CHIEF HALE ON THE PREVENTION OF FIRES.
IN the course of a recent “talk” to the insurance men of Indianapolis, Ind., on the subject of fire prevention, Chief Hale, of Kansas City, Mo., said:
“There is hardly any comparison between the fire departments of Europe and America, because they are entirely different. The former lacks capacity of engines and all hydraulic machinery, and their hose and ladder service is wholly inadequate compared with ours. Their machinery is clumsier and harder to handle. Everything here is built for speed, while over there they pay little attention to that quality. The reason is, that in Europe they are not so apprehensive of fires as we are. They believe that, instead of improving the fire departments, it is better to construct buildings that prevent fires altogether. In London, if the chimney of a man’s house catches fire and he turns in an alarm, he is assessed a fine of $25. You see, he should have prevented a chimney fire. They still have the chimney sweeps there to clean out chimneys. In Europe they build with the one idea in view—that of preventing fire. In all the larger buildings the absence of combustibles is very noticeable. They build everything with stone and iron. We have another thing to contend with, which they have not, that is, the class of people who take advantage of over-insurance. In foreign countries these are comparatively few, while in this country they form quite a considerable class. I can notice that in the last twenty-five years the per cent, of fireproof buildings constructed in this country has grown right along; aud this is the direction we want to keep moving in. We want to reduce the fire waste in this country, and it can be done by constructing good buildings instead of tinder boxes.
“Foreigners are not nearly as fast as we are. Why, if the fire department of London were transferred to New York, the latter city would burn up in two weeks. They do not know as much about fighting fires as we do; in fact, they have never had the experience. Their work is not nearly so perilous, because of better constructed buildings, which rarely ever fall, as they often do in American cities. England and France have no conflagrations like we have. The loss in London is only thirty-six cents per capita, while in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia it is $2. You can see by the difference how many more fires we must have in these cities than they have in London. You know statistics show that in the United States there is not a moment, day or night, that there is not a large Are somewhere. There are fifty per cent, more fires in this country than in Great Britain. Of course, this reduced condition of fires makes insurance rates much lower there than here. The manner of constructing buildings that will not burn only tends to lessen the number of fires, and in this respect we can on the whole do more to reduce our losses by copying European methods of building than they could reduce theirs by copying our ways of running to fires.
“There is nothing in European departments that resembles ours. They stick mostly to the old ways of working. In London all the firemen are housed with their families at the fire stations, which resemble and are really nothing else but tenemen thou see. The city pays the men salaries, but deducts the rents therefrom. Of course, living thus delays them in getting out to an alarm at night, and if they get out in three minutes they consider it good work, while here, if a company does not turn out in fifteen seconds, It is regarded as slow. In London they have no trained horses in their departments. A yearly contract is let to some horse firm to furnish horses to use in the department, as wanted. The department in Paris is very similar and works along the same lines. The firemen, however, are detailed from the army, and are subject to a call to arms at any time. The foreign firemen are not of as high order as the American firemen. The reason is, they do not receive pay sufficient. In Paris firemen receive twenty cents a day, and in London only half as much as the average American fireman receives. Foreign firemen are deficient in everything necessary for success in a competitive drill. All of their methods and ours were so different that there was no comparison. It was exactly like putting an ox cart against an express train. We wentthrough onr drills in three minutes and forty-seven seconds, and the best they could do was ten minutes. This was at Paris. There was one thing that struck me as being peculiar in Paris, and that was the portable fire stations. These stations are little houses built on wheelb and are taken to the wholesale districts during the night, and they contain hose, chemicals, and axes. In addition, the city is patroled by several hundred men looking for fires during the night. As soon as a blaze is discovered, the men hurry to one of these portable stations and by aid of the apparatus in most cases extinguish the fire before the department arrives. The thing which American firemen have to contend with, and which the foreign firemen know little about, is politics. Politics and firefighting do not go well together. Firefighting is a trade requiring years to learn. A politician usually makes a poor fireman. A man at the head of a fire department should have the interest of the city at heart It is noticeable that most of the apparatus used in this country is invented by men in the service You know the old saying that genius, like a carbuncle, is apt to break out most any place. A man in the service can see the needs of the department better than any one else, and he accordingly remedies them by studying out some invention.”