Commends Atlantic City Fire Department
In commenting on the recent fire in Atlantic City, N. J., in which the Hotel Bothwell was destroyed. Leon A. Watson, expert of the Rating Office of New jersey, speaks highly of the department’s work, under Chief John J. Barnett. It will be remembered that, in spite of the fact that the Wiltshire and Seaside Hotels were only separated from the burning structure by a few feet, both were saved, which speaks well for the work of the department. Mr. Watson, in a letter to Director of Safety William S. Cuthbert, of Atlantic City, says in part:
“We have read with a great deal of interest both criticism and compliments for the Atlantic City fire department’s method of righting the recent disastrous fire, and as Chief Barnett has stated that he would be pleased to receive comments from either the National Board of Fire Underwriters or the Schedule Rating Office of New Jersey, we take the liberty of addressing you on the subject.
“The criticisms which have been made of the fire department leads us to believe that Atlantic City has been lulled into a false sense of security because it has had no serious conflagrations in recent years, and the people do not realize the conflagration hazard and the difficulty that any fire department would have in extinguishing fires in these conflagration areas once they have obtained a good start. Fire Underwriters have for years recognized the fact that Atlantic City presents a serious conflagration hazard, and a repetition of this occurrence may be expected at any time. As a matter of fact, it was extremely fortunate that the wind was from a northwesterly direction blowing burning embers and sparks toward the ocean, and that the weather was not at zero temperature. In other words, the natural elements were in your favor.
“It must be borne in mind there are many sections of Atlantic City where there is considerable congestion of very large frame and ordinary wood joist construction (but with brick walls) buildings, many of which are occupied as hotel buildings and housing hundreds of people. These buildings in addition to being of extremely combustible construction usually have numerous unprotected floor openings such as open stair wavs and elevators that permit the rapid spread of fire from floor to floor so that once a fire gets a good start, it rapidly involves the entire building and subjects it to a total loss, and vour department will do well if they keep the fire from spreading to adjacent property.
“R. M. Cadman, superintendent of the engineering department for this office, has made an investigation of this fire for me. Based on his report and my own personal knowledge of the situation 1 wish to offer the following comments:
“We first wish to commend the fire department for the excellent work that must have been done in saving the Wiltshire and Seaside Hotels from being destroyed. Had they not done excellent work, there is no question but that these hotels, being only a few feet away from the raging fire in the Bothwell. would have been totally destroyed, and had they become involved in this fire, there is no doubt in my mind but that the entire block bounded by the Boardwalk. Pacific. South Virginia and Pennsylvania Avenues, would have been completely destroyed, and the fire might even, in that event, have spread beyond the confines of that block and destroyed a large portion of your city.
“It is hard to understand how a fire in a hotel could gain such headway around nine o’clock at night without being discovered and an alarm sounded. With all the employees and guests usuallv around a hotel it would seem that this fire should have been discovered much earlier, and an alarm sounded before it bad gained such headway, and I wonder if it was not discovered by some employee or employees who without giving an alarm attempted to extinguish the fire themselves, spending some minutes in their efforts and permitting the fire to get beyond control.”