Please don't send me e-mails directly quoting Snicket's books to me as though I've never read them!
VFD stands for Volunteer Fire Department. There is much evidence to support this, but I won't go in to all of it here. The one that convinced me is the first full page illustration in The Bad Beginning. Look carefully at the fireman's hat. Each book in ASoUE ends with an illustration that leads into the next book. For instance, the last full page illustration in The Bad Beginning features a snake coiled round a telephone pole, which refers to The Reptile Room. As I often think circuitously, I'm guessing that the important ending info may be contained in the very beginning.
VFD is not necessarily a fire department in the standard sense. I believe that they are a clandestine organization working to rid the world of arson. They identified themselves to fellow members through using names and phrases featuring the letters VFD, such as Vineyard of Fragrant Drapes and Veritable French Diner. Also note that their headquarters were originally made of emerald lumber. 'Green,' when describing wood, often refers to its freshness. Freshly cut, green wood does not burn as easily as old, dry wood. This is probably just a nice little metaphor that the VFD people like to use.
VFD takes neophytes who are good observers and against fire. There seems to be a pattern of using siblings in threes who come from wealthy families. Giving the organization familial bonds would help maintain VFD solidarity. Further, as volunteers, members are not paid for their VFD work and therefore need some other source of income.
Although I maintain that VFD is "Volunteer Fire Deparment," many other possibilities for what those three letters stand for have surfaced. On the surface, these appear to be red herrings to confuse the inquisitive reader. Yet this may also be a device used by VFD to signal their presence to those in the know.
The organization has in recent years been split into two factions: the true VFD, and Olaf's VFD. As all VFD members are so secretive, and Olaf's VFD has all of the same training in diguises and codes and such as the true VFD, it's rather difficult for anyone to differentiate between the two factions. This is probably the basis of Lemony Snicket's problem's with Beatrice. Beatrice was falsely lead to believe that Lemony was part of Olaf's VFD, and just an all-around evil arsonist. I wouldn't want to marry anyone allied with Olaf, either.
I no longer believe that Beatrice is the mother of the Baudelaires. I agree with those who think that this idea was just a red herring. It has also been brought to my attention that Ramona Quimby's sister was named Beatrice. A fun idea. I don't have any solid info on her yet. I do suspect that she may have been the mother of the Quagmire triplets, though. I am certain that Beatrice did know the Baudelaires, as well as Jerome Squalor. Not that Jerome is part of VFD; he just happens to be stuck in the middle of all of this.
The sugar bowl secret is driving me crazy. It's some sort of coded communication device, as well as a hiding place. The best I can come up with is that something is hidden inside the sugar bowls. A microphone has been suggested, but I don't like that idea. Mostly because it seems to me that the bowl would be a way of passing information to another person, and not a way for one person to collect information. Plus, there was that conversation between the Poes in the Anxious Clown restuarant that was being recorded. As Mr. Poe's sister was able to plainly see the recording device being used, I doubt that it was hidden in a sugar bowl. I think that Lemony stole Esme Squalor's sugar bowl because Esme was trying to pass false information to Beatrice.
The tunnel between 667 Dark Avenue and the Baudelaire property was dug by the original VFD. There are tunnels running beneath the entire city. VFD's headquarters have been located underground at times. The penthouse at 667 Dark Avenue was once the site of a VFD headquarters. The Baudelaire mansion was made of green wood, and burnt by Olaf and his associates. Yet there is currently no evidence about whether Olaf has used the tunnel between 667 Dark Avenue and the Baudelaire property for anything other than secretly transporting the Quagmire triplets.
Re: Survivor of Fire
The Unauthorized Autobiography
Animals | Anagrams | Beatrice | Conclusions | Duchess Letter 1 | Duchess Letter 2 | Jacques | Lemony | Miscellany | Olaf | Prospero | Questions | Sebald | Sister | Sugar Bowl | Timeline | Transcript | VFD | VFD Members | Vineyard | Words