A CENTURY’S PROGRESS.

A CENTURY’S PROGRESS.

NO. II.

PROGRESS IN THE SCIENCE OF FIREFIGHTING.

(Specially written for FIRE AND WATER.)

WHEN Prometheus stole the sacred fire from heaven, cunningly hidden in the hollow of a reed, and taught the ignorant earthlings of the day that in it was contained the principle of life, he was the first to pave the way for the universal use of that element, without which man would still have been in that state of barbaric simplicity which hardly knew its right hand from its left. With the knowledge of its usefulness as a helpmeet for man came also that of its tyrannical and overwhelming power as a master, transforming it from a simple household drudge to an all too potent foe, whose triumphant sway, even in the twentieth century, men are not unfrequently powerless to resist.

A CENTURY OLD.

Of course, so long as men dwelt chiefly in tents, and so long as the fenced cities of the day consisted of mere mud hovels, defended by a mud wall against any attacks from without, fire loss, even in the lightest degree,was a something unknown. So long also as the cave-dwelling age or that of the lake-dwellers in their rude huts thatched, if thatched at all, with a mixture of sedge and clay, sheltered the men of prehistoric days, or, indeed, while the huge piles of granite and marble, whose vast remains are seen today in Egypt, Assyria, and Eastern India, the Cyclopean structures of Greece and Italy—antedating by hundreds of yeurs the splendid temples and palaces of Greek and Eutin times, those who inhabited them could afford to hold an outbreak of fire in contempt—it was only the poor downtrodden serfs of peasants and slaves whose huts the flames ever ravaged—and the lives of such as these were cheap. Today, in the beginning of the twentieth century, it is not very different in some parts of Europe, such as Constantinople and some miserable villages in Russia. It is much the same in many cities of Hindostan and China, where countless wretched hovels of reed, or cane, or at best mud and grass, are huddled together in most fire-inviting disorder. At frequent intervals these are swept by the flames, only to be run up again to court a like destruction.

HOW IS IT AT HOME ?

In this respect quite a large number of the villages— even of some ambitious towns and small cities in the United States and Canada are in nearly as bad a plight, and without the same shadow of excuse as in the almost barbarous districts in Europe and Asia, where lack of knowledge and an apathy, the offspring of fatalism,render the people indifferent to danger and callous amid suffering. A glance at the list of fires including those from $10,000 upwards which appears weekly in the columns of FIRE AND WATER,where there is an equal lack of fire protection and fire insurance, bears witness either to a reliance on Providence amounting to superstition, or a stupid and criminal carelessness about, and disregard of the rights of others, which certainly should not be among the ruling characteristics of the twentieth century. Strange as it may seem, it is not the big conflagrations that swell the yearly losses that yearly cause the annual ashheap of this country to show a large row of figures reaching far into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The fierce and destructive conflagrations, as a rule,are either forest fires or fires which break out in the large business places in our great cities, and, generally speaking, are the exception rather than the rule,and not unfrequently are traceable rather to starvation of the department and the water system, or the presence of politics in the city councils which has affected both the morale and the personnel of the firelighting force. Taken all round, It will be seen that the mischief is done by the number of what may be called less destructive fires where the loss falls below $50,000 or even $25,000. Eliminate these from the list and the showing would by no means be so formidable. And here it may be noticed that the mere fact of these smaller fires being so rapidly controied and thereby prevented from assuming destructive proportions speaks well for the efficiency of our twentieth century means of extinguishing fire. It is quite within the recollection of hundreds of our firemen when, even with the best intentions and the means at their disposal, it was impossible for the men and apparatus to reach the scene of a fire before it had gained such headway as not only to cause the destruction of the building in which it broke out, but also to spread on each side so fiercely as to involve other buildings in the common destruction.

THE STYLE IN l801.

OUR EXCELLENT FIRE DEPARTMENTS.

