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El Dorado County Fire District *
Fire District History: Placerville
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The Fires of 1856

Up to the year of 1856, from the time of the first settlement, Placerville, contrary to most other mining places, had been spared from the fire friend. But on April 15, 1856, while a great part of the population were assembled in Placerville theater, to greet McKean Buchanan in the character of "Richelieu" a fire broke out in the Iowa House on Sacramento Street, spreading rapidly over the neighboring buildings. Dr. Rankin's office and adjoining dwelling, the Placer Hotel opposite, the Orleans Hotel, and a number of smaller buildings were all devoured by the flames. Stevens' new livery stable then caught fire and had it not been for the changing of the wind, the town might have been swept notwithstanding the greatest exertions of the fire department, assisted by many citizens and the members of the Theater Company.

Another fire broke out on July 6th, the same year, and what had been feared only on April 15th, became reality for this time; the town was literally swept by the flames; the fire evidently of incendiary origin, spread with such rapidity that all efforts to stop its progress proved fruitless and hopeless. The hungry flames devoured as well as the houses rebuilt since the fire in April, the remainder of the town, and hardly any of the shanties of Old Hangtown had been spared. The Neptune Hose Company No. 1 was rendered homeless as well as losing all their furniture, hose and fixtures to the fire. A few days after the fire the Council sold the lot upon which the house had stood to Mr. Dorsey. For a full year the Neptunes were homeless before acquiring a house on Coloma Street, purchased from Mr. Conrad.

And still for a third time in the same year, Placerville was visited by the hungry flames. On October 7, 1856, a fire broke out in the Pittsburg House of Upper Placerville, destroying the greater part of the flourishing village. It originated as supposed under the following circumstances - a man named John Murdock had been on a drunken spree during the evening and returned to his room in the Pittsburg with a candle about one-half hour before the fire was discovered; it is presumed that he placed it near the railing. The poor fellow was the victim of his own folly; he being burned to death.

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