EDITORIAL COMMENT

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Innovations in the realm of fire eliminating devices are of frequent occurrence, Newark, N. J., being the latest to attract attention with a fire protection code, which, if adopted by its council, will be the first, so far as known, in the United States. The code takes up the matter of storage of gasoline in garages, the storage of gasoline and benzine in dry cleaning establishments, blasting, which is already prohibited, and makes a permit and the filing of a $1,000 bond to cover damages, necessary. The code also regulates the matter of picture shows, for which no provision is made in the present ordinances of most cities; demands that elevator and hoist openings in factories be closed at night, and makes it possible for firemen to recover damages in case of injuries sustained by falling into one of these openings. No fee is to be charged for storing gasoline in private garages, but a system of inspection of these garages is provided. A fine of $25 is provided for the first offense, and $25 for each day thereafter as long as the offense continues. The measure has already passed the city council of first reading, and is expected to be made an ordinance in due time.

That the Ohio plan of instructing children in regard to the dangers of lire is attracting the attention of other communities is revealed in the news that reaches us from Manchester, N. H. The school boards of that city have declared themselves in favor of imparting similar instruction to the pupils in the institutions under their care, and the question of the adoption of a plan, similar to that in use in Ohio, will shortly be taken tip for consideration. Iti accordance with the provisions of the Reed law, enacted in 1908, tin Ohio state lire marshal issued in the latter part of that year a series of lessons, each treating in simple language of some common fire danger, illustrated by state statistics and stories front the daily press. The lessons, forty in number, were issued in a cheaply bound volume, and a second volume has since been prepared. Information reaches us to the effect that these simple lessons have attracted attention elsewhere than in New Hampshire, and that there is a possibility that in many other states a similar plan may be pursued. That the value of the course of instruction usually followed in the public schools would be enhanced by the introduction of a subject of such widespread importance to the community is undeniable. To teach growing children the dangers of fire, the causes of fires and how they may be avoided, and the steps to be taken by them to provide for their safety in the event of fire, would .appear likely to be of real practical value to the rising generation.

According to a paper recently issued by the United States Geological Survey, on the lire tax and waste of structural materials in this country, the total cost of fires in the United States in 1907 amounted to almost one-half the cost of new buildings constructed during that year. The total cost of fires, excluding that of forest fires and marine losses, but including excess cost of fire protection due to bad construction, and excess premiums over insurance paid, amounted to over $456,485,000. Here is a tax on the people exceeding the total value of gold, silver, copper and petroleum produced in this country during that year. The actual fire losses due to the destruction of buildings and their contents reached the colossal sum of $215,084,709, a per-capita loss for the United States of $2.15. The per-capita losses in the cities of the six leading countries in Europe amounted to but 33 cents. In addition to our waste of wealth and natural resources, 1,449 persons were killed and 5,654 were injured in fires. It is argued that the total annual cost of fires in the United States, if buildings were as nearly fireproof as in Europe, would be only $90,000,000. In other words, we are paying annually a preventable tax of more than $366,000,-000, or nearly enough to build the Panama Canal. Eire protection involves the use of two million tons of metal, having a value in excess of $127,-000,000, and the metal in 350,000 hydrants, having a value of $30,000,000, all of which is waste on account of the need of preparing to fight fires of a kind which, because of the inflammable character of building construction, would develop into conflagrations without adequate water service and fully equipped fire departments.

