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  • Do you keep ashes in a metal can?

  • Do you use safety matches? If not, are they kept out of the reach of children?

  • Is your basement free from rubbish?

  • Is your gasoline kept inside the house?

  • Has the moss been removed from your roof?

  • Has the winter’s wood been piled too close to the furnace?

  • Name the ten most common causes of fire in the home and school.

The culmination of the week’s drive to impress Portland with the need of taking every possible step towards elimination of fire risks was a parade in the morning of Fire Prevention Day. Governor Withycombe, Mayor Albee, city commissioners, civic groups, school children, county officials, firemen, police, the United States Forestry Service and other interested organizations took part.

The Chamber of Commerce sponsored a luncheon honoring Fire Marshal Stevens and his deputies, and lauded the progress they had made in cutting down fire losses in Portland (3 & 28).

Henchmen of Safety

Every man, woman and child, however, did not participate in all the plans for fire prevention. A fire marshal frequently had the door slammed in his face by an impatient housewife. He was often told to “get out” by an irate property owner when he suggested an improvement which should be made to lessen the danger of fire. All too frequently he was denied admission to a building when he arrived on an inspection tour (3 & 28).

On one occasion a citizen, angry because he had been notified to remove the moss from the roof of his home, telephoned Fire Marshal Stevens. “One of your henchmen is out here inspecting my house,” he reported, “and I warn you, there will be an election before long and you will not get my support.” Happily the Fire Marshal and all his “henchmen” were working under civil service (22).

Perhaps the unkindest out of all was given by a leading Portland newspaper which facetiously referred to the fire marshals as “match inspectors.” When rebuked by the opposition press for this flippant attitude the offending newspaper rushed editorially to its own defense with “a reference to a city official, whose duty it is to caution busy mothers against letting their children play with matches.” The editorial commented further, “the impression seems to prevail that mothers are not good for much nowadays” so the “city now gives lessons in safety.” Carried on by the force of this logic the suggestion was made for “wash tub inspectors” and “why not inspectors of galoshes?” A smashing conclusion asserted: “The average mother, conscious of her common sense, resents admonitions just a thoroughly as would the father if a uniformed officer called at his office and cautioned him against smoking in bed. No one enjoys the implication that one is a fool.” (3, 29 & 30)


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