A Masterly Report.
Chief Gardiner Kellogg of the Seattle (Wash.) Fire Department has favored us with a report of the commissioners of that city, which is in so many particulars interesting that we append several extracts. Say the commissioners: The rapid growth and building up of the city since the fire of June, 1889, has not had a parallel in this or any other country. On June 7, 1889, nothing but a burned waste covered with crumbling brick walls and charred and smoking foundations was to be seen. To-day a bustling, busy city wiih buildings four to nine stories in height, whose architectural beauty is not excelled anywhere. Over this waste hardly were the foundations cold before workmen were employed clearing the debris, and the erection of these enormous structures went forward. Haste to get under cover was the incentive, and while each was vieing with the other to get there first, many important matters were overlooked. No ordinance regulating the construction ot such buildings had been formulated, or if so, had been burned, and every precaution that should have been thrown around such structures were ignored or unthought of, the natural result is we have a city of brick walls enclosing hundreds of thousands of feet of inflammable pitchy lumber. These suggestions are not made from a desire to create any undue apprehension, but simply as a measure of safety that we consider to be of paramount importance ; let us forget for the moment our strife for more and try and make secure what we have already got.
The tire department consists of four engine companies, two truck companies, three chemical companies and a fire boat. When we assumed control of the department the force of the fire boat was twelve men and of the truck companies eight men, but by a recent ordinance of the council the force of the fire boat has been reduced to seven men and one of the truck companies to four men. This action we conceive to be disastrous to the efficiency of those two companies and virtually places them out of service. While not questioning the motives of the prime movers in this method of retrenchment, we wish to be put on record as to its results. The city can be congratulated in having two good engines in its service. The new engines purchased over two years ago have fulfilled every expectation. We wish as much could be said of the others. The two Gould engines purchased years ago have in a great measure outlived their usefulness and bear no comparison to engines of a later make. Ordinarily the life of an engine is about ten years, then its continued use requires large outlays to keep up its efficiency. Such outlays have already been made, but the engines are liable to fail us when we need them most. Economy would suggest that they be sold and others of later designs be substituted in their stead. The other apparatus of the department is in good condition.
People generally are slow to realize that a fire loss is apublic loss that it fails directly upon the people, and not upon insurance companies. Insurance companies are not philanthropic institutions, but are organized for the purpose of making money. They are quick to see to their own interests, and principally do they criticise the condition of the fire department. I he experience in our own city is unqualified proof of this statement. Before the organization of the present paid department insurance rates were so high as to practically prohibit a business man from insuring ; but on the organization of the paid department, and a liberal appropriation made for its maintenance, rates were quickly reduced, and as the department proved by its work that it was to be trusted, rates were continually reduced until now our rates are as low as any city on the coast, and the amount returned by the insurance companies to those having paid their premiums will carry the department for nearly two years. This result was simply a recognition of the fact that Seattle was supporting a thoroughly paid and equipped department. In consideration of this statement of facts let us not take a step backward, destroy the confidence had in our department by those who have the losses to pay, and which will surely be met with an advance in the rates of insurance, a result not pleasing to those whose burden even at present rates are hard to bear. It is poor statesman ship that in order to save the city treasury a certain sum compels the propertyowners to pay into the insurance companies a sum more than equivalent to the sum proposed to be saved. It is an erroneous impression that prevails that outlying districts are compelled to pay for a fire department that reduces the rates in the business portions of the city while not making the same substantial reduction in the suburbs. We are frequently told that it is an injustice to be taxed to pay for a department when that department cannot render any assistance to the party taxed. Cripple your business interests and the grass will grow in the streets of your city. The wealth and prosperity of a city and the value of its real estate and its homes are measured by its business prosperity. As well might you say the same of the water tax, the sewer tax, the police and street lighting tax. While the suburbs may not be supplied with water or sewer connections, will the individual argue the injustice of a tax for such purposes. They are necessary to the prosperity of a city. The necessity being admitted, then the proper question is, is the administration of such department economically conducled, and is an equivalent being had for the expenditure made ? This concerns every good citizen and he has a right to the fullest investigation.
Ahead in nearly every enterprise, Seattle is certainly away ahead in regard to the number of electric light wires running through its streets and alleys, but Seattle is away behind in its restrictions governing these dangerous necessities. Few appreciate the danger attending contact with the electric light wires or the conditions that create a contact. To come into contact with an electric light wire it is not necessary for any member of the body to come into actual contact with the wire ; simply raising a p.ile touching a wire will shock and kill the holder, conditions being perfect. Throwing a solid stream of water from a pipe even a hundred feet away touching the wire kills men at the pipe. Raising a ladder to enter a building on fire the ladder touching the wire, conditions being perfect, kills men on the ladder. It is a well established fact that electricity takes the shortest route to the ground—that route is created when any uninsulated matter touches it, whether wet wood, iron or a solid stream of water. This does not apply of course to many wires having but a small charge of electricity, but many are charged with a power that is certain death to those coming in contact by any of the methods stated above, and many ot these wires are but thirty or forty feet from the ground and iu alleys and streets where the department may be called at any moment to raise ladders or throw streams of water. Do not wait until death occurs before remedying this evil.
The pumping station on Lake Washington has a present capacity of 7,750 000 gallons per day. pumped direct into the mains and into a reservoir holding 4,500,000 gallons. The pumping station will shortly be reinforced by another pump of 5,000,000 gallons capacity daily, making a daily distribution of 12,750,000 gallons. The elevation of the reservoir above tide water is 253 feet, making a good working pressure at the hydrants on the lower levels of the city.