[COMMUNITY] Burning Down of Santa Ana's Chinatown
The local demographics weren't all happenstance. Though the county
was less than 100 years old in 1970, it had a long reputation as a
place where many white people did what they could to push back
against non-white cultures.
In 1906, officials in Santa Ana ordered the evacuation and burning
of the city's Chinatown. There were "white only" school districts
throughout the county prior to World War II. And, for years after
there were property rules that kept non-whites from buying houses.
One of the more sensational chapters in the history of the SAFD
concerned the burning of Chinatown. A leper was discovered living in
one of the shacks near Third and Bush Street. The area was covered
with small, closely built wooden structures, many of which were
connected by a maze of underground tunnels and inhabited by people
of Chinese ancestry. After the leper was found, a secret meeting of
the Board of Trustees was held. It was decided that the SAFD would
raze the area by fire, thereby sparing the remainder of the City
from the dreaded disease. On May 25, 1906, the SAFD arrived to
surprisingly discover a crowd of several hundred people gathered to
watch the spectacle, since this plan was a closely guarded secret.
The fire was started with hose lines used to protect the exposures.
These lines, along with a light rain that was falling, prevented the
fire from spreading beyond the intended area.