Valley in their loss and fully appreciate the extent of their misfortune; knowing by hard experience the loss and embarrassment that is entailed upon the citizens of a town swept away by fire. The incendiary has not yet been discovered.

1873 - September 13th
Placer Weekly Argus (Auburn)
Fire at Forest Hill

On Wednesday night about twelve o’clock, a fire was discovered to be in progress in a small house adjoining the store and dwelling of J. Schwalenberg at Forest Hill. The alarm was immediately given, but the fire had got such a start that it was impossible to stay its mad career until everything within its reach was laid in ashes. Among the buildings burned was the Blue Wing Saloon, Julius Schwalenberg’s store and dwelling, Union Hotel, George Eddy’s residence, Andrew Morehead’s residence, Joseph Dilts’ residence, Dilts & Huffner’s blacksmith shop, W. C. Smith’s wagon-making shop, L. Remler’s residence, and three or four vacant houses. The fire made a clean sweep from the store of J. G. Garrison to the residence of C. Fett. We understand that the property of Eddy and Schwalenberg was insured, but for what amount we could not learn. During the fire, the liberty pole which stood in the middle of the street took fire and was cut down. Fortunately, for the saving of a large amount of personal property, there were a large number of people up at the time, a party being in progress at D. Hyland’s house. The fire is supposed to be the work of an incendiary as the building in which the fire originated has been vacant for some time.

1874: April 25th
Placer Weekly Argus (Auburn),
Fire at Colfax

We give the following from the Grass Valley Union, April 23d: Yesterday morning at about half-past nine o’clock, a fire broke out in Colfax and in twenty-five minutes the main business part of the town and several family residences were in ashes. The wind was blowing quite strong at the time from the north-east which carried the flame rapidly from one house to the other. The fire broke out in a barber shop north of the railroad and in the east part of the town near the livery stable. All the buildings on the north side of the railroad were burned up to Grass Valley Street. The fire extended up Grass Valley Street to Webster’s residence. The Pioneer House and a large blacksmith and wagon repair shop on Grass Valley Street were burned. The railroad depot building and sheds and all south of the railroad were saved. There are no waterworks in Colfax. We understand that very little of the property destroyed was insured. We could not get a list of losses for today’s paper. Many families are left homeless by the fire, and very few residing in the burnt district had time to save even their clothing.

1915: July 30th
Roseville Register,
Loomis Wiped Out by Fire – Without Fire Department or Water Systems, Town Is Swept By Fire – Estimated Loss $60,000 – Citizens Forced to See Buildings Burn; Could Only Help In Saving Contents

A disastrous fire destroyed the business section of Loomis, Monday morning shortly after 3 o’clock. The losers are already making preparations to rebuild. The loss is estimated at $60,000, partly covered by insurance. Only two or three business buildings are standing. The fire broke out in the kitchen of the home of L. May, a livery stable proprietor whose dwelling and stable are in one buildings which was in the southern section of the business district of Loomis. The building was soon in flames, but several rigs and the horses were saved. From the livery stable, the flames spread to the Loomis Hotel owned by Frank Miseley, a frame building which was soon a mass of ruins. As the town has no fire-fighting facilities or water system, the citizens were powerless to prevent the spread of the flames and were only able to assist in saving the contents of the buildings in the pathway of the fire. Following the destruction of the Loomis Hotel came the burning of the one-story house owned by F. W. Turner and occupied by C. J. McFall. The fire then spread to another building owned by Turner in which the post office, Wells Fargo office, and Turner’s newsstand were located. The inflammable material in the drug store conducted by C. H. Plaus gave added fury to the flames. Next were the grocery store of H. M. Branstetter and the office of Dr. E. Ostrom, both in the same building. The fire engine from Roseville arrived too late to be of service in extinguishing the blaze as it had nearly burnt itself out of material. The large fruit sheds situated opposite the building in which the fire escaped being burnt by a change in the wind which carried the flames to the north. No one was injured in the fire. The guests in the hotel were out of their rooms before the flames reached the building. Dr. O. L. Barton noticed two men running away from the fire. He quickly secured his revolver and followed them and forced them to give him several watches and several stick pins which are thought to have been taken from the Rochdale store. Constable Newton arrested the men who gave the names of R. Wallenberg and R. Pembroke at Rocklin today. They were taken to the county jail at Auburn. The men claim they were endeavoring to save the jewelry and left Loomis because they were advised to do so. The principal losses as near as can be given are as follows:  Frank Miseley, hotel, $4000, contents $2000, covered by $2000 insurance; Union Ice Company, building $1500, ice $500; H. M. Branstetter, building $2500, stock in store $4000; Barney Mehl, drug store building $2500, partly insured; C. H. Plaus, stock of drugs $5000, insured for $3000; F. W. Turner, $5000, insurance not known; B. Miseley, merchant, $6000 on building and stock valued at $8000; L. May, livery stable $3000, home $500; Andrew Ryder, Loomis Bank building $3000 with insurance of $1750. The other losers are Wells Fargo, United States Post Office, J. Baradoni, butcher shop; Jim Petch, blacksmith shop; J. Taylor, vacant blacksmith shop; Swetzer and Norris, fruit house; Pacific State Telephone and Telegraph Company; C. J. McFall, barber shop, and Dr. Ostrom’s office.

