BOSTON CONFLAGRATION HAZARD STILL SERIOUS
The engineers of the Committee on Fire Prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters have made public their report on their reinspection of the conflagration hazard and tire protection of Boston. The reinspection visit was made last December, when the engineers found that, despite improvements made in recent construction, the hazard in the congested value district continues serious. According to the report, this situation is due to weak structural conditions in the older buildings: the inaccessibility of interior blocks and frequent unprotected openings which also atld materially to the danger of sweeping fires. The report says in part:
“The features which make the potential hazard high in the congested value district are the grouping of seriously exposed, poorly accessible and structurally weak buildings, many with multiple occupancy, the lack of horizontal and vertical opening protection where especially needed, the many very large floor areas and the narrow streets, from which it would be difficult to make a stand against a conflagration. Across the center of the district is a grouping of fireproof buildings which should form a fire barrier; their efficiency as such, however, is greatly reduced by the large proportion of unprotected windows, and although they might prove barriers for a local conflagration, their efficiency in cutting off a fire of large proportions is very doubtful. The probability of sweeping fires occurring is largely dependent on the facilities provided to suppress them; the water supply is adequate and reliable, but at pressure only sufficient for engine supply, and the lire department, though efficient, is liable to be undermanned at certain times of day to such an extent as to be unable to cope with simultaneous fires in the congested value district without withdrawing the protection from the other parts of the city. An important mitigating feature is found in the many automatic sprinkler equipments and the window-opening protection. The conflagration hazard is considerably more marked in the section along either side and west of Washington street, where there are many high values, and the prevailing direction of winds would tend to carry a fire to the parts to the eastward. The probability of a conflagration extending over a considerable part of the district is serious. In the wharf district of Boston proper the conflagration hazard is moderate. The lumber district is liable to fires of conflagration proportions and exposes groups of congested joisted brick wood-working plants. Charlestown, South and East Boston have stretches of wharf properties in which serious fires are liable to occur and otherwise are built up with congested frame structures, which in many places afford opportunity for local conflagrations. In the congested parts of Dorchester and Roxbury, where three-story frame flat buildings are separated by narrow spaces affording many mutual exposures, the possibility of fires extending over considerable areas is very pronounced, and the hazard from flying-brand fires in those sections in which buildings are roofed with shingles is serious.”
The city, which is credited with a population of about 680,000, covers an area of 12.08 square miles, of which 4.02 miles are unreclaimed flats and water service. The highest elevation in the city is 380 feet above sea level. There are 518 miles of streets, generally in good condition. The waterworks are under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board These works also supply in whole or in part seventeen other cities and towns in the vicinity. Work on the construction was begun by the city in 1818 and have thus far cost about $41,000,000. The board is composed of Henry II. Sprague, chairman; Henry P. Wolcott and James A. Bailey, Jr., appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts, with the advice and consent of the council, for a term of three years. The consulting engineers of the board are: Joseph P. Davis, Hiram F. Mills and Frederic P. Stearns, the latter chief engineer from 1895 to 1007. Chief Engineer Dexter Brackett has been connected with the works since their inception, and has held his present position for the past four years. He is in charge of construction, maintenance and operation of the system. On February 1 of the present year the water department, together with several other city departments, was reorganized and placed under a commissioner of public works. Louis K. Rourke having been appointed to the position; F. A McInnes, who has been connected with the city engineer’s office for the past twenty-one years, was made division engineer in charge of the water and sewer departments. C. J. Carven is engineer of maintenance. Supply is from works built by the city of Boston previous to 1895, and from the Nashua river watershed, developed by construction of the Wachusett reservoir by the Metropolitan Water Board since that time. The works formerly owned by the city consist of Lake Coehituate and seven reservoirs on the Sudbury river watershed, from which supply is delivered to the Metropolitan water district through the Cochituate and Sudbury aqueducts. Supply from Wachusett reservoir is conveyed by the Wachusett aqueduct to storage reservoirs on the Sudbury watershed, and thence by the Sudbury and Weston aqueducts to the distribution. From the terminals of the aqueducts water flows by gravity or is pumped through cast-iron pipes into distributing reservoirs for the supply of six services, five of which furnish water to parts of Boston. Elevations in this report are above Boston city base. The following description of the drainage areas which contribute to the supply are given in the order of their development:
Coehituate.—Area of watershed, 17.80 square miles; the yield per square mile is approximately as given below for the Sudbury watershed.
