“Little Stump Town.” The stumps have long been removed and the streets paved but the narrowness remains.
As losses by fire steadily mounted it became apparent to many thoughtful citizens that perhaps it was more economical to prevent fires than to put them out after they had started. These men, noting the increasing gravity of the situation, came to the conclusion
that most fires were preventable activities grew the movement that risks to one of its best.
lifted Portland from on of the nation’s worst fire
The Oregon Civic League and the Portland Association of Credit Men pioneered this fire prevention campaign (2 & 3). In 1912 the latter organization formed a Fire Prevention Committee, headed by E.M. Underwood. Lectures, illustrated by a few of the city’s choicest fire hazards, were delivered to mildly interested audiences. Needless to say, the committee did not have far to look for fire hazards as they were on all sides. Previous to that time little had been done to educate the public or convince architects and builders in the proper preventive measures to be taken in constructing public buildings. Lumber had always been plentiful and cheap and there was an abundance of frame buildings, many of them past their usefulness but still standing, dry as tinder. And to add to the menace was the riverfront with its miles of wooden docks and warehouses.
Parades and Programs
In April, 1914, Fire Chief B.F. Dowell recommended the establishment of a Fire Prevention Division in the Portland Fire Department. (4). On the 18th of that month, the anniversary of the $500,000,000 San Francisco fire of 1906 (5) Portland and Oregon
observed the first fire prevention day in downtown streets, a large part of the fire
the history of the state. A parade through the department participating, marked the beginning the fire trucks were banners bearing such
admonitions as: “Is your hotel, factory, warehouse or home a fire trap? Some day claim your employees, your guests or us as victims” and “Fire loss is irretrievable
it may waste.
Never a dollar returns. Civic League sponsored was “too much money
Insurance only distributes it a Fire Prevention luncheon at spent putting out fires and
to your neighbors.”
which Chief Dowell declared there
concluded with a lecture by Mr. Underwood, at the East Side audience that Portland fires were fifty percent preventable, urged
that all stairways in large buildings be enclosed with fire-proof water front to be the worst fire risk in the United States (6).
During the summer the Portland Electric and Power Company became concerned over the number of accidents and lives lost among the patrons of their street car lines. In an endeavor to educate people not to walk from behind street cars into the path of other on- coming cars, not to walk in front or jump off moving cars, and not to take other foolhardy chances (3), a “safety first” campaign was inaugurated under the leadership of B. F. Boynton, an associate of the company.