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It was washing-day, and the washing was almost over, when the good lady, as she was taking out a basket of clothes for the line, saw smoke coming down the stairway from the upper portion of the house. Dropping her basket, she rushed up to see what caused it, and found one of the rooms on fire near the chimney. Flying down to the washroom, she caught a pail, filled it with water from a wash-tub, and in half a minute from the time she saw the smoke, she had dashed the water upon the fire. This was followed by another, and then the hatchet came into use, and one more pail of water, and there was a clearing up of the room, as the fire was out. The agent for the insurance company said to me that he had not the slightest doubt that had the woman left the house and given a fire-alarm, before the engine could have got there and at work, the fire would have insured the total destruction of the building. The damage was only about five dollars.


In the same town, a very careful domestic overturned a kerosene lamp, which broke on the floor, and set the oil instantly all ablaze. She gave the alarm, when the “man of the house,” with most



unsuitable clothes to parade the street with, entered the room, and seizing the blanket from the bed, he smothered the fire in a moment or two; then, while putting on his pants, he had the happiness of thinking he had saved about $10,000 as quick, as easy, and with as little clothing on, as ever was done by any other man!

If people, when they discovered such fires, would follow the example of these persons, there would be very few fires indeed. The fires, when so small, are extinguished with the greatest ease; yet the same fire, in a few minutes more, would have got over the rooms and into the ceilings, and destroyed the buildings.

In 1757, while General Putnam was at Fort Edward, the barracks took fire and were destroyed. They were within twelve feet of the magazine, containing three hundred barrels of gunpowder. Putnam took a position between the fire and the magazine, where he could throw water upon it. The building and its dangerous contents were saved. The brave officer was so badly burned that all the skin peeled from his hands, and he was sick for a month. In the times before fire departments were originated, such deeds of bravery were not uncommon; nor are they now, where there are no fire brigades, or where engines fail to arrive in season to protect property in danger. This was proved at the great Boston fire, where Mr. Pratt saved his house, and at Hovey's store, and at the fire fight on Oliver Street. But when departments were organized, and great engines procured, the people left the work to the firemen, which they could often have better done themselves, and little fires which some one, imitating the brave Putnam, could have extinguished in a few minutes, sometimes destroyed whole villages or towns. Now the young soldier could have been shielded from the awful heat by a door or wide board placed between him and the fire, as is now often done by firemen; and if he could have had a small engine, he could have saved the property with but little danger. As he did his duty without means, we should learn to do all our duty with them, and fires of considerable magnitude would then be instantly dashed out.



BEFORE describing a new preventive system, let us see if there are such faults in the old as to make it so inefficient as to require a change. Take the Boston Fire Department for an example. The people of Boston, having adopted a system, have spared no expense to make it as perfect as possible. Men, horses, and engines are as good as can be found. If anything is wrong, it is in the system alone. The evils attending it are its tendency to show, its great expense, and its inefficiency. The last is the important objection, and let us see how great it really is.

A fire is discovered ; in the confusion, a minute or two is lost before any one is sent to give the alarm. The average time to run to the nearest box is two minutes; to find the person who has the key, tell him where the fire is, and for him to open the box and give the alarm, two minutes more. There is no doubt that the time from when the fire is seen until the telegraph tells three hundred thousand people that there is a fire, averages five minutes. Next, the horses are attached to the engines in one or two minutes, when the first engine is taken to the fire in from three to five minutes, the engine attached to the hydrant, and the leading hose taken to the fire in five minutes more. Five minutes to telegraph, five to harness and get to the fire, and five more to get water upon the fire, or at least fifteen minutes is lost, upon an average, from the time a fire is discovered before water is thrown upon it. Now, if the fire would wait fifteen minutes, the only result of the delay would be that the great engines would cause a great waste and loss by water. They would always put out the fire, but the water loss would be a serious one.

But the fire is seldom so accommodating. It burns on, always doubling its proportions every minute, and often in dangerous places quadrupling its proportions every minute.

If it has doubled each minute for the fifteen, the result is a great loss by fire and water. If it has quadrupled, it is a total loss of the building on fire; and if there is added to that crowded and dangerous buildings and a high wind, there is a dreadful conflagration.

Such has been the history of the Boston department since the introduction of steam fire-engines. The Fourth of July fire at East Boston was so

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