English you Know.
The Vulcan Monthly, published in London, England, offered prizes for the best essays on “ The Mode of Procedure on Receipt of a Call.” The following, sent in by Captain Williams, of the Sleaford Fire Brigade, took first prize:
I have often thought it would be a good thing for the Fire Service if a competition took place as to what are the best things for a Country Volunteer Brigade to do on receiving a call. As everyone knows who has had experience, the big majority of brigades in the country do not attend more than from two to six fires in the course of a year, and alarms coming so seldom, the members are often so flustered that much time is lost and many things forgotten, which need not be if those in command knew’ exactly what to do at the right moment. When a messenger dashes up to my house on horseback to tell me a fire is raging at a stack yard, say 6 miles off, I immediately ask him his name, the name and address of the person who sends for us, and the distance to the nearest water. Having gained this information, I tell him to wait so that he may guide us the best and shortest way to the fire. While I am talking to him, two or three men are sure, and always do congregate round, one of whom I send immediately to ring our fire bell for 15 minutes; another is despatched down to the police station to inform the superintendent, and I then pop across the road to the posting house and order four horses and post boy immediately. After this I return to my house, and by this time my wife or children have got my uniform ready and it takes me only a few minutes to put it on, not forgetting to take with me two pocket handkerchiefs in the pocket—wanted particularly for damping and tying round mouth and nostrils if I have to enter any rooms filled with smoke. Being dressed, I run to the engine house, and by this time most of the members are there preparing and loading the engine, my first duty being to run round it and see that drags, wire-rope, buckets, hay knife and nuffici nt hose is loaded up to reach the water. Then, having seen that each member is dressed and has his lamp, we pull the engine round to the posting house, where we always arrive minutes before the horses are ready. While the horses are being put to, I arrange which of my men are to go and which are to remain in charge at home; and having harnessed and mounted, the messenger now shows us the shortest cut, and the best way to get to the fire. Arriving there I leave the engineer to get his engine in position with the assistance of the men, while I go to take the bearings of the fire, and see which way the wind blows. My first thought now is not so much the extinguishing of the fire as to find out whether there is any chance of protecting or saving anything in the shape of stacks or outbuildings not at present alight. By this time the engineer has the engine in position, and the firemen have run out and connected hose to reach to the seat of fire, and I then give Orders what and where they are to play upon. Several of the firemen being now at liberty, I enlist all those who arc willing to assist, and with the firemtn’s help, strap badges on the arms of each one, and set them to work in batches, superintended by the firemen, upon whatever duties are necessary. If there is any pulling of stacks to pieces required, I get my client to collect all his hay and manure forks, and if not enough send a messenger round to all the neighbors to borrow more. Horses and carts are now procured, and the smoking and half consumed but damp straw or fodder, is conveyed into the middle of a field, where it is out of the way. 1 laving everyone at work I now go to the engine and see whether the water is likely to hold out, and if not, I get my client to bring out his water carts and horses, and bring water from wherever it is to be obtained, and if he is short of water carts, find out from him which of his neighbors would lend horses and water-carts, and get them busy bringing water to supply the engine. Here I might add, that if, on first arriving at a fire, I found a short supply of water, I should get the water-carts together first. It is always understood that you expect extra exertions at a fire, and consequently the assistants require extra support, so that now I ask my client whether he has plenty of food in the house, and if not I either get him to send, or I send myself, for plenty of bread and cheese and a cask of beer, not forgetting some tea and sugar. My client is instructed to fill his copper with water, and get it boiling, and make plenty of good tea, for I hold that this is the finest thing for the men to work on. Of course there are always some who will have beer, and this wants most judiciously handling. I always give it into the hands of a policeman, telling him I hold him responsible, and if any of the men get intoxicated it will be his fault. If now I find the surrounding stacks are safe I turn my attention to damping down those stacks that are on fire, always commencing with those that the tvind catches first, and as I get them damped down they are pulled to pieces and carted away. I know that some people are in favor of allowing the stacks on fire to burn out, but I must say that I like to get the men to work at the commencement, for if you let them stand watching the fire for an hour or two, many go away and those left get listless, and do not care to do much. They will work when their blood is up at the commencement, and by judicious leadership it is a very easy matter to keep it up. Having got the fire extinguished I go round the premises, and never think of leaving until there is not the slightest vestige of fire. The men are now instructed to “ make up,” and while they are doing that I take a complete list of the addresses of all those who have assisted, winding up with a consultation with my client, asking him the offices he is insured in, and how he expects the fire occurred, and at what he estimates the damage, also offering to let some of the men remain for a few hours as watchers. The horses are then ordered, and after satisfying myself, as I go round the engine that none of the gear is being left behind, we jaunt home, where my folks have a hot bath ready for me.