Doubtful Quality of Hose in New York.
At the destructive and fatal fire in the Parker building at Fourth avenue and Nineteenth street, Manhattan was conspicuously proved the danger to the city from hose so notoriously bad as to Cause Fire Commissioner Lantry to protest against its deficiencies as “outrages.” It was “rotten beyond any use and burst continually, hampering the firemen to a great extent and causing them to lose much valuable time.” In the experience of the firemen and according to a report sent to the commissioner some time before that fire by New York Board of Fire Underwriters, this has happened very frequently and has been the cause of considerable loss. The report sent in to the board by its engineers was as exhaustive as their investigation. Out of seventy-six lengths of hose in use by engine company No. 55, located in Broome street, no less than thirty-seven lengths or forty-nine per cent., burst during a period of eleven months, and that engine company is short, at present of no less than ten lengths, or 500 ft., of 2La-in. hose. Engine company No. 20, at Lafayette street, out of a total number of seventyfour lengths, had during the same period no less than thirty-four or forty-six per cent, burst, and that engine company is short of a proper supply by ten lengths of 2⅛-⅛. hose, or 500 ft. Engine company No. 26, at West Thirty-seventh street, out of a total number of eighty-one lengths, had burst no less than thirty-nine, or nearly forty-nine per cent., and that company is short of a proper supply of hose by twenty lengths, or 1,000 ft. of 2La-in. hose, and ten lengths, or 500 ft. of 3-in. hose; and so on in a great number of cases under review, in many instances the engine companies being located in districts containing properties of large destructible value and where fires of large dimensions arc liable to occur. As to the tirehoats, which are not called into use nearly so often as is the case with the average engine company, it has found in one instance that no less than twenty-five lengths of hose burst within eleven months out of a total number of seventy-one lengths, and that in nearly all cases the boats are short of a proper supply of hose. No less than 1,506 lengths of hose, or 75,300 ft., have been in use for over seven years, and (says the report) “while this fact in itself is not a condemnation, as some quantity may be in fair condition, yet one cannot but feel that great risk is run by the city in continuing to use hose which, as we know, is subject to deterioration from age and use. All such hose ought, in our judgment, to be put to suitable test without the least delay. In forty big fires in the two boroughs no less than 460 lengths of hose, or 23,000 ft., were rendered useless, and that in no less than twenty-two of these fires hose was burst iti excess of ten lengths. “More important still is the fact that in quite a large number of cases hose burst at a pressure of not exceeding JOo lb., and even in some instances at as low a pressure as sixty lb.” The report lays particular stress on the care that should be exercised in “so preparing specifications for new hose as to widen the field of bidders.” The board seems to have reason for believing that the “course pursued by the city for some years has had the effect of barring out some of the desirable brands.” The report states that “hose for the New York fire department is purchased by competitive bidding from the different manufacturers, the successful bidder being required to give bonds to fulfill certain guarantees. Specifications for the purchase of hose were first adopted in 1902, and previous to 1905 they agreed closely with the makers’ standard practice. In 1905. new specifications were adopted by the department, containing many variations from those previously in use, and additional changes have been made since that time, so that the present specifications differ materially from the standard practice of the manufacturers; indeed, to such an extent that the department does not receive bids from many concerns, it being claimed that the department specifications call for a lining of superior quality of rubber, but not so durable as that regularly used by manufacturers. The result of this is that the few manufacturers who bid for the New York business under present conditions give the three-year guarantee required unwillingly, although they stand ready to guarantee their regular brands made under their specifications for five years. NewYork specifications for rubber hose are worded in a general manner, those for cotton, rubber-lined hose are so worded as to allow only certain manufacturers to bid on a given specification.” The report shows that the “hose of both kinds purchased under the later specifications is giving unsatisfactory service, much of it bursting before the three-year guarantee expires and at a much lower pressure than is guaranteed by the maker. Of 1,838 lengths of 2½-⅛. on hand on January 1, 1907, purchased in 1904, 1905 and 1906. 