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3 Survivors On Hand For 106th Anniversary Of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

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A survivor from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake participates in the annual painting of a fire hydrant at 20th and Church St. which provided water to fight the fire after the big quake, April 18, 2012. (CBS)

A survivor from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake participates in the annual painting of a fire hydrant at 20th and Church St. which provided water to fight the fire after the big quake, April 18, 2012. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Sirens rang out across San Francisco early Wednesday morning as the city commemorated the 106th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Three of the four known survivors of the quake were in attendance at the annual ceremony at Lotta’s Fountain the intersection of Market, Geary and Kearny. The gathering marked a moment of silence before sirens wailed at 5:12 a.m., the moment the earth shook and set off the fire that would destroy most of the city.

Even as the number of quake survivors dwindle, the number of revelers in period costume at the site of the commemoration seems to grow as more people recognize the need to remember history.

Photo Gallery: 1906 San Francisco Earthquake & Fire – Then and Now
Related Story: Famed Hydrant Painted The Wrong Color

Another annual rite is the spray-painting of a Mission District fire hydrant to honor its role in providing water to help save the Mission from the worst of the flames.  But there was a slight snag during this morning’s event at the hydrant at 20th and Church St. that symbolizes the city’s resilience.

A member of the San Francisco History Association accidentally brought silver spray paint, instead of the traditional gold.  The color was not noticed in the early morning, but was quite evident as soon as the sun rose.  A replacement can of gold spray paint was then found and used on the hydrant.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Eric Byberg, a fifth generation San Franciscan, was gussied up in his vintage police uniform at Lotta’s Fountain Tuesday morning. He said the tragedy of the quake is one thing, but it’s the spirit of San Francisco he celebrates.

“The city’s resilience, and willingness to overcome it all,” said Byberg. “We’re surrounded by the buildings, the people, the history, the culture. It’s all directly related to that event. So the fact that we’re out here at 5 in the morning is important.”

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Fire chief Joanne Hayes White said the other thing to remember is all of the lessons learned about fighting fires since then.

“It’s a bit of windy day today, and high wind conditions, combined with our topography – the hills, makes it challenging,” said Hayes White. “Many of our buildings here are wood frame buildings with what we call ‘zero lot-line separation’, meaning they’re attached, so if you don’t make an aggressive attack, you’re likely to lose the whole block.”

The city recommends that you have an emergency kit ready so you can be self sufficient for up to 72 hours following the next big quake.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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