earthquake.jpgExaminer recently reported, that during a recent Building Inspection Commission meeting, a consultant with the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety predicted a grisly (and expensive) fate for San Francisco if a major quake hit. Now they’re reporting on a city-commissioned study from an outside consultancy that says things could be even worse that those doomsday projections, because there would also be fires to contend with. Big fires.

Up to 1,000 people could die, 85,000 housing units and $5 billion to $15 billion in business could be lost, and repair costs could range from $17 billion to $54 billion if a 7.0 (or above) quake were to occur on the San Andreas fault. Major damages, the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety says, would be incurred due to the many non-retrofitted privately-owned soft-story buildings we have here in SF.

But those estimates don’t account for the as many as 3,500 buildings destroyed and $5.8 billion lost in the average of 38 to 95 fires we can expect after a 6.5 or more magnitude quake.

According to a report from Geohazards International, a Palo Alto based non-profit consulting for the Department of Building Inspection, “(b)uildings that survive the shaking can succumb to fire, including those that have been seismically retrofitted.”

Even better news — the Ex says these fires could “strain San Francisco’s firefighting resources beyond the brink” and says the consultancy’s report says that “(o)ut-of-town firefighters would probably not reach The City for many hours as firefighters in neighboring cities will be absorbed with their own community’s problems.”

So we’d be both in over our heads, and on our own, if we start to burn up post-quake. Maybe it’s time to get that renter’s insurance?

the author

Always in motion. April Siese writes about music, takes photos at shows, and even helps put them on behind the scenes as a stagehand. She's written everything from hard news to beauty features, as well as fiction and poetry. She most definitely likes pie.

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  • Greg Dewar

    There’s also apparently some issue with the fire hydrants in SF not being compatible with fire trucks from other jurisdictions. the Fire chief insists they’ll have little check in points at the city border so that fire trucks can get the adapters needed to hook up.

    During a chaotic post-quake situation with all kinds of crazy shit going on, that sure sounds do-able, doesn’t it?

  • Greg Dewar

    There’s also apparently some issue with the fire hydrants in SF not being compatible with fire trucks from other jurisdictions. the Fire chief insists they’ll have little check in points at the city border so that fire trucks can get the adapters needed to hook up.

    During a chaotic post-quake situation with all kinds of crazy shit going on, that sure sounds do-able, doesn’t it?

  • cv

    No surprise here.

    The vast majority of the damage from the 1906 Earthquake was due to fire.

  • cv

    No surprise here.

    The vast majority of the damage from the 1906 Earthquake was due to fire.

  • Josh

    SFFD NERT training talking point: There may be six to eight feet of glass along some portions of downtown, because the walls of all those glass buildings are made to pop off, to lighten the load of the building weight, so they will sway rather than collapse.

  • Josh

    SFFD NERT training talking point: There may be six to eight feet of glass along some portions of downtown, because the walls of all those glass buildings are made to pop off, to lighten the load of the building weight, so they will sway rather than collapse.

  • Erik

    Is there a legitimate source for that information? It seems pretty unlikely that a highrise would be designed to drop tons of glass down onto the street during an earthquake. Usually the glass is installed in a way that allow some flexure at the edges so that the building can move as much as possible without breaking it.

    Also, the weight of the windows is not a significant factor controlling whether a building collapses.

  • Erik

    Is there a legitimate source for that information? It seems pretty unlikely that a highrise would be designed to drop tons of glass down onto the street during an earthquake. Usually the glass is installed in a way that allow some flexure at the edges so that the building can move as much as possible without breaking it.

    Also, the weight of the windows is not a significant factor controlling whether a building collapses.