ANNUAL REPORT OF THE NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT
Fire Commissioner Joseph Johnson last week submitted to Mayor Gaynor his annual report of the fire department for the year 1912, which the commissioner declared was “the year of the largest achievements in its history.” To amp_____y this, he points out in a general way the record made as follows:
- The average _____ss per fire was reduced from $855.69, in 1911, to $580.16 per fire, in 1912, and tins with the Equitable fire included.
- Forty-six fire depaitmcnt buildings were under way during the year, being more mail ten times the average annual numner since consolidation.
- The new bureau of fire prevention made 132,601 inspections and served 18,681 correctiveorders.
- The department took up as a pioneer an exhaustive inquiry into the relation between fire insurance and incendiarism. A special report was submitted to your honor, indicating tnat onetourth of the loss from all fires is due to fires set for the purpose of defrauding insurance companies. The responsibility for this condition was laid upon the method of doing fireinsurance business in the United States. This report has created a nation-wide discussion.
- The end of 1912 saw 78 new pieces of motor-propelled vehicles and apparatus in the firedepartment. As many more are under contract for delivery in 1913.
- The cities of Philadelphia, Jersey City, Troy, N. Y., Raleigh, N. C., Columbia and Charleston, S. C., has sent their chief officers to our fire college for education in the art of fire extinguishment.
- Through the activity of the fire marshals 40 convictions were obtained for arson, being the largest number in the history of this city. There were 23 convictions in 1911. This is solely the work of the fire marshals, who alone originate and prepare these cases for such action as the district-attorney and grand jury take.
- Of the general administrative appropriation of 1912, $142,169.98 was unexpended and returned to the general treasury. Of the appropriation for repairs and supplies, $12,137.55 was unexpended and returned.
- The collections of the division of combustibles increased $9,807.50, being the largest increase in any single year since consolidation.
These and other accomplishments of which we make bold to boast are set out in detail as follows: Owing to the operation of incendiaries, the fire department this year was called upon to extinguish a greater number of fires than ever before in its history. In spite of this the fire marshals report the estimated actual loss in 1912 as $9,069,580, an average loss of $589.l(i per fire, as against $12,470,806, an average loss of $855.69 per fire in 1911. This is a reduction in fire loss of $3,401,226, as compared to 1911. In the entire city 15,633 fires occurred during 1912, as against 14,574 in 1911. Of the total number of fires during 1912, there were 7,808 in tenement houses. The latter are specifically exempted by the fire prevention law from the jurisdiction of the fire prevention bureau of this department. In 1911 there were 7,297 fires in tenement houses, or 511 tenement house fires less than in 1912. The most important achievements of the year in the fire department, in addition to the reduction in the annual fire loss, were an investigation of arson and its relation to fire insurance in this city and the service of 18,684 fire prevention orders calling for the remedying of various fire hazards. The result of my investigation into fire insurance methods has been embodied in a special report to Your Honor, together with recommendations for a change in insurance methods which tend to encourage the operations of incendiaries. The fire department on December 31. 1912, numbered 4,-113 uniformed officers and men and 725 civilian employes, and comprised 259 companies. There were in service 829 pieces of apparatus, including engines, hose wagons, hook and ladder trucks (both horsedrawn and motor propelled), fireboats. searchlight engines, water towers, fuel wagons, traveling forges, chiefs’ wagons, etc. The department on that day occupied 273 separate buildings.
Considerable progress in the motorization of the fire department was made during the year. There are in service 73 motor vehicles, including a motor-propelled, steam-pumping engine, a gasoline motor-propelled and pumping engine, three motor-propelled water towers, six high pressure hose wagons, seven regulation hose wagons, five combination chemical and hose wagons, four gasoline-electric hook and laJder trucks, one electric(storage battery) propelled steam fire engine, 36 runabouts and touring cars and 14 delivery trucks, there are under contract, due for delivery in 1913, the following motor apparatus: Twenty-one combination chemical and hose wagons, three high pressure hose wagons, 28 second size steam fire engines, propelled by tractors, and 26 motor-propelled hook and ladder trucks. Prior to December 31, 1913, there should be at least 156 pieces of motor apparatus in service. The utmost care has been exercised in adopting the various types of motor apparatus. The motor apparatus in service during 1912 demonstrated its superiority over the horse-drawn type, both from the standpoint of economy and rapidity in responding to alarms.
In addition to the land companies there ar: now in service Id fireboats, with a total capacity for pumping 71,500 gallons of water a minute. There is now under construction a new fireboat of 300 tons displacement, which will have a pumping capacity of 9,000 gallons of water a minute.
There were 46 fire department buildings under way in the present year. Prior to 1912 and durin_____ the 14 years since the consolidation of tiltgreater city, 59 fire houses were built. This was an average, during those 14 years, of 4 2/7 houses a year. Contracts for the erection of 21 new fire houses were let in 1912. Architects were selected and plans begun for nine other houses, contracts for which will be let early in 1913. By December 31. 1913, there should be 43 new fire houses ready for occupancy. For 34 of these houses motor apparatus will be supplied.
Bureau of Repairs and Supplies.
During the year there were 25,953 requisitions for repairs and supplies. For this purpose $807,501 was appropriated in 1912. The sum actually expended was $759,363.45, leaving an unexpended balance of $12,137.55. In the purchasing division of this bureau a stock card system, showing the cost of each article purchased by the fire department, was put into effect during the year. A new form of fuel report was also adopted, which will eliminate any possible waste in fuel. Two pieces of apparatus for melting steel bars with a mixture of oxvgen and acetvline gas were purchased and placed in service early in the year. The need for such equipment was emphasized by the Equitable building fire. On that occasion it required one hour and a half of arduous labor to sever two steel bars so that a rescue could be made. With the new type of apparatus a steel bar. such as was encountered at the Equitable building, can be severed in a few seconds.
