Bicycle Fire Apparatus.
Boston’s wide-awake firemen are always on the look out for improvements and novelties, and are willing to experiment to almost any extent. So when a manufacturing company sent a bicycle with fire apparatus attached to Ladder 5’s house it was warmly welcomed by Captain Perkins, and it was resolved to give it a fair test as soon as an opportunity should occur.
Captain Perkins was called on and he courteously gave all the information in his power. The machine is a common safety bicycle, with a loop or U frame, made of double tubing, laterally braced. The extinguisher is supported at the bottom of the U, and steadied in its position by being strapped to the saddle post. On the left side of the rear wheel is an ax, attached to the mud guard by a clip arrangement, after the manner of the well-known military bicycle and in much the same manner as a rifle is carried by that machine.
The extinguisher is portable and is intended to be taken out and carried into a house or any where the fire maybe. Attached to it is about eighteen inches of half-inch rubber hose with a pretty little nickel-plated nozzle.
“ It’s a pretty affair, anyhow,” said Captain Perkins, with a smile.
When asked as to the efficacy of the machine the captain was non-committal.
“It has not yet had a lair test ; that is, we have had no chance to show what it is worth in case of actual fire. It does not seem that it would be safe to trust to it when even a still alarm comes in. Rut if a man should come in and say that there was smoke down at his house for which he could not account, and ask us to send a man down, we might send one with this wheel. The ax is a light one, and with the extinguisher and a few pails of water a small smouldering fire in a closet or between partitions or a curtain could be quickly put out. But we should not dare to take much risk with it, and as it costs no more to take an engine and ladder apparatus from here to City Po nt, there would not be much gained. It is small, so takes up little room, otherwise it might be a nuisance. Over in the district of Engines 22, 33, 10, that is the Rack Ray, where the engine houses are far apart, it might have a chance for a test even before it could here. Thus in country districts, sparsely settled, it might be of use. Rut you never can tell about these new things.”
And the captain turned to his truck, pointed out a long crooked nozzle attached to the side of the truck. “ There,” said he, “ is the ‘ cellar pipe.’ It has been on this truck since about February, and we have never had a chance to use it. Where it is carried—and that is the only place we can carry it —it is a nuisance. It is for use in case of fire in a cellar, where it is not possible to send a man. We take it into a place over the cellar, cut a hole in the floor, push in the nozzle and turn on the water. You see the shape of it, like a letter Z, with all the angles right angles. The hose is attached to one end, then the first turn takes the water straight down through the floor ; with another turn it is thrown from the nozzle laterally, and by walking around with it the nozzle can be turned in any direction, searching out every nook and cranny in the cellar just by using a hole four or five inches in diameter, without anybody going beneath the floor. That we have never used, so do not know how valuable it is, but here is something,” and the captain pulled down a little door with a hinge on the under side, and pulled out a peculiar-shaped piece of brass, which seemed to be almost all nozzles. “ This is the thing that saved the United States Hotel last March.”
Surprise was expressed that such a thing as that could do so much, and the captain went on: “This is what we call a ‘ four.’ To it may be attached the streams from four engines, then a length of hose and one nozzle, and you have a huge twoinch stream. The way it came to save the United States Hotel was this : When we got over there I reported to the chief, and it happened that I had struck the place assigned to our own chief, Miller. He cried out, ‘ Get you four to work.’ We were bothered a little by waiting for engines, but in just three minutes we had four engines pushing water through our twoinch nozzle, and it swept everything before it. Fifty feet from the nozzle the stream had spread to the size of a man’s thigh, and at 100 feet it was as big round as a barrel. When you reflect that that stream would crush a man’s ribs in like paper at 200 feet, you can form some idea of the force we turned on the United States Hotel. We could see the flames try to creep out around our stream, but a slight change in the direction doused them like a candle under a bucket of water. It was put on in February, and when it was done 1 wondered if we should ever have a chance to use it. It came sooner than I thought, but it has not been used but that once. So you see it cannot always be told just how much these things are worth.”