Co-operation Between the Fire Marshal and Chief

Co-operation Between the Fire Marshal and Chief

How the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Department Works with Chiefs to Reduce Fire Loss—Following Up Complaints and Prosecuting Fire Law Violators

State Fire Marshal of Illinois

THE importance of fighting fires before they start as a means toward reducing the huge fire waste is a point too often passed by lightly or disregarded by the general public. Often not until a conflagration wipes out a large part of a city or town, with a staggering loss of life and property, is any great attention paid to fire hazards or fireproof construction, except perhaps in a

very general way. The following paper, read by State Fire Marshal John G. Gamber, of Illinois, before the Illinois Firemen’s Association in convention at Murphysboro, January 14, shows what it is possible to do with well-organized effort and with the co-operation of those whose duty it is to look out for the welfare of a community: When the State Fire Marshal Department was first created, it was thought for some reason that the only duty the Fire Marshal had to perform was to sit around

his office and wait until some fire chief, mayor or town clerk sent in a report of a fire which was thought to be suspicious—and, perhaps, there were plenty of them at that time. He would then turn the hounds loose and try to determine who set the fire or ascertain the real cause of the fire. A complete report would then be made out. If the fire was incendiary and the guilty parties were caught, he would try to convince the police that they should be sent to the penitentiary.

That was regarded as his main duty, and is one of his duties today, but it was soon realized that if the immense fire loss of the state was to be cut down, something more than investigating suspicious fires must be done.

Statistics will show that 75 to 80 per cent, of all the fires in this state are preventable. Not to exceed 10 per cent, are due to incendiarism, while 65 to 70 per cent, are due to pure carelessness.

Educational Campaign Organized

Mr. C. J. Doyle, who was fire marshal at the time, and his corps of deputies accordingly set out to educate the people of the state how to eliminate this great unnecessary waste by fire. A campaign was organized. Deputies were concentrated in groups in various cities of the state and an intensive inspection of the business houses was made in each. This plan was still followed when I went into office June 1, 1917.

I studied the situation carefully and came to the conclusion that we were not going to get very far if we depended solely upon what inspections the regular state deputies would be able to make. 1 do not wish to give you the idea that the work done by these deputies is not large in volume and effective in results. We have increased the number of inspections from 12,000 to 40,000 a year. When you bear in mind that every order must be rechecked, some of them as often as three times, you will realize the enormous volume of work done by the deputies. Furthermore, word went out that no haphazard work would be tolerated.

But the number of deputies is limited and they are in a town for only a brief period. I realized that, if we were going to do real effective work of a lasting quality, we would have to have the hearty co-operation of every chief of the fire department and other city officials throughout the state. We are getting results along this line in some cases, all we could desire.

Working With the Chief

As an example of what the department is able to accomplish with this sort of cooperation, I would refer you to Chief Wyse of Lincoln. Here we not only have the cooperation of the chief, but he is backed up by the city officials and Chamber of Commerce. Scarcely a week passes without a number of orders being received at the office from Chief Wyse. These are generally followed up by a strong letter from my office and later by a re-inspection, and, if the owner or agent does not show a disposition to comply, he is invited to the judge’s chambers. As a rule he leaves there with his mind fully made up to comply with the order, especially after settling with the judge.

Today, the serving of an order by Chief Wyse or a deputy from my office means a compliance, and the result is that Lincoln is getting rid of a lot of fire hazards and good, substantial buildings are taking their places. In the last year, or since Chief VVyse took office, 25 buildings have been removed and six more are to come down in the spring. Twenty-five old chimneys have been torn down, and about fifty rebuilt.

John G. Gamber, State Fire Marshal of Illinois

What is true in Lincoln is also true in Decatur, only on a larger scale, owing to the difference in size of the two cities. When that old veteran, Chief Devore, drives around the city of Decatur, the owners of old, dilapidated buildings begin to shiver, for they know that his ride means something. Every so often he makes a trip over the city to make a survey and I doubt if he ever makes a trip but what he calls upon us to give him some help in enforcing a tough order. And I want to say right here that it is a pleasure to assist him, because every city official from the mayor down is on the job and they welcome outside help.

Removing Fire Hazards

Last summer in the course of several days some forty Decatur business houses were condemned and today are either torn down or in the process of removal. In some instances whole half blocks had to come down and not a party went into court on the matter.

I could go on and enumerate a number of other cities and villages where similar results have been obtained. 1 will merely pick a few at random. In the last year nine buildings have been removed in Effingham, eight in Dubois, six in Litchfield, Trenton, Tolono and Vandalia, four in Ashkum and three in Tamaroa.

I could probably name 150 cities and villages where from one to six old buildings have come down in the last year. Of course, you are all familiar with what was done along that line in blast St. Louis after the riots. The same results are possible in every city in the state.

