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Days after arriving in San Francisco from Texas, eleven-year-old orphan Nicholas Dray tries to help his new neighbors survive the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the subsequent fires. The year is 1906, and ten-year-old Nick Bray, just orphaned, steals away from the migrant cotton camp to San Francisco. No sooner does he find himself a basement to sleep in and a job at a stationery shop than the great quake strikes. Just as he and his boss's dog, Brownie, are settling in for the night, the basement walls begin to shake uncontrollably. Nick has no way of knowing that he and Brownie are facing the worst earthquake and fire ever to hit the city--and that he's got to find a way out.