Fire Prevention Week is the subject of this 1953 newpaper photo taken by Chattanooga Free Press photographer Bob Sherrill. Contributed photo from

In the 1950s, Fire Prevention Week in Chattanooga was a citywide obsession.

This photograph from 1953 was part of a blitz of media coverage for Fire Prevention Week, which was supported wholeheartedly by mid-century public officials, civic leaders and ordinary citizens alike.

The first week in October that year saw daily newspaper coverage of Fire Prevention Week activities and themes.

This photo was taken in the 700 block of Market Street with iconic businesses such as the State Theater, Baker's Shoes and S.H. Kress Co. 5 & 10 Cents Store in the background.

Seen here, according to newspaper archives, are J. Byron Taylor, at left, representing the Fire Prevention Week Committee of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, and Capt. James Sullivan of the Chattanooga Fire Department.

The street display included tips for fire prevention — "Curtains too close to the stove?" — and "grim photos of fire damage," according to an October 1953 photo caption in the Chattanooga Free Press. The machine in the photo is an old (even for 1953), horse-drawn fire engine.

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Downtown shoppers got the message: "Remember, you'll be alive tomorrow if you've practiced fire safety today."

In a companion article published alongside this photo, then-Chattanooga Mayor P.R. "Rudy" Olgiati framed fire prevention as a great patriotic duty that the community owed its veterans who had returned home from World War II and the Korean conflict.

"Our veterans, for whom everyone is striving to provide homes, apartments and living accommodations, cannot afford to have the existing accommodations destroyed [by fire]," Olgiati said.

Also that week in 1953 the newspaper featured coverage of then-Chattanooga Fire Department Chief Michael Quinn cautioning students at South St. Elmo School that waste paper can be a fire hazard.

There was also a full page public service ad in the Chattanooga Free Press that week trumpeting the fact that: "You should know fire first aid."

Among the tips on the page were: Don't smoke in combustible areas. Don't use an emery wheel for grinding where flammable materials are being stored. And check heating devices for defects.

This photo is part of the Free Press collection of images at, curated by Sam Hall. Join the "Remember When, Chattanooga" public group on Facebook.

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