July 09, 1897: “It has always been predicted that if a fire once started in Randsburg the greater portion of the town would be wiped out of existence. This prediction might have proved true this week if it had not been for the prompt and energetic action of some of the citizens of that city. On Sunday evening, about 11 o’clock, a small house just back of the skating rink was found to be on lire. The building was of pine and burned like tinder, and by the time the alarm was given the flames had made such headway that nothing could be done to save it. For a time it was feared that the man who occupied the building had not made his escape, but later it was learned that he awoke and finding his room full of smoke and flames, made a hurried exit. The cause of the fire is not known, but it is supposed a lighted candle had been left on the table and, burning down, had set fire to it. On Monday evening, about 9:30 there was another cry of fire, and the Yellow Aster restaurant, two doors below the post office on Rand avenue, was found to be on fire. The timely use of hand grenades saved the building. Every precaution has been taken to guard against fires, and on the Fourth, much to his disgust, the small boy was enjoined from using the festive but dangerous firecracker. — The Herald
July 14, 1897: “Captain C. W. Anderson, formerly of Sleepy Hollow, in this county, has been elected a fire commissioner of Randsburg, California.”—Arizona Journal Weekly Miner
August 29, 1897: “The volunteer firemen of Randsburg will give hard times social at that place on the evening of September 1st, the proceeds to go toward purchasing a chemical engine for the fire department. No pains are being spared to make it a success, and it will no doubt be the event of the season.” – The Herald
December 19, 1897: “The exhibition test of the chemical engine last Sunday was a success in every particular, and the machine worked to perfection. In order that the boys may become proficient in handling it, the chief of the tire department has it out every day an hour, instructing them in its use.” –The Herald
December 26, 1897: “RANDSBURG, Dec. 25.—(Regular Correspondence.) About midnight on Thursday evening the store building owned by Norton O’Bear and used by Mr. Mitchell as a storehouse for gasoline, oil, grain, etc., was burned, together with its contents, but by hard work all the neighboring buildings, except one owned by Mrs. Enners and used as a restaurant, were saved. Two small frame buildings were moved out into the street and thus prevented the fire from spreading up town. No one was seriously hurt, although several are suffering from quite severe burns about the hands and face. The firemen and chemical engine did good work and the citizens should show their appreciation by helping the fire department to pay the expenses incurred in getting it in working order. The loss of buildings and contents is estimated to be about $2000.” The Herald
January 3, 1898: “Since the late fire the Firemen’s company has been prospering. At the ball given Christmas Eve there was a large attendance, the proceeds netting about$75. At that time the company numbered about 27, but at the last meeting 64 new members applied for admittance.” – The Herald
January 20, 1898: “DISASTROUS FIRE VISITS RANDSBURG – Thirty Buildings in Its Path Are Consumed. Loss Fully $50,000 and Not a Dollar of Insurance. Absence of Wind Prevents the Total Destruction of the Camp. NO WATER IS AVAILABLE. Many Heroic Acts — Only One Man Injured— List of the Principal Losers. Special Dispatch to The Call. RANDSBURG, Cal. Jan. 19— A fire which started at 12:30 o’clock this morning in the rear of the Mojave Saloon on Rand street destroyed thirty buildings and caused a loss of fully $50,000. So far as learned there was not a dollar’s insurance on any of the property destroyed. The fire consumed everything on both sides of Rand street from Staley Avenue to the Elite Theater, and several buildings on Broadway. This includes the post office and some of the largest stores in the camp. The cause of the fire is at present unknown. The camp was saved from total destruction by the absence of wind, hardly a breath of air stirring last night. The homeless are all housed in temporary shelters, every barn in the camp being utilized for that purpose. Many acts of real heroism developed last night. When hope seemed gone, as the flames threatened the Broadway Hotel, men faltered for a moment and then climbed upon the burning buildings and by main strength tore the flaming boards loose and hurled them far away, to be scattered and extinguished beneath the feet of other workers. Had the fire crowed the street and attacked the Broadway Hotel, the entire camp would have been burned, and so all worked with the energy of despair. But one accident worthy of note occurred, and that was the case of a man named Eness who broke through the roof of a burning building and was quite badly burned on the leg before he could get out. The heaviest losers were the W. C Wilson Company, about $20,000; Hammond & Co, $3,000; Underhlll & Fores, $4000; J. M. Crawford, $2000; S. J. Montgomery, $1500; D. J. McCormack. $1000; St. Elmo Hotel, about $5000; George Toedt, $600; Austin Young, Postmaster, $400; Otto Diesler. $1200; Ed James, $300; “Price & Hopper, $2500; Irani central Hotel, $2,000: E. A. Ormsby. $900; Leon Cerf Company, $450. Some of the losers are already preparing to rebuild, while others would do so if funds were available.” – San Francisco Call
January 20, 1898: “SWEPT BY A CONFLAGERATION. Thirty Buildings in Randsburg, Cal., Burned in an Hour. Randsburg-, Cal., Jan. 19. Fire at noon today cut a swath through the center of the, town, destroying- thirty buildings on both sides of the main business street and causing a loss of $100,000 in an hour. Everything-was swept clean on Rand street, from Staley avenue to the Elite Theater, and on a portion of Broadway. This included the post office and some of the largest stores in the camp. Rebuilding will begin at once, as the mines in this camp on the Mojave Desert are producing well.” – The Times (Washington D.C.)
