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Of all the dangerous things about a city none are more to be dreaded than the
spaces through which the refuse wood is sent from each story to the basement, to be consumed by the fire which is to furnish motive power for the manufactory. They are chimneys of wood with openings at each story. Then, when a fire catches at the bottom, it rushes up the narrow space, roaring like a chimney on fire, and in a moment or two, often before an alarm can be sounded, the great building is on fire in every story, and before a steamer can be got to work the fire has enveloped the building and become so intense that even the steamers can be of little other use than to confine the fire to the first building. It is to be hoped that there are few of these dangerous places in any city, as so many great buildings have been destroyed by them, that it is found cheaper and safer to construct them of iron. The Mason and Hamlin reed organ factory, on Cambridge Street, was burned from varnish taking fire in the basement and running up the wooden chimney. If the fire had been kept in the basement by a sheet of iron, the first engine would have made short work of it; for want of that, it was in every story before it got to work at it. The great pianoforte manufactory, which was burned on the ground on which now stands the St. James Hotel, was first
found to be on fire in the third or fourth story, having caught in the basement, and first seen up there, though it was at work in all the lower stories. There is not the smallest chance to put out such a fire. It is a monstrous battle between the element of fire and the combustible matter of the building, while the firemen attempt to prevent the fire from destroying other buildings. In a gale of wind the firemen often have to fight almost like demons to prevent the destruction of whole districts. I have no doubt that quite often it has required the most heroic and dangerous efforts of the firemen to preserve a city from dreadful conflagrations, when such great fire-traps have, in a few minutes, become monstrous fires. The most stringent laws should be enacted against all such traps made of wood, or even of iron, unless with doors which should shut off each room, and which should always be closed when not in use. I recollect a fire near the railroad bridge, on Tremont Street, in such a building, which, when first seen, was so small as to hardly have any flame. No means of putting out the fire less than a steamer was thought of or was at hand, and that half a mile away. Yet even when that arrived, it was for a few moments difficult to see any fire. This state of things, however, was of short duration. The fire was in the wooden “ fire-elevator," and in a few moments the whole building was a mass of flames, which threatened many others. By the noble exertions of the firemen it was mainly confined to one great establishment, but the danger to a great portion of the city was imminent. There should be stringent laws against all such places, which might, in a gale of wind, do immense damage. But must we have laws for everything? Yes; against everything which may endanger a city or town. We have laws against shooting robins and sparrows, or breaking off a shrub or flower in the Public Garden. This is right; but a thousand times more proper would be laws against every kind of careless use or abuse of fire. Think of Chicago and Boston, and then say if this is not true.
I wish now to speak of common causes of fire in our buildings, and first of
DANGER OF FIRE FROM RUBBISH IN CELLARS.
“ September 10, 1666. All the morning clearing our cellars, and breaking in pieces all my old timber, to make room and to prevent fire." - Pepy's Diary.
Every farm is said to have its clutter hole. I am afraid
house has one also, and I am sure that too many warehouses and stores have them in the cellar. The danger in cities from the old broken wood and paper-boxes, etc., is very great indeed, and especially when the cellars commu
RUBBISH IN CELLARS.
nicate with elevators, such as are in common use, but which, by stringent laws, should be prevented. Fire, when it catches upon bales of woolen or cotton, or similar goods, in the basement of a store, burns very slow, but when it is in a cord or two of dry boards and heaps of old paper boxes, it soon creates a flame which destroys the contents of the room, if luckily it does not cause a dreadful conflagration. There are a great many places in every city and town, “ up-stairs and down-stairs,” which, if the merchants would “ clean up,” to make room and to prevent fire, the communities would be all the safer for it. Near eight hundred such places were pretty effectually cleared up one night and day last fall, but there are many hundreds left which should be at once attended to, that another desolating fire may not
In basements where goods are packed, there should be especial care of fire. Some years since, on a windy day, I went into the basement of a store, where there was a stove, in which was a very hot fire, and the stove almost red hot. Near it were piled up dozens of pails, packed in straw, and the whole cellar was full of like combustible matter. Knowing how easy it would be for a cat or rat to overturn them, or the natural tendency of such things to fall over, and the absolute certainty of the destruction of the whole store, if once on fire, and the danger to the city in a gale of wind, I cautioned a young gentleman of the danger. I was answered good-naturedly that it was no matter, they were well insured, if the old thing did go up. He was an excellent young man, and would not do what he thought wrong. But the same remark is quite too common, and the carelessness to which it leads, I think, is the cause of not a few of our basement and other fires. Such a remark would be looked upon as almost a crime in a respectable store in Liverpool or London, and it should never be made anywhere.
SMOKING DURING BUSINESS HOURS. There should be at once in every city and town severe laws enacted against smoking in ing or street during business hours. Not only many thousands, but millions of dollars worth of property have been destroyed from this smoking evil. It is said that fires cannot be set in this manner; and so it is said that they cannot by oiled rags, and the one is just as true as the other. Only a few days since a pretty little fire was got up in a railway car, set by a lighted pipe, thrust into an Irishman's pocket. Some time since a gentleman in Jamaica Plain passing his barn saw smoke coming out of the door. Following it back