1973: April 30th
Roseville Press-Tribune,
Munitions Train Explodes – Area Fires Still Burning

Another house in the Antelope area burned to the ground last night in the aftermath of explosions from a munitions train which shook a 100-mile area Saturday morning. A spokesman for the Citrus Heights Fire Department said the house was “down to the ground when we got there. There’s no one out there to report fires.” Because of bombs and fragments still lying around, “We went in there to check it out and got out as fast as we could,” the spokesman for the Fire Department said. He added it is still not passable into some areas of the disaster-struck community of Antelope which was virtually destroyed by the blasts. In the meantime, the Citrus Heights Fire Department sent a pumper into the area to relay water to Southern Pacific firefighters who are attempting to cool down the blast area. Demolition experts said they would return today to attempt clearing debris and dangerous TNT fragments from the switching yard where they were driven back by sporadic explosions last night. Trains were running yesterday and being re-routed through the yard around damaged lines. According to an SP spokesman, as of late last night, no one was allowed in the damaged yards due to the danger of hidden bombs still exploding. Stunned residents began returning to their shrapnel-riddled homes within a mile of the yard last night and were being warned there was no gas or electricity and were told, “Do not light any fire or drink any water.” A series of explosions that started at approximately 8 AM Saturday rocked the Roseville area and blew out windows, buckled walls, and toppled fences. Only 55 persons reported injured, three of which were hospitalized. There were no deaths reported. Twelve of the injured were SP employees. “It’s a miracle no one was killed or seriously injured,” an SP spokesman said. Investigators said they do not know the cause of the fire that started in one of 21 boxcars carrying 7,056 Navy Mark 81 “general purpose” bombs destined for Cambodia. The chain reaction series of blasts began at 7:52 AM, shortly after a brakeman and a car repairman in the yard spotted smoke in one car of the train and notified the SP Fire Department. Firemen, however, were unable to reach the scene before the first explosion. By their pinpoint, the explosions started in a car carrying bombs and not a propane tank car as first reported. Minutes after the first blast in the munitions cars, one of two non-military propane gas cars exploded, “blowing fire out several hundred yards around it.” Second later, the other propane tank car exploded and “threw tons of debris which looked like the siding of freight cars hundreds of feet in the air.” The 21 munitions cars, owned by the Department of Defense, started their trip from the Hawthorne, NV, Naval Base Thursday on an SP branch line. In Sparks they were switched to a transcontinental 103-car freight, which arrived in Roseville at 7 AM Saturday. It already had been split into two sections, having been pushed over the “hump” into tracks away from the main line when a brakeman and car repairman in the yard spotted smoke coming from one of the cars and notified SP firefighters. “I thought somebody had driven their car through my living room,” Jay Smith, a fork lift operator, recalled. “Then when I got my head together, I thought it must be an airplane crash. Then I heard ‘boom-boom-boom-boom’ and I didn’t know what the hell it was.” Sacramento County Sheriff Duane Lowe said residents were permitted to return home last night because the immediate danger from severe explosions was over, although secondary blasts could occur. Owners of homes in Grand Oaks subdivision returned to find caved-in ceilings, warped walls, and shattered dishes. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bobbitt is one couple who had nothing to return to. They lived in Antelope. Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Nutter, who had a home on Antelope Road directly across from the blast site, also were left homeless by the blasts. Their house did not burn but the concussions broke all windows, blew out doors, knocked down ceiling tiles, and tore plasterboard from the walls. Remarkably two cars sitting in the yard did not lose their windows, but Nutter’s car received damage from flying shrapnel. Bobbitt said his son Charles, 8, had lost his left eye because of flying glass from the initial explosion, and that his daughter Candis, 6, had her right cheek torn off and may lose her right eye. A sheriff’s deputy told Bobbitt “nothing was left” of their home. The series of blasts that continued throughout Saturday and yesterday showered debris for miles and shook people as far away as Sacramento. “I’d been in a war before,” said Valentine Ramirez, a Korean War veteran. “I was in combat but I’ve never seen anything like this.” Mrs. Chris Richards was in bed with her year-old baby Ronald when the first bomb exploded. “I thought it was an airplane that hit the house until I got outside, and I thought it was an earthquake. Then I started to scream.” Mrs. Richards and her husband Ronald, a sheet metal worker, returned to their home last night to find the ceiling collapsed, a door knocked out, and a wall fallen. “We saved up four years to buy this house,” she sobbed. “We haven’t even been here a year. We paid $19,800 for it. They’ll pay. Somebody’s going to pay.” Sheriff Lowe estimated the total disaster figure would exceed $2,25 million. There was no damage to the nearby PFE facilities, which were shut down after the first explosions occurred Saturday morning. The crew had left the train and all were accounted for later that afternoon. Minutes after the explosions started, doctors and medical corpsmen and additional military personnel were dispatched from McClellan, the Presidio in San Francisco, Alameda Naval Air Station, and Hamilton Air Force Base. Fire departments and ambulances from numerous surrounding communities responded and set up command headquarters at strategic locations throughout the area. At first, law enforcement officers started to set up a command post outside a small food store at 6401 Antelope Road about three quarters of a mile from the blast center, but plans were abandoned as officers and newsmen retreated through a hail of shrapnel that spattered the ground around them. The command post was moved back to the Community Center in Rusch Park about four miles away. Some 200 National Guard troops of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry were activated from the Janey Way Armory in Sacramento at 6 PM to patrol for looters in the evacuated area and damaged business sections in Roseville and along Auburn Boulevard and to man roadblocks in support of lawmen. An additional 25 from the 115th Support Group in Roseville were brought on duty to feed evacuees at the armory on the Placer County Fairgrounds and other sites. In the afternoon, Lt. Gov. Ed Reinecke arrived on the scene to pledge “all the resources of the state, including the state police and fire marshal’s office.” He also commended the disaster workers, saying that “not enough can be said for the brave people who came at once into a situation of potential danger. They deserve a great deal of respect and gratitude.” A team of Department of Defense accident investigators reportedly were dispatched Saturday night from Washington, DC, to attempt to find the cause of the accident. Also, a helicopter with infrared camera equipment and heat-sensing devices was dispatched from Ames Research Institute of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to survey the wreckage to aid in finding the origin of the fire. Yesterday morning, a high-flying U-2 spy aircraft was scheduled to fly over Roseville at 25,000 feet to take high-altitude photos which will be used in an attempt to estimate damages, which, according to SP spokesmen, "will run into the millions of dollars."