…Pescadero during Prohibition (5)

[I wrote this in 1977.]

Rumrunners, bootleggers and raids by the liquor police remained topic number one on the South Coast until March 1926 when a quick-spreading fire rallied the small community to save the little town of Pescadero.

A local resident was filling his gas tank at the Coast Side Transportation Company when a few drops of the flammable liquid splattered a nearby lantern that was lit. Seconds later a loud explosion caused the man to cover his ears–and the building burst into a hot fence of flames.

Next door the warehouse caught fire, and the wind pushed the flames towards Duarte’s Lodging House and a soft drink parlor. On fire were Williamson’s General Store and warehouse.

Hundreds of citizens flocked to the disaster scene, forming a bucket brigade. There was no professional fire department; it was up to the residents to carry heavy pails of water from Pescadero Creek a thousand feet away.

Mrs. Manuel Enos, who for 30 years supervised the Pescadero telephone exchange, remained at her post even as the fire destroyed her own home. When Mrs. Enos learned that high tension wires interfered with fire fighter’s efforts, she calmly called the PG&E office in Redwood City and asked them to switch off the dangerous current.

When telephone service was lost, Pescadero’s lone traffic officer sped over the twisty road to San Gregorio where he called the Redwood City Fire Department for assistance. It didn’t take long for the Seagrave chemical pumper truck to race over the winding mountain road in the record time of one hour and 18 minutes.

As the fire truck screeched to a halt on the main street of Pescadero, firemen jumped down and dropped their hoses into the creek. At last powerful sprays of water cooled the hot flames, preventing the fire from spreading any farther.

Half the “business district” stood in ashes. Despite the emotional and economic tragedy, the owner of Williamson’s General Store displayed the pioneer spirit, announcing plans to rebuild in a new location next door to the Bank of Pescadero.

And within days a small army of carpenters got to work constructing half-a-dozen new buildings destroyed by the blaze that some described as the worst in the history of San Mateo County.

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