Where’s my fire bucket?

So, yesterday we established that if you were a homeowner or landlord in 1800 Albany, you were expected to supply leather buckets in good working order for use in fighting fires, and that the number of buckets you were to supply was essentially N-1, where N was the number of fireplaces in the dwelling. (Negative numbers were not considered for enforcement purposes.) From time to time, those buckets had to be put to use, and you were expected to pony up your buckets to help in fighting fires. That’s why putting your initials on them was one of the requirements. “All buckets used for the purpose of extinguishing fires, if the same shall not be claimed by the owners thereof, shall, within forty-eight hours after such fire is extinguished, be sent to the city-hall of the said city, and committed to the custody of the keeper of the gaol [jail], to be by him retained till the owner thereof shall claim and take the same; and that if any person other than the said gaoler, shall retain any such bucket, not being the other thereof, longer than forty-eight hours after such fire shall be extinguished, he or she shall forfeit the sum of one dollar.”

Also, the law ordained that “when and as often as any accident by fire shall happen in the said city, the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen and Assistants, shall respectively, wear across their shoulders a white linen sash, of at least the breadth of three inches; and the Mayor, Recorder, or any one of the Aldermen, or any one of the Assistants, shall and may require and direct all and every person present, at or near such fire, to employ and exert himself for the extinguishment of such fire, in such manner as such Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen or Assistant shall point and direct; and if any person so being present at or near such fire, shall neglect or refuse to comply with such direction of such Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen or Assistant, he shall forfeit and pay the sum of two dollars and fifty cents.” So, fire in the city, on go the sashes, and you have to do what the guys wearing the sashes tell you to do.

How were fires to be prevented, besides the inspection of fireplaces and leather buckets? Well, there were some rules. For one thing, it was ordained that no hay or straw should be put or kept in stacks in any yard or garden, “or in any place than in a close building.” It was also ordained that no hay, straw or Indian corn-stalks were to be within five feet of any chimney, hearth or fireplace, at risk of a penalty of $1.25 for every 48 hours the condition persisted.

Additionally, there were restrictions on another cause of fire – it was ordained “that if any person shall fire or discharge any gun, pistol, rocket, cracker, squib or other fire-work, in any street, lane or alley, or in any yard, garden or other inclosure, or in any place which persons frequent to walk, within the limits of the said city, such person shall forfeit for every such offence the sum of fifty cents; and on neglect or refusal to pay such forfeiture (if such offender has no goods or chattels) such offender shall be committed to the common gaol of the said city, there to remain for the space of three days, unless such forfeiture be sooner paid.” Again, since this language was concentrated within the general provisions on fire, we can assume the concern wasn’t that someone in the city was going to get shot, but that gunfire or fireworks could start a fire.


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