And in that particular is to be found the excellence of the fire departments on this continent. A wellregulated up-to-date department—especially if full paid, as ought to be the case in every city of any pretentions to importance—differs as totally from the old volunteer fire departments of the first part of the last century both in men and in equipment as these did from the crude attempts at fire departments and fire equipment which did duty in 1800. These, again, differ from the bucket brigades of preceding centuries, right back to early English, French, and Dutch organizations of that character, when to stop a fire were called to the scene old tanks on wheels, with most primitive handpumping arrangements, heavy brass nail-studded leather hose, ordinary buckets with which to keep the supply up (that supply itself coming from any well or spring or brook available) rickety old ladders, and crews taken at haphazard from tho bystanders. The sole means of turning in an alarm was, as today in Turkey, China, quaint Alpine or Irish or Scottish villages, and in no few American and Canadian towns, by ringing a peal on an alarm bell, hung possibly as at Atlanta, Ga., in an oldfashioned fire tower, or sending men carrying lanterns if the fire were at night, and shouting “fire” at the top of their voices. Today we have the Gamewell system established in our streets, with its boxes on every hand, and its delicately arranged switchboards at the central station ready ut u moment’s notice to call out its twenty, forty, one hundred or more men and their apparatus to fly to the blaze often before it has had time to get well alight—a speed which is added to by the various auxiliary systems installed in schools,business houses, hotels, theatres, concert halls, and the like—some of these systems being so delicate that the slightest Increase in heat, such, for instance, as that of a lueifer match lighting in their neighborhood,causes them to go off and summon two or more companies of firemen. Of itself that is a wondrous achievment; but, taken by itself, it would not amount to half the battle, had not modern ingenuity devised the three horse and other hitches, the sliding pole, the various means for simplyfiing the opening and shutting the doors, the admirably trained horses which literally devour the space between the station and the fire.

A MODERN FIREHOUSE.

And here a word as to the arrangement of the firehouses is not out of place. Some belonging to the volunteer departments may be seen to be clubhouses more or less elaborately fitted up rather than workaday buildings, whose chief use is the housing of firemen and their apparatus. But even these follow the same ground plan and are moulded on the same lines, so ordered as to secure the maximum of convenience and all subordinated to the one idea of getting horses apparatus and men out in the minimum of seconds. By the employment of Buch means as thsse alluded to our firemen, if only duly summoned and properly equipped, are able to reach a fire and get to work in a few seconds,in contradistinction to the days when ihe apparatus had to be slowly and painfully hauled to the scene of action by relays of volunteers harnessed to long ropes—too often to find either that their labors had been altogether in vain or that through defective hose, or lack of wuter supply, for then there were not fire hydrants at. every few yards, nor expensive water systems — the best they had were tanks dug at intervals at certain street corners)they were of no use. As in the days offthe great fire in London, and on many occasions since, recourse was had to heroic measures, and gunpowder accomplished what the firemen had failed to do. And just as the old days of the rope-hauled fire-engine are at an end, so those of all obsolete methods drawn by horses is nearing its end.

THE NEW WAY.

HIGH BUILDINGS.

The Introduction of what were called high buildings of tweuty-ftve or thirty years Ago imported new peril into the fire service—those of saving lives from the topmost floors of such structures and of reaching them, when on fire, with the greatest possible speed and efficiency from the ground. To these needs are due the aerial ladder in all its various shapes and the watertower and its modifications in all our large cities, as well as the building of those magnificent lire boats, such as are to be seen at work in New York, Buffalo, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and elsewhere. The contrast between one of these gigantic fire-fighters and the rafts used for the same purpose today as 200 years ago in Dutch and German seaport towns is objectively known by a glance at the illustration accompanying this article—a contrast which, perhaps, more vividly than any other marks the advance made in fire-fighting in this the twentieth century.

THE OLD WAY

THE CHEMICAL ENGINE.

In their own way also do the chemical engines make similar progress, and many a country town, to say nothing of many a store or apartment in this and other cities can arise and call blessed these ingenious inventions which, by simply throwing chemical finid upon a slight fire or even on one of larger growth has extinguished it at a tithe of the cost which must have ensued, had a deluge of water from a steamer been thrown upon it. Of ail the fire-fighting inventions of the nineteenth century, the chemical fire engine, whether singly or in combination form, lias proved itself one of the most useful tools in the fire service of the day.

