A Night With London Firemen.
We take the following from The London Fireman: The weekly and other semi-class journals of the metropolis have a partiality for the fire brigade which is quite accountable. The varied scenes of a fireman’s life are never without their exciting features. An element of uncertainty at home and a still greater element of danger at work make him an interesting subject to what we may term “fireside readers.” Anon it was The Strand or Dickens’ or Scribner’s, or one of the minor literary lights; now it is Cassell’s Saturday Journal which takes up a phase of fire brigade work and weaves therefrom an interesting chatty article for the delectation of its readers. The article is from the pen of Mr. R. Dowling, and forms one of a series which, under the title of “ While London Sleeps,” is intended to describe the many occupations in which necessity compels those engaged therein to exercise their hands and brains whilst the majority of the tired inhabitants of the great city are sleeping. Mr. Dowling places before his readers a very entertaining account of what is to be seen and heard within a London district fire station at night. By the kindness of the chief officer he is permitted to inspect the station from “ cellar to garret,” or more properly from engine house to tower, gaining information ns lie goes. The whole duty of a fireman is exhibited to him in nnswet to his innumerable questions and the work described in an intelligible and interesting manner by the superintendent. “ Do they ever run over anyone,” he asks, after listening to a graphic picture of some exciting scenes on the way to a fire. *’ No,” is the response, “ We do dot run over anyone ; you sec we have such powerful brakes, and then we are most careful going round corners. Our instructions are never to go fast round corners. We always slacken before we come to a turn, and always go round with the weight of the engines on the traces ; for if the engine was running ahead while the horses were wheeling with slack traces, as soon as the strain caine on the traces suddenly at right angles the engine would most likely go over, and then where should we be ? Our first duty with the engine is like that of a gunner with his gun—to bring it into position at the highest speed consistent with efficiency.”
The scene which follows a call to a fire is thus pictured : A “ call ” the officer of the watch cries with as much excitement as though it were he and not I who had never heard one before. The man lying down rises, as if he found a pistol at his ear, and the fire escape man seizes a slate and looks at the clock.
The officer of the watch begins calling down the China throat of one of the telephones, while he holds the tube of it to his ear, and the man who has been on the stretcher follows his example with another telephone, as there has been another alarm. It appears there have been two calls at the one time, ‘l’lie fire escape man keeps writing on the slale. More bells ring and other telephones are being spoken into anil, I think, more men appear at the doorway. I say “ I think,” for at the word “call” 1 begin putting on my overcoat, and I have a half realized feeling of excitement and a half feeling that the noise and movement around me are some kind of make believe got up for my entertainment, and, upon the whole, I am a little confused and a good deal shame faced at standing by doing nothing while all around me are so busy. I feel it is very impertinent of me to stand here looking on while other men are working so strenuously and so swiftly against the most awful demon that can break loose in a city.
“Tower!” cries the officer of the watch. Silently and swiftly a man leaves the room.
The air now is full of “ Called by Bethnal Green museum fire alarm ; ” three or four voices seem to be uttering the words at once, and there is an undertone—a ghostly and hollow undertone—of “ Bethnal Green museum ” from the telephones.
Meanwhile bells arc ringing, and the place is beginning to thicken with firemen, and I catch glimpses of faces in helmets, which make me think I must have met these men thousands of years ago on the windy plains of Troy or, anyway, when I was very young in ** Pope’s Homer,” illustrated with steel plates.
Down the tube from the tower comes a whistle, and later the words “ There is a strong light hearing N. K.,” and then a voice calls out ** Nor’east,” and later from another telephone a voice cries out “ Nor’west,” and then all anxiety seems at an end, for the men know where the fir* is, though they have not heard and have not seen. To the men around me all this is quiet and orderly, hut my head seems thick, and while 1 think I see niy way through what is going on, my head feels thicker still.
Meanwhile, I hear the murmur of “ liethnal Green museum ” no longer. I still hear ” liethnal Green,” and then “ Toomy’s Renta, liethnal Green,” which means, 1 take it, that the telephonic message they got saying “ Nor’west ” enabled them to cut their own hearings, ** Nor’east,” exactly at the point of Intersection with their neighbors “ Nor’west,” so as to jxiint to Toomy’s Kents as the spot for which the engine ought to head. So it appears to be, and it turns out that the fire, a great timber yard, is at the hack of Toomy’s Rents.