January 22, 1898: “FIERCE FLAMES—ATTACK THE BUSINESS HOUSES OF THE RAND AND THREATEN THE ENTIRE CAMP. A QUITE NIGHT AND HARD WORK BY FIREMEN AND CITIZENS SAVES THE TOWN.—THE SECOND DISASTOROUS FIRE WITHIN A MONTH—SOME OF THE HEAVIEST LOSERS The vigorous clanging of the fire bell at 12:30 last Tuesday night woke many good citizens from peaceful slumbers to a realization of the fact that Randsburg was threatened with immediate destruction by fire. Coming so soon after the fire of last month, (Dec. 23) our people were naturally a little more nervous than usual, and it was but a few moments until crowds were thronging the thoroughfares leading to Rand street, whither the lurid glare of the devouring flames directed them with unerring precision. Those early upon the ground are divided upon the subject of where the fire originated, some contending that it was in the rear of the Mojave saloon, while others assert with equal vehemence that it started in the rear of the building recently vacated by the White Fawn restaurant. Mr. J. W. Foren, of the Mojave saloon, who was on the ground at the time, says the fire originated in the restaurant building. Be that as it may, the fire spread with such rapidity that if was but a few minutes until the entire row of buildings on that side of Rand street were wrapped in a seething, roaring mass of flames that was frightful to behold, and the heat was so intense that it was next to impossible for men to get near enough the burning buildings to do much towards subduing the firer, even had they been equipped with the best fire apparatus the world ever produced. The brave fire laddies and citizens made heroic efforts to save all the buildings on the opposite side of the street, but it was only a little while until the overpowering heat drove them from their tasks and the smoking fronts of the stores across the street gave warning of the coming destruction that was as inevitable as the passing of time. In the space of a breath little tongues of flame began to lick up the dry and parched surfaces of the points nearest the heat, and these were soon followed by others until the entire frontage was wrapped in the fiery mantle and threatening destruction to Montgomery Avenue and Broadway property. The corrugated iron of the W. C. Wilson Company’s store served to make the heat less intense for a time and gave the workers a chance to get some of the smaller surrounding buildings out of the way, and thus the spread of the fire in that direction was averted. Not, however, until the fine new building of Mr. S. J. Montgomery, but recently completed, had fallen before the relentless march of the hungry flames. Up the street at the corner of Broadway the determined firemen and citizens had massed their forces and (were) bravely charging with might and main right into the very jaws of what seemed almost certain death, and disputing with telling effect every inch of territory. Heroic men mounted the buildings and literally tore them to pieces as they burned, while others were pulling on the hooks with the strength of madmen and clearing a space over which the flames could not leap. And thus the stubborn fight was won. Then tired, sore and bleeding from the wounds of the hard fought battle the brave soldiers of peace rested and began to look about the destruction wrought within the space of but little more than an hour. The first estimates of damage were $100,000 to $150,000, but upon close inquiry it is learned that many more goods were saved than was at first supposed and some losers who were set at $10,000 or $12,000 have not lost a third of that amount. The fine cellars of Hammond & Co., and Mr. S. J. Montgomery served their purpose well and saved many times the cost of their construction., and doubtlessly many other merchants not already equipped with such store houses will at once build them; it is almost impossible to get an accurate estimate of the losses, however, from the fact that there is no insurance and may really trivial losers have a tendency to magnify their losses when giving them out for publication. So far as we have been able to learn the losses are:
W. C. Wilson Co…………………………………………………………………………………………..$18,000 Hammond & Co……………………………………………………………………………………….…… 3,500 S. J. Montgomery…………………………………………………………………………………………. 1,500 D. J. McCormick………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1,000 George Toedt……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 600 Austin Young, postmaster……………………………………………………………………………… 400 Otto Deisler………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1.200 H. L. Nelson…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 200 C. Waugh……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 150 Randsburg News Co………………………………………………………………………………………. 300 A(dolph) J. Petter………………………………………………………………………………………….. 160 E. A. Ormsby…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 900 Price & Hopper………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2,500 John White…………………………………………………………………………………………………….2,000
Leon Cerf Co………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 450 Griffith & Jackson…………………………………………………………………………………………… 200 S. Mooser……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 200 V. E. Tenney…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 50 J. W. Ragsdale………………………………………………………………………………………………… 500 J. M. Crawford………………………………………………………………………………………………..2,000 Underhill and Foren……………………………………………………………………………………… 4,000 George McPherson…………………………………………………………………………………………. 300 Clyde Kuffel…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 600
Some of the losers will rebuild immediately, while others cannot do so. Hammond & Co., have announced their intention of rebuilding at once, and the ashes were not cold Wednesday morning when Griffith & Jackson began hunting carpenters to go to work on their new building. Both telegraph lines were inoperative the night of the fire, the first time such a thing has occurred in the history of the camp. The heavy wind of Monday had blown a pole over on so that the wire was permitted to hang so low that an engine struck and tore it down, and thus the Western Union line was disabled out near the St. Elm0 mine. The Postal line was of no use at the time of the fire on account of there being no operator at the other end of the line and this would have made little difference, as the line passed over the first buildings that were burned, and was disabled early in the battle in consequence. The Associated Press representative took an instrument and went out beyond the break in the Western Union line at St. Elmo, intending to (send out a short) bulletin ____ __ _____ out in that way, but after a very cold and disagreeable ride, he found on cutting his instrument in that the was “grounded” at some point below, and his efforts were fruitless. This line was repaired and in operation early the next morning, however.”—Randsburg Miner
