DETROIT’S FIRE DEPARTMENT.
A little over thirty-five years ago, the volunteer fire department of Detroit. Mich., was transformed info a paid one. The fire apparatus then consisted of one engine, with one company of firemen. Two more were soon added, and in February and June 1865 two more. There are now 19 engines, including the fireboat Detroiter, 18 hose carriages, 9 hook and ladder trucks, 6 chemical engines, and 5 supply wagons. Six of the engine houses are located within the half mile circle, or just on its edge, so that the business portion of the city is well surrounded with fireprotective apparatus. There are now 844 uniformed firemen on the pay rolls of the department, while there are enough more operators, clerks, etc., to make a full complement of 868. Each company requires about the same number of men. Each hook and ladder company has a force of ten men, except Nos. 8 and 6, which have two extra men on account of the chemical engines. The water tower company demands a force of five men. At the head Chief Elliott, who for forty-four years has been doing service in the department, being a member of the old volunteer company. In April 1867, he was made assistant chief, and on the death of Chief Battle, he succeeded to the highest position in the department. The present assistant chief is John Kendall, who has done duty in the local fire department for forty-two years. The next division of the department is in battalions. Of these there are five, with five chiefs of battalions—James C. Broderick, William J. Gowan, John O’Neil,William II. Harris, and George J. Kelly. Each company has its captain and lieutenant. The department costs the city about $400,000 a year for its mere running expenses. The necessary improvements and changes figure up from $100,000 to $200,000 more. The monthly expense averages from $40,000 to $60,000. The property of the city in the shape of apparatus used in fire protection inventoried in 1894 at $1,349,555.72. The last figures available give the number of feet of hose in use at 50,500; sufficient to form a line nearly ten miles long. The department owns 150 horses, whose supply at Calhoun street is one of its most interesting features. This department constitutes the second battalion, at the head of which is W. J. Gowan, head of the battalion. There is room for a reserve of twenty five horses. Inside is a training room for breaking new horses and without in a field is a track made of cinders for outside training. The cinder track is fourteen feet in width and forms a circuit of 700 feet. For the service of the fire alarm telegraph there are now about 200 milesof wire laid in underground conduits. The apparatus in the alarm office is soon to be replaced with the Gamewell manual system instead of the present automatic system. The entire length of wires used in the alarm service, including that underground, is 445 miles, and to run the present complicated and cumbersome system of electrical apparatus, no less than 800 batteries are required. William J. Gardner is the present superintendent, with Louis Gascoigne as his assistant.
The fireboat Detroiter is capable of operating over a belt 4,000 feet wide and parallel with the river. There are uow pipe lines up the streets leading from the river to the length of 20.081 feet, though primarily of course it was designed to deal only with the large fires on the river front. Detroit has thirteen completed lines of pipe for high pressure services; the supply coming from the Detroit river through the pumps of the fireboat Detroiter. This system was planned by, and laid under the supervision of James E. Tryon, secretary of the fire commission of Detroit, who also holds the position of superintendent. Mr. Tryon’s position is unique, in that Detroit is the only city in the United States where the duty of providing a water supply for fire extinguishing purposes is vested in the fire department. The Detroit pipe lines consist of Cass street, 2,550 feet; Wayne street, 600; Shelby street, 2,250; Griswold street, 750; Woodward avenue, 2,325; Bates street,900; Randolph street, 4,800; Beaubien street, 3,825; No. 1, M. C. R. R.,477; No, 2, M. C. R. R., 508; No. 3, M. C. R. R., 442; No. 4, M. C. R. 1L. 283; No. 5. M. C. R. R., 371. The pumping capacity of the fireboat Detroiter is estimated at 5,000 gallons perminute,working through open butts. The maximum water pressure at the boat when delivering water through the pipe lines is 180 pounds, and 140 pounds of steam is the maximum pressure. The fireboat has not proved expensive in operation. Figures for the more important fires in which it has been used are at hand. They are as follows: Edson, Moore & Co .fire, eighteen hours; $43.80; T.H. Hinchman & Sons, fire, eighteen hours, $22.25; McNaugbton, Walker & Co., fire, nine and a half hours, $15.57; Farrand, Williams & Clark, fire, ten hours, $28.47. This is the expense of operating the boat during the actual time employed.
Any article on the Detroit fire department would be incomplete without some notice of three of the city’s oldest firemen. First in order in the ranks is John Scott, driver of hose cart No. 1. On October 4, 1860, he came into tbe fire department and has been there ever since—more than thirty-five years. He is now 56 years old, but is one of the safest and most accurate drivers in the department. Besides this he has the reputation of beingone of the most expert stretchers of a line of hose in the country. Engineer John McKernan, of No. 19,came into the department in 1861. Christian Goebel, of hook and ladder No. 6, made his initial appearance as a fire fighter in 1868. Chief of Battalion James C. Broderick came into the department for good in 1867, although he was in for a time in 1863. After a short service upon his first appointment, he left for the war to occupy himself with a different kind of fighting. He was preceded in the service of the department by Battalion Chief Gowan, who also joined in 1863, going out for a time between 1864-68. There are others whose time of service is almost as long.