Employment of Firemen in Theatres

Employment of Firemen in Theatres

The question of detailing uniformed firemen for theatre duty, how it should be done, if done at all, who should pay for the service and other points along the same line have long been before the fire departments of this country but the matter is still as unsettled as when first discussed. Only one or two states have laws governing it, while a few cities regulate it by ordinance. New Jersey in 1898 adopted the following state theatre laws, which include the detailing of members of the department for fire duty during a performance.

  1. All lights used in theatres and other places of public amusement shall be properly protected by globes or glass coverings, or in such other manner as the board or body having control of the extinguishment of fires in any such city shall prescribe; the owners or managers of all theatres, and other places of public amusement, or the persons having charge thereof, shall provide such means of communicating alarms of fire, accident or danger to the police and fire departments respectively, and shall also provide such fire hose, fire extinguishers, buckets, fire hooks, axes, fire doors and other means of preventing and extinguishing fires as the body or board having control of the extinguishment of fires shall direct; no obstruction or any article or thing whatever shall be placed in any aisle or passageway, in any such theatre or other place of public amusement.
  2. The board or body having control of the extinguishment of fires may detail not to exceed two members of its force at each and every place of public amusement where machinery and scenery arc used while such place is open to the public, whose duty it shall be to guard against fire, and who shall have charge and control of the means provided for its extinguishment, and shall have the direction and control of the employees of the place to which they may be detailed, for the purpose of extinguishing any fire which may occur therein; it shall also be the duty of such person or persons so detailed, to inspect every portion of the building or buildings to which they may be detailed during public performance therein, for the purpose of guarding and protecting the occupants from fire or panic; the board or body in any city having control of the extinguishment of fire shall also have power to keep the aisles and passageways in such place or places of public amusement free and clear of all obstructions, and to prevent persons from standing therein and to remove such persons therefrom, and may also make rules for the better enforcement of the provisions hereof.
  3. Any person or corporation who shall willfully violate, or neglect or refuse to comply with any provision or requirement of this act, or any regulation, order or special direction duly made thereunder, shall, for every such offense, forfeit and pay to the city in which such offense shall be committed, a penalty of not less than fifty nor more than two hundred dollars, in the discretion of the judge or court having cognizance thereof, which penalty may be recovered in any court now or hereafter having jurisdiction over the violation of the ordinances of the city in which such offense shall be committed, and in the manner now or hereafter provided for the enforcement of the ordinances of such city, and for the collection of penalties for the violation thereof; and it shall be the duty of the board or body having control of the extinguishment of fires in such city to enforce the provisions of this act and of any regulation, order or special direction duly made thereunder, and of the police force to aid in the enforcement of the provisions of this act, and the officers of the police force of any citv shall have power, without warrant, to arrest any person or persons who shall violate the provisions of this act, or of any regulation order or special direction duly made thereunder.

Seattle, Wash., regulates it by the following ordinance:

The owner, agent or lessee of every theatre shall employ one or more competent and experienced firemen, approved by, and who shall be subject to the orders of the chief of the fire department, and who shall be in conslant attendance at such theatre during all times when the same is open to the public, and shall wear such uniform as will indicate that they are firemen under the provisions of this section. Such firemen shall, before every performance in such theatre, examine and lest all fire apparatus required by this ordinance to be installed and kept in theatres. No theatre shall be opened to the public unless such fire apparatus is in its proper place and in good working order, and such firemen shall, during every performance, keep diligent watch for fires and take prompt measures for extinguishing any fires that may occur, and shall not be required or allowed, while on duty as such firemen, or during any time when such theatre is open to the public, to act as scene shifters or stage hands or to do any other work or perform any other duties than as are required in this section.

