Com. Fitch Replies.
To the Editor:
For the past two or three days considerable space in the columns of the Boston press has been devoted to statements, speculations and interviews bearing upon a secret petition said to be in circulation asking for the removal of the lire commissioners and the chief of the department, on the alleged ground of incompetency.
“Even the tireless and ubiquitous reporter has not experienced his usual success in obtaining the full particulars about this document, which recalls to some extent the star chamber investigation of a year ago.
“ Two or three of these signers, however, have tired of holding their breath, and have risen to the surface and stated some of their grievances, which are that they cannot get sufficient insurance, that rates are too high, etc., all of which troubles would be found in any other large city, and in some of them greatly magnified under the same conditions of building and business which they represent here.
“But we will let that pass for the present. We would, however, like to know what has produced this change of heart on the part of at least one of those who have declared themselves.
“ After the Thanksgiving fire, in 18S9, and while Boston was suffering from other considerable, but smaller fires, the (ire commissioners received the following petition, the signatures being in the order of the original manuscript.
To the Honorable Board of Fire Commissioners of the City of Boston: The undersigned taxpayers of the City of Boston, appreciating the great responsibility which rests upon the chief engineer of the fire department of the city for the protection of the lives and property of its citizens, believe that the man who is capable of efficiently and properly filling the position is worthy of a larger salary than $3,500 per year.
Recognizing the ability, fidelity, courage and efficiency of the present chief. Mr. Louis P. Webber, we would respectfully recommend and petition that the salary of that office be increased to $5,000 per year: Jordan, Marsh & Co., K. II. White ⅛ Co., Edw. Frothingham, agent for Frothingham heirs; Shepard, Norwell & Co.; New England Mutual Life Insurance Company, by Benjamin F. Stevens, president; John P. Spaulding, Beal, Higgins & Henderson, Bradford, Thomas & Co., Wheeler, Blodgett & Co., Coleman, Mead & Co., A. Shuman & Co., Rice, Kendall & Co., J. Q. A. Brackett, William II. Zinn, by P. E. Daly, attorney; Adams Express Company, Waldo Adams, manager; John I). ⅛ M. Williams, Charles II. Taylor, Asa P. Potter, Joshua M. Sears, Pulsifcr, Jordan & Pfaff, Rufus S. Frost, Shreve, Crump & Low Company, by the treasurer; Bigelow, Kennard & Co., John II. Pray, Sons & Co., I). R. Emerson & Co., by C. W. Emerson; R. H. Stearns & Co., R. Iloliings & Co., S. S. Pierce & Co., Whitten, Burdett & Young, Simons, Hatch & Whitten, Ross, Turner & Co., White, Payson ⅛ Co., Wilson, Larabee & Co., Lawrence & Co., Joy, Langdon & Co., Houghton & Dutton, Freeland, Loomis & Co., George G. Hall, Adams House, Claflin, Larabee & Co., Nevins & Co., Weil, Dreyfus & Co., William II. Claflin & Co., John C. Chaffin & Co., E. O. Punchard, Parker House; New York & Boston Dispatch Express Company, by Walton C. Taft, superintendent; Jones, McDuffee & Stratton, Stanton & Cullen, Dennison Manufacturing Co., Henry B. Dennison, president; John F. Winch, Batchelder & Lincoln, by W. Tileston, attorney; Potter, Lovell & Co., National Tube Works Company, William T. Eaton, treasurer; Sands, Page & Taylor, Charles E. Moody & Co.. Frank O. Dame & Co., II. Harris & Co., Holden & Herrick, Chase & Sanborn, American Tube Works, by William C. Cotton, treasurer; Cunard Steamship Company, limited, per Alexander Martin, agent; Alfred B. Hall & Co., Plimpton, Fisk & Co., Russ, Cobb & Co., Bowditch, Clapp & Pierce, James II. Blake, F. II. Prince & Co., Francis Peabody, Jr., S. W. Richardson, Brewster, Cobb & Estabrook, Lee, iiigginson & Co., Samuel Hatch, Nichols, Dupee & Co., II. II. Mawhinney & Co., Barnes & Dunklee, Geo. II. Braman, R. Worthington.
“ I he original petition, continue the commissioners, can be seen at this office, and its bold, business-like signatures constitute a collection of autographs that any man might feel proud to have to his credit. The petition was not granted, though its justice was conceded. If any men in Boston earn $5,000 apiece they are the fire commissioners and chief. But it was not looked upon as in the interest of discipline to make the salaries of the chief larger than the salaries of the board.
“ This appreciation of the services of the chief executive officer was shown at the time when the inspiration now back of this new movement, actually, if not confessedly, was at work upon material to blacken, defame and disrupt the department.
It may be said that times have changed, but that they have not changed for the worse is indicated by the following unsolicited letter from one of our most active critics a year ago, Mr. George P. Field, of Scull & Field, managers for New England of the Royal Insurance Company of Liverpool:
Dear Mr. Fitch: As I have not hesitated to criticise your department when it seemed to me that results were not what they should be, I want now, in the spirit of fairness, to express my opinion that the late fires in the Wakefield building and the Globe theatre were handled in a wav that could not be beaten by any department anywhere. You had all the chronic bad conditions—large area, inflammable contents, trolley wires, etc., and yet in both cases the fire was speedily extinguished and confined to the building in which it originated. It is especially gratifying to me, as an underwriter, that this was accomplished with such very trifling damage to surrounding property.
There have been no water damages, so far as I am aware, except in cellars and getting through from roofs. I would have come up and said this to you personally, but the press of business incident to the beginning of the new year keeps me pretty closely to my desk, and I find, besides, that the older 1 grow (and the larger round the waist), the less I enjoy climbing up two or three flights of stairs. With best wishes for the new year, for yourself and fellow members of the board, believe me, yours very truly,
GEORGE P. FIEI.D.
Boston, Jan 4, 1894.
The commissioners conclude their statement by saying that “ the fire department has been greatly improved in methods and strength since 1SS9. Never in existence was it so worthy of confidence as now, and, with the same conditions, it’can, does, and will put out fires with as little loss as any department in the world.”
R. G. FITCH, President.
Boston, May 25.