The budget for 1913 is $8,945,945.40, as against $8,537,365.55 tor 1912, an increase of $408,579.85. Of the appropriation for 1913. the sum oi $8,150,970.46 is for salaries and $788,968.95 for supplies. Out of the 1912 appropriation for administration there remained an unexpended balance of $142,169.98. This will be returned to the city treasury.
Fire Prevention Bureau.
The number of arrests for arson in 1912 was 64, as compared to 57 in 1911. The number of convictions for arson this year was 40, as compared to 23 in 1911. There are now pending 22 arson cases. The total number of inspections made by the bureau in 1912 was 132,601. Of the 18,684 orders served by the bureau this year, 128 called for the installation of sprinkler systems, 603 called for fire escapes, and the remainder were for additional stairways, adequate exits, fireproofing of stairways, removal of rubbish, the prevention of smoking, where such smoking constituted a menace to life and property, etc. In the legal division of this bureau, 316 summonses were issued in criminal proceedings, and 154 convictions obtained for violations of the fire prevention law. The division of places of public assembly was organized on March 26, 1912, as a branch of the bureau of fire prevention. Theaters, moving picture shows, dance halls, boxing clubs, amusement parks, armories and other places where exhibitions are held, come within the supervision of this division. Since its organization this division has made 3,402 original inspections, 14,083 reinspections, and has caused the remedying of dangerous conditions in 1.503 instances. The sum of $116,433.59 was collected in license fees by the division of combustibles in 1912, and turned into the pension fund. This is an increase of $9,807.50 over the receipts from this source in 1911.
Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau.
Plans for three isolated fire alarm telegraph stations—one to be located in Centra! Park. Manhattan; one in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, and one in the Yew York Zoological Park at 180th street, the Bronx—have been prepared. These buildings will he erected in 1913 at a total cost of $190,900. which sum has already been appropriated.
Other cities have shown a keen interest in the work of our fire college during the present year. Firemen from Philadelphia, Jersey City, Charleston, S. C., and other cities were enrolled, free of charge, as students during the fall term of our college. During the course of instruction these visiting firemen were detailed to various companies and were amenable to all department discipline.
Under the supervision of a practical instructor 152 firemen have been graduated from the school of automobile instruction during the year. Many of these graduated firemen are now operating motor apparatus, and others will be assigned as the new motor apparatus is installed.
Rules and Regulations.
A complete revision of the book of rules and regulations of the fire department was made in 1912. There are 174 sections in the new book, as against 423 in the old one. Twelve thousand words were eliminated by the revision, and the phraseology was greatly simplified.
During 1912, the volunteer Cromwell Fire Engine Company and the Cromwell Hose Company. of Dongan Hills. Borough of Richmond, were disbanded. Hose Company No. 7 (now Engine Company No. 159) was organized and now protects the territory formerly covered by the two volunteer companies. Hose Company No. 4 was re-located during the year to cover the South Ozone Park section in’the Borough of Queens. This was preliminary to the future disbandment of the volunteer company there.
Fire Alarm Telegraph.
The sum of $2.860.000 will be required to complete a new and efficient fire alarm telegraph service in the live boroughs. The appropriation of this sum was included in the corporate stock request for 1912.
The high pressure system should be extended as quickly as possible throughout Manhattan Island, south of 59th street. 1 also recommend the extension of the high pressure system throughout the eastern district of Brooklyn. Most of the large lircs in Brooklyn in the last few years have occurred in the eastern district. Rockaway Beach, which has been growing] rapidly, has now a large number of frame buildings and should be protected by the high pressure system as is Coney Island.
There is an urgent need for the replacement of fire hose on December 31, 1912. The total shortage of various sizes of hose is 178,200 feet. This will cost $202,370 to replace. The Board of Aldermen will be requested to authorize the issue of special revenue bonds to the above amount.
Central Administration Building.
The erection of a central administration building for the lire department would tend greatly toward increased efficiency. I his could be accomplished, at a saving of nearly one million dollars to the city, by disposing of eight department buildings, which are now widely scattered, and centralizing the various bureaus and divisions under one roof.
New Sites and Buildings.
It is recommended that corporate stock for 21 sites, to cost $136,250, be authorized, and that $1,115,000 be granted for 23 new buildings in all boroughs.
No funds have been made available for the replacement of worn-out apparatus in the several boroughs. I he sum of $442,150 was requested of the corporate stock committee in 1912.
Note on Equitable Fire.
The tangible loss of the Equitable building fire is estimated by our fire marshalls as $014,000. The Equitable people themselves valued the lot after the destruction of the building as greater than the lot and building prior to the fire. The fire was a financial gain to the Equitable company. The building was uninsured. Only the old building was destroyed, the offices in the new building facing Nassau street suffering only water damage. Not a dollar of the one billion dollar store of securities in the various vaults in the block was lost. The tangible loss, in view of the fact that there was no insurance and that the fire itself represented a financial gain to the Equitable company, was difficult of ascertainment, but I believe that the figures reached by our fire marshals are accurate.
Chief Thompson, of Toronto, Ont., while agreeing that the officers of that city’s fire brigade arc well provided for, pleads for the rank and file who are working for the regular minimum and maximum scale of yearly pay. He insists that they should receive an increase. The minimum for Toronto firemen at present is $0o0. with an increase of $ln0 annually Until the maximum of $1,000 is reached. Several hundred men would be affected by the increase.