January 22, 1898: “THE FIREMEN—Since the beginning of time there has never been either a volunteer or paid fire department with which fault has not been found; t is almost as natural with some people to kick at the firemen as it is to kick at the editor of the local paper. And we must admit that with the paid department there is often good cause for a righteous roar; the paid fireman makes his living in fighting the misfortunes of the tax payer who furnishes the money for the keeping up to the department, and it occasionally happens that a man works his way into the department service who is at heart, no fireman, and a thousand years of active work will not make a fireman of a man who is not born with the firefighting instinct in him. And when such a man gets into the service he is only there for what there is in it from a monetary point of view, and he will shirk hid duties upon his comrades every time the opportunity offers; when he does, the troubles of the department begin, for the missing link in the working chain is sure to throw things out of gear, and the entire department is in for the curses of those who kick, when in reality all but the man who shirks, were probably doing more than their duty. But since the tax payer is furnishing the money, he makes it his business to kick. With a volunteer department, however, such as we have in Randsburg, every man in it is there from a purely philanthropic motive, and when occasion for his services arises, he does his duty thoroughly and well as he sees it, regardless of the many menacing dangers that beset his way at every turn; and while he may make mistakes, it must be remembered that he is only human and we all err. But nine times out of ten he is doing far better than the man who persistently kicks and finds fault with him possibly could to if he would try. For the kicker is a born fireman and is therefore never a member of the volunteer department. At the fire the other night we heard some vigorous kicking right at the time the firemen were risking their very lives to save the town, and by their efforts and the assistance rendered by citizens working in conjunction with them they did save the town, and that is why we lift our voice in protest against this pernicious habit. In every instance where there is a dangerous fire it can be set down as a fact that the brave fire laddies will do the best they can, and they may always be counted upon to do much better than would be done by the professional kicker. The “boys” study the fire situation and talk over the best methods of fighting fires at every opportunity, and they are usually pretty near up to date; and the next time you have (or think you have) a kick coming, just hold your unruly tongue for a little while and see if time does not demonstrate that you would have made a fool of yourself if you had permitted yourself to utter the contemplated kick. Our fire laddies are all right, and we owe them much for the good they have done this week. May they all live to the time when they will be exempt for their dangerous duties and enjoy life to the utmost is the heartfelt wish of the Miner. “Boys” accept our congratulations and shake.”—Randsburg Miner
January 22, 1898:“Last Sunday evening a tug-of-war between the King Solomon and Randsburg teams took place at the Orpheus Theater, the King Solomon boys winning. A challenge was at once issued by the Randsburg boys for another contest, to be held next Sunday evening at the skating rink for a purse of $100. The challenge was accepted and the proceeds are to go toward swelling the fund of the fire department.” – The Herald
January 22, 1898: “KERN COUNTY, RANDSBURG – RANDSBURG, Jan. 21.—(Special Correspondence.) At 2:30 a. m. on the 19th a fire started in a frame building in the rear of the Mojave saloon on Rand avenue. Ten minutes later the streets were filled with hundreds of persons, rushing hither and thither, in alarm and confusion. Men were carrying trunks, bedding and household goods of every description to presumably safe-places, only to find in a few minutes burning buildings in the vicinity, rendering a further haul necessary. This was repeated several times, owing to the rapidity with which the fire spread. The fire is supposed to have been caused by a drunken man’s carelessness in handling a lamp. The absence of water in sufficient quantities was fully evident from the start, but the heroic volunteer firemen performed valiant service with the chemical engine, and in the work of demolishing burning buildings and blowing up others, to prevent the spread of the conflagration, and incurred great risk to their lives.by 2 o’clock the danger was over. As announced in the telegraphic columns of The Herald, the loss will aggregate fully $100,000, and falls heavily on many people in moderate circumstances, especially as no insurance cam be obtained as yet on Randsburg property. Ten owners will rebuild at once, and more will follow soon. The fire has had one good effect already in a decisive movement for better protection from fire, which will doubtless be inaugurated speedily, as Randsburg cannot afford to run any more such costly risks.” – The Herald
January 22, 1898: “RANDSBURG, Jan. 21. — RANDSBURG WILL SOON HAVE ample protection from fire. A movement is now on foot to erect a reservoir on Gold Hill divide. It will contain 100,000 gallons of water, giving a fall of 150 feet. A four-inch main will run through the principal streets, connecting with thirty fire plugs, each plug to have at least 200 feet of hose and an inch and a quarter nozzle. The Randsburg and Kramer Railroad will follow the generous example of the Valley road, when the latter donated over tons of dirt to fill in the low thoroughfares of the city of Visalia, by supplying the required amount of water. In a few hours today John C. Quinn and the citizens’ committee collected over J2ouo from the business men alone. Many buildings are being erected in the burned district. Every man that can handle a saw and hammer has been pressed into service.” – San Francisco Call
January 28, 1898: “John C. Quinn’s project of building a 100,000 gallon tank on the Kenyon hill, to be kept constantly filled with water for protection from fire, is likely to be consummated at once. Water will be piped throughout the business district, with fire plugs, hose, etc., that will with pressure from an elevation of two hundred feet, be sufficient to force water to the top of the highest building in town. C. J. McDavitt. George W. McPherson and Joseph Petrich are respectively president, secretary and treasurer of a committee appointed to raise $3000 for the above purposes, of which $2SSO has already been subscribed. The water necessary will be donated by ownersof wells in the district.” – The Herald
January 28, 1898: The citizens’ committee has sent a petition to the supervisors of Kern County requesting them to appoint as lire commissioners of Randsburg Ed Hammond. A. Anderson and John C. Quinn. This commission, under a state law governing unincorporated towns, will have power to levy and collect taxes for fire and sanitary purposes. – The Herald January 28, 1898: “Owing to the hard work the boys did at the recent fire the tug-of-war has been postponed till Sunday next.” – The Herald
February 07, 1898: “San Jose Mercury: Randsburg has passed through the experience which every new town undergoes once or twice until it learns the necessity of providing a well-equipped fire department. It is strange that property-owners wait until their town had been burned to the ground before they realize that there is economy in money spent for water, pipes, hose and engines.” – The Record-Union
February 7, 1898: “It has been decided to place a reservoir on Upper Butte Avenue, together with the necessary pipe to carry the water to the business part of town, to be used only in case of fire. The kind of tank has not yet been decided upon, but letters of inquiry have been sent to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The reservoir will have an elevation of 240 feet above the Junction of Butte Avenue and Broadway. About 4000 feet of pipe will be required.” – The Herald February 13, 1898: “Trenching for the pipe which is to be laid to carry water all over town for fire purposes was begun today. When completed it will be fed from a 100,000 gallon tank, to be constructed on the hill back of the Kinyon mine. The pressure derived from this point will be sufficient to throw a stream from a two-inch nozzle seventy-five feet in the air.” – The Herald