OTHER NEW DEVICES.

And so it is with the other implements used; and space would be unnecessarily sacrificed if details were entered into as to the twentieth century hose and its improved couplings, the many new nozzles—all more or less meritorious, the cellar pipes, the life-saving apparatus, the head protectors, and the many devices without which no first-class lire department can be looked upon as complete. Muny of these devices, as well as those already referred to are peculiar to America, and are virtually principally called for in America, where the buildings are not of the slow-burning type met with in Europe, where, therefore, such excessive speed in getting to a fire is thought not to be so necessary. But the recent exhibition of fire-fighting methods at Vincennes, in connection with the international fire congress held last year at Paris, has opened the eyes of foreigners to the superior advantages of the American system and provoked a spirit of emulation, which will likewise be productive of imitation on the part of those who are responsible for the management and equipment of non-American fire departments.

IMPROVED FACILITIES.

Nearly all these improvements in firefighting have been made during the last thirty years,and are due in great measure to the introduction of paid fire departments and the erection of high buildings in so many of our large cities. The last cause has gone far to revolutionize the science of fire-fighting and the more general acceptance of fire-resistent, if not of absolutely fireproof structures lias given rise to considerable speculation as to what shall be its future. There are some who hold that the day of the usual appurtenances of a lire department will be discarded, and that in the future the chief reliance of lire chiefs will be upon interior standpipes, firepumps, and, where possible, on independent fire lines and fireboats. Others take the contrary view, and hold that there will be greater scope for improved apparatus, as experience in this city, in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Pittsburgh has show n that the so-called fireproof buildings neither act the part of firestayers amid surrounding structures nor can they be looked upon even as safe in themselves. Many regard them as absolute sources of danger, and quote, not altogether without reason, the recent explosion and accompanying disastrous fire in the Tarrunt drug warehouse—the result of a too implicit confidence in the safety of w hat w as considered an absolutely fireproof building. Time alone can solve the problem, and doubtless as the science of electricity, with its facilities for business and locomotion increases, so also will the dangers attendant upon its free introduction increase m due proportion—the result beiug still further changes and still further improvements in fire-fighting apparatus, all, of course, in the direction of greater efficiency, expedition, and ease of handling.

A CENTURY’S PROGRESS.

0

A CENTURY’S PROGRESS.

NO. I.

PROGRESS IN HYDRAULIC AND SANITARY ENGINEERING.

(Specially written for FIRE AND WATER.)

DURING the past century the wheels of progress have rolled round at a rapid rate, and the advancement made in all things that pertain to the betterment of humanity has been evidenced very strongly in those lines to which FIRE AND WATER is particularly devoted. One hundred years ago hydraulic and sanitary engineering had hardly emerged from the cradle stage, while fire protection was an absolute burlesque. In some countries of the world—notably in Italy, the splendid, if ruined aqueducts bore witness to the days when the need of a pure water supply, to be obtained at whatever expense,was fully recognized, while the gigantic sewer works in Rome point to a similar recognition on the part of the early Roman kings of the necessity for draining off the superfluous water of the city, together with whatever surface filth accumulated in the streets of the Imperial Mistress of the world.

WATER DISTRIBUTION IN l801.

But, after all, these works were intended not so much for general, as particular utility. Theenormous aqueducts were built to bring water to the rich rather than to the poor—to supply, first, their luxurious private baths and, then, as an after thought, the public baths of the city, as well as the various fountains,which, with wells, afforded the people the only means of obtaining water for domestic purposes. The first intention of these aqueducts, however, was to supply water for bathing purposes and for the many lustrations, or purificatory ceremonies which accompanied the worship of their countless deities.

It was the same with the sewers. Sanitary conditions never entered into the minds of their royal builders. What they looked for was the prevention of flooded and unclean streets, and to facilitate the escape of the water from the baths, lavatories, and temples. Services to the houses, whether of water or for sewerage purposes, were not contemplated—the result being a total absence of all domestic sanitary arrangements.

