Annual Report of Captain Gasser of the Newark Bureau of Combustibles
In the annual report of Captain C. Albert Gasser, Chief of the Bureau of Combustibles and Fire Risks, of Newark, N. J., dwellings head the list of fires in the occupancy classification, as usual, but these are small fires as a rule and do not average much above $100—a remarkably low figure. Factories show a slight increase in the number of alarms but a decrease of at least thirty per cent, in losses. This sort of fire averages $2,325 per alarm, but by eliminating the 91 factory alarms where there was no loss, the average loss per actual fire is raised to something like $5,000. Most of the dwelling house fires started in kitchens. As a matter of fact, the record shows 101 kitchen fires, 39 closet fires, 91 bedroom fires and 15 cellar fires. Study of the store fires during the year demonstrates the value of the licensing system with its attendant regulations, restrictions and supervision. The sale of kerosene oil in grocery stores produced conditions five or six years ago which resulted in many fires. Sixty or seventy grocery store fires every year was the average. This has been reduced consistently and the total for this year is down to twenty. This improvement is largely to the credit of one of the bureau inspectors whose business has been to keep licenses up to date and to visit this and other classes of stores. The figures here and in other fires as well as during 1917 show a reduction in the number of cellar fires, a fact well worth mentioning in this connection. Restaurant fires show an upward tendency and point the way to future activity and closer supervision. A few years ago the largest number of factory fires were in leather plants. This year the records show 13 fires in chemical establishments, which have displaced leather at the head of the list. Four of the factory fires were incendiary and in one case, by excellent work on the part of the police department, arrest, trial and a seven-year prison term followed in quick order. Friction in machinery gave the department sixteen fires and spontaneous combustion is charged with seven fires and a hundred thousand dollars in the loss column. Four fires were due to the careless use of matches and a like number due to smoking. Two bureau inspectors devote most of their time to factories, making re-inspections, following fire department visits, making complaints and cleaning up. Building Department approval of plans for construction work during the year 1917 added 2,488 buildings of all kinds, making the estimated number of buildings in the cify, brick, etc., 21,388; frame, 61,000; total, 82,388. Twenty-nine persons were burned to death in the city of Newark in 1917. This was four less than in the preceding year. Of these, eleven were women, nine were men and nine were children. Twenty of these fatalities occurred in dwellings and most of these were in kitchens. Two of the children diet! front burns received while playing around bonfires. “These two human sacrifices to the utter foolishness of street fires,” says Captain Gasser, “are an incentive to renewed efforts to eradicate this evil.” Four men lost their lives in an explosion of gasoline vapor and air in a rubber-coating cloth, factory in Emmett street. This may be reasonably put in the class of accidents which are well-nigh unavoidable. By regulation of the building department plans for all garages built during 1917 were submitted to this bureau for approval. All told, 610 plans were approved, several were rejected absolutely, and correctionsuggested and secured in many others. There were 167 public garage plans, 401 private garage plans and 42 commercial garage plans.
There were 1,288 complaints of hazardous fire conditions filed by citizens during the year. The more complaints received the greater the opportunity to reduce fire hazards. The bureau makes a strong point of welcoming complainants.
Department inspections arc made regularly under direction of the chief and reports of these inspections numbering 2,893 submitted to this bureau. These reports are of the greatest value. Whenever hazardous conditions are disclosed, bureau inspectors are detailed to secure improvements of alterations. The following figures are a part of the official record:
Chief V. H. Steele, recently made head of the Billings, Mont., fire department, has been reorganizing the department. A regular school for firemen, wherein the chief will conduct classes, will be held and technical instruction will be given the firemen. The merit system as basis for promotion will displace the old seniority system.