February 20, 1898: “Another fire occurred Tuesday morning, completely destroying a new cottage constructed by Capt. Hawthorne, among the things burned were some valuable papers belonging to the captain. It is not known how the fire originated. ” – The Herald April 17, 1898: “Last evening Joseph Petrich of the Orpheus Theater gave a benefit performance for the fire laddies of Randsburg. The program was varied and well rendered, and the house was filled with the elite of Randsburg and Johannesburg. The exchequer of the firemen will be enriched to the amount of $?0 from last night’s entertainment and Mr. Petrich has offered his house and actors again the coming Thursday evening. The money will go toward paying for the chemical engine purchased several weeks ago. .” – The Herald
May 07, 1898: “RANDSBURG, May G.—Fire started at 2 o’clock this afternoon in the residence of George Clutte, on Butte Avenue, next door to Hafford’s saloon, and soon that part of the town was in flames. Wells, Fargo & Co.’s express office, the Western Union Telegraph office and the Occidental Hotel were entirely destroyed, as was also the Orpheus Theater, built last year. The exact loss is not known, but it is safe to say that the damage will amount to more than $25,000.” – The Record Union
May 07, 1898: “BIG FIRE AT RANDSBURG A CONSIDERABLE PORTION OP THE TOWN WAS BURNED – The Loss Will Reach at Least $25,000. Rebuilding Is Already Projected. RANDSBURG, May 6.—Fire started at 2:05 this afternoon, in the residence of Geo. Clutte on Butte Avenue, next door to Hafford’s saloon, and soon that part of thetown was all in flames. Wells-Fargo express office, the Western’ Union telegraph office and the Occidental hotel went early in the fire. The Orpheus Theater, built last year at an expense of $1,000, went up in smoke. It is hard to tell at this time just what the damage will amount. There is much excitement and it is impossible to find the owners of the property, but it is safe to say that the damage will amount to more than $25.000. The Orpheus theater reopened tonight in the skating rink, and many, if not all, of the business houses will be rebuilt. The Miner’s office was three times on fire but heroic work saved the building and contents with but little damage. As this is being written the greatest anxiety seems to be to decide where to reopen business. Butte Avenue is cleaned out as far east as the Phillips House and including Ord’s Hardware store on Broadway. The fire reached to Wagner’s saloon and stopped. The peculiarity of this is the fact that the last fire came as far as his building on the other side and stopped, leaving him safe, as this time. Mrs. Josephine Griffin was badly burned, but not fatally. No others were injured to any extent.” – The Herald
May 07, 1898: “CONFLAGRATION IN THE HEART OF RANDSBURG – Flames Raze Many Business Blocks and Dwellings in the Mining Town. RANDSBURG, May 6. — Fire started at 2 o’clock this afternoon in the residence of George Clutte, on Butte Avenue, and soon that part of town was all in flames. The Wells-Fargo Express office, the Western Union Telegraph office and the Occident Hotel were destroyed, as was also the Orpheus Theater, built last year. The exact loss is not known, hut it is safe to say that the damage will amount to more than $100,000. Every business house except Hammond’s and a few small stores on Rand and Upper Butte Avenue were destroyed. Dynamite saved the upper end of Butte Avenue. The citizens worked like Trojans. No suffering will ensue, as the homeless are well taken care of by the more fortunate friends. A heavy wind storm aided the fire. Guards will watch the smoldering ruins to prevent firebrands starting new conflagrations. The Call agency has secured new quarters. The Western Union volunteer operator, Smith, has connected his instruments with the wire on the hillside, and is lying on the ground as he sends this.” – San Francisco Call
May 08, 1898: “BURNING OF RANDSBURG – Randsburg has met the proverbial fate of mining camps. A sweeping conflagration must follow a carnival of crime before “diggings” are fully entitled to the appellation. The only divergence in the case of Randsburg is the precedence of the fire, for the town has been fairly decorous and orderly since its foundation. Virginia City, Deadwood, Central City, Cripple Creek and numberless other mining settlements have felt the scourge of fame risen phoenix-like from their ashes, as Randsburg will in a short time; for the spirit which animates mining communities never yields to despair. As in the case of Cripple Creek, a fairer city will soon be reared upon the ruins of the “shanty town”; for the richness and permanency of the mineral deposits have now been fully demonstrated, and property owners have confidence in its future great possibilities. A better class of structures will be erected, rates of insurance will be decreased, capitalists will be reassured, and what today may seem a great calamity to the embryo city will in the end prove to be a blessing.” – The Herald
MAY 9, 1898: “THREE TIMES AND OUT” – LATER DETAILS OF THE BIG FIRE AT RANDSBURG-The Losses Are Now Estimated at $100,000—List of the Several Losers -RANDSBURG, May 7.—”Three times and out” came pretty near being the word at this place Friday, when the third and most disastrous Are occurred. On December 23d several business houses were burned, and on the night of January 18th a fire broke out in the thickly settled part of town, which wiped out the principal business houses. It was hoped that this would be the last before the water system was completed, which would give the town ample protection. On Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock the fire bell rang, and the population turned out en masse to fight the flames. There was a light wind, but it was hoped the fire could be controlled before it spread to the neighboring houses. The flames soon gained such headway that it seemed as if the whole town was doomed, and nearly everyone began to move their belongings to places of safety. Several times houses in the path of the fire were blown up by giant powder before a space sufficiently wide was cleared to check the flames. When at last the danger was over it was found that over eighty houses had gone up in smoke, and at least one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of damage had been done. The heaviest loser was A. Anderson. He had just completed and moved his goods into a large store, whose walls were made of concrete and stone two feet thick. He had not yet furnished it with a fire-proof roof and iron doors and shutters, and in consequence it was completely gutted. The heaviest losers were: A. Anderson, $20,000; Joseph Petrich, $10,000; W. Hevrens, $7000; Randsburg Lumber Company, $5000; N. N. Miller, $4000; Pratt & Pearson, $3000; R. F. Hafford, $3600; E. K. Wood, $3500; G. M. Bevan, $3000; E. H. Thomas, $3200; John Tomlcich, $3000; J. G. Endl, $2500; E. G. Ord, $2500; Clyde Kuffel, $2000; Mrs. James Roach, Fred Hinche, George Clutter, E. M. Dineen, J. W. Foren, L. S. Varney, M. A. Lee, Griffin Berthold, Joseph Monagahan, D. T. Jones and Fred Howland each lost in the neighborhood of $1000. There are enough of small losses ranging from a few dollars to several hundred to bring the damage well up to $100,000. The fire was caused