Sudbury.—Area of watershed is 75.2 square miles; average yield for the past thirty-six years, about 77,175,000 gallons per day. The lowest recorded yields were 1880 and 1883, when the average per day per square mile was 578,000 and 583,000 gallons, respectively. The driest six months of record was in 1910, when the yield for this period was at the rate of 29,000 gallons per square mile per day.
Wachusett.—Area of watershed. 118.90 square miles; average yield for the past fourteen years, about 134,362,000 gallons per day. Lowest recorded yield for a year was in 1910, when the average was 820,000 gallons per day per square mile. The driest six months of record occurred in 1910, the yield being at the average rate of 193,000 gallons per day per square mile.
There are ten storage reservoirs on the three watersheds, with combined storage capacity of about 81,000,000,000 gallons. All have well constructed dams, provided with waste ways and other appurtenances. They are maintained in excellent condition. Framingham No. 1 has a muddy bottom and is not much used; about 1,500,000 gallons per day are wasted to the river to meet power demands. Farm pond is not now an integral part of the system. The Coehituate aqueduct, built in 1848, from Lake Coehituate to Chestnut Hill reservoir, 13.3 miles; of eggshaped section, 5 feet in width and C feet 4 inches in height. Capacity under ordinary con ditions is 18,000,000 gallons in twenty-four hours; maximum capacity under head, 23,000,000 gallons. The Sudbury aqueduct has a capacity of 109,000,000 gallons per day; and the Weston aqueduct a maximum capacity of 320,000,000 gallons per day. Of the five pumping stations four supply water to the city of Boston. At the West Roxbury station the pumps take suction from the southern high service under a head of 80 feet and discharge against a head of 220 feel, supplying the southern extra high service by direct pumpage with an equalizing standpipe. Three pumps with an aggregate capacity of 3,750,000 gallons per day and three boilers aggregating 180 horsepower. The large unit is operated in the summer and one of the smaller in the win ter; one steam line supplies the larger and another the two smaller. Chestnut llill low servicestation is located about 5 miles west of the center of the city, near Chestnut llill reservoir. File station, supplemented by the gravity flow from the Weston aqueduct, supplies by direct pumpage the southern low service and Spot pond and Mystic reservoir, both distributing reservoirs of the northern low service. Suction is taken from a well fed through two 60-inch pipes from the reservoir, a 48-inch from the Cochituatc aqueduct, or a 48-inch from the effluent gate house. The equipment consists of three pumps with a combined rated capacity of 105,000,000 gallons per day. The three units serving the southern low service are connected to an equalizing tank in the station, with top at elevation 192; one is generally in reserve A 40,000,000-gallon high service pump is being installed. The three boilers in service aggregate 525 horsepower, which provides tor a proper reserve; two 300horsepower boilers are being installed. Steam piping in duplicate. Chestnut Hill high service station is located alamt 35n feet southwest of the low service station, supplies by direct pumpage the southern high service with equalizing reservoirs and the water repumped at the West Roxbury station to the southern extra high service. Equipment consists of four pumps with a combined rated capacity of 66,000.000 gallons per day. The larger unit is usually in use and the three smaller held in reserve; these latter are so connected that they can discharge in the southern low service. The seven boilers, aggregating 1,050 horsepower, allow a safe reserve. A single steam line feeds the two smaller units and each of the other units is fed by a single line: these three lines are well cross-connected in the boiler room The Spot pond pumping station pumps water to the northern high service, which includes in the city a small residential district in Breed’s Island in East Boston. This station is equipped with a 20,000,000-gallon and a 10,000,000-gallon pump; average daily pumpage about 8,000,000 gallons. Of the ten distributing reservoirs there are five on services supplying some parts of the city of Boston, besides Fisher Hill reservoir and the standpipes on Bellevue Hill and Orient Heights, owned and maintained by the city. Stages of water are determined by self-registering devices either at the reservoirs or transmitted by cable to electric gage at the pumping stations. The larger reservoirs occupy natural basins, with earth dams, usually rip-rapped and paved : the smaller are in excavation and embankment. All are in good condition and kept full. Chestnut Hill reservoir, in addition to supplying the pumping station of the same name, can feed the southern low service by gravity. Consumption in each service in all of the cities and towns supplied is determined by meters, 73 of which are in use. Boston alone uses an average of 77.!