ATLANTA’S WATER SUPPLY.
WHILE Atlanta, Ga., has spent a large sum of money on its water supply, it has long been a source of complaint that for fire-protective purposes the lack of sufficient pressure is painfully evident. The recent conflagration in that city involved buildings of the best style of construction, and yet the fire spread from its place of origin and destroyed almost an entire block in the wholesale district of the city, entailing a loss of $500,000 to the owners of the burned property and of $450,000 to the insurance companies. The extent of the fire and the consequent loss caused much surprise, as the efficiency of the Atlanta fire department and the skill of Chief Joyner in wrestling with the fiercest fires are proverbial. The explanation is not far to seek. As in the case of the recent Wicke fire in this city, the water supply was totally inadequate, and the mains are ridiculous small—so small, indeed, (as will be seen from Chief Joyner’s account given elsewhere of the grievous handicapping to which he and his men are subjected whenever a fire breaks out in the city) that he is limited to six streams of water,whether the blaze is big or little, or whether or not there exists the danger of the fire becoming a conflagration. Chief Joyner says that,
although there was heavy pressure, the water pipes were so small that hydrant streams would barely carry fifty feet. This was so short that to put water on the flames meant the sacrifice of the lives of all the men who might be required to go close enough to throw water on the burning buildings. I realized at once what we had to contend with, and had my engines working for all they were worth.
The work was done with the aid of only six streams, of which four were thrown by the water tower, which took two engines to operate it; the other two streams were
backed up by the other engine. With the three engines working, the suction was so great that the hydrants in the vicinity were weil-nigh worthless. In any part of the city the fire department (Chief Joyner goes on to say) can use successfully only two streams under hydrant pressure alone. When more streams are added, the force and size of the streams decrease so materially as to make them practically worthless.
If the attempt is made to play six streams anywhere in the centre of the city without using the steamers, only a thin and useless stream could be thrown as high as the third story windows. Not more than three steamers can be used, and these are not run at their highest power, “because the water does not come into the mains in sufficient quantities.” If there were enough of water, Chief Joyner has men, hose, and apparatus enough to play twenty streams of water, and “twice that number would have been none too many for that fire.” It is to be hoped that the city authorities of Atlanta will now believe the Cassandra-like prophecies which Chief Joyner has kept constantly uttering for so many years, and awake to the fact, that a fire department without water is in the same plight as an attacking army without ammunition, very fine to look at on state occasions, but useless when its services are most needed. Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New York have had their object lessons in this respect. It is time these lessons were profited by.