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PROTECTION AGAINST FIRE.
NEAR the close of a hot summer day, many years since, the people of Charlestown, Massachusetts, were startled by the cry of “fire.' small house near the bridge, there was a little fire, perhaps three feet in diameter. An earnest man could have dashed it out in a minute or two, with a pail of water. No one, however, made an attempt to do what every one supposed would be done in a few minutes by the firemen. The firemen did not come as expected, and as there a high wind, the fire quadrupled its proportions every minute, and soon the flames leaped upon two large buildings, which before the first engine got to work were all on fire. The people now saw their error, but it was too late. The engine was powerless, and soon other great buildings were in flames, and a conflagration was imminent. The “ little one had become a thousand," and although a few minutes before it could have been smothered with a blanket, or dashed out with a few pails of water, it was now fighting a successful battle with the Charlestown and Boston fire departments. On the wings of the wind, the fire flew over the engines, and soon ten, twenty, and thirty buildings were on fire, which was cutting its fiery way through the town. A dreadful consternation seized upon the people whose homes were in flames, and upon those whose property lay in the direction the fire was flying with awful rapidity. The róaring and crackling of the burning and falling buildings, the shrieks of the affrighted women and children, the yells of the firemen, the cries of the men, and the clang of the bells added to the awful terror, while the water poured into the great hotels and other buildings, only seemed to add to the fury of the fire. Forty, fifty, sixty, and at last seventy buildings, and a great amount of other valuable property were swept away, when by the help of open spaces between the rows of wooden buildings, aided by the great exertions of the firemen, the fire was subdued, but with a loss of more than $200,000.
Amid the confusion of such conflagrations, there are often places which, while the firemen are at work at more important points, must be neglected, and yet where the right man in the right place may save property from destruction. While I was
looking about for a chance to help somebody, or something, I saw quite a fire in the out shed of a large three-story house. A good pump, a bucket, a strong arm and a willing mind, made short work of that incipient conflagration. My attention was next directed to the front of the same house. People were removing the furniture from it as the fire was burning a row of wooden houses separated from it only by a narrow street or lane. It occurred to me that the house might be saved, even though the engines could not be spared from other places. I soon told half a dozen men my plan, and in a few minutes there was a tub of water, buckets and dippers, in every room, where the outside was exposed to the oncoming fire, and a man in each room to open a window and dash out the fire as it caught on the outside, while other men supplied the tubs with the necessary water from
As I could stand fire like a salamander, I volunteered to remain outside, and to point to where the fire caught on the building, and to see that the men were supplied with water.
Soon the fire became terrific, and there was hardly a moment when some window was not opened, and water thrown to dash out the flames. Indeed there was one time when the whole front of the house seemed covered with flames, while from every window flew water from pails and dip
pers. The glass cracked into thousands of pieces, looking like frost work, but the water from the windows just at the right moment, kept the fiery river at bay. The heat grew less intense, and at last the “ Brigade" came together to congratulate themselves upon their success. We met in the parlor, though not in dress suits, for a more wet and tired party of young men it would have been hard to find. My eyes soon gave me notice by their stinging pain to go to the pump which had served us so well, for a bath for them. The clear, cool water, soon made the eyes all right, and I felt like a new man. I was then again called to the parlor to be introduced to the owner of the house. He was one of those stately solid men of Boston, and vicinity, who, alas, have almost passed away. Taking off his hat, he said, “ I am told, young man, that under Providence, you have been the means of saving my house from this dreadful fire, and I want to give you my heartfelt thanks for your earnest and successful efforts in my behalf.” I think I blushed a little. It was easy to do so after fighting such a battle with fire. But I tried to bear my honors meekly, told him of my “ Brigade who had done such good services, bowed myself out, and was soon on my way home on foot to Watertown, as wet as a rat, as tired as a whole pack of dogs, but as happy as a king.