The fireman are feared people in their society. They have the sign of the phoenix emblazoned on their helmets, and they wear black shirts with dramatic orange snakes sewn up the arms. They work at night and create fires ignited by hoses that pump out kerosene and "burn ... the evening sky red and yellow and black." The night heavens provide a dramatic backdrop for their displays.
Their sirens shriek as they arrive at a house, alerting the neighborhood to their presence. They bang down doors with dramatic entrances and swing their silver hatchets everywhere, maximizing destruction as they move through a home. One of their rules is to "burn everything."
The repressive state government wants people to know it will not tolerate its citizens reading. It does what it can to make the appearance of the firemen a terrifying and very visible event so that others will take heed and obey the law. The firefighters are like Nazi stormtroopers, destroying all that is in their path.