> per cent, of the water used in the Metropolitan district. The average daily pumpage is about 104,000,000 gallons. In 1907 the daily rate of consumption far exceeded this amount and in order to cheek the enormous waste all cities and towns were ordered to meter all new services and 5 per cent, yearly of all old services, except those used for fire or public purposes. As a result the daily consumption in 1909 was reduced 6,305,100 gallons. Last year a still larger reduction was effected. The maximum daily consumption for the city of Boston occurred on February 10, 1910, and was 123,690,000 gallons, or 183 gallons per capita. The drop in pressure in times of maximum consumption between the low service pumping station to Boston Common has been reduced from 18 to 11 pounds. The general distribution is in five services; southern low and northern low, both supplied mainly by pumpage supplemented by gravity, southern high, northern high and southern extra high, all supplied by pumpage, the two former to reservoirs and the latter with an equalizing standpipe. Flevations throughout the area served range from tide water to 336. The southern low service supplies about one third of the area south of the Charles river, serving the greater part of the city proper, including over one-half of the congested value district, the principal lumber, warehouse and shipping districts, besides numerous important minor mercantile sections It also supplies most of South Boston, two-thirds of Brighton and small sections in the northeasterly part of Box bury and Dorchester, in all covering an area of about 9 square miles, in which elevations range from tidewater to 65. Three 18-inch mains extend easterly from the low service pumping sta tion, for distances of from 1 to 3 1/2 miles, where they divide into pipes of smaller size; two 30-inch and a 40-inch enter the congested value district, which is girdled by a 16, 24, 30 and 36 inch loop; a 24 and a 30-inch pass easterly through Roxbury and Dorchester, two 20-inch and two 30-inch mains supply South Boston and a 16 and 20-inch feed part of Brighton, which further receives a supply from a 16-inch connection to the 48-inch Metropolitan main which passes through this section. These feeders are well looped and are cross-connected when opportunity affords. The supply to this service can be reinforced from the northern low service through pipes 20 and 30 inches in diameter extending across the Warren street bridge from Charlestown. The entire area is well sub-divided by secondary feeders, 10, 12 and 10 inches in diameter, well looped and connected to larger mains. In the congested value district 65 per cent, of the mains arc 10 inches or larger in diameter; they are well cross-connected at street intersections and the block lengths are short. In the remainder of the city proper and in Roxbury there are about equal parts of 6 and 8-inch, with a fair proportion of 10-inch; and in South Boston and Brighton 6-inch predominates, with a small percentage of 8 and 10-inch; much of the pipe in the former district is over fifty years old. The system is generally well cross-connected,’ with few dead ends, except in Brighton and the eastern part of Dorchester. The northern low service supplies by gravity from Spot pond and Mystic reservoir Hast Boston and the greater part of Charlestown and Breed’s Island, comprising a total area of about 2.5 square miles, in which elevation ranges from tidewater to 75; generally compactly built up and mostly residential in character, although there are dock and warehouses sections of considerable importance, besides scattered minor mercantiles and manufactories. A loop of 16, 20 and 24-inch pipe extends about the area served in Charlestown and is fed by three Metropolitan mains, two, a 24 and a 30-inch, entering from the west and a 30-inch from the north. Secondary feeders, 12 and lb inches in diameter, are fairly well arranged. Three Metropolitan mains, a 20, 24 and a 30-inch, supply well arranged loops of 12, 10, 2o and 30-inch pipes in Hast Boston which in turn supply Breed’s Island through two 12-inch lines. Secondary feeders are generally installed where needed. About equally divided between 6 and 8-inch, with 12-inch in the more important streets; mains well gridironed, with few dead ends. The southern high service supplies Beacon Hill in the city proper, including a portion of the congested value district, and by extension of mains furnishes sprinkler and standpipe supply to buildings in a considerable portion of the congested value district where supply for other purposes is from mains of the southern low service. Also supplies sections in the higher parts of ( harlestown and South Boston, mainly of thickly built-up frame residences, about onethird of Brighton and nearly all of Roxbury, West Roxbury and Dorchester, the last four mainly frame residential sections with occasional areas compactly built up. Supply pumped at Chestnut Hill high service station into the distribution system, with Fisher Hill reservoir, holding about six hours’ supply when filled, as an equalizer. Elevations range from 20 to 180 throughout the area served, which is about 12.5 square miles. From the pumping station, two mains, a 30 and 36-inch, extend to Fisher Hill reservoir and continue easterly to the city limits as a 30 and 48-inch. They are cross-connected near the reservoir to a 48-inch Metropolitan supply main which extends from the high service station southeasterly through the city for the supply of territory beyond its limits, and three other similar connections are made to the city distribution system along its route. The supply to the city proper is furnished by one 12-inch and two 20-inch mains which unite on the Common and branch into five 16-inch mains. Roxbury, West Roxbury and Dorchester are served by 24, 30 and 36-inch mains, which, considering the connections with the Metropolitan supply mains, are ample for the service required. The areas in Brighton, South Boston and Charlestown are each supplied by a single 10-inch main. Secondary feeders in the Jamaica Plain section of Roxbury and in West Roxbury are incomplete; in other sections fairly well arranged.
