California Conflagrations Climatically Considered.
“From the underwriting point of view,” writes E. W. Carpenter in an insurance journal, “ the most prolific production of the glorious climate of California is that friend of the well-insured unsuccessful merchant—the tramp. The tramp element in California is like an army foraging in the county through which it passes, with no base of supplies and no winter quarters. It is so numerous that it can, upon occasions, ‘run a town’ or burn it, thereby securing such supplies as its commissariat may require. It seems, therefore, that the tramp hazard, the features of which are so evident to all that they need not be particularized, is. thanks to the climate, greater here than in any other portion of the United States. A taste for alliteration prompts me to mention next, after the ever blooming bums.’ the deciduous booms that have been recently shedding their leaves in all portions of the State. A California boom is an invention for selling to those who have a mania for the semi-tropics, solid chunks of climate, resting upon an adobe foundation. Of course the prudent underwriter should avoid these boom risks ; but the trouble is to know where to draw the line between risks which are erected on boom and those found on bed-rock.
“ Climatic Construction.—I am certain this is not a proper title, but am ‘ ure it will, in two words, call to your mind earthenware chimneys, stovepipes through roof and sides, faulty grates, flimsy frames and many similar characteristics of California buildings. The defects referred to exist, of course, in other portions of the country, but the necessity for substantiality is, on account of the climate, so much less here than elsewhere that they are exceptionally prevalent in California. On the other hand, it may be said that there is so much less use for fires here than in other portions of the country, that the hazard is decreased. My own belief, however, is that buildings substantially erected with the expectation that many fires will be used are better risks than those in which it is expected that but few fires will be needed, and where the heating and cooking arrangements are, accordingly, of a slight or temporary character. I would rather insure a house with half a dozen good brick chimneys, used every day in the year, than one which used fire only one month out of twelve,’and shoved a stovepipe through the roof as a temporary expedient, ‘just during the cold snap/
“ The Dry Season.—The exceptional hazard pertaining thereto is self-evident. Six months or more without a drop of rain, during which water-works run dry, and every nook and corner of roofs and back yards is filled with timber-like filaments of superheated litter and rubbish, create conditions that so swell our summer loss records that forty per cent of the losses of the year occur during the months of June, July and August.
“ The Migratory Tendeney.—The climate is such that a large proportion of our population, who are far from being tramps, are nevertheless of what I may be perhaps allowed to call a semi-migratory disposition—that is, they locate their homes in a tentative way, the climate being such that they can make their living arrangements in the cheapest possible manner, and then, if disappointment follows, can * strike out ’ for some other location. Homes do not need to be prepared with a view to that degree of permanency which pertains in colder latitudes. A farmer settles down in a house costing $500, and with a barn costing $1000, both constructed with a view enclosing as much climete as possible .with a minimum of lumber. Malaria seizes him, or home-sickness his wife, or the sheriff the ranch, or a desire to getaway ‘on general principles,’ the whole family and the property burns. Many of you have records of such fires on your loss books. I use the farmers only as an example. The same migratory dis-
position pertains to the merchant, so that the hazard of the ‘transient trader’ (which finds entry on most prohibited lists) attaches to many merchants in California that are not generally considered transients.’
“ The Grain Field Hazard.—Were it not for this we should not, of course, be able to do a growing-crop business, but the fact that this is the only portion of the United States in which this hazard is so pronounced as to demand insurance is a very practical proof that the character of our climate is such as to greatly augment the danger from fire.
“ Spontaneous Combustion and Evolution of Vapors.—That climate materially increases the danger from these sources is self-evident. A bundle of closely confined oiled rags would burst into flames more quickly on a red hot Red Bluff day than when under a Seattle sun, and coal oil of IIO degrees fire test becomes an irreproachable incendiary under San Joaquin’s ‘ 115 degrees in the shade.’
“ Coal Oil and Gasoline Staves.—The character of the climate, which requires only a small quantity of heat for short periods, renders the use of these incendiaries more prevalent than elsewhere, and the loss ratio is proportionately augmen ted.”
PROTECTION FOR HOLYOKE’S LUMBER District.—The leport of the joint special committee at Holyoke, Mass., on the big wood pile of that city, made to the city council last week, is in patt as follows : “ J. C. Lewis, of the Connecticut River Lumber Company, stated that his knowledge of the first fire, which he also said was the first serious one in nineteen years, led him to believe that such fire caught from sparks from the engine used by Mr. Whiting in sawing wood ; that the danger to surrounding property was caused by shingles flying from the sheds burnt and not by any heat or sparks from the piles themselves ; that the company was making all possible effort to dispose of its wood, and was rapidly doing so ; that hereafter the power for sawing would lie furnished by horse-power or steam brought through an undeiground pipe from the sawmill boilers instead of as formerly ; that the company had erected two small sheds, each of which contained 200 feet of hose, in addition to 400 feel at the mill, all of which would be available for immediate use ; that the company had two watchmen, one always on duty looking out for fires; and that the piles of edgings in close proximity to the houses on the north side of Dwight street would be removed within a fortnight. The second fire he thought was incendiary.”