CARBONIC ACID GAS vs. WATER.
Every device having for its object the protection of property against fire should be fully investigated, and, if found available, should be adopted with avidity ; but when that device is equally as destructive as the fire itself, its acceptance should be rejected. Your extract from the Chicago Times introduced in your leader in the May 3 number of THE JOURNAL, in reference to stand-pipes in buildings, raises a very questionable argument. It is simply a change of the Steam Fire Engine from the street to the building. It may put out fire, but is not the destruction caused by the overtiow equal in damage to a virtual burning up of the property ? Water, like liquor, is a blessing when not abused ; but in three-fourths of the cases where used in connection with fires, the abuse is co-equal in destructiveness to the annihilation of the premises and contents.
The suggestion regarding stand-pipes looks, upon the face of it, feasible ; yet, when you apply the defects incident to its adoption, no one famliar with the subject, practically, will deny that its availability will not compare with carbonic acid gas as a protection against fire inside of buildings. In seasons of intense cold, and in northern climates, the water in the pipes will freeze and render them useless ; while carbonic acid gas can be protected from that fatality by adding salt or sugar to the alkaline water in the tanks. Again, water is only available when there is a pressure upon the pipes sufficient to force it to all parts of the building. In this city, in various localities, water with all the pressure available does not reach to the second stories of the buildings, thus rendering pipes useless ; while carbonic acid gas is available in every story, no matter how high or remote from the base. A local tank placed in the basement or cellar of a building properly constructed and charged with chemicals, can be put into active use instantaneously from any part of the building by the application of fixed appliances, and with the well known properties as a protection from, and as a quencher of, fires, nothing but prejudice prevents its general use. It is condemned because of its corrosive nature. Did the apparatus receive the same attention given to any household convenience, the corrosive objections would disappear like the fire with which it is brought in contact.
Carbonic acid gas, as a useful factor in the various productions and luxuries of the world, has, as yet, received but little experimental scientific development, and from the nature of sulphuric acid, which is a leading ingredient in the production of carbonic acid gas, has considerable of the “ scare ” in it; its use has been discarded except by professional men of our country. Let me give your readers some practical experience with carbonic acid gas within the compass of a few years, aside from its well-known protective qualities against fires. One case was this : A gentleman was complaining that a species of bug was destroying the shrubbery on his premises, and that he had used the hose and water until the bulbs and bushes were decaying. I asked him to permit me to make an experiment with a fire extinguisher. He indulged me, and on the first application the insect disappeared, thus demonstrating that, where water had failed, the chemical application was a success. Again, caterpillars are an abominable nuisance, and no amount of effort has been denied to eradicate this terrible and destructive pest. One or two applications of the fire extinguisher destroyed the embryo in the nest, and the owners of the premises were made happy over the result.
I could repeat various other successful experiments made with carbonic acid gas which developed similar results, but as this article is written with the view of calling particular attention to the fact that chemicals, in comparison to water, as a disinfectant stand many degrees higher than water, even though it is distributed plentifully through the house with stand-pipes and sprinklers. Throw away your prejudice against chemicals, and give the apparatus the same care and attention you give any other useful household convenience, and you are not only protected from fire, but you have a perfect protection to your plants, shrubbery, and your vegetation generally, even against the voracious potato bug. It is only a matter of time when the Steam Fire Engine will be superseded by this powerful chemical combination manipulated from a well constructed Chemical Engine, and with less damage and greater security to property.
In this connection I will introduce the subject of the principle adopted by certain underwriters in reducing rates where Extinguishers are used, and will illustrate a case in point: A gentleman of a Western city became a believer in the potency of the Chemical Fire Extinguisher from seeing a test made in his city with a hand machine. The Fire authorities built a most formidable pile of highly combustible material and saturated it liberally with coal oil. The gentleman was invited to see the test. After thoroughly inspecting the pile, he expressed his opinion freely that if that small tank contained power sufficient to contract the perspective fire which the debris promised to create it would awaken in his mind a new theory in regard to his insurance, of which he was carrying half a million of dollars. The pile was fired and burnt furiously, being entirely enveloped in flames. The word was given, the stream was thrown upon it,and in less than thirty seconds the fire was under control, and in minutes was entirely extinguished. The gentleman was astonished and grateful at the result. In a day or two later a policy of considerable amount was about to expire. The agent notified him. He asked the agent in case of his putting Fire Extinguishers into the premises, what reduction in the premium would be given. The agent repudiated the idea. “ Then, I will carry my own risk,” he said ; “ I intend introducing the Fire Extinguisher.” The agent, at the prospect of losing so valuable a customer, telegraphed to the home office the fact, and, in less than twenty-four hours, he received instructions to reduce the premium one-quarter. Thus, by the aid of the Fire Extinguisher, the gentleman was saved the entire amount of his household expenses.
The water was turned off the serving pipes in 9 wards of our city last week, and we were left at the mercy of fire for three consecutive nights, with the only protection of Fire Extinguishers. No fires occurred, and we were a happy people. Truly ours is a lucky city.”
In conclusion, permit me to express an opinion in regard to the determined opposition to the introduction of chemical apparatus as a factor in the extinguishment of fires. The numerical strength necessary to manage a Chemical Engine is materially reduced in comparison to the number necessary to manipulate the Steam Fire Engine. In times of great political excitement votes count, and as the Departments in large cities are managed and controlled by rings it is manifest that numerical strength is a potent essential in the power desired. Hence, this determined opposition, when it is known that nearly every Chief of Fire Departments throughout the country are favorable to the chemical use of protection against fire, especially in the incipient stage of the fire.
BALTIMORE, May 27. A. E. H.