The distribution system of the Metropolitan Waterworks which contribute to the supply of Boston comprises the following mains: From the terminal chamber of the Weston aqueduct a 60-inch main extends across the Charles river, there reducing to a 18-inch, which is laid to the Chestnut Hill reservoir; the portion east of the river is being paralleled by a 60-inch, about twothirds of which is laid, but only a short length mar the reservoir is in service: at the Chestnut Hill reservoir this line and the discharge mains from the low service pumps connect to three mains of the southern low service. Two 48-inch mains from the low service pumping station, supplied also from the Weston aqueduct, feed Spot pond, each connected by a 24 and 30-inch pipe to Mystic reservoir; the two latter extend easterly to Charlestown, supplying the northern low service; a 48-inch branch from the easterly 48-inch runs through Everett to Chelsea, where it divides into a 20, 24 and 30-inch, which cross Chelsea creek, supplying the northern low service in East Boston, and a 24-inch connects to a 3o-inch, which crosses the Mystic river into Charlestown. From the high service pumping station a 30 and 36-inch force main feeds Fisher Hill reservoir; a 48-inch rtms through West Roxbury, reduces to 30-inch and continues through Dorchester; a 30-inch feeds Waban reservoir; these mains are connected at numerous points to the city distribution system. Of about 94.5 miles of supply mains from 12 to 60 inches in diameter, about 44 miles, mostly 48 and 36-inch mains, contribute in whole or in part to supply Boston. These mains, with the exception of some short lengths acquired from municipalities, are less than fifteen years old; about 10 miles have been laid during the past six years. There are 701 miles of pipe, 40 miles of which have done service for sixty years; 8,103 public and 307 private hydrants and 10,278 gate valves in service. The average linear spacing of hydrants in the congested value district is 125 feet, and the area served by each hydrant is 40,000 square feet. In a representative residential district the spacing was found to be 290 feet and the area served by each hydrant 78,000 square feet. The flow from 70 hydrants in 14 groups, located within congested frame areas was measured by engineers of the National Board in March, 1911, to determine the probable fire engine supply available. Five or six hydrants were opened simultaneously and the discharge measured by means of Pitot tubes. The quantities obtained were in general sufficient for the protection of the surrounding areas. Nine hydrants, or 12 per cent, of those opened, failed to deliver 000 gallons per minute, a fair supply for a second size fire engine. These small discharges were due to the condition of the old 6-inch mains, as in all cases the residual pressure observed on the adjacent large mains showed that their ultimate carrying capacity had not been reached. That the carrying capacity of the supply lines to the congested value district is ample was shown by the break in the 30-inch main on Tremont street, when the consumption rate on the southern low service reached 100,000,000 gallons per day, which was 45,000,000 gallons in excess of the rate previous to the break; during this high rate of flow the recording gage on the Common showed a drop from 42 pounds to 5 pounds and that at Engine House No. 38, on Congress street, a drop from 49 pounds to 21 pounds. During the progress of the simultaneous fires on Albany and Purchase streets in August, 1910, the maximum hourly fire draft showed a fire flow of 20,000 gallons per minute. 4,000 gallons of which was used on the latter fire.
BOSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT.
