Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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During 1943-45, fire protection services at Manzanar continued to be provided by three platoons of 16 evacuee men each under the direction of an appointed fire protection officer and an assistant fire protection officer. An evacuee fire chief and an assistant evacuee fire chief supervised the three platoons. Until January 2, 1945, the three platoons rotated on an 8-hour schedule. After that date, they went on 24-hour duty, with off-duty periods of 48 hours. Each platoon consisted of one captain, one assistant captain, and 14 firemen. The average number of firemen on regular duty during 1943 was 34, and in 1944 the average number was 40. During both years, the number of volunteer fire fighters was 34.

The camp fire department also had seven fire inspectors, each assigned to a certain portion of the camp to ensure fire safety regulations were employed. The fire inspectors were responsible directly to the fire protection officer. The chief hazards that the inspectors looked for were pennies that had been inserted behind burned-out fuses, homemade electric cookers, frayed or worn extension cords, line overloads, papers or other combustibles stored in or beneath dwellings, and carelessness in places where public assemblies were conducted. The inspectors also supervised the fire drills in the elementary and high schools and gave fire prevention talks in the recreation and mess halls. Each day the platoons were taken out for drill and instruction supervised by the fire protection officer or his assistant.

On April 3, 1943, a Dodge fire truck was delivered to the center. The truck had a pump capacity of 500 gallons per minute and carried 1,200 feet of 2 1/2-inch and 200 feet of 1 1/2-inch fire hose and 150 feet of 1-inch booster tank hose with nozzle. Shortly thereafter, the motor pool provided a 1/2-ton pick-up truck that carried 1,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose with nozzles. These two trucks, in addition to the Ford pumper acquired in 1942, permitted the laying of at least five lines of 2 1/2-inch fire hose at major fires.

The total number of fires reported at Manzanar between July 1, 1942, and June 30, 1945, was 91. Of this total, 18 occurred in the mess halls, 27 in the barracks, 17 in the service buildings, and 21 were grass/brush fires. Building damage was estimated to be $6,819, contents damage was $16,096, private loss was $2,933, and government loss was $19,982.

On July 28, 1944, Manzanar's only large fire occurred, destroying warehouses 33, 34, and 35. Origin of the fire was never determined, and the total government loss incurred was $20,632, with $1,581 in additional loss to evacuees who had power and hand carpentry tools stored in the warehouses. The fire was not discovered until flames billowed through the roof. A still alarm preceded the telephoned alarm by several minutes.

All off-duty firemen reported for work, and volunteers were numerous "but of little help, because of a strong south wind which drove the flames toward block 4 and the several blocks in line with it." Evacuees living in the endangered blocks sprinkled their own roofs, while block fire brigades, which had been formed by the block managers at the recommendation of the fire protection officer the year before, wet down roofs of nearby warehouses 16, 17, and 18 and assisted the residents of Block 4 in wetting the roofs of their barracks. Some 1,200 feet of 2 1/2-inch and 150 feet of 1-inch hose were laid at the scene of the fire. All available equipment at the center was on hand for use. [66] In August 1945, the evacuee fire protection force at Manzanar had declined to such a low point that two Caucasian experienced fire fighters were employed to bolster "the dwindling force of evacuee firemen, many of whom were new on the job because of rapid turnover." During the next several months, two additional Caucasians, who had neither previous fire fighting training nor experience, were hired. In September 1945, a new schedule was arranged whereby two platoons, each headed by an assistant fire protection officer and consisting of two fire fighters and such volunteers from the appointed personnel as could be on hand in the event of fire, served 24 hours on duty followed by 24 hours off duty. By November 1, all evacuee firemen had relocated, thus leaving fire protection for the camp in the hands of the hired fire fighters and volunteers from the appointed personnel who continued to receive weekly drills. [67]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002