Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Fire Protection

Under the WCCA, a Fire Protection Section, consisting of trucks provided by the Motor Pool and a small crew, was established soon after the camp opened under the supervision of the Assistant Project Director in charge of operations. The equipment consisted of 50-foot sections of 3/4-inch garden hose, water buckets, and long-handled shovels. Hydrants were constructed by the Corps of Engineers who supplied 2 1/2-inch firehose and nozzles.

When the WRA assumed administration of Manzanar on June 1, the fire department crew consisted "of a fire chief, three Caucasian captains and thirty Japanese firemen split among three eight hour shifts." The camp had no fire alarm system or inter-barracks telephone system "over which the occurrence of fires might be reported." At night, the camp was patrolled "by one Japanese for each area of three blocks." To report a fire, the patrolmen had "to go by foot to the fire station." Each squad was drilled one hour daily "in the use of the fire equipment and extinguishers."

Foamite extinguishers had been installed "in the hospital units, each boiler room, laundry building and mess kitchen." Buckets of sand had been placed in the boiler room in each block. All "available water barrels with buckets" had been placed "at strategic locations throughout the center," and residents had been instructed in the use of "the improvised equipment until the fire department" arrived.

Locks had been ordered for fuse boxes "to prevent solid fusing with pennies or other devices." Open fires were not allowed without a permit, and no permits were issued "on windy days after 2 P.M." [31]

Under the WRA, the Fire Protection Section was expanded, and on July 11 the U. S. Forest Service provided a Ford V-8 pumper with a capacity of 500 gallons per minute. During the summer, a Fire Protection Adviser attached to the San Francisco office of the WRA visited Manzanar, inspecting the equipment and assisting the center fire departments in the removal of fire hazards. [32]

The WRA expanded the firefighting force at Manzanar. From July 1 through December 31 the average number of evacuee firemen on regular duty was 28, while the number of volunteer fire fighters was 34. Twelve fire inspectors conducted 30,449 inspections, identifying 782 fire hazards and issuing 755 violation notices. The fire department provided technical advice on 27 occasions and conducted 34 fire drills. The WRA increased the amount of training that the regular firefighters received. Regular firemen received an average of 5-6 hours of training, but the volunteer firemen received none. During this period fire reports indicate that the fire department responded to 27 (11 grass; 7 mess halls; 4 living quarters; 4 service buildings; 1 other buildings) fires in the camp in which $120 worth of property was lost. The principal causes of the fires were defective oil heater stoves, open lights, flames, and sparks, defective or overheated chimneys and flues, smoking, electrical appliances, matches, and sparks on roofs. [33]

Postal Service

When Manzanar opened in March 1942, the problem of mail delivery for the evacuee population became immediately apparent. As the WCCA was dominated by the Army, a system was worked out with the U.S. Post Office Department that was similar to mail installations in military camps. Under this system, mail would be delivered by the Post Office to the center, and the responsibility for its distribution to individuals was the responsibility of the center's management.

The U.S. Post Office Department established the Manzanar Post Office within the center, making it a substation of the Los Angeles Post Office. The acting postmaster at Manzanar and his first assistant were postal employees of the Los Angeles Post Office assigned to the center. When additional help was needed, the Manzanar Post Office employed residents of the surrounding communities as substitute clerks.

All incoming evacuee parcel post, freight, and express were opened and inspected for contraband by the military police. When a package arrived, the evacuee, was sent a notice. When he called for his package, a member of the military police inspected it in his presence.

The post office maintained a main office and five substations in the offices of the Information Service. Before carrier service was begun, residents of the center frequently waited for four or five hours in line to obtain their mail, and those on work detail often did not receive their mail. After numerous complaints, carrier service was initiated, and three carriers were assigned to every six blocks for daily mail delivery.

The postal unit installed drop boxes throughout the center. Before closing time at the Manzanar Post Office, mail clerks collected this mail and delivered it to the Post Office.

The initial organization of the postal unit was carried out by an evacuee who had many years of experience as a postal clerk with the Los Angeles Post Office prior to evacuation. Thus, the organization was made along the lines used in the various post offices in the U.S. Post Office Department. This system was continued by the WRA when it took over administration of the camp. [34]

The Manzanar Post Office provided the residents with all regular postal services such as money order, mail registry, C.O.D., and sales of United States war bonds. Evacuees handling mail were employed by the WRA under the regular employment program at Manzanar. These employees consequently were not bonded and were not permitted to sell money orders, register mail, or handle sales of war bonds or stamps. All such postal services were available at the main postal unit where non-Japanese civil service employees of the Post Office Department were on duty. [35]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002