Work for the Public Good

The time when checker championships, card game championships and other such championships are to be determined at the engine houses is and should of necessity be at an end. Your services are needed for more important work and your citizens are entitled to a different service. You must render it not only for the protection of property, but for your own protection as well.

What would we have thought of our generals and other officers in the great World War if they had permitted their men to lie around idle until the enemy came close and then sent them out in the dark, in no wise prepared or equipped to head off the enemy? How many of our soldiers would be here today to tell the tale? How many gold stars we would see todav on every service flag!

Hut the contrary was true right from the start. Every man had to stand the proper physical test. Then he was trained and kept in the pink of condition. While the fighting man was back in the trenches awaiting the command to battle, the engineer and scouting party were looking over the field for every possible advantage to make the work of our boys easier, safer and more effective.

Chief Must Know Buildings

I his is the sort of thing we need today in fire prevention and fire fighting work—real service. As a commanding officer of your department, you have no right to command your men to go blindly into a smoke laden building about which you know nothing. It is your duty to know every building in your precinct, what storage it contains, where the stairways are and all elevator openings.

It is your duty to know that all openings are properly

protected, so that when your men are ordered inside you will know that they will not fall down an unprotected elevator shaft. You should know, before sending them to the second or other floors, that the basement is not loaded with dynamite or something equally dangerous, or that you are not sending them into a network of carelessly installed electric wires.

You should know in a general way the construction of every large building in your precinct, so that you can judge what the effect on the fire will be if you find it necessary to break in doors or windows and where to make such openings to prevent a draft from driving the fire clear to the top of the building through shafts and open stairways.

Hazardous conditions such as I have mentioned should not be tolerated. You, perhaps, will say, “Well, what if we do know of these conditions? How are we going to remedy them ?”

If your city ordinance does not give you the required power, just turn to the state fire marshal law, and, if you cannot figure how you can secure relief through that law, write to me and I will put you right or issue the necessary orders for you.

Firemen Should be Well Trained

In addition to these things, you should at all times instruct your men in new methods of fire fighting and fighting different kinds of fires. For instance, an oil fire must be fought differently than an ordinary factory or roof fire. You may know it, but do your men know it? It is too late to explain to them when you are at the fire. You can only give directions then. Your men should be so thoroughly drilled that they will understand your orders explicitly, although they are given hurriedly.

It is your duty also as commanding officer to keep an eye on new construction work going on in your city. You are a better judge of the fire hazards than the building commissioner, and it is up to you to advise him.

You should be the leader in getting fire prevention ordinances passed in your city, because every time you obtain the passage of such an ordinance you render a real service to the citizens of your city or village.

Care of Equipment

While you are doing these things, do not forget your equipment and its care. A short time ago I visited a small city in this state and called at the fire station, where they had a small Ford chemical. They had only two paid men in the department, the balance being volunteers. The man in charge was somewhat pleased at my visit and immediately suggested that he would try out the Ford. He raced the engine so hard there in the engine house that I thought the darned machine would fly to pieces.

I suggested to him that racing his engine so hard while the machine was standing still was the worst thing he could do and that some day he would find it out. He laughed at the idea and stated that he tried it out that way often. I heard through another party that the very next time they wanted that chemical the engine would hardly work and they had a strenuous time getting to the fire. Don’t fool with your equipment, but look after it and keep it in good working order.

A short time ago in a certain city in this state an alarm of fire was received and when the department responded and tried to lay the hose, they found that it had been cut at almost every bend on the back of the cart. No one could say just when this hose was mutilated. Evidently no inspection had been made for some time. I could give you many more such illustrations, but time will not permit.

Dominion Association Start Membership Campaign

Chief Emile Berthiaume, Three Rivers, Que., President of the Dominion Association of Fire Chiefs, has sent out the following circular in anticipation of the 1920 convention :

Kingston, Ont., February 6, 1920.

To Our Members and all Others Whom it May Concern :

The 1920 Convention at St. Thomas, Ont. What have you to suggest to make it the biggest, brightest and best convention we have ever held ?

There will be a meeting of the Board of Directors during the month of March, and we look to you, to submit any suggestions for topics to be discussed, or any other matters that should receive the attention of the Association in Convention Assembled. Let me hear from you before March 10th. Your officers and Board of Directors are all working for a Rousing Convention. Are you doing your share ?

President Berthiaume has appointed the following •committee on membership, and they will be looking to you to Get the Other Fellow; if you do, we will have the largest active membership in any Chief’s Organization in the world. Do Your Duty Now.

Chief John W. Graham, Ottawa, Chairman.


Chief A. C. Cameron, Oshawa.

Chief W. H. Knowles, Dundas, Ont.

Chief Geo. M. Brady, North Bay, Ont.

Chief R. McLeod, Port Arthur, Ont.

Chief E. F. Earl, Milton. Ont.

Chief FI. G. Gillespie. Brockville, Ont.

Chief A. M. Arthur, Owen Sound, Ont.

