Efficient Fire Protection for Small Towns
Firemen Should Lead in Urging Adoption of Proper Apparatus—Fire Fighting Advantages of the Triple Combination for Small Departments—Need of Good Fire Alarm System
MY subject is an important one and while I do not feel that. I can do it justice I will at least make a feeble effort. In dealing with it I will first take up the matter of fire apparatus. Many towns that did not have apparatus of any kind for fire fighting purposes ten years ago, are today equipped with modern motor apparatus, in some cases their equipment being better than can be found in many of our cities in this state. Then we have towns that possess nothing but hand reels, hand tubs, and some that are still without even this meager equipment. at the present day.
day. I have in mind at this time several good sized towns w i t h p r o p e r t y values ranging from five to ten million dollars, water service and hydrants, and their fire apparatus hand drawn. The inhabitants of such towns as this are due for a rude awakening some day when a serious fire visits them in the thickly settled districts. They evidently do not have in mind the fact that burning embers from a fire will carry from one quarter of a mile to one mile depending on the wind velocity. They do not consider the loss in taxable buildings resulting from such a fire, which means increased taxes for them to pay. It also means that those citizens have to pay high insurance rates because of their neglect to maintain modern motor apparatus. Such neglect is one of the principal reasons for our increasing fire loss in the United States each year.
Duty of Firemen in Unprogressive Towns
Firemen from towns with little or no apparatus should labor industriously to remedy such a condition
by presenting such facts to the citizens as will enlighten them t.o what may result from their indifference on Fire Prevention. While it is a fact that the United States is the most progressive country in the world, it is also an absolute fact that it is the most careless country in the world pertaining to fire and fire losses. The average yearly loss in seven European countries is thirty three cents per capita, while in the United States the average yearly loss totals three dollars per capita. With those figures before us it is readily seen how indifferent our citizens are to the subject of fire protection and fire prevention.
Small Towns Can Use Garage for Apparatus
The onward march of progress brought about conditions whereby the small town of today can procure motor apparatus and maintain it at slight expense Incontracting with a garage (of which there is sure to be one or more in the very smallest towns) to care for it and furnish drivers to answer fire calls, thereby saving the expense of building and heating a fire station. This method might well be adopted in towns with a population of less than three thousand inhabitants.
Towns of more than three thousand should maintain a station and permanent skilled drivers at least, backed up with a sufficient call force. The number permanent men in towns of five thousand population or more should be based on the valuation and fire risks rather than on population. I will not take your time by going more fully into the requirements of towns based on fire risks and valuations as this information can be obtained without cost from the competent engineering department of the New Eng land Insurance Exchange or the National Board of Fire Underwriters.
Mistake to Rebuild Commercial or Pleasure Vehicles
Now as to the type of apparatus best adapted for towns. It is a mistake to rebuild commercial or pleasure vehicles over to fire apparatus for several reasons. The important reason to the taxpayer is that a piece of fire apparatus with ordinary care should he good and serviceable for at least twenty years, owing to the fact that the mileage such apparatus would travel in a year will not exceed three hundred miles at most in the very large towns. Now we know that it is almost impossible to obtain parts for pleasure and commercial vehicles after a tew years’ service owing to the fact that if they were used as intended when built by the manufacturers they would be worn out and discarded by that time, while the manufacturers of regular fire apparatus enjoy a lucrative business in making and supplying parts for the vast number of pieces in service over a long period of years. Therefore it is a matter of economy to purchase from regular fire apparatus concerns rather than from manufacturers of commercial vehicles.
The Triple Combination for Small Towns
The apparatus best suited for towns is that which is known as the triple combination, equipped with a pump, hose body, forty gallon chemical tank, and ladders. The size and capacity of pump may best be determined by the New England Insurance Exchange. The small towns will find such a piece of apparatus invaluable particularly those without, water systems, as the pump can be utilized to draft water from rivers, ponds and wells. It would be well in such towns to build cisterns in the streets in villages and thickly populated districts to hold surface water for fire protection. No town should be dependent on one piece of fire apparatus. There should be at least two where the population exceeds three thousand, because of the fact that they are necessary for the required protection, and if one is temporarily out of order the other would be fit for service. In addition to hose and pumping units, a ladder truck with chemical tank in towns of more than three thousand is necessary.