by the explosion of a gasoline stove, and was due to carelessness. There were several narrow escapes, but only one serious accident. Miss Josephine Griffin was severely burned by a tent falling on her. Yesterday morning it was reported that she was dead, but later it was learned that she would probably live, although her injuries were very serious. Several miners working on the night shifts were in bed asleep at the time, and they were awakened just in time to make their escape. While the ashes were still hot, ground was being cleared for the erection of new buildings on many of the old sites. The greater portion of the business houses will be rebuilt at once, and many of the residences. It is to be hoped that the latter will scatter out a little, both on account of fire and the health of the community. One good thing will come out of the calamity, and that is the health of the community will be much better through the summer months. Already the odor about some of the houses in the burnt district had become almost unbearable, and in spite of the health officer, people would dispose of their refuse close to their doors. Now that it has been purified by fire it stands the citizens’ committee In hand to deal sharply with future offenders of sanitary laws.” – The Herald
May 12, 1898: “RANDSBURG FIRE – Town Almost Totally Destroyed for Second Time – Carelessness Again the Cause—No Chance To Stop Flames – Fire Department and Engine Little Use –Less than four months ago on the night of January 18th, fully half of Randsburg’s business houses were quickly destroyed by fire. Rand street, then the main street was wiped out in an hour, Some one had thrown down a lighted match in one of the small back rooms of the Mojave Saloon. Probably an intoxicated person had tried to light a cigarette. Paper covered walls and dry wood buildings made the fire uncontrollable in a moment. Last Friday in the day time the costly story was again retold. Carelessness in the use of gasoline ignited a paper lined dry wood a wall and in the language of the street, “it was all off.” Quickly, within an hour in fact, all the large buildings, “down town” were gone into the desert air with their contents. The walls of one building remained. It was of stone and the stone could not burn. In less than two hours nearly a hundred stores and houses had gone hence. Nothing but their resting place and distorted fragments of non-burnable items remained. Oh! But it was an awful sight. Have you seen the smoke roll up from a great battle, have you seen a forest fire go crackling, roaring, billowing along its blazing, destroying way, unfettered and unhindered, or a prairie fire as it licks up a frontier village? A great fire is awful in its terribleness wherever it may occur. But in Randsburg and in midday, with no visible means of hindering it, and big buildings in its path that could be saved with water, if it was at hand, it was, indeed, terrible to witness. All around on hillsides in the hot sun were men, women and even children struggling up rocky walls with great bulky packages, baskets, trunks, bedding, furniture, everything. And the fire roared, soared aloft, billowed up great waves of smoke, thrust out its forked tongues snakelike, barking and belching fire as the dragon of mythology were supposed to do. And all the people stood aghast in the presence of the terrifying monster which continued to lick up the little buildings and gulp down the larger ones as it reached out for the landmarks. The fire began in the house standing between Col. Hafford’s wholesale liquor store and the little Board of Trade building. George Clutter, a barkeeper, his wife, sometimes known as “Big Ella” and several other persons occupied it as a residence. The fire swept in all ways at once but was stopped on Broadway by blowing up Hooper’s vacant store and residence with dynamite. The fire was hindered some several times by use of dynamite but The January fire was mostly on Rand Street. Hammond’s store, the Montgomery saloon, Wilson’s store, and the Post office, rebuilt since the last fire, escaped but the rest of the town right up to the Russ House in entirely destroyed. The only part unburned is a few houses and a store on upper Butte Avenue and a few cabins on the hillside. Miss Griffen, one of the owners of the Home Restaurant, was badly burned in trying to save her goods. Her hair and clothes caught fire. Jack Nelson has a horse burned in a small barn back of Clutter residence. Dr. N. N. Miller inhaled hot air while trying to save his drug store. Many men were burned on hands and faces. The losses are most given below, although there were many other losers. We have tried to find the actual owners of the buildings but have given names of occupants at time of fire. Losses are given in order of fire from Staley avenue up Butte on the north side, and then in order on the south side, and are mainly as follows: James Taylor, residence $300; Mach, tailor $400; Crenshaw, law office, $500, Hubbard residence, $100; Fire Department, $100; Gorden’s Livery stable, $700; Oasis saloon, $300; George Clutter, and others $800; Col. Hafford, $4500; Anderson’s Hall, $1000; A Anderson & Co. , $17,000; Los Angeles Hotel, $750; Randsburg News Co., $200; Klondike restaurant $250; French restaurant, $800; Exchange saloon, $500; Tomichich feed yard, $100; Tenny barber shop, $200; San Joaquin Supply Co., $7500; S. B. C. restaurant $500; Dr. Ormsby’s office, $175; Harp’s store, $150; E. M. Dineen, two houses, $400; Crystal Laundry, $225; J. P. Carroll, residence, $200; Mrs. Haddock’s house, $125; Baker’s cabin, $100; Lee’s shoe store, $800; Phillip House, $2,600; Prof. Musso, Cabin, $100; Poole, blacksmith shop, $500. Miner’s Lumber Co., $250; Wells, Fargo & Co. building, $700, contents saved; J. Q. Hutton, Randsburg Bank fixtures, $200; Western U. Tel. Co., $300; J. Hooper, $300; Enos , assay office and Miner’s Blk. $300; N. N. Miller, $3000; Mrs. Darrow, $250; New York Café, $500; C. L. Siebold, $350; Lee & Sanders, $600; Home Bakery, $500; J. Jones $425; Randsburg Drug Co. $3000; Occidental Hotel, $4000; J. R. Pierson, $300, E. K. Woods, fire proof building, $1500; Bohannon & Jackson, $500; Dr. Tuttle, $150, Joe Detrick, $200; Kuffell, $375; Joe Endl, $1500, Orpheus Theatre, $7000; Shorty’s Restaurant and a small store, $625; Fred Hinke, $650; E. M. Dineen, $1,000, Joe Monahan, $700; Varney, $1200; E. G. Ord, $900.” The Rand
May 15, 1898: “ALREADY REBUILDING RANDSBURG IS RISING QUICKLY FROM THE ASHES – New Buildings Erected and in Course of Construction – RANDSBURG, May 14.