AN AIR GUN FOR THROWING LIFE-LINES.
AN exhibition was given in this city last week of an air gun designed to throw a life-line into or upon a burning building, for the purpose of rescuing persons who may be cut off by flames from the means of escape. The gun is the invention of Wallace Bartlett of Washington. Its consists of two long metal tubes, encased in wood; compressed air is admitted to one tube until the required degree of pressure is shown, when it is admitted to the second tube, wherein the projectile is placed; the sudden pressure behind the projectile throws it to a great distance, in any direction desired. The projectile used to carry a life-line is made of hard wood, having an iron staple to which the line is attached. The exhibition was given at the Osborne Flats, the tallest building in New York, the roof of which is 188 feet above the pavement. By some accident, at the first trial the life-line became detached from the projectiie and fell to the ground a short distance from the gun, while the wooden missile went hurtling through the air, many feet above the building, falling in the area of a house some two blocks away. It demonstrated, however, that the gun would do all the inventor claimed, viz: throw a line to the top of the highest building in the city. The inventor also threw a paper cartridge, charged with a fire extinguishing compound, over the same building, and another against the wall at a height of about 150 feet, where it was broken, scattering the fluid in all directions. The inventor had especially in mind when he invented this gun, the idea of throwing grenades with it for putting out fires. At a subsequent exhibition at the high service water tower, he succeeded in landing the life-line where he desired without difficulty. The first failure to do so was due simply to the undoing of the snap holding the life-line to the projectile. There is no doubt but the air gun can successfully shoot a life-line over any building in the city. The inventor also discharged cartridges loaded with sand, designed to break windows to admit streams of water. The projectile will carry on the lifeline a friction clutch, by means of which, it is claimed, a person can come down the line as slowly as he pleases. The textile strength of the line used was 560 pounds, but for heights up to 100 feet, a rope of 2000 pounds strength can be used. Three of the light lines were placed on the water tower at the same time, and these could have been twisted together, forming a rope that would sustain almost any reasonable weight. Such lines would at times be of service in raising lines of hose, drawing up ladders, etc.
We are not enthusiastic over the value of life-lines in saving lives at a fire. Suppose there had been persons in peril on the roof of the Osborne, nearly 200 feet above the walk, and the line been landed on the roof; no one would have ventured to slide down it, but it would then have been necessary to draw up a rope ladder, and with such a ladder made fast, there is not one man in a thousand who would attempt to come down it—such a feat could only be successfully accomplished by a skilled acrobat and athlete. Very few persons will trust themselves on a strong, firmly placed wooden ladder, much less upon an insecure lifelitre or rope ladder, swaying in the wind and gyrating with the weight of a person upon it. Devices of this kind, to the unthinking, seem to be of value, but to firemen, who know that persons in jeopardy from flames are almost always bereft of their senses, they are known to be of little practical value. Wherever a life-line could be used to advantage there should be permanent fire escapes attached to the building, for these are the only practical means by which persons in danger can save themselves by their own efforts, while if they are to be saved by others, a way must be found to get those others to them, and it is not feasible to shoot them up, with a life-line or rope ladder attachment. We do not like at any time to say anything to discourage inventors, but those who labor upon life-saving appliances want to keep in view the fact that the persons to be saved almost invariably lose their heads, and are harder to manage than they would be if they were insensible. At this exhibition an old fireman told us of a case where a woman was in peril in an upper room of a house that was burning. She lost her head, barred the door, and would not let anyone in ; a fireman broke a hole through the wall and crawled in after her, when the woman attacked him so viciously with a knife that he could do nothing but crawl back through the hole and leave the woman to perish, which she did. He said afterward that she seemed to have the strength of half a dozen men, and was undoubtedly under the impression that she was fighting for her life. There were present at the test of the air gun, Chiefs Shay, Bonner and McCabe, Lieutenant Zalinsky, the inventor of the new dynamite gun, General Shaler, Colonel Jussen, and a large number of interested spectators. Lieutenant Zalinsky has seen it tested repeatedly, and vouches for its doing what the inventor claims for it, but the question is simply, are such appliances of practical value in the fire service ? We regret to be unable to speak as encouragingly of the practicability of the air gun in actual service as we are of its successful operation. The gun is ingenious, and the inventor accomplishes all he set out to do, but whether the doing of these particular things will accomplish the saving of life or be of special value to firemen in their perilous work, is something to be demonstrated in the future.