Other civic organizations became interested in this movement. In September leading citizens of Portland formed a Safety First Committee, headed by Harry P. Coffin (7). Particularly did their interest extend to the safety of children on the streets and in the schools. The adequacy of school fire drills was questioned and as a test the members of the Portland Fire Department turned in the alarm which was ignored at Lincoln High School. In an address to the students by Chief Stevens a few days later he asked “Where is the fire-alarm box nearest to your house?” and “How many know the telephone number of the fire department?” Scarcely a dozen pupils could answer affirmatively. Chief Stevens pointed out that it was definitely a matter of safety and good citizenship to know these things. He also emphasized the need of an orderly and speedy response to every fire-alarm and explained the best conduct in the event of a fire. The talks were repeated at the other Portland high schools (10 & 12) and later extended to the grammar schools. During the winter the school children became familiar with the working of the fire bureau and were given instructions which, if followed, would lessen the danger of fire. They were told how to turn in a fire alarm, and warned of the cost and danger of false alarms.
The Nation’s Worst Fire Risk
Fires, however, continued unabated and at the end of 1914 the year’s loss was sixteen lives (16) and $1,762,493.46 in property, which in monetary loss was an advance of $758,855.21 over the 1913 record (1). This placed Portland in the ignominious position of being among the nation’s worst fire risks. Fire insurance companies were threatening a twenty-five per cent increase in insurance rates unless the city did something to decrease the fire danger (3). Citizens began asking each other what was wrong with the Portland Fire Department that this should happen? At a meeting of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, called for the expressed purpose of thoroughly considering the fire situation, and attended by Chiefs Dowell and Stevens, the letter declared all were at fault in allowing such conditions to exist. A conference with Mayor H. B. Albee followed this meeting, with the result that the Mayor appointed Stevens Fire Marshal and placed him in charge of the city’s fire prevention work (11 & 3).
In order that he might learn all about methods in fire prevention and protection (12), the newly appointed Fire Marshal was sent to visit fire departments in several of the larger cities (13). His itinerary included a dozen cities, where he not only visited the offices of the chiefs but stayed at the fire stations, responded to alarms and studied methods of dealing with fire. In all this wide field, he did not find an established fire prevention plan except in Chicago, which had a program of building inspections by members of the fire department. However, Fire Marshal Stevens knew that his home town needed a more forceful course of action and immediately upon returning he launched a twenty-four hour day fire prevention program.
Only Uniformed Men
When asked whom he wanted to assist in the work, Fire Marshal Stevens replied, “Only uniformed men already in the service.” Captains and lieutenants of the fire companies were appointed deputy fire marshals (14). The first meeting of the Fire Prevention