BETTER BUILDING LAWS FOR MASSACHUSETTS.
Mr. Christopher Clarke, who is dean of the Massachusetts State Firemen’s association, attended the convention of that association at Worcester, Mass., on September 13, and took part in the discussion of a paper on the “Conflagration hazard,” read by Edward R. Hardy, of the New York Fire Insurance Exchange. This paper was mainly statistical in character, and was a very able and interesting article, going back to the first general reports made on this subject, and taking in all the periods from the great fire in New York city in 1835 up to the recent conflagration in San Francisco. In the closing passage of Mr. Hardy’s address, he expressed his opinion that “conflagrations could not be prevented.” Mr. Clarke, who for many .years has been deeply interested in this subject and was present at this session, opened the discussion of Mr. Hardy’s paper in an impromptu address in opposition to the above opinion expressed by Mr. Hardy. The Worcester Telegram reported Mr. Clarke’s address as follows: “I wish to say, that, in my opinion, conflagration fires can largely be prevented. How can it be done? In the first place, by removing from the centre of every city the dangerous lumberyards, and prohibiting the storage of exceedingly inflammable goods, oils and dangerous explosives, which, under present conditions, if a fire takes place in lany of the buildings where these articles are stored, at once establish a conflagration centre. For instance: Should a fire take place in any of the large lumberyards in the centre of Springfield, Mass., and a conflagration ensue, the whole central business and manufacturing district from that point south and westwards to the Connecticut river, including public buildings, would, in my opinion, be wiped out, as was the case in Boston, Chicago, Portland, Toronto and Baltimore, where the fire was absolutely uncontroled until it reached the waterfront or clear open space.” Mr. Clarke then stated that, according to the United States consul’s report, in the city of Berlin, Germany, with a population of nearly 2,000,000. over 33,000 of its buildings are constructed on the compartment plan, enforced by the government, with the result that no Conflagration can take place; and this city is so thoroughly protected that fewer fire engines are required than are demanded in the city of Springfield, whose population is about 750,000. Mr. Hardy, in his reply to this statement, said that he was familiar with the building laws of Germany and France, and that “we are not to build that way in this country, during the present generation,” and that New York city has, perhaps, the best building laws in the United States, which lie presumed were far below those of Germany, where lumber was little used in construction, and the insurance laws were totally different, landlords and tenants being there responsible for all fires that occur in their buildings. “Massachusetts is not going to adopt any such laws, as we build differently.” Mr. Clarke said in reply, “My argument is not for entirely fireproof buildings. If that were done, the fire insurance companies would be wiped out. We must adopt plans now in use to prevent the fire going from story to story, or from one building to another. For instance: But fire-stops at each -story stairway landing, or division of a building; change all wooden roofs (which are the cause of most general conflagrations) to those of metal or non-combustible material; put on standard fireproof shutters and doors on every building endangering any adjoining building, and division of the same building. All these are not expensive but are valuable protections against the spreading of a lire that would otherwise cause a general conflagration. You cannot accomplish alb these desired improvement at once; but we can make a beginning. In short, we can have better building laws, -if we advocate them, and 1 urge every fireman here present Jo. ask their representatives in the legislature to aid in securing better and safer building laws. And I do not want any insurance agent tothrow cold water upon the efforts we are making to secure all the improvements possible in our building laws fot the protection of life and property that is now going on in this country to the extent of hundreds of millions yearly.” Mr. Clarke also stated during the debate that for seventeen years he had urged in every way the passage of such laws throughout the United States, and that in 1904, he got a bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature. appointing a commission to draft a general building law for that State. “The commission was appointed (he said) and prepared a new building law; but. as it was such a total failure, the promotors and the members of the committee in charge did not indorse it, and a new bill will now have to be introduced in the legislature, before further action is taken. Captain William Brophy, of Boston, closed the debate by saying, in part: “Clarke is an ambitious young man. He is a trifle ahead of the times, although his ideas are all right. If he could have his way (and I wish he could), things would be entirely different from what they arc today. Boston and Worcester and almost every city in the country would have smaller lire departments than they now have, if our friend Clarke had his way. Coming to the relation between underwriters and the public, there is a misapprehension. Why, the insurance people arc simply disbursing agents. The public places with them so much money to protect them against loss b« fire. They issue policies and disburse that money accordingly. If we have great conflagrations, the rate must go up; otherwise, we should have no insurance. The man who owns his little home has it insured, pays his premium and then has his house burned over his head would be in a tight place, if he did not have that little covering of his insurance. Fire insurance is a necessity and I believe a blessing.”