ELECTRICITY AND FIRE-HAZARD.
Dr. C. J. H. Woodbury recently delivered an interesting address before the two hundred and sixty-sixth meeting of the New York Electrical society, his subject being. “The influence of the Underwriters’ rules on electrical development.” He said in part: “The commercial introduction of arc lamps for interior lighting was accompanied by numerous fires, whose peculiarity of origin rather than any destructive results gave rise to apprehensions, which tended to restrict its use to street lighting until a mill insurance company whose patrons desired to use this method of illumination made experiments on the subject in i88t in co-operation with the leading manufacturers of lighting apparatus, and as a result of these investigations a set of rules was prepared which received the approval of all interested parties as establishing methods for the prevention of the occurrence of such fires resulting from the use of electricity for illumination by arc lights. The preventable nature of such fires was fully set forth at the time in a manner which established public confidence in the safety of electrical illumination, while its advantages were so self-evident as to create a natural demand for its introduction. The scope of these pioneer rules was limited to the small isolated plants installed in mills with the crude line of supplies extant at the time, and they were extended from time to time to keep pace with the growing state of the art of electrical illumination and later the conveyance of power. Subsequent experience required that they should be applied to the signaling systems, not from any initial hazards, but solely on account of the exposures of such lines to foreign currents. Thus these rules now take within their scope all of the commercial applications of electricity, excepting, perhaps, those of industrial chemistry.” A standard rule was necessary in consequence of the multiplicity of rules issued on all sides. These raised most annoying difficulties, and at last, at a meeting of the National Electric Light association held at Cleveland, Ohio, on February 20. 1895, the initiative for a unification of the rules was undertaken by that body, and arrangements made for a conference of all electrical interests whether manufacturing, operating or insurance for the purpose of drawing a code which should efficiently serve all interests. After a thorough canvas of the subject and extensive preparation, this National conference on standard electrical rules ijiet in New York March 18, 1896, and devoted several days to the consideration of the subject. The result of their labors was the National Electrical Code, which was formally accepted hy the various national organisations, comprising the active membership of the conference including the National Board of Fire Underwriters, who adopted it as the Code of 1897. It must be remembered, in considering these rules, that the “facts are presented to show that the National Electrical Code is fundamentally a consensus of intelligent opinion, and not a bureaucratic ukase, but stands as a composite of the experience of more persons than was ever given to a question of applied science. This may be no occasion to deal with the applications of these rules. It has been conceded that it is no exception to the rule that every act of executive authority carries with it an equivalent measure of responsibility, and it may, indeed, be true that in many instances those in the field have not been made duly conservative by the exercise of authority, and’ there have been demands which were considered to be at variance with both letter and spirit of the rules. While the commercial statistics of the fire loss are accurate, the facts relating to the physical conditions of the origin of fires are proverbially inexact, and, in the generality of instances, based upon presumptions owing to the destruction by the fire of the evidence of its origin. In the hands of an expert, various minor details mav be completed into a chain of evidence; but too often the only information is that of the news-gatherer eager for a story to fit scare head lines, or it may be that of a culpably interested occupant. While accidents and palpable deviations from the essentials of the Code cause fires of electrical origin, and it is not feasible to applv the logic of figures with certainty as to the final result: yet with far more precision, it may be claimed that the contribution of safety furnished by the Code reaches an enormous, although unrecorded amount which has been saved from destruction.”
Montgomery, Ala., is about to build a $7,250, two-story brick fire station on Highland avenue, to be occupied by engine company No. 6 and nine men.