The uncomfortable truth has long been recognized that our building is so constructed that if the incipient flames were not quickly extinguished, the whole structure would rapidly be consumed.
-1897 Biennial Report
In his book, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane, Dr. Thomas Kirkbride recommended that mental hospitals to be constructed “in the most substantial manner” using brick or stone instead of wood. The main reason Kirkbride gives against building wooden hospitals is the risk of fire. While the exterior of the Oregon State Hospital is made out of the Kirkbride recommended brick, lumber features heavily in its construction. This wood, coupled with the wood-fired early heating system, created a serious fire risk.
Some attempts were made to address the threat of fire within the building plans. For example, OSH implemented the use of iron covered fire doors between the wings and wards of the hospital. As reported by the Morning Oregonian in 1883, this was a strategic choice: