CHIEF AITCHISON DEAD.
It is with the most sincere sorrow that we chronicle the sudden taking off of Alexander W. Aitchison, chief of the fire department of Hamilton, Ont. “He died (writes our correspondent) as he would have wished to die, on duty, not, perhaps, amid the excitement and perils attached to a big fire, but none the less while in the execution of his work as a fireman. On the morning of April 5, in answering an alarm for a grass fire, he was riding at a gallop up John street and turning east, when, as he crossed King street, the chemical combination wagon, driven by Station Foreman Gilbert came on the rush down the same street from Hugh son street. Chief Aitchison whipped up his horse, and Fireman Gilbert pulled his hardest at his team to avoid a collision. Unhappily the effort was in vain. The tongue of the wagon caught the hind wheels of the chief’s buggy, and both he and his driver, Fireman Matthew Britton, were thrown out with great violence. The driver fell on his side against the Macdonald monument and received painful, but not dangerous bruises and cuts on his face and body. Chief Aitchison alighted on the asphalt pavement and was picked up unconscious. He was at once taken to the hospital, where he died without gaining consciousness. So passed away in what the outside world may call unheroic fashion one of the noblest characters the Creator ever sent into this world. As big in heart as he was big in body (he was over six feet and proportionately stoutly built), his one idea was how to do his duty conscientiously and consistently with justice to his men and his fellow citizens a task which he fulfilled to perfection. Wholesouled and genial as a comrade, he was temperate in all things, a total abstainer from all alcoholic drinks, clean in his manner of life, courteous to all comers, a strict disciplinarian, yet beloved of his men as one who knew how t > temper justice with mercy in his bearing towards his subordinates. It is not too much to say that the ‘big chief’ was the pride of Hamilton, respected and beloved by all who came in contact with him. As a public officer none could be more missed. And as he was the pride of the city, so was the fire department his particular pride. Practically he created it, and ever since January 14, 1879, he had been the head of the paid department. His one idea was that the scene of a fire could not be reached too quickly, and in carrying out that idea he was cut off in the full prime of manly strength and mental vigor. The dead chief, who was born in Binghamton, N. Y., came with his parents to Hamilton when he was three years of age. At quite an early age he became a lantern bearer in the old volunteer fire department and joined its ranks when he was old enough. After leaving school, he was apprenticed to the carpentering trade and went to New York, returning in 1878, becoming a partner of his father, who owned a planing mill. In that year a bad fire broke out in the Harvey warehouse (near which spot he met with his fatal accident), at which he so distinguished himself that a short time afterwards in the beginning of January, 1879, he was appointed chief of the newly established paid fire department, which consisted of but nine men—today its membership is fifty-two, and, as a department, although small in number, it can easily hold its own against any other in the Dominion of Canada as well in discipline as in efficiency. It amply protects a fire area of close on 4,000 acres, with a population of nearly 60,000, and abounding in handsome residentiary, business, ecclesiastical. educational and other public and quasipublic buildings, as well as a number of important manufacturing establishments. The equipment of the department has grown with tne membership. Chief Aitchison being an intelligent go-ahead fireman, who absorbed much technical and scientific knowledge of firefighting from whatever publications bore upon firefighting and fire protection, and from the papers read and the discussions over them at the conventions of the International Association of Fire F.ngineers, at which he was a diligent attendant, was not one to permit his department to fall behind in its equipment, and has left behind him. no longer the poor and inferior apparatus, consisting chiefly of a hand engine and an oldfashioned hook and ladder truck, hut one which comprises the following: Steamer: hand engine: combination chemical and hose wagons, two; chemical hand extinguishers, six; aerial truck; hook and ladder truck; hose wagons, five; hose, cotton, rubber-lined, good, 12,000 feet; electric fire alarm, with nearly forty boxes; horses, nineteen; and up-to-date buildings valued at $30,000, the whole equipment including buildings, being valued at nearly $70,000; fire pressure, eighty pounds; fire hydrants set, 960. To Chief Aitchison is due the credit of an underwriters’ rating of first-class, and his fellow citizens are not likely to forget it. The dead chief leaves behind him to mourn the loss of a good, faithful and loving husband and fond father, a wife, three sons and three daughters. In accordance with his known wishes his widow asked for a quiet funeral to which Toronto and other cities sent deputations, and the local fire department and the civic corporation, chaste and artistic floral pillows. The local press and that of other cities contain expressions ot deepest regret at his death, and in speaking of him both Chairman Fleming, of the Hamilton fire and water committee, and Chief Thompson, of the Toronto fire department spoke as follows: Chief Thompson—‘There was no better fireman anywhere than poor Aitchison. He was a daring man and a fast driver in getting to fires.’ Chairman Fleming—‘He was a man of whom T thought highly, both as a gentleman and as chief of the fire department. He was recognised as one of the foremost men in his position.’ Thus in a little over a year Canada has lost two of her best firemen, the late Chief Roe, of London, Ont., and now Chief Aitchison, of Hamilton. Each died nobly at his post of duty.”
A PERSONAL TRIBUTE.
Between the editor of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING and Chief Aitchison there existed a warm personal friendship of nearly thirty years. The deceased chief was a staunch supporter of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING, a thorough lover of his profession, whose principal aim was to keep in the van of the fire departments on this continent. A close student of the technical side of his chosen calling, he invented several fire appliances that tended greatly to the improvement of the fire service and rendered his department as perfect in its equipment as it was under that firm, but just and kindly discipline which he enforced, and which caused him to be so respected and beloved by his men. He was conspicuous for his bigheartedness, and in him the city has lost a faithful and eminently capable officer, the fire service a distinguished ornament,” and all who knew him a true and loyal friend. To his bereaved widow, family and relatives FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING tenders its heartfelt sympathy.
The films of a moving picture machine coming in contact with an electric light caused a fire on the stage of Kip’s theatre at Kokomo, Ind.