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NOTES ON BERKELEY'S CONFLAGRATION
From the Fireman's Fund Record, Vol. XLI, No. 4, Pages 15-16, October 1923.

We do not intend to repeat here the points brought out by our recent circular with reference to the Berkeley conflagration of September 17th. Enough can be said on the subject without danger of repetition.

The Berkeley fire has the distinction of being the largest residence conflagration in history. There is only one other that possesses any similarity, and that was the Arverne, L. I., fire of June 15, 1922, in which 150 buildings were destroyed, the majority being beach cottages and residences. In Berkeley 641 buildings were consumed, of which 625 were dwellings, 5 apartments, 3 schools, 7 fraternity houses and one fire department company. In the Arverne fire the loss was estimated at $2,500,000, while in Berkeley it totaled $10,000,000. The cause of the rapid spread of the fire in both these conflagrations was the same - frame construction and shingle roofs.

Our companies paid an aggregate of 124 claims, totaling $224,418, divided as follows:

Fireman's Fund 110 claims $192,959
Home Fire 12 claims $24,459
Occidental 2 claims $7,000

The conflagration occurred on the afternoon and evening of the 17th. Adjusting headquarters for our companies were opened up in Berkeley early the next morning. Every claim was paid exactly one week from the date of the fire.

The day of the Berkeley fire we sent out fifty thousand copies of a section of one of the San Francisco newspapers, containing a full page advertising insert to all of our agents in California. The Tulare (Cal.) Advance commented on this editorially as follows: This matter (household inventories) was brought to our attention by the finding of a paper blanket on our doorstep. This sheet was undoubtedly an advertisement gotten out by the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company and they no doubt caused considerable annoyance by littering up many dooryards, but if they accomplished their purpose they were worth all the trouble they caused. Not only did this sheet urge one to insure, but it reminded people of the numerous different household articles they have, and suggested that taking of a complete inventory * * *

"To those who may offer the criticism that we are using our editorial columns to advertise, we wish to say that such is our intention. We would like to see every family in Tulare with a book, and with a complete list of his household effects in it."

Betty Champlin, the sixteen-year-old daughter of George B. Champlin, Fireman's Fund agent at Red Bluff, Cal., was in Berkeley at the time of the fire. On seeing that the home in which she was living was threatened by the approaching flames, she telephoned for a moving van. The van did not come, so she jumped into her car and went after it. The storage company refused at first to let her have a van, but she persisted and finally won out. When she got back, houses in the same block were burning furiously, so she climbed out on the roof with a hose and protected her house until the van was loaded. Almost everything was saved as a result of Betty Champlin's presence of mind.

Only 40 per cent of the property values destroyed in Berkeley were covered by insurance.

The McLeod family lived next door to a fire station and did not carry any insurance whatever. They thought they were absolutely safe. Their home and the fire station as well were completely wiped out.

The loss of the Hillside school in the fire brought about a checking up of the insurance on school buildings and their contents by the Board of Education, and at its meeting yesterday it was stated that the insurance on the contents of the Hillside School, as well as of several other schools did not reach the 60 per cent valuation which it has been the policy of the Board to maintain. Accordingly the Board took action to bring the insurance on the contents of the said buildings up to an approximate 60 per cent value by ordering increases totaling $24,000. --Berkeley Gazette, September 26.

[Fireman's Fund Archives: 4-1-3-4-34; 0406]



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