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This watershed event in American history has never before been told with the richness of historical detail and insight that our foremost historian of fire, Dennis Smith, brings to it in San Francisco Is Burning. Smith cinematically recounts this terrible tragedy through the stories of the people who lived through those terrible days—from a valiant naval officer who helped save the city’s piers and wharves to Eugene Schmitz, the crooked mayor, to the “debonair scoundrel” Abe Ruef, the most erudite city boss in American history. Throughout, Smith reveals many unknown details about the event, from the city’s great vulnerability to fire—due to its corrupt and hasty building practices—to the widespread racism the quake unleashed and the atrocities committed by national guardsmen. Told with verve and a seasoned firefighter’s knowledge, San Francisco Is Burning is the gripping and definitive account of one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century.