3SI lengths burst during 1907, while of 1,597 lengths of 2½-⅛. on hand on January 1, 1907, purchased between 1893 and 1902, only 281 lengths burst—nineteen per cent, against seventeen and one-half per cent., although the latter was older hose and had already done hard service. By the terms of the guarantee, each manufacturer warrants that every length of hose shall withstand a pressure of 300 lb. per sq. in. for three years from the time it is put in service, subject to all ordinary wear and tear, and further agrees to replace any length which shall fail to fulfil this guarantee.” A comparison of the tables showing the brands purchased within the last three years with the amount purchased burst, the year each lot was placed in service, and the amount under three years of age, between three and five, five and seven and over seven years of 2½-⅛., 3-in. and 3L2in., shows that several of the various brands in service, such as the Baker, Paragon, the older lots of Eureka, Unique, New Era, White Anchor, and especially the Maltese Cross, have given good satisfaction, whereas certain others have been found unsatisfactory. In this connection it maybe added that the Eureka Fire Hose company manufactures its own hose-linings with a particular view to its quality. Hence, its hose is remarkably free from defects and thoroughly reliable. Some other manufacturers arc not equally particular. Hence their hose is more liable to burst, as the linings are more or less defective. Fire Commissioner Lantry assigns an additional reason for the hose so often bursting at fires, especially large ones where such heavy pressure is required—namely that much of the hose used in the department is old and patched, the defective portions of lengths being cut out and the two or more pieces remaining being joined together. The report continues: “According to the terms of the specifications, hose must last three years and be able within that time to withstand a pressure of 300 lb. In most cities this guarantee is for a four or five-year period, and it would seem that hose in New York city, outside of the district below Fifty-ninth street, should, with ordinary care given to it, be able to withstand a 300-lb. pressure at the end of five years, while that of over five years of age is of doubtful integrity. Below’ Fifty-ninth street, where the fires are most frequent, thirty-seven per cent, of the hose on land and fifty per cent, of the fireboat hose is over five years of age, while the character of this district would seem to call for hose under three years of age covered by the guarantee to withstand a 300-lb. pressure. Many of the companies throughout the city are from ten to twenty-eight lengths short of a sufficient amount of hose, or a total amount of 548 lengths of 2½-6)., 192 of 3-in. and sixty-three of 3/2-in.. in the boroughs of Manhattan and The Bronx. To supply this deficiency there has been ordered 700 lengths of 2½-⅛., which, however, will be distributed throughout Greater New’ York. It has not been determined what proportion will be allotted to Manhattan and The Bronx. No 3-in. or 3La-in. hose has been ordered, except a supply for the tw’o new fircboats, amounting to ioo lengths of 3L2-m. and fifty lengths of 2-n. rubber hose.” All the hose purchased during 1907 has been condemned at the rate of fortyseven lengths per month, and, as the inspection included from January 1 to December i. it is probable that by the time the new’ hose is delivered the amount in Manhattan and The Bronx will be short at least 150 lengths over the total amount given above. Hose has been bursting at fires at the rate of eightv-seven lengths per month, and at large fires to such an extent that the work of the department has been seriously hampered. A list of forty third-alarm or greater fires between January 1 and December 1 shows that at these a total of 460 lengths of hose burst, or an average of over eleven per fire, and at pressures between 60 to 300 lb. “The last annual report of the department (says the report) states that a committee was appointed by the fire commissioner to report upon the character, size and quality of hose to be used for the highpressure fire service. No hose has been ordered for this service nor have bids been advertised for, The area covered by this district is of such importance that it would seem immediate consideration should be given to the procuring of wagons, hose and necessary equipment. The hose and wagons now in service are not suitable for use with the high-pressure fire service. From a consideiation of the above it is evident that the hose in the New York fire department is deficient in quantity at two-thirds of all the houses, more especially in important districts; that much of it, especially recent purchases, is defective in quality; that these deficiencies and defects are tending to increase and that no suitable provision has been made to lessen or correct them. With such wk appliances to aid the firemen, no department can be expected to satisfactorily perform the work naturally expected of it.”
The committee on fire prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters recommends for the better protection of the boroughs of Manhattan and The Bronx the purchase of 20.000 ft. of 2⅝-⅛., 20,000 ft. of 3-in. and 5,000 ft. of 3-in. hose, to be delivered at the earliest possible date, the material of which it is manufactured to be rubber, or cotton rubber-lined. The rubber lining is to be not less than 3 calenders and not less than 1-16-in., no maximum limits being set. Every section purchased is to be subjected to a pressure of 200 lb. per sq. in. at the factory in the presence of a representative of the New York city fire department, and on delivery one length in each lot of 5 taken at random to be subjected to the guaranteed pressure of 300 lb., any failure to be cause of rejecting the entire lot of 5 lengths.
For the high-pressure system, also, bids should be immediately advertised for at least eight hose wagons as designed by the fire department, to be used in connection with the high-pressure fire service. Tt is also recommended that a supply of 3-in. hose be purchased—about 30,000 ft.—to equip the highpressure hose wagons. This hose should be purchased under similar liberal specifications as the other department hose, but should be guaranteed to stand 400 lb. pressure, every length should be tested to 300 lb., and every fifth length to 400 lb. This also should be delivered as early as possible.