Necessity of Good Fire Alarm System
All towns should be equipped with a fire alarm system, as no fire department is complete without a good signal system, consisting of street, boxes, tower bell or whistle, punch register or reliable indicator. Many towns and some cities depend wholly on telephones for conveying alarms, and this practice is wrong, as the telephone is not reliable or dependable. and will be less so in the future owing to changes now taking place in the telephone service, whereby all phones in this district in a few years will be automatic, and every subscriber or user must do his or her own operating. While it is also true that fire alarm systems require constant watching and care, they are far more reliable than telephones owing to the fact that the human element does not enter into the transmitting of alarms. Also with a good fire alarm system you still have the telephone in an emergency, or two methods instead of one.
Drills and Training of Firemen
Now, as to the personnel or manual force. In the very small towns with not more than one company, it should at least, consist of fifteen call men so as to be reasonably sure of having sufficient help to man the apparatus. The men should be drilled at least once in two weeks for nine months out of each year in order to obtain efficiency. If they are not interested enough t.o devote this amount of time to drilling, they are not fit to be members of a fire department. It is a well known fact that firemen are not any too well paid in the small towns, but this should never operate as an excuse for them to shirk their duty. For the larger towns with permanent men, they should be drilled once a week all the year round.
The drills should be conducted under the rules and
procedure of the New York and Boston Fire Colleges and drill schools. Much study and thought should be given to fire department matters by permanent men as a great deal is expected from too few men in most all towns, as companies are always undermanned. It is not unusual to find engine and ladder companies with three to four permanent men on each, and it is not necessary for me to say that just as much is expected from such undermanned companies in towns as is done in cities with more than double that number on a company.
With this fact brought to your knowledge it is readily seen how necessary it is for permanent men to devote a part of their time every day to intensive study of the subject of fire fighting in general, and such knowledge may be obtained from many books that are available on the subject. It is also necessary that competent men be acquainted with the water systems, as to size of mains, location of hydrants and water pressures. Drivers of motor apparatus should always exhibit a keen interest in their motors, keep them scrupulously clean, know that they are always in good working order and always use good judgment and care in the operation of same.
Weekly Inspections by Permanent Men
It is also necessary that the permanent members of departments conduct weekly inspections of business blocks arid public buildings, noting fire hazards, such as rubbish, defective smoke pipes on heating apparatus, and defective wiring. In order to become efficient, in this work of fire prevention you can readily see that much study of the subject is necessary. Men assigned to such work should never enter into any controversy with property owners or tenants when conditions are found to be bad, but carefully note same and report to the chief of department and it is his duty to write the offenders and request them to remedy conditions within a stated period and keep a record of same.
Duties of the Chief
Every department that employs permanent men should have a permanent chief, and rules and regulations governing the operation of the department. Rules should be revised when necessary to cover conditions as they arise and for the purpose of keeping abreast of the times. Every chief should keep absolute records of the department with its operating costs itemized so that he will be able to tell at all times just what the maintenance cost of each piece of apparatus is, the monthly incidental expense of each station and an efficiency record of all apparatus under his control, also an inventory of all equipment and supplies, and a hose record.
Teaching Fire Prevention Through Children
The chief should also deliver Fire Prevention addresses in schools at least once each year, and recommend Eire Prevention studies as a part of the regular course. This in my opinion is the best method of spreading Fire Prevention propaganda as the adults will not take it seriously from fire prevention officers, but will in many cases be led by their children. This method of teaching will bear fruit in a later generation, as that which is instilled into the minds of children is rarely forgotten in later years.
(Continued on page 502)
Efficient Fire Protection for Small Towns
(Continued from page 484)
The average citizen thinks nothing about, fire unless it strikes his home. He is indifferent if his neighbor’s house is on fire as he feels that it does not affect him or cost him anything. But this is where he makes a grievous mistake as i-t does cost him something, and this is a special point to which I want to call your attention. Every fire in the United States helps to swell the great annual fire loss, thereby increasing the fire tax that every man, woman and child must pay.
The Fire Tax and What It Is
Now just what is this fire tax and what shape does it assume? First, the amount of insurance we must pay. To this many will answer: “Well, I do not own real estate so I do not have to pay insurance premiums. Very well, but such a man must pay rent or lodging, and he is paying his share of the fire loss in that manner, as it is always figured in by the landlord. Second, the cost of the fire tax is” concealed in every thing you buy, whether it is bread, clothes, shoes, or luxuries. The fire tax is an overhead expense that cannot be avoided and when this fact is appreciated by all, then indeed we will have made wonderful progress and saving to be enjoyed by all.
(Paper read before the Massachusetts State Firemen’s Association Convention.)