An Automatic Fireproof Drop Curtain for Theatres.
A correspondent of FIRE AND WATER at Milwaukee sends us an account of an exhibition, recently given at Captain Pabst’s new German Stadt Theatre in that city, of an automatic fireproof drop curtain calculated, with other apparatus, to carry and shut off the flames and smoke of a stage fire from the auditorium.
The curtain is of wire and plaster set in an iron frame, weighs 1900 pounds, and is hung next to the walls of the proscenium arch. The curtain for months past has been used as the ordinary drop, and is lowered and raised at any desired speed by an electric motor. Directly over the centre of the stage are placed two very large glass trap doors, which are controlled from the stage floor in close proximity to the starting lever of the curtain, which in turn is by the side of the electric lighting switchboard. Up close to the roof is placed an upright exhaust fan. Scattered throughout the stage basement and attics every ten feet are solid expansion thermostats, of the kind which has already rendered so much service in Milwaukee, and which are generally set to operate at 130 Fahr. In addition to the thermostats there are placed at the exits boxes, arranged to send an alarm and operate by hand if desired.
The wiring for the thermostats is in multiple circuit, the thermostats themselves being in multiple arc, so that the breaking of a wire or two will not prevent prompt operation. It is arranged to actuate all the apparatus simultaneously with the sending of an alarm, which can be done from any part of the building equipped. The automatic fire alarm system must be tested by the fire department every day at noon. The curtain being raised and lowered before and during each performance, this is deemed sufficient test, and as giving assurance that it will be in working order when required. It is also proposed to equip the stage and basement of the theatre with automatic sprinklers, especially adapted to the situation by the same inventor, who has already arranged devices for automatically opening exits and closing fireproof doors and traps.
The exhibition was witnessed by the Mayor, chief of fire department, board of public works, building inspector, aidermen, superintendents of insurance surveys and patrol, together with nearly a hundred prominent citizens, including mechanical experts, bankers, merchants, theatrical, manufacturing and insurance men. The inventor requested one of those present to hold a match near the thermostats in plain sight of all, and while he was explaining how the alarm would operate the clang of a bell told it was already in operation. The roof opened up, the fan was set in motion to blow out the smoke and change the natural draught, from stage to auditorium, from auditorium to stage; the curtain descended, and the fire department was at the indicator in front of the stage door, all in less than one minute from the time the match was struck. The experiment was repeated several times so successfully that one of the gentlemen present said that the audience could witness the firemen fighting the flames from their seats in safety, and take in the operation as part of the show for the single price of admission.
It is stated that arrangements are in progress for equipping several of the Milwaukee theatres with this apparatus. W. C. Shaffer, the inventor and constructor, has now made application to the board of fire underwriters for the privilege of connecting direct with the insurance patrol, so as to give them knowledge of all tests and alarms. At the same timq he signals to the fire department, with which he already connects.