BOSTON’S FIRE DEPARTMENT.

BOSTON’S FIRE DEPARTMENT.

In a lecture recently delivered at Charlestown by District Chief Grady, the fitting successor of the late District Chief Egan, under the above caption, the evolution of the present very complete department of Boston was lucidly and interestingly shown. He gave a very graphic sketch of the risks to which a firemen is exposed, and showed in what many of them consisted.

It is not (he said) the fire that makes the biggest show that is the hardest to fight. The fire that goes roaring through the roof of a building, lighting up the city for miles round, is sometimes much more easily subdued than the dull, smoky cellar fire that forces men to face the severest kind of punishment, the effects of which are felt for weeks afterwards. Next to a dangerous cellar fire nothing is more dreaded by the men than what is known in their own language as the “back draft.” This is a sudden veering of the flames, usually caused by the burning away of some portion of the building which gives the fire a new draft and changes its course completely. Many a brave fellow has lost his life by this deadly back draft. Fires in warehouses filled with drugs and paints mean grave dangers to the firemen. Such fires are usually caused by spontaneous combustion, and are dangerous to fight, carboys of different acids being packed in hay or straw, which makes a dense smoke, and this smoke is sometimes charged with the fumes of said acid—the combination making a most deadly mixture to breathe. Still, fires of this kind must be fought as bravely as fires amid less dangerous surroundings. Sometimes the men can remain in such situations only for a few minutes at a time; then they retreat to the street, while a fresh squad or company takes their place. They cannot afford to give the fire a chance to gain the slightest headway. All the serious fires seem to occur on bitterly cold days or nights, and the sufferings of the men at such fires are great. To work out of doors in a freezing temperature is not very pleasant under any circumstances; but to work in water and with water while exposed to the bitter cold is more than disagreeable. You stand upon the round of a ladder at, perhaps, the fourth or fifth story of a building directing a stream of water at the blazing interior, with another stream, perhaps, playing over your head and enveloping you in an icy spray. Icicles hang from every point of your fire hat, and your coat is frozen to your back, while the water that is falling about you freezes as it falls. Every movement on the ladder about you is dangerous, it being so incrusted with ice that it is almost impossible to get a secure foothold, while a misstep might hurl you to the ground. Such is the experience of every fireman during the winter months. Broken glass and melted lead are among the other dangers that firemen are compelled to face at bad fires. The forrrer occurs at almost every fire, and is caused by the flames bursting through the windows or by the efforts of the firemen to make an opening in the building. The latter is caused by the burning away of metal cornices and ornamental iron work at the top of buildings, in which an immense amount of solder is used. Sometimes a perfect rain of molten lead pours down, with an occasional piece of red hot tin or zinc for variety. Men working upon ladders or on fire escapes underneath have to stand this red-hot shower as best they can, while it burns great holes in their coats, or protect themselves as best they can, by crouching inside the window frames. Considering the exposure that men in this business have to endure, jumping out of a warm bed on a bitter cold night to answer an alarm, driving through the streets in the face of biting wind, finishing their dressing as they dash along, working in water-soaked clothing in a freezing temperature, and having many hours of exhausting work at a time, the mortality among the fireman is very light

DISTRICT CHIEF GRADY,

BOSTON’S FIRE DEPARTMENT.

1

BOSTON’S FIRE DEPARTMENT.

BURST STANDPIPE AT ELDORADO, KAN.