Kansas City, Mo., has a city ordinance which says: The fire warden shall detail for each theatre and public place, and where the public gather in any considerable number, one experienced fireman, whose duty it shall be, under the rules and regulations to be formulated by the fire warden, to inspect twice dailyeach and every device within said theatre, designed for the protection of the public from fire and other danger. One of the said inspections shall be made immediately before the time when the public gather at such places; and if such fireman find any of said devices in bad condition, or not working with entire satisfaction, he shall immediately notify the fire warden of such fact, who shall immediately inspect the same, and if, in his judgment, the safety of the public is endangered by reason of such condition, he shall have power, and it shall be his duty, to immediately close such place and prohibit people from gathering therein; and such place shall not again be opened until said matters have all been remedied to the full satisfaction of the fire warden.

At Richmond, Va., a fireman makes a thorough inspection of all theatres before a performance and reports to the chief of department on printed blanks as follows: In compliance with orders I beg to report: I left quarters at 7.50 o’clock p. m., on the 30th instant, for duty at the Bijou and returned at 11.05 o’clock p. m. On inspection, did you find the fire appliances in good order? Yes. Were there any obstructions to prevent the speedy use of the Fire Alarm Box, Hose or Fire Curtain? No. Did you find the Exit Lights, both inside and outside, properly burning? Yes, Were any Rules of this Department violated. either before or during the performance? No. State details of any accident occurring. or warning given by you. during the time you were on du_____y during this detail: None. Give names of all officers or members of this department present, so far as you could observe.

Schenectady, N. Y., has a city ordinance which provides that no theatre shall be granted a license unless the theatre is approved of by the chief of the fire department, and the chief has the power to revoke a license whenever any of the rules are violated. The ordinance also provides that no person shall be employed in theatres as firemen, or to have charge of extinguishing of fires, except those approved of by the chief. A uniformed fireman is detailed for every performance. In moving picture and similar places, a man approved of by the chief is provided by the owner of the theatre at his own expense.

Detroit, Mich., has a code of rules regulating theatres and moving picture shows, one of which provides for firemen in theatres as follows: It shall also be the duty of every owner, lessee or manager of every such show-house used for theatrical purposes that shall be open or occupied by an assembly of people, to have in their employ a man twenty-one (21) years of age or more, in uniform as near like that used by city firemen as may be, and he shall wear a hat or cap whereon shall be printed the words “House Fireman.” Such person shall be employed solely for the purpose of supervising and maintaining fire appliance and implements of safety, and to drill and instruct tthe employees thereof in the use of such fire appliance, and to command them in case of alarm; said fireman shall not be required or allowed to perform other duties in or about such show-house during the time that such showhouse shall be open to the public and occupied by an assembly of people, except that said fireman may act in the capacity of an usher.

Rochester, N. Y., has an ordinance which provides for one uniformed fireman at every performance who makes a detailed report on conditions after every performance. If the fireman finds any defect requiring immediate action he notifies the police captain of the precinct in which the theatre is located and a policeman is sent to have the defect remedied.

Hartford, Conn., has a city ordinance requiring the owner or manager of theatres to have in attendance at every public performance or gathering either a regular or supernumerary member of the police or fire department.

At Milwaukee, Wis., theatres are inspected by firemen. One uniformed fireman is detailed to attend certain performances but not all of them as it is impossible to detail a fireman to all the many theatres in the city.

St. Paul, Minn., details firemen to theatres only when there is a very large attendance.

At Louisville, Ky., firemen arc detailed for theatre duty only when theatres are overcrowded, or when a performance draws a large number of women and children and the management requests the presence of a fireman.

Peoria, Ill., has an ordinance compelling a uniformed fireman to attend all performances at the expense of the theatre.

Augusta, Ga., details a fireman at every performance, who is stationed near a stand pipe, equipped with hose, etc., ready for instant service, also a chemical extinguisher, an axe and a fire hook are close at hand.

Sioux City, Ia., details two firemen to attend each performance.

Syracuse, N. Y., also details firemen for theatre duty.

Jackson, Miss., details one or two firemen for all performances except moving picture shows.

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