The Boston fire department is organized on a full paid basis and is worked on a district basis. Each division consists of seven districts and is under the direct supervision of a deputy chief. The senior deputy chief is acting chief as occasion requires. The city is divided into one marine and thirteen land districts with a district chief assigned to each, who is held responsible for the condition and operation of the companies in the district; each takes charge at fires in his own district until relieved by a superior officer. There are six to eight companies in each closely built-up district and from five to nine in outlying districts. Total, 1,006. Fire force, 897. The total maintenance last year was 1,508,763. There are 11 engine. 2 fireboat. 27 ladder, 3 water tower and 13 chemical companies. Four of the engine companies are in two stations, forming double companies. Each double company has 3 officers, 2 engineers, 2 assistant engineers and 15 or 20 firemen, each of the other engine companies in the closely built-up districts has 2 officers, an engineer and assistant engineer and 8 to 10 hosemen, and in the suburban districts from 5 to 8 hosemen. Each fireboat has 2 officers, 5 pilots, 5 engineers and 4 hosemen. The aerial and ordinary ladder trucks, except No. 14. have companies of 11 to 14 members, including 2 officers; the combination ladder trucks have 7 to 9 men, including a lieutenant. The chemical engines are manned by 3 to 6 and the water towers by 3 to 5 men. including in each case a lieutenant. There are 44 engines in service and 10 in reserve. The engines are of double piston pump types and with three exceptions have been purchased or rebuilt within 11 years. Boilers are usually replaced after about 12 years’ service; as a whole, the engines are in good condition. Each engine is provided with a hand relief and, in most cases, with a compound suction gage and rubber tires. They are uniformly equipped, each carrying two lengths of 4 or 4 1/2-inch hard suction with 4 1/2inch couplings, one length of 3 or 3 1/2-inch soft suction, a reducer connection, hydrant heads, gates and fresh water connections and hose. Three-horse teams are provided except for the two largest engines, which are self-propelling and seldom respond except to second alarm fires. Eleven of the engines in service were tested during February and March, 1911, by engineers of the National Board to ascertain their condition and capacity, and the ability of the crews. In general, they were in good working condition and delivered, on an average, 95 per cent, of their total rating, only one delivering less than 90 per cent. The engineers were mainly skilful, although several did not regulate feed water closely enough for operating to capacity. Stokers in several cases were not sufficiently familiar with the requirements of firing at capacity, and required instruction by the supervisor of engines. The need of a third man, trained in stoking, for duty when regular engineer or assistant engineers are off, was apparent. Engine 44, a fireboat, is equipped with electric lights and steam steering gear. Total rated capacity is 6,000 gallons per minute at 175 pounds water pressure. Engine 47, also a fireboat, is equipped with steam steering gear and electric lights. The total rated capacity of fire pumps is 6,000 gallons per minute at 175 pounds water pressure. A new fireboat will soon be put in service as Engine 31. Both fireboats in service were tested in hebruary, 1911, to ascertain their pumping capacity, the condition of the machinery and the ability of the crews. Engine 44 could deliver only 77 per cent, of its rated capacity, due mostly to the inability of the boilers to supply sufficient steam, but partly to the manner in which the boilers were stoked. One of the fire pumps showed excessive slip and connecting rods were rather free for full speed operating. There are also in service 3 water towers; 7 chemical engines, with 3 in reserve; I combination and 44 plain hose wagons, with 1 combination and 5 plain hose wagons in reserve; 104,150 feet of 2 1/2, 3 and 3 1/2-inch hose, aside from all minor equipments.
Water Supply.—Supply works under jurisdiction of Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board, an efficient organization. Supply ample, conveyed to the city bv gravity through conduits of sufficient capacity, and distributed in five services, partly by gravity and partly by pumping; nonfireproof stations, ample in capacity; distributing reservoirs contain 20 days’ supply, those on the two Low services of ample capacity. Distribution system owned and operated by the municipality; water department recently reorganized. Consumption somewhat excessive, but being reduced by the installation of meters. Pressures moderate, well maintained under heavy drafts. Provision made for supply to sprinkler equipments in most high value districts. Large mains generally adequate and well arranged, except in unimportant outlying districts ; minor distributers of fair size, generally well gridironed and being improved. Carrying capacity of mains considerably affected; electrolytic conditions well handled. Gate valves regularly inspected; generally well spaced. Hydrants of good size, subject to moderately efficient inspection and well distributed.
Fire Department.—Full paid, under good supervision ; financial support liberal. Civil service regulations for appointments; training of members thorough, discipline good. Companies seriously undermanned during meal hours in vacation periods. Apparatus well distributed, of good type, generally in excellent condition and well supplied with minor equipment. Engines of satisfactory sizes and mainly in good condition. Three fireboats for additional protection along the water fronts. Excellent equipment for large streams. Hose mainly in good condition and regularly tested; supply ample. New repair shop in course of construction. Fire stations mainly well located. Response to alarms generally prompt and satisfactory; a general alarm leaves insufficient protection for other fires. Fire methods thoroughly modern. Inspections of buildings good; records are well kept.