Siren’s wailed at 5:20 a.m. Friday at Lotta’s Fountain in San Francisco, the exact time a catastrophic earthquake hit the city 108 years ago.
San Francisco leaders and residents marked the earthquake and the fire which destroyed 500 city blocks, killing thousands and leaving half of the city’s residents without a home.
San Francisco’s first responders were honored Friday for their help with the city’s most recent major fire on March 13, which consumed a condominium complex under construction in Mission Bay.
“In terms of containing it to that building was nothing short of amazing,” said San Francisco fire chief Joanne Hayes White.
The condo fire put the city’s first responders and the city’s emergency system to test, White said.
The Bay Area has increased the number of fire hydrants and improved the ability to quickly access water since the 1906 fire.
“We learn something every single time we come together,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “We learn from other disasters in other cities. We learn from international disasters, from other countries and we bring it back home and ask, what else have we not thought about?"
"We are much better prepared today than we were in 1906,” said Anne Kronenberg of the city’s Department of Emergency Management. “We are prepared with better plans … We are prepared with better infrastructure."
Kronenberg said that the biggest threat to the city from a major earthquake would be a fire.
“I do feel like the fire department is ready, absolutely,” said San Francisco resident Christopher Delorenzo. “If they can get there, if the roads aren’t all chopped up. If they can get there, they’re gonna get there.”
City officials say commitment to training and infrastructure will prove invaluable during a disaster.
“I think we’re in good shape for the people who are trying to make it work for us,” said Sharon Smith, another resident. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s probably going to happen - that’s the downside.”
POLL: Do you think the Bay Area is ready for the next big earthquake?