A FALLING AWAY.

With the decline and fall of the Roman empire came a corresponding decline in the way of wuter supply and sanitary conveniences. There was retrogression rather than progress, till, finally, king and subject, emperor and serf had to put up with whatever water was afforded them by well or spring, brook or lake, stream or river. Of sewage disposal by filtration or otherwise they had neither knowledge nor idea, and what is now carried away in the sewers, and not unfrequently utilized (after treatment) for sewage farm purposes, was left to be washed away by the rain into the nearest water,or suffered to accumulate in cesspools or the gutters in the streets. That the “Black Death ” smallpox, and other diseases decimated whole communit ies in consequence, need cause no surprise, and that those who lived in the middle ages and later on till the beginning of the last century were the healthy, sturdy, and robust specimens of humanity that they were, was due solely to the less artificial habits of life which prevailed in these days, their perpetual exposure to the open air on horseback or on foot,their early hours,and their substantial fare, and this, in spite of their utter neglect of all sanitary laws—a neglect which was more than fully avenged in those visitations of pestilence which occurred periodically in Europe.

ANCIENT HYDRAULIC ENGINEERS.

At the same time hydraulic engineering and machinery were not unfamiliar to the “rude forefathers” of these earlier centuries—if only in the shape of the wells still to be seen in Egypt, even in some parts of Europe, to this day, where water was draw’ll from the wells by means of a windlass, the motive power of which (as has been illustrated before in FIRE ANDWATKR) was an ox or an ass, or the tread wheel arrangement by which the water of the Nile was (and is still) raised and distributed over the fields by the fellaheen. These there were and these there are today; but we read also of the discoveries in hydraulics by Ctesibius, Heron, his pupil, Archimedes, and others; and all adown the roll of centuries till 1801 we come across the names of those who served as pioneers to make straight the highway that has led to the wonderful works that now confront us— the pumping engines, the giant reservoirs and muins, aqueducts, such as the Croton, filter plants, canals such as those of Suez, Lachine, Kiel, Chicago (drainage), Welland and the rest, each bearing witness to the triumph of mind over matter,which leads captive even the forces of Nature herself.

PROGRESS DURING TOE LAST FIFTY YEARS.

Nearly all these great achievements seem to have come to UB in the last, half of the nineteenth century. The first twenty years of 1900 were too much taken up with wars to allow of much attention being given to such work; and the next thirty were taken those of groping towards higher light than of arriving at light itself—the dawn of the fuller perfection yet to be reached. The day of the cesspool (even yet not abolished), of the ordinary furmyuad and cottage drawwell and the homely old pump well, with the old oaken buckets or iron ladles, the windmill well, or, where greater advances had been made—as in this city —of the wooden pipe or one of cement—not yet superseded, and, save in a few of our larger cities, a waterworks system was a thing unheard of, uncared for, not even desired.

Not that there were none in this country. At the beginning of the century a few far-seeing men had built crude systems and supplied their respective neighborhoods, and for many years private ownership con tinued to be the rule, the number of public or municl pal Bystems being under one score. Now, however, municipalities, seeing that there is money in water-works, have gone extensively into the business, and, judging from the increase in such systems and the cry that is generally being raised for municipal ownership of water, it may safely be predicted that, long before the end of the twentieth century, municipal ownership will be the rule, and private ownership the exception, in Canada this preference is most distinctly marked— over seventy-five per cent, of the waterworks systems being run on the public ownership plan.

HOW OUR FOREFATHERS DISTRIBUTED WATER.

IMPROVEMENTS IN MACHINERY, ETC.

