1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

April 18, 1906

The earthquake and subsequent fire that struck San Francisco, California, in the early morning of April 18, 1906 is still considered one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

The earthquake and subsequent fire that struck San Francisco, California, in the early morning of April 18, 1906 is still considered one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

At the time of the earthquake, San Francisco was one of the largest cities in the country, was the financial and cultural center or the West Coast, and was home to over 400,000 people.

The epicenter of the earthquake was a couple of miles off-shore from the city, but triggered a rupture along the San Andreas Fault that was felt all along the west coast and as far east as central Nevada. While the quake itself measured around 7.9 on the Richter scale and did considerable damage, the fires it triggered burned for more than 4 days and caused considerably more destruction. Better than half – possibly as many at three-quarters – of the city’s population would be made homeless by the disaster.


This is one of the first major natural disasters captured on film. Several photos available show the city burning and the full extent of the destruction in the days following the quake.