DANGERS FROM FIRE IN JERSEY CITY.
WHETHER it is good economy or not for a large city, with a protracted extent of water front, on which are situated immense railroad depots, big warehouses, factories, and many wharves, piers, and ferry slips, to say nothing of the ordinary buildings, stores, and residences, in a fire area extending over seven square miles, to impose upon one man the dual burden of chief of the fire department and fire marshal, is a question that may admit of discussion. In our eyes the duties of the two offices are incompatible, or, if compatible, cannot be efficiently performed by one man. Yet in Jersey City, N. J., in addition to being obliged to watch out everlastingly for the vain tricks and dark ways of the politicians who are there, as elsewhere, the curse of the community, Chief Conway is expected to act in the twofold capacity of executive head of the fire department and fire marshal. The result is that, as he puts it himself, he “ hardly knows an hour from one year’s end to the other which he can call his own.” Once a year, at least, he has to inspect, and report upon all buildings in the city that are used as manufactories, while at the same time he is kept constantly on the jump by the frequent sound of the fire alarm bell and the necessity for his being on the spot in case of any threatening fire breaking out. In addition, he has the knowledge not only that his every action in either capacity is watched, and commented upon, and criticized by a gang of politicians who are looking out for a chance to get at his scalp, but also that his reports as to violations of the law with respect to manufactories in the city and the storage and employment of inflammable materials are heeded or not heeded by the authorities according to the amount of pull which the offender enjoys. Taking Chief Conway’s report, however, as it stands, it reveals an amount of carelessness and reckless folly, which, even in Jersey City, should be branded as criminal. He stigmatizes building upon building as deathtraps and tinderboxes, any one of which at any moment may be touched off by a casual spark or fired by the diabolical methods of the incendiary, and thus be the source of a disastrous conflagation. Manufactories where goods of an inflammable nature are made, or buildings in which varnishes, oils, paints, and light woods are used, are to be found by the score in the most dangerous localities—whereby hundreds of lives and thousands of dollars stand in jeopardy every hour. And yet this is no new revelation to the city authorities. Only a few months ago a disastrous explosion was caused, and lives and property were sacrificed through neglect on the part of someone whose duty it was to have reported to Chief Conway as to the true nature of the alleged factory and the dangers attendant upon its being allowed to continue its operations. The proper authorities, however, were blind to the fact—their eyes were holden. (Some asked“How?”) and they could not—more properly, would not—see clearly that it has been only by what is commonly called good luck that worse catastrophes have not happened. It is merely a question of time, however, before some such disaster must befall the city; and, unless Chief Conway’s words are heeded in short order, that time cannot be very far off.
There is some talk of providing a fire alarm system for Can aseraga, N. Y.