In commenting on the fire and collision in the last side subway above the Harlem river a few nights ago. General Manager Hedley suggested that “passengers should remain calm and keep their seats at such times.” That is a railroad man’s way of dismissing a matter where the operating company is known to be culpable. Sometimes the mere occurrence of an accident is not so important as the cause which brought it about. Fortunately, on this occasion, no lives were lost and no one was seriously injured. But how about the cause? It is not to be supposed that if the Interboro makes an investigation of the Mott Avenue incident, that the public will be apprised of its findings, but if, as has been reported, the dense smoke which filled the tunnel was caused by the burning of the insulation of electric wires, the company’s culpability is plain. Manager Hedley has asserted that a rear-end collision in the subway was practically impossible on account of the perfect block signal system. He has not even admitted that the vision of a motorman can be obscured by smoke, as is understood to have been the case in question. The Interboro is apparently taking the credit for having prevented a loss of life at Mott Avenue, when, in fact, only Divine Providence prevented it: for had not the wooden car in the middle of the forward train been empty, many would have perished. This car was so badly crushed that its roof fell in. The steel cars stood the crash without serious damage, although several persons were injured by flying glass, and not a few were nearly suffocated by smoke. The accident again emphasizes the necessity of abolishing all wooden cars, and the exercise of greater precaution against fire in the subway. The Interboro cannot brush aside the Harlem incident as “a slight one, except for the smoke caused by the ignition of some cotton waste.” Smoke should never be permitted in the subway. The holocaust in the Paris underground railway a few years ago, when nearly a hundred lives were lost, is still fresh in the memorv of some. New York is not yearning for a parallel.

The Rellevue-Stratford Hotel, in Philadelphia, was the scene of a very unique assemblage on the last day of May. Representatives from twenty towns continguous to the city of Brotherly Love, at that time formed what is to be known as the Centra! Water Rate Protest Committee, for the sole purpose of fighting against the Springfield Consolidated Water Company’s arbitrary advance in rates. The gentlemen present were accredited representatives appointed at mass meetings in five counties, i. e., Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, Chester and Bucks. The plan adopted to bring the water company to terms is to first visit the officials and demand why the water rates were raised, and insist on their being lowered to their former level. Failing in this they will begin action in the courts, asking that the company be forced to reduce its rates. Should they find that the law is against them they will go to the Legislature and demand that new laws be enacted so that they may secure what they consider their rights. An exhaustive set of resolutions was adopted, and an executive committee appointed with power to raise funds, engage counsel, engineers and experts, and to procure such other assistance as may be necessary in carrying out its plan. It is understood from a non-official source, however, that if the water company can show justification for raising the rates, a compromise will probably be effected. The chances are that this will be the result. No doubt the company was forced to make a new schedule owing to increased expense in furnishing the water. Self-preservation is the first law in governing the management of waterworks plants as it is in running a household. When the Central Water Rate Protest Committee is shown that this was the object of the company in making a raise of rate the committee’s usefulness will end.

Railroads are finding it profiable and advisable to soften the waters used in the boilers of their locomotives, and plans for water treatment are in operation on most of the omportant systems. The matter has become of so much importance to them that an exhaustive report has been made by the Committee on Water Service of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association. The committee discusses the subject from the standpoint of use in locomotives quite fully, and what has been found practicable in locomotive practice may be extended to general uses, or even to domestic practices. It is generally admitted that soft water is preferable for most purposes, and communities that have hard waters are wrestling with the problem of making them soft, when it is practicable to do so. It is possible to soften the entire water supply of a municipality, or where it is impracticable, plants may be installed by the larger consumer, or even household softening plants may be established. The greater portion of the municipalities in Ilinois have hard water, and these are being softened by the use of lime and soda ash. The former will remove the carbonates, and the latter will change the sulphates to sulphate of sodium. Boiling will remove the carbonate hardness, but the sulphate hardness will remain. In the last annual reports of the chemical and biological survey of the waters of Illinois, Director Edward Bartow furnishes minute information concerning the transformation of hard water to soft, and publishes details of the analytical work at the laboratory of the State University. The cost of treatment has been calculated on the basis of lime at $6 per ton and soda ash at $1 per 100. The Water Survey will ask the Illinois legislature for funds to extend the survey. Thus far the waters of ninety-eight municipalities in that state have been experimented on and the results tabulated in bulletin form for public information.

Oskaloosa, la., waterworks has been sold to G. H. H. Emory, of Baltimore, who took the property on behalf of the bondholders. New capital will be invested and the plant will be operated in keeping with the necessities of a city the size of Oskaloosa, which has a population of over 10,000. It is said there will be no change in the management. Supt. Horace Hawkins is expecte dto remain in that position.

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