A Proposed Chief’s Cabinet
The very striking address which leads our paper this week and which was delivered before the Pacific Coast Association of Fire Chiefs at their annual convention at Portland, Ore., by Franklin H. Wentworth, secretary of the National Fire Protection Association, contains a suggestion that perhaps, is one of the most important that has been put forth in the Fire Prevention field since that subject began to occupy attention. Secretary Wentworth’s plan is no less than a so-called “cabinet” for the chief of the fire department, composed of members of the N. F. P. A. in his town—including men in all professions and walks of life—who shall, under his direction, form a sort of permanent committee which he can call together as often as may be, and who will cooperate with him in making the city safe from a fire prevention standpoint. The importance of this suggestion is readily to be seen. These men—lawyers, doctors, architects, business men, insurance men, traders—whose every interest lies in preserving their native place from fire, and its good name from the calumny of fire carelessness and wastefulness, will stand back of the chief solidly when his fire preventive orders tread on the toes of any wealthy or politically important individual, who has a “pull,” and the enforcement of which threatens to bring the wrath of this influential person down about the ears of the chief. With this body of citizens back of him, the fire departments head need fear very little interference with his plans for fire protection and prevention. There is perhaps no more discouraging thing than for a consciencious chief, who is striving to improve the conditions in his city, to run against an insuperable obstacle in the form of a political friend of the powers that be. His duty is plain and he must do it in spite of this sinister influence. But, when the time comes for performance, the chief finds himself facing a solid stone wall of opposition that he is powerless to penetrate or remove. On the contrary, if the chief is fortunate enough to have back of him a body of non-partisan citizens, whose only axe to grind is the city’s welfare, all he needs to do is to state his case to them and the object will be attained. As Mr. Wentworth said to the chiefs:
You can see the value of such cooperation. The very fact that these men are in different walks of life is an advantage to you for nobody can charge that any special interest is behind any of your undertakings. A cross section of the N. F. P. A. membership in any city will give you the leading architect, the leading consulting engineer, the leading insurance agent, builder, manufacturer, warehouseman, credit man, department store manager, and so on,—not a bad group to understand your efforts and support them where support is needed! If an aspiring statesman tries to make political use of the fire department, he won’t get very far in it with a group like this about you, and you yourselves will not need to play politics where such a body of men stands ready to issue public statements on the plans and needs of your departments.
But even more important than this is the immense opportunity for stimulating the city’s development along Fire Prevention lines such a committee would give. Looking to the future, the drawing up and enforcement of proper building laws and regulations, the laying out of streets, the correct fire construction of buildings, the doing away with the dangerous and senseless wooden shingle—all of these, and many more would be made easy with the cooperation of such a cabinet with the fire chief. Secretary Wentworth’s suggestion should at once be put in practice in all of the cities where it has not been inaugurated.