SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Sirens wailed early Tuesday morning in San Francisco to remember the moment on this date when the devastating 1906 earthquake struck the city and started fires that left few city buildings standing.

Shortly after 5:10 a.m., in the cavern of buildings at Kearny and Geary streets near Market Street, fire, police and ambulance sirens echoed among the 300 or so people who gathered to call to mind the roughly 3,000 people who died.

The golden light of streetlights shown on the group, which stood at Lotta’s Fountain where neighbors gathered on the day of the quake to find out whether their relatives were OK and to leave notes for missing family members.

A wreath was laid at the fountain as part of the annual memorial.

• PHOTOS: Archival Photos Of The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Among those who were there were Mayor Ed Lee, police Chief William Scott, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and former Mayor Willie Brown.

Following the gathering at the fountain, a group met at 20th and Church streets where a fire hydrant that was used to save buildings in the Mission District from fire was painted gold, another part of the commemoration.

Family members of survivors helped paint the hydrant. All of the known survivors of the quake have died, event spokesman Lee Houskeeper said.

The commemoration is also a day to remind residents to prepare for another earthquake.

“It’s not if, but when,” San Francisco Department of Emergency Management chief of staff David Ebarle said.

Emergency officials are encouraging people to be prepared in the event of the next big one.

“This is not as daunting a task as you might think,” Ebarle said.

Residents can simply buy an extra can of soup or extra bag of rice when they go shopping and put the extra in storage.

“We advocate keeping it simple,” he said, saying most people are more prepared than they think.

Residents with questions about what to include in their emergency supplies can find out more at

The annual 1906 earthquake memorial will continue in future years and is open to everyone.

“We’ll continue going as long as people show up,” Houskeeper said.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  1. People just love pretending there’s another big earthquake coming. It’s a money-making proposition for many. We had “the big one” in 1989. Everyone seems to have ignored it…

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