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this ordinance. Upon receipt of a written notice from these officers “actual work of alteration or re-modeling” was to be started by the building owner “within thirty days of the receipt of such notice and shall be completed within ninety days from the date of receiving such notice” (61, 49 & 62).

The Hotelmen’s Association and realty operators made persistent efforts to block the passage of the ordinance. Failing in this the Portland Hotel brought suit against the city to check enforcement. The hotel won the first suit through an interpretation of Section I, wherein a building was exempt from the requirements if every apartment and separate sleeping room on the second story and above was “directly connected to a standard fire escape.” However, the direct connection in many instances made it necessary for the room occupant to go into the hall in order to reach the “directly connected” fire escape. The words “directly connected” were defined more specifically in an ordinance passed October 19, 1921, as meaning “an arrangement of rooms and fire escapes such that a person can step through a door or window that can be opened (the area of the opening being not less than six square feet, with a minimum width of eighteen inches) from the room or apartment” (49, 62 &63).

The hotels, still unwilling to meet the requirements of the ordinance, prolonged the law suit in the name of the Portland Hotel, until January 29, 1923, at which time, upon the advice of the architects, it was decided it was cheaper to comply than fight. On the 19 of February, the Portland Hotel took out a permit for the alterations, amounting to $8,000. Meantime, the Goodnough Building tried to prevent enforcement of the ordinance by an injunction against the city. This effort also failed. With victory finally established for Ordinance No. 38118, Portland advanced another step in fire safety (49, 62 & 66). th

Mysterious Fires

Beginning in 1922, mysterious fires at night, sometimes at the rate of one a week, seriously interfered with any marked reduction in losses. The fires were obviously set by one person. Methods employed were always similar. It seemed to make little difference whether the building was a $25,000 plant or $100 barn. Empty school buildings, vacant houses, churches, halls, barns, warehouses, and garages flamed in succession. The nature of the fires made it obvious that they were not burned to collect insurance.

In hope that some betraying move would point to an arsonist, Fire Marshal Grenfell detailed men from the department to attend every fire, dressed in plain clothes, to mingle with the crowd and to watch the attitude of the spectators. One face always appeared among the group of working firemen. With suspicion firmly pointing to one of their own members, men from the department were assigned to watch him at all times.

The man was clever and fearless. Mounted on a motorcycle he eluded his pursuers night after night. Being unable to find evidence to convict the man whom they believed guilty of the crime, the police, through a charge of speeding, denied him use of his motorcycle. On foot, however, he continued to play his costly game and for months evaded his followers.


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