Dallas Improves Its Fire Forces

Dallas Improves Its Fire Forces

Chief Rod Gembrell

IN alluding to the subject of improvements in the Dallas Fire Department, it becomes necessary to refer to changes that have proved themselves efficacious for the purpose intended, that is, to prevent fires and reduce fire losses. These changes I shall list under several headings.

1.The Bureau of Fire Prevention is composed of the Fire Marshal and staff, who were appointive previous to the change of government in 1931 and were transferred to the Fire Department and placed directly under the supervision of the Chief of the Department. The Fire Marshal now ranks as an Assistant Chief. He is a practiced fireman, and all members of the staff are likewise. This office has an Arson Squad, and is assisted by one of the Assistant District Attorneys, who has been assigned full time duty with the Fire Department. Inquests are held on all suspicious fires, and all evidence presented to the Grand Jury. In many cases indictment and prosecution follow.

A Captain is in charge of all inspection work and handling of complaints. Prosecution in court follows in flagrant violations. An officer from the Fire Marshal’s office is on permanent assignment to inspect extra hazardous places such as: hotels, rooming houses, film exchanges, theatres, etc. Another member of the Fire Marshal’s office is assigned permanently to the handling of minor complaints.

Continuous Inspection of the Business District

Continuous inspection of the business district is carried on by a number of On Duty Officers (Captains and Lieutenants). In the semi-business districts, outside the high value districts, one inspection is completed each fifteen days by off duty members of the Fire Department. These inspections have two purposes: To familiarize the members of the department with these buildings and the removing of fire hazards. Once a year the members of the Department make a complete inspection of the entire residential section for the purpose of educating the public in fire prevention, and pointing out the many fire hazards around the home. These men work in pairs in making this inspection. Great publicity is given in the papers, notifying the public that this inspection is not compulsory, but will only be made with the house-holder’s permission. The public has cooperated with the department to the fullest extent, has seemed very desirous of this service, and has shown due appreciation for the work. Last year when this inspection was completed there were 86,000 reports made with 7,200 hazards found and corrected. During this inspection there were distributed some 40,000 pamphlets (“Fire Prevention in Dallas”) to the home owners.

Alarm System Transferred to Fire Department

2.The Superintendent of the Alarm System and the members of his department were also transferred to the Fire Department, and placed under the direct supervision of the Chief. A number of improvements have been carried out to make this department come up to standard. This department controls the traffic signal lights, which is an aid to the Fire Department, as the traffic lights are controlled from the Fire Alarm Office. This gives greater safety and more speed to the department in responding to alarms.

3.Changing from solid to pneumatic tires on all pumpers and service trucks has increased their efficiency, speed and safety, as well as to reduce the maintenance cost.

Evolutions and Setting Up Exercises

4.A six story drill tower has been added, where two or three companies perform standard evolutions during the morning and afternoon periods.

5. All members of the Department are required to take fifteen minutes setting up exercises each morning, which tends to keep the men in good physical condition.

Civil Service Board Created

6. When the Manager form of government was inaugurated a Civil Service Board was created, which drew up rules and regulations governing the same and assuring members of the departments of job safety and freedom from political influence. This has been the cause of greatly increasing the morale of the entire Department.

Salvage Operations and Reduction of Water Damage

7. Some changes effected to reduce the water damage are

the use of hand pumps, Mast-R adapters, booster tank installations and 134-inch hose as leader lines off 234-inch hose, using tip on shut-off nozzles for fire ex-

tinguishment purposes, as well as overhauling.

Then the use of 234 and 3-inch lines for large bodies of fire are deemed essential in single and siamesed lines.

Complete salvage operations are carried out by one fully equipped and fully manned Salvage Company, also by members of Hook and Ladder Companies.

The Department School

8. Another improvement of great importance is the school work. This school is carried on at Headquarters five days each week for all men, a morning and afternoon class of two hour periods. There are sufficient number of teachers and substitute teachers to take care of all members of the department once a week. All officers of the Department have had a full course in teacher training to fit them for teaching the vocational method.

The courses are taught in three separate divisions: Special, Standard and General. Special division is for special classes and on special courses. Standard instructions are given at Headquarters school by teachers prepared for this work. General lessons are taught at the stations by the officers in charge. Company schools are carried on at the stations three to five days a week on both shifts.

Night Patrol in High Value District

9. Last, but perhaps the most important was the establishment of a Night Patrol in the high value district for the purpose of discovering fires in their incipience. This Patrol is composed of on duty uniformed firemen. One fireman from each company is assigned to each District, the entire business section being divided into districts. The Patrol is divided into two divisions, one for the first part of the night 9:00 p. m. to 1:00 a. m. and one for the last part of the night 1:00 a. m. to 5:00 a. m. These men report at headquarters at the appointed time, where they are assigned a district, furnished a flashlight and police box key, and given any special orders. A Captain supervises each division and visits all districts on his tour of duty.

These men walk continuously and are ever on the alert for fire. They cover every street, alley and court in their district. Should the odor of smoke be discovered at anytime, these men are like bloodhounds on a trail: they begin to trail the odor or smoke, and when it becomes so strong as to convince them of a fire in the vicinity they phone Headquarters and a company is dispatched to this location to help hunt the fire until found. These men call Headquarters and report each hour over police boxes. They also call Police Headquarters and report to them anything where their presence is needed, being of great assistance to that department also.

The supervising Captain makes a complete report of occurrences of importance during his tour of duty. The second division relieves the first division at 1:00 a. tn., and the relieved men report to their companies for fire duty. No man is permitted to leave his district without relief or permission of supervising Captain.

Patrol Men Immediately Available

All of these men are immediately available, and in case of additional alarm fires in the high value district they report to the officer in charge.

Since the inception of this Patrol these men have discovered numerous fires that were controlled and extinguished before they could cause great damage.

One case occurred where one of our patrolmen discovered three men at the door of an establishment, and upon discovering his approach they tied and escaped in an auto which was parked at the curb. When the patrolman got there he found a can of gasoline and a jinnny at the door. This probably prevented a serious incendiary fire. The moral effect has been very noticeable since the establishment of this Patrol. I believe that the establishment of this Patrol in our department has been one of the most important forward movements to prevent fires.

These are sonic of the major improvements that have reduced fire losses and prevented fires in Dallas.

(From a paper read before the annual convention of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.)

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