SUGGESTIONS FOR CLEAN-UP WEEK
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is a saying as old as it is true. Few people consider the value of cleanliness in fire prevention. The two principal causes of disease and fire are the same—carelessness and want of cleanliness. Our over-trained perceptive faculties are quick to note, and our exacting commercialism to demand, results. Looking for causes is a weariness to the flesh. Are we not a progressive people? Then why look backward? “Let the dead past bury its dead.” Consciously or unconsciously, this is the philosophy we proclaim by our mode of living. Fire prevention cannot become effective unless we do look back from effect to cause. The thought of clean-up week suggests the average city or town with its stores, warehouses. factories and homes. In the front of each of these everything is order and cleanliness. In the rear are boxes, paper, excelsior and other inflammable trash. In the basement we find all sorts of rubbish and inflammable conditions, often re-inforced by the storage of tanks and barrels of kerosene, gasoline and other highly inflammable and explosive oils. In the midst of this mass of rubbish we often find a furnace or other heating plant, improperly protected. We find electric wires twisted around nails and passing through wooden partitions, without proper insulation. The chimneys and flues are cracked and filled with soot which from time to time catches fire and produces intense heat. There is an entire absence of preventive measures—not a fire extinguisher nor other means of putting out a fire in its incipicncy in sight. The proprietor and the employees are often found smoking in every part of the building and scattering matches and match heads promiscuously. In other buildings we find special lighting systems where gasoline or other agencies are used, with the generator or pressure tank inside the buildings and with an entire absence of any of the safety precautions which ought to prevail. The problem is, how may every such community be so aroused and interested that it will give special attention to the conditions here described, not spasmodically, but at least twice and better four times a year. Officially we come in contact with the mayors and councilmen; with the chiefs of fire departments; with the officers of commercial clubs or other organizations; and with the superintendents and teachers of the public schools. If we can interest all of these agencies in any particular place in the matter of fire prevention, then the problem is easy of solution. This we arc rarely able to do. In some places the mayor is interested, but he is timid. His powers are limited. He does not like to start a campaign of intrusion and inquisitiveness. It may be that in this same town the chief of the fire department is intelligent and strong, and if so, he will undertake the clean-up week and carry it to a successful conclusion. If. however, the mayor and the chief arc both conservatives, an appeal must be made to the local commercial club, or possibly to some woman’s club, and an appeal to these bodies or their officers hardly ever fails to bring a response. Some of the most successful fire prevention meetings and rallies had in our state have been promoted by the commercial clubs. Fire Prevention Day is given particular attention in our state in many of our public schools, as the subject of fire causes and fire dangers is required to be taught there. Last year we had many encouraging reports of the observance of the day from these schools. In a number of places essays were written by the pupils on fire prevention, and in some instances prizes were offered by commercial bodies or other to the pupils who gave the best essays. During the last four years our governor has designated by proclamation October 9th, the anniversary of the Chicago fire, as Fire Prevention Day. This serves to call public attention to the matter. The governor’s proclamation, or at least the substance of it, is usually copied in all our dailies and in most of our weekly paper, inasmuch as we send a printed copy of this proclamation to every paper in the state. Copies are also sent to the various superintendents of town and city schools, as well as tc the mayors, fire chiefs and presidents and secretaries of commercial clubs, with request that some effort be made to observe the day in practical and effective clean-up work. The people of our state are beginning to understand our work, and when they thoroughly understand its aim and objects they do not hesitate to give it their hearty support. Fire prevention must be made popular and to that end the educational features of the work must be kept in the foreground. Public sentiment —so necessary to the success of every forward movement—must be constantly cultivated. This is slow work, but it is the only work which produces results that endure. We must “Learn to labor and to wait.”
* Paper read at Convention of Fire Marshals* Association of North America, Chicago, 111., 1015.