Dist. Chief A. Gunn, Toronto. Ont.


Chief A. Tessier, Hull, Que.

Chief A. Debeau, Verdun, Que.

Chief A. Z. Couture, Sherbrooke, Que.

Chief H. Bourgeois, St. Ilyacinthe, Que.

Chief Nap. Gravel, St. Lambert, Que.

Chief C. F. Matthewson, Montreal West, Que.

Asst. Chief S. E. Hort, Westmount, Que.

Nova Scotia

Chief J. W. Churchill, Halifax. N. S.

H. M. Mersereau, Sydney, N. S.


Chief Wm. Hardy, Lethbridge, Alta.

Chief James Smart, Calgary, Alta.

Chief W. C. Bloxhan, Claresholm, Alta.

Chief R. Davies, Edmonton, Alta.

Chief F. J. Malloy, Bassano, Alta.

New Brunswick

Chief Geo. Ackman, Moncton, N. B.

Chief George Blake, St. John, N. B.

Prince Edward Island

Chief A. S. Stalker, Pictou, N. S.


Dist. Chief Ford Winsor, St. John’s, Newfoundland.


Chief H. E. Rose. St. Vital, Man.

Chief J. E. Buchanan, Winnipeg, Man.

Chief J. M. Melhuish, Brandon, Man.

Chief Roxborough, Portage La Prairie, Man.

Dist. Chief A. Buchan, Winnipeg, Man.


Deputy Fire Commissioner F. G. Furby, Regina, Sask.

Chief Geo. W. Baines, Moose Jaw, Sask.

Chief W. R. Hutton, Gull Lake, Sask.

Chief W. A. White, Regina, Sask.

Ex-Chief T. E. Heath. Saskatoon, Sask.

British Columbia

Chief J. F. Moffatt. Vernon, B. C.

Chief W. J. Kerr, Kamloops, B. C.

Chief C. E. Shannon. Point Grey. B. C.

Chief J. C. Tom, Golden, B. C.

Asst. Chief C. W. Thompson, Vancouver, B. C.

Committee on Associate Members, Working Under Directions of Chief J. W. Graham

T. W. McKenny, Gtitta Percha Rubber Co., Toronto, Ont.

G. L. McCrea, Goodyear Rubber Co., Toronto, Ont.

R. F. Kingdom, Dominion Rubber System. Toronto, Ont.

H. Richards, Dunlop Rubber Co., Toronto, Ont.

R. Cameron, Hugh Cameron & Co., Toronto, Ont.

G. E. Thomas, American-La France F’ire Engine Co. of Canada, Toronto, Ont.

J. O. Tremblay, Fire Equipment Co., Montreal, Que.

W. M. Tiffany, Northern Electric Co., Montreal, Que.

J. A. Miller. Pyrene Manufacturing Co., Montreal, Que.

Rene Talbot, Fire Apparatus, Dalhousie St., Quebec, Que.

W. Cope, St. Lambert, Que.

Capt. W. Scott, Fire Dept., Halifax, N. S.

Cbas. Holden, Dominion Rubber System, Winnipeg, Man.

R. C. Sharpe, Pyrene Manufacturing Co., Winnipeg, Man.

Capt. C. H. Knight, Fire Department, Calgary, Alberta.

Capt. H. Whitehouse, Fire Department, Edmonton, Alberta.

J. A. Comly, Goodyear Rubber Co., Calgary, Alberta.

C. E. Wright, Dominion Rubber System, Regina, Sask.

Albert Wayless, Hargreaves Limited, Victoria, B. C.

A. G. Long, Apparatus Agent, Portland, Ore., U. S. A.

Special Committee for Chiefs of Private Plants

Chief, J. S. France, Bain Wagon Works, Woodstock, Out Chief James Corbett, Massey Harris Co.. Toronto, Out Chief Alex Stark, Dominion Bridge Works, Lachine, Que Chief II. Mansell, C. P. R. Shops, Montreal, Que.

Chief Id. II. Graham, Lake Superior Corporation, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Chief J. If. Jones, Dunlop Rubber Co. Toronto. Ont.

Chief John Miller, Wm. Davies Co., Toronto, Ont.

Chief B. S. Mattice, Massey Harris Co., Brantford, Ont Chief James Rennie, Riordon Mills, Merritton, Ont.

Chief R. W. Skinner, International Harvester Co., Chatham, Ont. Chief C. F. Butler, Canada Furniture Co., Woodstock, Ont.

Chief Graham, Chairman of the Membership Committee or the Secretary of the Association will be at your service, any time to help you in the work of securing new members, and on request application for membership cards will be sent by return mail. A number of copies of the 1919 Convention Book of Proceedings are on hand in the Secretary’s office; if there is a chief in your neighborhood who is not a member of the Association, have a copy of the book sent to him with a request to become a member.

Fraternally yours,


Box 56, Kingston, Ont.

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