BALTIMORE SINCE THE FIRE.
The committee of twenty of the National Board of Underwriters has been investigating the fire protection of Baltimore since the great conflagration of February, 1904. The members have naturally devoted much space to the fire department, while they have also reported on the waterworks system and the building ordinances, and criticised—none too favorably it may be remarked— the methods pursued in rebuilding the burned area. Beginning with the fire department, the report states that it was in 1893 that a full paid fire department was first established in the city. The members put forward as a highly satisfactory feature that, as at present administered, the board of three commissioners apnointed by the mayor of the city, each holding office for four years, shows no favor to anv officer or man on account of his race, religion or politics. This, of course, tends to keep up both the discipline and the efficiency of the department, and so wholesome has been the effect that even the committee of twenty of the National Board of Fire Underwriters not only has nothing to say against the morale or fitness of the officers and men. but actually goes so far as to award them the credit of being competent to handle any ordinary and many extraordinary fires. That, however, must not be taken to mean that the board of underwriters indorses the fire protection of Baltimore as perfect or even approaching to perfection. It only means that what there is of a fire department is all that could be desired; but that both in the number of men and in its equipment, it is far below the standard demanded for a city of such a size and of such importance, whether viewed from the standpoint of population or that of manufactures.. The department consists of 461 men, whose duty it is to protect a fire area of thirty-one square miles, containing a population of nearly 560,000 people, and many splendid buildings of all sorts, including lofty business structures, filled with rich contents. Its engine companies number twenty-six; its ladder companies, twelve. Chief Horton recommends the addition of twenty-one companies, which would strengthen the department considerably, but would not bring it up proportionally to the fire protection afforded San Francisco, Boston, or Buffalo. The latter city alone, with a population of about 370,ooo, as against Baltimore’s nearly 560,000, has a staff of 574 firemen to Baltimore’s 461, and spends annually more than $700,000 on its department, against the $589,000 which Baltimore pays for fire protection. The latter city has twenty-four steam fire engines in service, all of a good class, many very powerful, and the majority, of modern make and type. All the hose wagons are of the newest style of combination chemical and hose, with chemical tanks and abundance of hose, except on the fireboat, where more is called for. I he hose throughout the department is nearly all good and generally reliable. The greater number of the hook and ladder trucks are of the aerial type, and all the trucks are in good condition. More extension ladders of over thirty feet are needed, however; the pumps on several of the steamers are by no means all they ought to be, and particularly those of the fireboat, which are in very poor condition—what hose it has is also not of sufficiently large size. The city is divided into six fire divisions, over each of which is a district chief, with a salary of $1,500 a year—Chief Horton’s salary is $2,750, it ought to be at least $3,500, considering the work he has to do and the responsibilities he has to shoulder. In each district there are from five companies to seven companies. District No. 5 comprises the principal business section; the district chief engineer of No. 4 has the largest section of the city to cover—quite one-third of the whole city. There is a superintendent of machinery at a salary of $1,530 a year; the superintendent of fire alarm, James Byeakle, has a salary of $2,000 a year and nas a staff ot operators, linemen and assistant linemen under him. He is appointed by the fire commissioners and holds office during good behavior. Chief George W. Horton enjoys almost unlimited power in the management and operation of the department. He has been in the service for forty-three years, having begun to run with the old volunteer engine companies when he was fifteen years of age. He has risen to his present position by sheer merit, and to his progressive ideas is mainly due the excellent condition of the department today. His senior district chiefs August Emrich and Levin Burhardt, who act for him when occasion requires, are both able and competent officers. These all work harmoniously under an equally harmonious board of fire commissioners, who, if they were only granted a free hand in the way of money, would make the department second to none in the way of efficiency. Promotion in the department goes altogether by merit, and discipline is well maintained. It seems, however, to the committee of twenty that regular drills are needed for every member of the department, especially the engineers and stokers, so as to bring them up to a higher standard of efficiency than at present, and that the age limit of forty years, as set by the examining board for admission into the firemen’s ranks is by far too high. As things are, however, the alarms are well and promptly answered; the number and class of apparatus responding is well adapted to, and sufficient for work in the neighborhood from which tne alarm is turned in, while Chief Horton’s firefighting methods not only include all the best features in vogue, but are not to be inproved upon. Improvements in the way of apparatus are being made as fast as the appropriations will permit, and all are in the line of progress. Its fire alarm is a Gamewell installation of the most modern type, and is considered one of the finest in the country. It has a four-plate, three-dial transmitter for communicating alarms to engine houses, and a storage-battery switchboard. The transmitter is practically two instruments in one, as, in the event of there being any trouble with one of the machines while an alarm is being transmitted, the operator, by simply moving a switch, can throw the defective part out of service and substitute the perfect machine. The storage battery switchboard is both automatic and manual in its operation. Either function may be employed at the will of the operator. The manual part is an addition that at the time of its installation (July, 1904), was the only one in use in the country. It is a most excellent feature. The apparatus, however, would be safer, if it were housed in a fireproof building. The total cost of the firealarm system in 1904 was $25,793. The system of building inspection adopted by Chief Horton is conspicuous for the high excellency of its records, reports and methods. By its means and the frequency of the inspection both officers and men are made thoroughly acquainted with the style of buildings in their territory, the peculiarities in the arrangement of the structures and the difficulties likely to be met with, in case of a fire breaking i.ui in any one of them, the rebuilding of the burned portion of the city has been going on apace. 1 he trouble about it is that, notwithstanding the terrible fire ordeal to which Baltimore was subjected, the error of not providing against the exposure hazard is being repeated. Every building is by no means rendered immune front that danger. Considering the large area that had to be rebuilt so closely together in the heart of the business section, those in charge of the building operations ought to have seen to it that proper protection should be applied to the windows and skylight openings, and ordered shutters on all opemngs not on a street, for storehouses or warehouses more than two stories or above twentylive feet in height, and these the underwriters must approve. No protection, however, is required on street fronts, which, as often as not, are the most vulnerable points in a whole block of buildings, nor is anything whatever laid down in the way of at least suggesting wire-glass, instead of shutters, nor are even the standard underwriters’ shutters prescribed as of obligation. Possibly the new building code which is being prepared for the city may remedy this omission. As to the water supply of the city; The chief requisite in the eyes of the underwriters’ committee seems to be that in its congested parts, where there are so many high and non-fireproof buildings there should be installed an independent systm of high-pressure mains to be used for fire protection only, with a pressure much heavier than is demanded for ordinary use.