—One week ago Butte avenue was a smoking ruin; today it is dotted with buildings, finished and In course of erection. M. A. Lee has built a larger and better building on the old site, and has moved his stock of shoes into it and is again ready for business. E. G. Ord was at work before the ground was cold getting ready to build, and at once ordered a new stock of hardware to replace that lost by the fire. The building is partially completed, and part of the goods have arrived. A. G. Poole, blacksmith, erected a shop at once; E. M. Dineen had a large tent in place early the next morning and was selling groceries as If nothing had happened. He is putting up a good building farther down the street and will move into it as soon as it is completed. Joe Monaghan has bought the store building of George Toedt, on Broadway, and will occupy that until his adobe building is finished. This is to be built of adobe bricks, made out near the Johannesburg Townsite company’s wells. J. C. Crenshaw and Attorney Goodbody are putting up an adobe building on the old site. It will be finished with a dirt roof and fire-proof windows and doors. Two other adobe buildings will be commenced shortly. N. N. Miller, the druggist, moved his goods into the old Hempstead building. He expects to rebuild on the old site. George Clutter, in whose house the fire started, purchased another building and moved it on to the old lot. The Orpheus Theater occupies the skating rink for the present, but will rebuild. D. T. Jones saved practically all of his goods in his fire-proof cellar, and is preparing to build at once. The Randsburg Lumber Company supplied lumber from its Johannesburg yard, and as soon as it was safe had lumber on the ground in the old yard. It will rebuild its office at once. J. C. Endl opens up tomorrow in a larger and better building on the old site. L. S. Varney, butcher, and Fred Hinke, second-hand dealer, have both built at their old stands. W. H. Hevren has part of the frame up and will soon have a building costing about $1200 in place. The Wiesendanger building has been moved on to the site of the former Los Angeles house, and will be occupied by the bank, the express office and the Western Union Telegraph company. About $400 worth of watches, which had been left at the Jeweler’s for repairs, were burned.” – The Herald
May 15, 1898: “Mrs. M. L. Ferguson came up from Los Angeles Sunday to look after her friend, Miss Griffin, who was so badly injured at the fire. Miss Griffin is recovering as rapidly as could be expected. – The Herald May 15, 1898: “On Thursday M. T. Hubbard of the fire department met with an accident, and it was at first thought that he had lost both eyes. The injuries later resolve”d themselves into a badly singed head and ruined clothes. He was dipping sulphuric acid out of the tank to fill the chemical engine, when the acid exploded. He was very fortunate to escape as easily as he did.” – The Herald
May 21, 1898: “PREPERATIONS TO REBUILD on the site of the structures destroyed by the fire at Randsburg has already begun. The loss is heavier than at first reported, and it is now thought not to all far below $75,000. Eighty-one residences were totally destroyed, in addition to the numerous store-houses.” –Corona Courier
May 30, 1898: “Miss Josephine Griffin, who was so badly burned in the recent fire, is improving. During the past week Dr. Tuttle has performed the operation of skin grafting to some of the burned parts. It will be many weeks before she will have entirely recovered.” – The Herald
June 13, 1898: “FOR FIRE PROTECTION RANDSBURG WILL GET GREATER WATER FACILITIES RANDSBURO. June 12.—The citizens’ committee held its regular weekly meeting Wednesday evening. At this and the preceding meeting the following standing committees were appointed: Finance, N. N. Miller, Fred Rowland and F. A. Morgan: building and Fire. S. F. Dennison. A. E. Poole and M. L. Sevier; sanitary. Dr. E. A. Tuttle, E. G. Ord and R. L. Rader; streets, L Wagner, Thomas McCarthy and E. M. Dineen. The question of fire protection was discussed, with tile result that the committee waited on the manager of the Squaw Springs Water Company to see if a connection could not be made between the fire pipe system in Randsburg and the Johannesburg Water company’s reservoir until such time as the Squaw Springs’ plant was completed. It was found that this could be done, and before many days the town will have all the protection from fire that water can afford.” – The Herald
June 13, 1898: “Miss Josephine Griffin, who was so badly burned during the fire, has recovered sufficiently to be taken to Los Angeles.”—The Herald
July 16, 1898: “RANDSBURG. July 14.—Yesterday was a red letter day in the history of Randsburg. After many unavoidable delays the Squaw Spring Water Company’s reservoir and pipeline have been completed and yesterday the connection with Randsburg was made. For a time there was water galore. It was thought to be a good opportunity to drill the fire laddies and the fire bell was rung. In a remarkably short space of time the fire company turned out and had two lines of hose attached to the fire hydrants. The water came with such force that it was found two men could not manage the hose. There have been many doubting Thomases who have insisted that sufficient pressure could not be obtained to bring the water over the King Solomon divide, and even if that was accomplished it would be impossible to secure enough pressure to make the water of any use for fire purposes. Yesterday’s exhibition must silence them forever. To say that Randsburg people are pleased but mildly expresses it. Now that there is ample water for fire purposes, insurance can be obtained and the citizens will not risk their all when they build a home or go into business here. For some time the need of more hose has been felt but the money could not be raised to purchase it. In a few minutes after the fire drill yesterday the necessary money was subscribed. After the drill was over the men commenced fighting each other with streams of water and soon there was not a dry thread to be found on the assembled crowd. Solid citizens forgot their years and for a while were boys again, having the the enjoyment they used to have when the first snow of the season fell.” – The Herald
July 24, 1898: “NEWS FROM THE RAND A FIRE DEPARTMENT TO BE ORGANIZED AT RANDSBURG – RANDSBURG, July 22.—The fire commissioners have called an election to be held July 30 to decide whether a tax shall be levied for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a fire department in Randsburg, and also to elect an assessor and collector. Robert Kader, William Maher and Robert Trice have been appointed judges of election, and Frank Goodbody and Thomas McCarthy clerks. It has been estimated that $600 will be required to meet the first year’s expenses.Randsburg has a good volunteer fire department, but heretofore It has been necessary to call upon individuals to furnish the necessary money to buy hose, carts, etc., and it has become a burden on a few whore the whole community should meet the expense. There is hardly a doubt but that the tax will carry.” – The Herald July 24, 1898: “Two fires were nipped in the bud on Friday and (Saturday evenings. The first was caused by some small boys who were smoking cigarettes near a tent. Their mothers called them, and they stowed the cigarettes in the crevices of the tent building, with the result that it was soon burning. On Saturday evening a lamp exploded in Mr. Garrett’s home, the flames being put out by buckets of water before the fire company arrived.” – The Herald
August 10, 1898: “AT A RECENT ELECTION held to decide Whether a tax should be levied for fire purposes 83 votes were cast—79 for and 4 against. J. C. Crenshaw was elected assessor and collector. ” – The Herald
November 08, 1898: “A FIRE AT RANDSBURG ANOTHER BLAZE THREATENS THE MINING TOWN” Six Thousand Dollars of Damage—The New York Hotel Destroyed. Plenty of Water – RANDSBURG, Nov. 7.—Fire broke out today in the building on Rand avenue formerly occupied by Calahan’s saloon. For a time the fire raged fiercely, and it looked as though the town was again doomed. Prompt action and streams of water, however, stopped the conflagration before it reached Miller’s drug store on Butte Avenue. The New York hotel, Fry’s butcher shop, the French bakery and two or three unoccupied buildings were burned to the ground. The loss will probably reach $6000 or $7000.” – The Herald