As to the improvements in waterworks machinery and plants: The limits of this article will not admit of more than briefly mentioning their names. Possibly the contrasts as given in the accompanying illustrations will show them more eloquently than any description in words. For the windmill, the draw, and the pump well, we have now the artesian well, the pumping engine (palatiaUy housed, like that at Indianapolis) the air-lift, or the gasolene engine, with its simple pnmp. For the stream or fountain, the rude tank, or the rough-hew n natural basin, we have substituted the reservoir—as often as not formed by damming some mighty mountain gorge, as at Butte, Mont., and elsewhere. For the primitive ox-drawn water eart which distributed water to our forefathers in the primitive American villages less than a hundred years ago, the Egyptian sakhah of today,with his skin bag filled with water, or the cement or wooden pipe to lead the water from the spring or reservoir, we now see the giant conduit or main of steel or iron, or, as in the West, of wmoden staves strongly bound with iron hoops, and the cunningly arranged services leading right up to the top Of the highest skyscraper. In fact,in an up-to-date nineteenth century water system the consumer, as a rule, has very little—in most cases nothing—to complain of: his needs and wants are consulted on every side.

WATER METERS.

He also has marched with the times and demands pure water and plenty of it. Hence it is that today there are between 3,000 and 4,000 waterworks systems which serve the fire departments of their respective neighborhoods from fire, and also give an ample supply of water at a moderate rate. The statistics of the various systems show that the supply is based upon a thoroughly liberal scale—the per capita consumption being often far beyond the possible needs of the people. That is to say: A very large portion of the water is wasted. This waste is divisible into wilful and unavoidable—the latter from leakage and other defects. The wilful waste is what is causing the trouble, not only scarcity of water and the added expenses of pumping, salaries, fuel, etc., and the trouble and inconvenience and expense of looking for, and obtaining a further source of supply, but also of forcing the conscientious water taker or the one who uses only a sniull quantity of water to pay for him whose conscience permits him to be utterly reckless in his use of the water supplied him. This eminently unfair arrangement has brought the necessity for the use of the water meter into prominent notice, with the result that in many large cities, notably Richmond, Va., all the water supplied is metered, whereby not only is the wilful waste of water stopped, but also the equitable principle is established that, as with gas or electrical power, so with water, no one pays for more than he consumes. This basic principle, which has obtained such a sure footing during 1900, will doubtless become firmly established before the present century is much older.

FURNISHING WATER IN tool.

FILTRATION OF WATER.

But, in addition to having an abundant supply of water, the consumer must now have it as pure as art and science can make it. Experience of a deadly sort has shown him that many deadly diseases and notably typhoid fever and diphteria, are traceable to the respective germs of these ills being found in the water. That under certain conditions water should be filtered or boiled before being drunk has always been admitted. Hence we find the Egyptian of today making use of the same rude (but not ineffective) type of filter that was common possibly in the days of the Pharaohs. We also find an approach to the principle in the sedimentation basins, in the charcoal used as a medium for filtration on a small scale; in reservoirs lined with alternate layers of sand and gravel, sometimes coke, or the percolation through chalk in use in many places. None of these, however, were sufficient to accomplish the task satisfactorily, till during the latter part of the last century the principle of slow sand filtration was tried in Europe. It proved a complete success, and in cities like Hamburg, for instance, where the mortality caused by drinking the polluted waters of the Elbe had reached a formidable figure,the death rate was so reduced as to rank t hem among the healthiest cities in the world. London water companies are bound by Act of Parliament to supply filtered water to their customers—one of the largest of these filtering establishments being that at Hampton. The movement in time reached this country, and today Lawrence, Mass., and Albany, N. Y., among others, testify to the efficacy of this style of filtration.

About 1883 another system of filtration came to the front in the shape of mechanical filters, in which a very small amount of coagulant is used in the water to be treated. One of the many advantages of this system (besides those of economy, rapidity, and thoroughness) is that it effectually removes vegetable matter,bad color, silt, evil smell, and iron, etc. (aeration often accompanying the process in the case of the last two species of impurity). This system is now adopted in considerably over a hundred places, and with great success. Amongst these is the plant [at Norfolk, Va., noticed elsewhere in this impression.

The above brief resume of some of the salient improvements in waterworks systems bears witness to the improvements during the past century. He who essays a like task in 2001 will doubtless be able t o chronicle the triumphs won by electricity or who knows what other wonderous motive power.