A Question of Salvage.
Recently an alarm of fire was given in Brooklyn for the East Division, and Assistant Chief Smith proceeded with the apparatus at his command to the scene. The fire was found to be in a large brewery, a few blocks beyond the city limits. Had the Assistant Chief obeyed orders literally, he would have returned to quarters with his apparatus, for the regulations prohibit its being taken outside of the city. But here was property valued at from §75,000 to $100,000 in danger of destruction within a stone’s throw of the prescribed limits. He took the responsibility ol crossing the line, putting his Engines and men at work, and thus saved from destruction $50,000 or $60,000 worth of uninsured property. In doing so, the Companies were obliged to take water wherever they could find it, from filthy ponds, and other sources, and, as a consequence, very many of them ruined their clothes entirely. There was some wear and tear of machinery, consumption of coal, etc., which involved an expense to the city ot Brooklyn, which derived no revenue whatever from the property in question.
The question arises, why is not the city of Brooklyn in this instance entitled to salvage on the property saved from the flames, quite as much as is the mariner who rescues property at sea ? In all equity and honesty she should have some legal remedy by which to recover the cost to her of saving the property mentioned. This is a phase of the Fire Service that is frequently occurring. A fire threatens destruction to a community, and the neighbors are summoned to aid them in their distress. Assistance is always cheerfully rendered, but always at some cost to those givingit. It is but just that the community calling for aid should pay the expenses of those who save her from disaster. In many instances the community has neglected to provide ordinary means of fire protection, but has relied solely upon the generosi’y of their neighbors to come to their aid in the hour of need. In such instances, most assuredly, the negligent ones should be made to pay for their neglect. We are aware that this matter of rendering assistance in the time of need has never been looked at in a commercial light by the Firemen, who have cheerfully borne the expense and labor incident to the rendering of such aid. But it seems to us that if the matter was made one of business, and it was understood that when a community summoned their neighbors to their assistance they would have to foot the bill in dollars and cents, they would p ry a little more attention to the proper equipment of their own Fire Depar:ment. A short time ago the residents of East Orange, at a town meeting, resolutely refused to purchase fire apparatus, declaring that if they were threatened with a serious fire the Steamers owned by the city of Orange would come to their aid. Such meanness and utter lack of public spirit deserves to be visited by a conflagration. One Mayor of a city in Pennsylvania positively refused to permit the apparatus under his charge to go to a fire in a neighboring village. His reason was that they had taken no heed of previous fires in their midst, had neglected to provide fire apparatus for themselves, and had not even been thankful for assistance previously rendered. Under the circumstances, with incendiaries swarming in the vicinity, he refused to strip his town of its fire protection for the benefit of others, who were too mean to buy their own, and he was right. It is j all right enough to aid our fellow men in their hour of need, but when it comes to a question of property, property ought to pay the cost. This princ pie is recogn’zed in the laws governing mari ime transactions, and he who rescues property at sea can lawfully claim salvage, and the law will enforce his claim. Why should not the law be extended to the Fire Service? It is not merely a matter of sentiment, but one of dollars and cents. Sentiment is all well enough in its way, but when indulged in at the expense of others it partakes largely of the nature of selfishness. j We repeat the question, “Why should not’ the matter of salvage apply to the Fire Service?” and hope to hear an expression of views on the subject from some of our contributors.