November 08, 1898: “RANDSBURG, Nov. 7. — Randsburg had a narrow escape from another disastrous conflagration to-night. At 8:20 fire started in Callahan’s old saloon at the corner of Rand avenue and Broadway, and soon was raging east on Broadway In the direction of the main part of town. A gale was blowing, and the flames soon communicated to the adjacent buildings, rapidly consuming the Klondike restaurant and a barber-shop, the Mojave and Randsburg Stage Company’s office, Fry’s butcher shop, the new steam bakery, the Broadway lodging-house and the New York lodging-house, where the fire was got under control by the volunteer fire company. The cause of the fire is unknown. The loss will be in the neighborhood of $6000, and it is said there is no insurance. This was the third fire this town has suffered within the past year. To-night’s blaze consumed the only portion or the town that was left by the other fires. The efficiency of the new water system and the organized Fire Department was severely tested to-night, and that the rest of the town was saved is due to the valiant efforts of its members.” – San Francisco Call
November 09, 1898: “RANDSBURG, Another fire which started in Callahan’s saloon at the corner of Rand avenue and Broadway last night burned the Klondike restaurant and a barber shop, the Mojave and Randsburg Stage Company’s office, Fry’s butcher, the new Steam Bakery, the Broadway lodging house and the New York lodging house. The cause of the fire is unknown. The loss will be in the neighborhood of $11000, and it is said there is no insurance. This is the third fire within a short time.” – The Herald
November 15, 1898: “Randsburg Aroused -RANDSBURG, Nov. 14.—The number of fires, evidently of incendiary origin, which have occurred in this camp have aroused the citizens. Notices have been posted in prominent parts of the town warning all disreputable characters to leave the place at once. If the order is ignored trouble is expected to result.” – The Herald
November 18, 1899: “FIREMAN’S BENEFIT –An entertainment was given last night at the Orpheus for the benefit of the fire department. The biggest and best house was present that has ever turned out in Randsburg. The play was very good, being up to that usually found in the cities. The best of order was maintained and even those super-sensitive people, not always sure of their own standing, continually on the lookout for something to shy at, could find no fault. Everybody seemed to enjoy the evening and Mr. Woodward lessee of the Orpheum, together with all who took part and contributed to its success, deserve the thanks of our people. The windup was a boxing contest between Mr. Bevan and Jimmie Ryan which was particularly enjoyed by all. Just what the net proceeds were is not yet fully known, as reports are not all in from those who sold tickets, but 76 tickets were sold at the door.
Total receipts for the benefit $100.75, Orpheum $ $40.30, net receipts for the fire department, $53.95.” –Randsburg Miner
November 19, 1898: “A FIRE STARTED IN CALLAHAN’S SALOON at Randsburg burned the Klondyke (sic) restaurant and barber shop, the Mojave and Randsburg Stage Company’s office, Fry’s butcher shop, the new Steam Bakery, the Broadway lodging house and the New York lodging house. The cause of the fire is unknown. The loss will be in the neighborhood of $6000, and it is said that there is no insurance. This is the third fire within a short time.” –Corona Courier
September 05, 1902: “INCENDIARY ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY RANDSURG– Four Trials Have Been Made by the Firebug but Without Success. BAKERSFIELD, Sept. 4. — Four attempts have been made within six weeks to burn the town of Randsburg. Last Saturday rags and shavings with oil were banked against the saloon of Louis Stoll and Ignited. A miner passing the place during the night discovered the blaze, and with the assistance of Constable Hall and others the fire was extinguished.” – San Francisco Call
January 09, 1903:“HOME IS SET ON FIRE WHILE FAMILY IS ASLEEP. Fred Kruger Is Accused of Attempting to Burn His Wife and Children. BAKERSFIELD. Jan. 8. — Fred Kruger Is under arrest at Randsburg charged with arson. Kruger and his wife separated recently and were living in separate houses but a short distance apart. While Mrs. Kruger and her two children were asleep early yesterday morning the house was set on lire from the outside of the kitchen. The fire burned through the wall and the paper inside was ablaze when a looking glass fell with a crash and awoke the family. They succeeded in extinguishing the tire before it could gain more headway. Neighbors say they saw Kruger coming from his wife’s house and go into his own. He has been arrested and charged with arson, but was released on 1500 bonds.” – San Francisco Call
June 07, 1903: “FIRE DESTROYS RANDSBURG – California Mining Camp Wiped Out by Flames Bakersfield, California, June 6.-Word was received here at 3:15 o’clock this afternoon, through the Southern Pacific telegraph office, that the entire town of Randsburg is completely destroyed by fire which broke out at noon. All efforts to communicate with Randsburg since then failed as both telephone and telegraph offices were destroyed. A high wind was prevailing on the desert and as the town is built along one street and there is no fire protection, it is probable that nothing was saved.” – Bisbee Daily Review
June 07, 1903: “RANDSBURG WIPED OUT – California Mining Town Destroyed by Fire – Wires Down and Details Lacking – Bakersfield Cal June 6 Word was received here at 3:15 o:clock this afternoon through the Southern Pacific telegraph office that the entire town of Randsburg had been destroyed by fire which broke out at noon All efforts to communicate with Randsburg have failed as a the telephone and Western Union offices have been destroyed A high wind is prevailing on the desert and as the town lies along one street and has no fire protection it Is probable that nothing has been saved. County Auditor W C Wilson who owns the telephone line to Randsburg and Mojave also received a message from his manager at Mojave confirming the report. The town of Randsburg is one of the principal mining camps in southern California it is in the center of the richest district in Kern County and is in the extreme southeastern just inside the line of San Bernardino count. It has a population of 1500 people entirely engaged in mining and the mines surrounding it are now near nearly all running at full capacity. There also is a large borax works there. It is built almost entirely of frame and a fire starting there would have little difficulty in wiping the town out of existence. It is impossible to form any reliable estimate of the probable loss but if the town has been wiped out as indicated it will probably reach $600,000.” – Salt Lake Herald
June 07, 1903: “FIRE WIPES OUT TOWN. Randsburg. Cal. Destroyed by Flames. Bakersfield. Cal. June 06 – Word was received here this afternoon that the entire town of Randsburg has been destroyed by fire. All efforts to communicate with Randsburg since then have failed, as both the telephone and telegraph cables have been destroyed. A high wind is prevailing on the desert, and as the town is along one street and has no fire protection it is probable that nothing has been saved.” – New York Tribune
June 7, 1903: “FLAMES SWEEP RANDSBURG AND CONVERT INTO ASHES NEARLEY THE ENTIRE TOWN –Fire Drives Out Telegraph Operator and Cuts off Communication. Special Dispatch to The Call. Bakersfield, June 6,– A Most disastrous fire starting from some unknown cause in the Orpheum Theatre destroyed nearly the whole of the mining town of Randsburg in the southeastern portion of Kern County.
