Willis R. Bealmear, 32
Denver, Colorado

A careful check for fire hazards in all Masonic facilities can prevent possible loss of property and life.

Fire Prevention Week, the first full week of October every year, is fast approaching. This brings to mind the thought, “How safe are our Lodges and members from fire and accident?” We members who are in the fire and safety business can do a great service by donating our talents and time to prevent tragedy or destruction of Lodge buildings. Some safety questions are:

-Is your Lodge taking precautions around burning candles?

-Are you using long extension cords, under-guaged wires, or wires with damaged insulation?

-Is the handling, storage, and use of denatured alcohol for torches, etc., done carefully?

A few Reunions ago a mishap occurred on the Degree floor. During the sprinkling of some powder on an open flame to make it sparkle, one of the sparkling bits landed in the container of unused powder which then erupted into flame. The lid had not been placed on the container of unused powder. The hair or costumes of the participants could have caught fire, but luckily this did not happen and a lesson was learned. All costumes, curtains, and floor coverings should be flame-proofed.

The fire extinguishers, exit lights, emergency battery-powered lights, automatic fire sprinklers, and the kitchen range hoods all need to be inspected periodically to have a fire-safe building. Many buildings used for Lodge work are getting old and have large rooms where fires could get a tremendous start before being discovered. Some of these buildings also have open stairways which act as chimneys to spread the fire upwards.

Let us address the possibility of having to evacuate a building in an emergency. The situation could be the following. On the second floor during Lodge, several elderly members are in attendance. Some are in wheelchairs or walking with canes. As the Secretary reads the minutes, a wisp of smoke begins to make its way into the Lodge room. Barely noticeable at first, the smoke begins to collect and fill the area. The meeting is hurriedly rapped to a close, and members are told to evacuate the building. As everyone heads for the stairs and elevator, the electricity goes off, and the hallways are dark.

The elevator no longer works and, in any case, should never be used in case of a fire. The batteries in the exit and emergency lights have not been checked and are inoperative. One member walking with the aid of a cane and another in a wheelchair cannot manage the stairs. Able members can see just enough to start down the stairs, but what of the others? The smoke is thick and cutting, causing most men to cough and gasp for air. One younger member gives support to the man with a cane, and two more lift the man from the wheelchair and carry him down the stairs.

As they reach the second floor, they hear the fire engines arriving and the firemen making their way up the stairs to help the members down and out the front door. Some are given oxygen, but no lives are lost, and fire damage, started by a defective electrical panel, is minimal. Your Lodge was lucky this time. Don’t say “It can’t happen at my Lodge.” It can, and it is never too early to plan a safe meeting place and to have a good evacuation plan.

Finally, I address all fire and safety professionals. Do your Lodge a favor now. Contact your Lodge Secretary and tell him you want to help make your building safe. The labor at least can be donated. If the building has a fire alarm system, see that it is inspected according to the local code and keep it in good working order.

My suggestion is for every Lodge to have an active safety committee. Let us keep our lives and our investment in these properties protected as much as possible!