CHINESE FIRE BRIGADES.
To save their cities from destructive fires, the Chinese observe many necessary precautions. In the streets of many of their cities wells are sunk, which are called Taiping-tsieng, or great peace wells. They are large and contain abundant supplies of water, and over the mouth of each a stone slab is placed, which is only removed when any of the neighboring houses are on fire. It is provided by law that there shall be placed in various parts of a Chinese city, large tubs, to be kept at all times full of water. On the sides of these vessels are written, in large Chinese letters, the words, “ peace tubs,” or cisterns. On the tops of the houses also it is not unusual for the Chinese to place earthenware jars containing water, so that they may always have at hand sufficient water to enable them to suppress incipient fires. In each large city there are several Fire Brigades, maintained entirely by contribution on the part of the citizens. The Fire Engines, water buckets and lanterns which belong to them are kept, as a rule, in the different temples of the city ; and each Brigade is distinguished by a peculiar name.
To each guild a Fire Brigade is attached, and the exp nses of the Brigade are defrayed by the members of the guild. The officers and men of the Brigade are provided with a distinctive uniform, or dress, and on their hats are recorded, in large Chinese characters, the name or number of their Brigade, and the words, ” Kow-fo,” or fire extinguisher.
Besides these provisions of the citizens themselves for the surpose of checking or putting out fires, the members of the ‘ocal government of each city arc called upon to render their assistance. By way of illus ration, let me take Canton. Each magistrate of this city has in his service several men, whose duty it is, on the occasion of a fire, to prevent robberies. Thus the Kwong-hip, or commandant of the Chinese garrison in Canton, has under him, besides others, eighty men, of whom twenty are to assist in preventing robberies when a fire takes place, and sixty to assist in putting out the fire. Of these men, forty are stationed at the Fire Genii gate of the city, and forty in the western suburb. Under the immediate command of the Governor there are 200 men, whose duty, in a great measure, consists in helping Firemen to subdue conflagrations. Throughout the city of Canton there are forty-eight guard houses, and from each of these, in the event of a fire, two men are told off to hasten to the scene. At the close, or commencement, of each succeeding month throughout the year, the provincial judge and the provincial treasurer, both of whom are very high officials, are supposed to inspect all the Government servants whose duty it is to assist in putting out fir-s. Once more, with the view of making all Chinese officials active in the discharge of these duties, it is enacted that, in the case of eighty houses being destroyed by fire, all the officers of the city in which the conflagration occurred shall be degradt d in rank one step ; and that in the case of ten houses being destroyed, the matter shall be reported to the Central Government at Pekin. A few days after a conflagra’ion the members of each respec ive Fire Brigade which was present on the occasion receive, as an acknowledgment of their good services, roast pigs, jars of wine, and small sums of money. The men to whom is assigned the dangerous duty of holding the hoses attached to the Engines, receive on such occasions extra rewards. Wounded Firemen are remunerated according to the nature of their wounds. The Chinese are. in my opinion, most excellent Firemen. They very quickly arrive at the scene of action, and, as a rule, they are most prompt in extinguishing the flames. They are also very daring. During the late war between Great Britain and China, when Canton was set on fire by bomb shells from Sir M. Seymour’s guns, I observed from the top of the British factory the various Fire Brigades steadily persevering in their attempts to subdue the flames, in the face of a constant fire of shot and shell.
—A Bridgeport, Conn., man the other morning when he heard the fire bell ring, sprang hastily out of bed, and in his excitement grabbed up his coat and thrust his leg through one of the sleeves. The fit was perfect, in fact skin tight, but releasing the limb was another thing. He hauled, yanked, pulled, perspired, and tried to come the peeling business on the sleeve, but the goods were too thick, and “wouldn’t have it.” The bell kept clanging, the wind roaring, and the man’s nerves were wrought to the highest pitch. Finally his wife came to the rescue and helped him out of his trouble just as he was seriously intending to start oft with his coat stuffed into his trowsers.