In the wee morning hours of Jan. 11, 1975, a police officer noticed smoke billowing from a block-long building on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach.
Firefighters were on the scene within three minutes, but it was already too late. The row of storefronts, which housed a cable company, a bank, a ski shop and other businesses, was engulfed in flames.
Desperate to prevent the inferno from spreading, firefighters were stymied when they discovered that water pressure from nearby hydrants wasn't sufficient. They tried to pull water from the bay, but that attempt proved cumbersome and inadequate. Finally, two fireboats pulled up to the seawall across the highway and pumped saltwater into hoses. The fire was extinguished many hours later.
An entire city block was reduced to a pile of charred rubble. Firefighters never stood a chance because the flames had raced unhindered through an attic that spanned the full length of the building.