A Talk With Chief Hennick.
A reporter a few days ago submitted this proposition to Chief Hennick of Baltimore: “How would Baltimore fare were a fire of equal magnitude with the one at Milwaukee to break out here?” To which the chief replied:
“No two great fires are alike. Different conditions govern each one. For this reason it is impossible to predict the success or failure of Baltimore’s Fire Department in the event of a big conflagration. Besides, big conflagrations don’t come all at once. They grow, and their successful quenching depends on the way they are handled when they begin. My plan‘is to surround the fire from above, if possible, and to throw streamson the burning building from the roofs of higher buildings in the vicinity. By this means we have been able to nip in the bud more than one fire which threatened to become as large and disastrous as the one which destroyed twenty-two blocks of buildings in Milwaukee, and duringjust such a gale, too, as swept over the city then.
“ But accidents will happen. For instance, our water supply might be impaired at the time of a fire or there might be an insufficiency of plugs in the vicinity of the fire. Baltimore has a first rate water supply, but there are some sections of the city, notably West Pratt street, where there are many large factories, which need larger water mains and more fire plugs. Again, Baltimore’s fire-fighting facilities have not kept pace with the growth of the city. But we are improving in this respect. For instance, I am now asking for two more fire engine companies, and No. 18 engine house will be occupied by the first of the coming year. Then No. 17 engine house will be built on Fort avenue during the year, and the company of No. 15 will be doubled, so as to have a company in reserve there during a fire, as that is the most important point in Baltimore. But even then we will not have enough steamers. At the present time we have but sixteen, including the fire boat. Take Boston, a city whose area is less than ours and whose population is but a few thousand larger, she has forty-four steamers. Think of it ! Why, Bostonians come here and wonder how we ever manage to do anything at all in the line of fire fighting with our rough and hilly streets, and the fact that our fire department covers a radius of thirty-five miles against us.
1 o a fire of similar magnitude, to one which in New York from eighteen to twenty-five engines would be sent, we can only send twelve, which leaves us with only four steamers to protect the city. And bear in mind the fact that it invariably happens, as it did in Milwaukee, that when a big fire breaks out, others in remote parts of the city are sure to occur almost simultaneously. To illustrate, I may cite the example of the fire at the Boston Steamboat Company’s wharf last summer. We had twelve steamers there, including the fire boat. While it was raging another fire broke out at Hollander’s furniture factory on Pratt street, near Concord, and we had to send our four reserve companies there, with two taken from the first fire. Again, while Hiss’ furniture factory was blazing a second fire occurred at Mary Brook’s feed store on Pratt street, near the bridge. So you see we cannot have enough fire companies if we would be thoroughly protected; and remember,too, that there is more wood now used about our buildings than is permitted in Boston, Chicago or New York.”