Birmingham’s Shingle Roofs Responsible for Fires
Birmingham, Ala., started as a “boom town” in which buildings could not be erected quickly enough in those early days. What was wanted then was a building, it mattered not of what sort; and, as there was no building inspector nor any ordinance against the use of easily inflammable materials in building, those most readily obtainable and costing the least money were used without any interference on the part of the municipal authorities. For that reason shingle roofs were the almost universal rule, and to their abundance and common use was due the abnormal amount of fires and fire loss in the city. A recent fire inspection of the city by the Fire Prevention Society of Alabama showed that the greater part of this loss was due to these shingle roofs and could be put down by proper co-operation on the part of the city’s property owners. Next to the shingle roofs came slovenly housekeeping that allowed rubbish and inflammable matter to accumulate in attics, cellars, closets and basements. The shingle-roof hazard could be almost entirely done away witn by a city ordinance forbidding the use of such roofing in the future and compelling the reroofing of all houses now covered with shingles with some fireproof material. The same ordinance should be so drawn up as to apply to the property owner, each one ot whom should be forced by its provisions to be a good housekeeper and to see that bis tenants were the same. As Chief Bennett said: “lo-davs fires start from yesterday’s dirt.” Figures of tire loss in some of the larger cities of the south bore witness to Birmingham’s bad pre-eminence in that line as well as in that of the number of fires. New Orleans, with a population of 400,000, had 722 fires in 1910, as against Birmingham’s 175,000 with 1,088; New Orleans, in 1911, had 694 fires; Birmingham, 1,236; New Orleans, in 1912, 597; Birmingham, 1,386. Thus, Birmingham’s yearly number of fires has kept steadily increasing, while in New Orleans, with more than double Birmingham’s population, the yearly decrease was most noticeable. The proportion in Birmingham, it was shown, was ahead of New Orleans, San Antonio, lex.; Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta, Ga., and Memphis Tenn. In New Orleans it was 1,65; in San Antonio, 3.16; in Nashville, 3.59; in Atlanta, 4.49; in Memphis, 4.77; in Birmingham, 8.09. To this excessive figure shingle roofs and defective flues contributed, in 1910, 563 fires; in 1911, 676; in 1912, 766—the number increasing yearly.