Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

Guarding against Fires

It needs not for me to say that these chimneys are most unsafe, for during our first winter in this new town of Boston, hardly a week passed but that one or another caught fire; and among the first laws which our people passed was one providing for the appointment of firewardens, who should have the right, and be obliged, to visit every kitchen, looking up into the chimneys to see if peradventure the plastering of clay had been burned away.

Because of the number of these fires, and the likelihood that they would continue to visit us frequently, another law was made, obliging every man who owned a dwelling of logs to keep a ladder standing nearby, so that it might be easy to get at the thatched roof if the flames fastened upon it; and, as soon as might be, iron hooks with large handles were made to be hung on the outside of the buildings, for the purpose of tearing off the thatch when it was burning.

It has also been decided that when we have a church, as we count on within a year, a goodly supply of ladders and buckets shall be kept therein for the use of the entire town, and then, when a fire springs out, our people will know where to go for tools with which to fight against it.

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