HIEF L. P. Webber of the fire department of Boston in his twenty-second annual report claims, that as year by year the tendency of alarms is towards an increase, in undue proportion to the increase in values, the unavoidable inference to be drawn from that fact is that owners and occupants of buildings are “gravitating into greater and greater indifference, and leaving the work of the prevention as well as the extinguishment of fires more and more to the fire department.” During 1894 there were 1,979 alarms, an increase of 259 over those of 1893, which again showed an excess of 306 over 1892. The losses on buildings and contents amounted to $1,369,230, more than a quarter of which must be credited to the Roxbury conflagration of May 15. 1894. This is at the rate of nearly $693 for each alarm, the lowest recorded ratio of loss for forty-five years, or since the department year of 1849 -50. And yet there have not been wanting those who have subjected the department to a “ fusilade of criticism, for which malevolence furnished the powder and misinformation the shot.” The new headquarters on Bristol street have been completed and occupied. Work on the new fire alarm plant was so far completed as to warrant the expectation that that branch of the service would be transferred from the dome of the city hall to the new building by the end of spring, thus removing from the former place a constant and formidable menace. A new steam fire engine company, No. 45, has been put in commission at Roslindale and a new combination company at Ashmont, a new house for a ladder company being also nearly completed, and the new firfeboat (already noticed in FIRE AND WATER, July 6 and 27,) almost ready to be put in commission. An extra appropriation of $300,000 could easily be expended, and would enable the department to carry out the recommendations of the commissioners relative to a system of standpipes and ladders upon buildings of a certain character, as well as to a system of 12-inch pipes through a conflagration district to be supplied with salt water by the fireboats, each of which, if carried out, would, give better results for the cost involved than anything now in the service. The fire districts have been rearranged and Increased. First and second assistant chiefs have been appointed, also two additional district chiefs, making eleven in all, besides the two assistants. The running stock of the department has likewise been increased, but no apparatus proper has been purchased except a third-size Clapp and Jones steam engine. The force of the department is as follows: 1 chief, 2 assistant chiefs, 11 district chiefs, 1 superintendent of apparatus repairs, 5 clerks, 1 veterinary surgeon, 52 captains, 80 lieutenants, 40 engineers, 503 permanent men, 119 call men, 4 call captains, 67 permanent substitutes, 1 hostler, 2 watchmen, 259 horses, with fifty extra for winter use. As to the composition of the force, the chief is evidently not in favor of the system of call men, for whom he would substitute permanent men. He adds:

“The position of Boston in this respect is unpleasantly unique at the present time. Here is a city of approximately half a million inhabitants, with a property valuation in proportion to its population in excess of any other large city of the country, that still keeps a considerable portion of its fire department on a strictly country basis. Probably the general public does not realize the provincialism of such a state of things as fully as it will after the call element is abolished; but that it knows there is something lacking is indicated by the frequent requests for more permanent men in those sections where the call companies are located.

The men on the force are regularly drilled, the facilities for this purpose having been greatly increased with the most satisfactory results. The total number of fire hydrants in the city is 6,553, in addition to which there are 238 fire reservoirs in different sections of Boston that contain from 300 to 500 hogsheads of water and can be used in an emergency. The amount of hose in use and in storehouses is 91,668 feet, and the apparatus consists of 45 steam fire engines (with nine in reserve), 11 chemical engines, of which two are combination wagons (with two in reserve, one a combination wagon), 4 horse hose companies (2 in reserve), 17 hook and ladder companies, (with 6 trucks including an aerial ladder in reserve), 40 fuel wagons and 10 salt-pungs(with 6 spare). The fire alarm wires by act of legislature are being put underground, and their inspection now forms part of the duties of the new bureau of wires which is being conducted with great credit and success. Fourteen new signal boxes have been added to the service, of which 11 are equipped with telephones. New circuits have been built, and others have been entirely reconstructed; 150 milesof iron wire, 30 miles covered, and 7,500 feet of ten-conductor cable have been run, 46 new poles set, 1,130 cross-arms put up, 110 old poles taken down, 100 extensions added, 12 fixtures built and 40 old ones removed The stock and fixtures of the bureau seem very complete, and the bureau, besides looking after these wires, also takes care of 23 alarm bells, on churches, schools, and engine houses, and 40 public clocks. The expenses of the department have grown from $695,104 in 1885 to $1,041,297in 1894, an increaseof almost 50 per cent.

(CUT SPECIALLY MADE FOR FIRE AND WATER.)