A Terrible Toll Is Exacted from the Careless and Ignorant in Handling Such Fires—No Need for Unnecessary Risk by the Firemen

THE author of the following paper speaks with the authority of experience, gained in a long service in the New York City fire department as an officer, and as a lecturer in the New York Fire College:

The men who are connected with fire departments are best informed as to the terrible fatalities which occur here and there from day to day, and in the majority of these happenings investigation shows that they are the result of improper use of gasoline in one way, or another.

Great Increase in Gasoline Fatalities

The records from year to year show an alarming increase in the number of fatalities and fires which are the result of the use of gasoline, principally in pleasure and business gas-propelled vehicles and places where they are stored, to say nothing of the number which occur in households where this liquid is used in many ways for cleansing purposes.

Wilful carelessness plays but a small part in causing fatalities and fires, and unavoidable accidents will account for many others; but the greater percentage of these occurrences can be attributed to the lack of knowledge on the part of the users of gasoline of the death dealing power of this liquid when certain conditions prevail.

A person might be led to believe that considering the number of years that gasoline has been so liberally and generally used the general public would be well informed as to its dangerous characteristics; but no such condition exists.

Education As to Vapor Necessary

To the great number of people, it is generally known that gasoline will ignite and burn, but it is surprising to realize the great number of people who have no knowledge whatever as to its evaporation, and it is this one point that emphasizes the necessity of a campaign of education as to gasoline and its vapor.

Almost every community has established laws, ordinances, or regulations covering the sale and storage of gasoline. In some cases the regulations refer very briefly to the danger of gasoline vapor. It is this lack of full information regarding the vapor and the various ways by which it may be ignited and exploded that is productive of the many fires and explosions.

All Should Join In Informing Public

Take for instance the use of gasoline in the households. A small bottle or can of gasoline (or its full brothers, naphtha or benzine) is purchased in a store. Attached to the container is a label, which reads: “Inflammable mixture: Do not use near fire or light of any kind.” Nothing on the label refers to the vapor of the liquid; information regarding the vapor danger is overlooked, and the user lacks that knowledge that is so essential and necessary to prevent fatalities and fires.

A concerted and united effort should be made by organizations, associations, corporations, and other interests, each doing its share of the work and taking such action as will bring about and develop a better understanding on the part of the general public as to gasoline and its vapor, which should in time minimize the grim fatalities and the many fires which occur from day to day.

Suggested Pamphlet Covering Subject

It is suggested that material covering this subject be compiled and formulated which will give all the known ways bv which gasoline vapor has been or may be exploded. Such information so compiled could be used in a printed pamphlet by the authorities of every state, city, town, or village who issue licenses to proprietors of garages, their employees, chauffeurs, or operators of pleasure or business vehicles. One of these pamphlets should be issued to every person to whom a license is granted. All persons who sell inflammable vapor producing liquids, especially for household uses, should be compelled to furnish similar information to the purchaser at the time the purchase is made.

Such legal enactments as may be necessary to carry out the suggestions submitted could be brought about by the chief of the fire department in each particular locality over which he has jurisdiction.

Those who in the course of their department operations have had the opportunity of observing persons who were killed or frightfully injured as the result of a gasoline vapor explosion, will be in accord that a campaign of education is a necessity and would be a boon to humanity in materially decreasing the number of those frightful occurrences.

Warning of Caution in Auto Fires

The opinion has been expressed that a note of warning should be issued to officers and members of fire departments, that when they are called upon to operate at any place where gasoline or other inflammable vapor producing liquids are stored, or used, that extreme caution should be exercised in taking unnecessary risks, particularly in poorly ventilated places below grade level, for the reason the vapor is more liable to be pocketed at this level.

The practice of officers and members making a close approach to a pleasure or motor vehicle fully involved with fire should be discouraged. While the fire in a motor vehicle is a trivial matter to any fire department, it is, while in the flaming condition, fraught with danger because of the possible rupture of the gasoline tank, due to the expansion of the liquid and accompanying increase in pressure.

Toll of Lives Through Unnecessary Risks

Officers and members of fire departments arc at all times read} to assume any risks incidental to their calling; but what a toll in human life has been taken from among their ranks by the assumption of unnecessary risks which might have been avoided by the exercise of caution at fires in which gasoline or its vapor was the dominating cause. The records indicate that the greatest toll in human life was taken at operations of insignificant proportions. It is this loss of life, to say nothing of the serious injuries sustained by officers and members at minor operations, which has suggested the writing of this paper.

Some Recent Cases

Within the period of a few days, a sequence of happenings occurred the circumstances of which it is felt justify the suggestions submitted in this paper, and a brief resume of a few of the occurrences follows:

The proprietor of a small garage (engaged in the business for years) ascertaining that his floor drain connected with separator in basement, had become clogged, called in a plumber, who, with the assistance of the proprietor’s son, disconnected the pipe at separator, and taking the residue front the obstructed pipe in buckets threw it in the roadway. The residue ignited later and the fire department was called to extinguish the fire. The proprietor, his son, and the plumber stood on the sidewalk watching the firemen operate. Later all three men entered the basement and a heavy explosion occurred; the son and the plumber ran out of basement with clothing afire from head to foot. Both died within a few hours. The proprietor’s body was found in the basement. The officers and men still on the scene rushed into the basement as another explosion occurred; result, two officers and seven men slightly burned.

A woman obtained from a neighboring garage a quantity of gasoline in a wash boiler and took it into the bathroom in her home to clean clothing. She lighted a gas jet in the room—her death occurred in an hour.

A painter carried on a similar operation as the woman just referred to, and used gasoline in his bath tub. He lighted gas jet in room ; his death occurred in a few hours.

A mild explosion occurred in the basement of a private garage; the fire department was called and found a small quantity of wood burning. The fire was extinguished. The chief officer in charge had no information of the first explosion. Noticing an odor after extinguishing fire he returned to the basement, and a heavy explosion followed. The chief officer was frightfully injured, and two officers and seven men who were on the sidewalk looking down into basement were slightly burned.

(Excerpts from paper read before the annual convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers at Buffalo, N. Y.)

Well Yields 10,000,000 Gallons in Eight Weeks—For the past eight weeks, Wilmington, Ohio, has been supplied from the Fife well exclusively. During this time 10,000,000 gallons of water have been pumped from this well and the water level in the well has not been decreased, still standing at 61 feet below the surface of the ground. The well is 108 feet deep to water-bearing strata, making an almost inexhaustible source of supply.

Judge Holds Single Election for Water and Sewer Issue Legal The proceedings by which the town of Williams, Cal., issued $50,000 in bonds to pay for water and sewer systems are legal, is the ruling by the judge in the test case entered by the bonding house who purchased the bonds. The contention of the purchasers was that two elections should have been held, one for acquiring the water system and the other for the construction of the sewer system.

Oxford, N. C., Awards Filtration System Contracts—The city council of Oxford, N. C., has awarded contracts for the construction of a filtration station at the water works of that city. The building to house the filtration plant was awarded to the Byrum Construction Company for $60,738 and the. general equipment contract went to Tucker & Laxton of Charlotte, at $73,000. The Chicago Bridge and Iron Works received the award for a water tank at $4,600. Two gasoline driven pumps at $4,963 and $5,966 are being considered and a choice of one will be made shortly.

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