That the loss was only about $100,000 is due solely to flimsy character of the wooden shacks that comprised by far the greater portion of the camp. The town has no fire protection beyond that afforded by a volunteer hose company to the saloon owned by Marguerite Roberts on the one side and a restaurant on the other. From here the flames swept down in both directions on Butte Avenue, destroying five saloons, two restaurants, the Justice of the Peace office and the large department store of Asher Bros.
Driven by the fierce wind, the flames leaped across the street and seized Pierson’s jewelry store, directly opposite the theater, from which the flames spread with the rapidity of lightning in both directions. On one side of the jewelry store was the White Fawn saloon, conducted by J. R. Price, and on the other the telephone and Western Union Telegraph office. Both these were in flames in a minute or two after the flames had leaped across Butte Avenue.
OPERATOR TAKES FLIGHT—In the telegraph office Operator Harry Wilson remained at his post keeping open communication up to the last minute, giving news to the outside world of the destruction beong (sic) wrought in the mining camp. He abandoned the office when fairly driven out by the flames and smoke. With the destruction of the telegraph office communication ceased for several hours until late evening, when a telephone was found uninjured in a residence and communication was restored.
From the telegraph office the flames spread along Butte Avenue to Rand Street, destroying several residences and a drug store. The Wells-Fargo express and postoffice stood in a point of a triangle formed by the junction of Butte Avenue and Rand Street. This was in a brick building and the fire on two sides did not cause it to catch.
Beyond the drug store on Rand Street and the store of Asher Bros., on Butte Avenue, was a break in the chain of buildings, and this doubtless saved those beyond from destruction? These were the large department store of P. J. Kennedy, located in a large building owned by County Auditor W. C. Wilson; the livery stable of Houser Bros., a saloon and bakery and an immense building, one of the finest in the camp, used as a hall by the Miner’s Union.
VAST AREA BURNED – In the opposite direction the flames spread from the jewelry store and the White Fawn Saloon to Tonnice’s barber shop, McCarthy’s stationary store and Dr. Renshaw’s office. Here they stopped for lack of fuel, thus saving from destruction the Houser Hotel, which stood some distance beyond.
The burned district comprises an area three-quarters of a mile in length and considerable over two-thirds of the town. All efforts to check the ravages of the flames were in vain. The blowing up with powder of several buildings failed of effect, as did the hose work of the volunteer firemen.
Of the loss fully one-half falls upon Asher Bros., who carried a stock of goods reaching probably $10,000 in value. This was partly covered by insurance. The amount of insurance in the burned district cannot be ascertained, but owing to the character of the town the rates charged were enormously high and it is probable that many of the buildings and stocks destroyed were entirely uninsured and are a total loss.” –San Francisco Call
June 04, 1904: “An interesting account of the revival of the mining town of Randsburg, on the desert, in Kern County, is given by the Randsburg Miner. It illustrates the vitality that there is in a California mining camp’ that has really any value in it. A part of the Miner’s story is as follows: .One year ago next Saturday, the last disastrous fire occurred in Randsburg. This was the third time the larger portion of the town was destroyed by fire, and it looked discouraging. The “strike” coming immediately after paralyzed everything, all work being shut down for some months. The mines yet remained and their value could not be destroyed. The old residents and mine owners took courage, new and safer houses were built, and many men took leases and went to work. To-day the outlook is again bright and the future of the camp is assured. The” Yellow Aster”, the principal mine here, is working a full force both their mills are running and they have more men on their pay roll than ever before. Their thirty stamp, mill was closed down’ a few days for necessary, repairs, a new cable was bent, and other repairs made, but it was only idle a few days and is now running. The Butte Lode, under, the management of Superintendent McMahon. Is making its usual millings with about the same results, and is prosperous. . . Nearly or quite all the other principal mines in the district are working a full force and doing well; the Baltic, Stanford, Sunshine and others. The White brothers are developing a property about seven miles southwest of Randsburg, and, taken altogether, the mining prospect is good. ” In the town are many new and costly buildings. With untold wealth beneath the surface, only awaiting the pick and shovel of the miner to develop it, Randsburg will soon again be rebuilt; the camp being without question the richest in Southern California. We have always had a superior class of miners and citizens here, and while not so well acquainted as formerly, from what, we .have observed In the past few days we believe the same is true today. It only needs united effort to put Randsburg thoroughly upon her feet.” – San Francisco Call
June 16, 1903: “The entire*town of Randsburg, Cal., has been destroyed by fire.” – The Tomahawk (White Earth, Becker County, Minn.)
May 24, 1923: “FIRE PROTECTION FOR RANDSBURG PROVIDED—Randsburg, May 24.—Several business men located in the central part of the city, on Butte Avenue, got together for the purpose of investing in a 40-gallon fire extinguisher, a most useful apparatus on wheels. Within 15 minutes after the representative had shown his cuts, blueprints and a number of timely suggestions, a deal was made and a wire ordering the outfit, including a 50-gallon reserve tank. It is a foregone conclusion that both the lower and upper ends of the main thoroughfare will get in line and be prepared. The same agency from Los Angeles has placed a number of five gallon extinguishers in many of the business houses and residences in the several camps.”—Bakersfield Californian
June, 26, 1929: FLAMES SWEEP THROUGH RANDSBURG – DESERT TOWN IS SAVED BY BIG CHARGES OF DYNAMITE—Devastating Fire Razes 22 Buildings in Business Section – Whole Community Near Destruction – Blasting is resorted to stop blaze when water supply fails. Randsburg, June 16. – Fire that swept through this Mojave Desert community like a devastating tornado during the early hours of this morning left 22 buildings in ashes, for a time shut off telephone communication with the outside world and was stopped only when volunteer fire fighters resorted to dynamite and blasted several small homes in its path.
The conflagration was the most serious experienced here during the past 16 years, old time residents reported and caused damage variously estimate at between $40,000 and $50,000. Among the structures burned were the Almond and Silver Streak hotels, the largest and finest building in the community. – Bakersfield Californian