Former Chief of Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department Passes Away-Was Also an Inventor of Fire-Fighting Appliances

The Late George C. Hale, When He Was Chief of the Kansas City Fire Department

A FIRE chief who ranked among the foremost, a man whose opinions were sought by fire fighters throughout the country and an inventor whose devices have been used in fire departments for years, George C. Hale, ex-chief of the Kansas City, Mo., fire department, passed away at 8:15 o’clock, July 14, at his home in that city at the age of 73 years. Chief Hale joined the fire department in 1871. He had been employed to put “John Campbell,” a new fire engine which the department had recently received, in shape after a breakdown. So well did he do this work that he was made a member of the department.

A severe fire occurred in March, 1881, in the wholesale district of Kansas City which completely gutted three business houses and practically demonstrated that the department was not strong enough to cope with large fires. An agitation was begun to increase the department and four men were added. At the same time George C. Hale, who was then foreman of Hose Company No. 2, was made assistant chief. The following year, in May, Chief Hale was promoted to the head of the department.

One of Chief Hale’s inventions was a new form of swinging harness for the fire horses. The Kansas City department was the first to adopt this method and acquired a national reputation for quick hitching and responding to fires. So wide was this reputation that it attracted attention in foreign countries and the result was an invitation to Chief Hale and his department to represent the United States at the International Fire Congress, which was held in Agricultural Hall, London, England, June 12 to 17, 1893. A team was sent abroad headed by Chief Hale, Captain John C. Egner, Master Mechanic L. E. Hale and nine other members.

At the parade which followed in London, the Americans were given the post of honor leading all other nations and floating the Stars and Stripes. In describing this tournament, Chief Hale wrote:

“A skeleton engine house was provided to give exhibitions of night alarms, with men lying in bed, horses in stalls unharnessed, harness hanging on pegs, similar to the custom used in livery stables. At the tap of the bell the men came down a flight of stairs, harnessed their horses and hitched them to the engine, time taken when the hind wheels cleared the door, the best time made was one minute, seventeen and one* half seconds. A similar exhibition given by the American company was made in eight and one-half seconds and the quickest hitch was made in one and two-fifths seconds. In the pompier drills, the exhibition seemed entirely new and novel to the firemen from the different nations, as this design of ladders, life line, belts, etc., were not found among the different nations. Exhibitions were given by _ the other nations of their methods of fighting fire, but in all cases their drills were not as rapid as the style given by the Americans.”

Another team was sent again, headed by the same officers to the International Fire Congress held at the Paris,Exhibition in Paris, France.

After serving twenty years in the fire department, in 1902, Chief Hale was removed from office for political reasons in 1902. Commenting on this fact. FIRK AND WATER ENGINEERING, in its May 3, 1902, issue said in part:

“Kansas City. Mo., has deposed George C. Hale, its former fire chief . . • During these two decades nr has served the city conscientiously, constantly, and laboriously. As an expert fireman he had few. if any equals; as one who kept himself up to date by studying the practical and scientific sides of his calling he stood on the highest plane. The results of his painstaking seeking after knowledge, of nis diligent application to the duties of his office, of his skill in putting into practice the principles he had studied are to be seen in the records of the Kansas City fire department, in the pages of the books of the underwriters, and in the testimony to his merits so universally borne by all his fellow citizens. Yet none of these things moved the politician’s mind in his favor; he was weighed in the balances and found wanting In what? Let the politicians who brought about his dismissal answer. Those among whom he has lived and worked these many years cannot tell, and the politicians make no sign. His record, however, will be a matter of history on this continent and in distant lands, where those in whose eyes, as his. merit, good and long service, and approved skill should form the sole criterion for office will stand amazed at the folly which has prompted the dismissal of such a man from a position of trust, simply because he was a persona non gratis to the politicians of Kansas City!

Chief Hale was an authority on fire fighting and was called to many cities, even after leaving the department, to advise on the establishment of fire departments. Among his inventions were electric wire cutters, a door opener, a cellar nozzle, rotary roof cutter, patent hose nozzle, automatic halter, adjustable halter for horses and finally an automatic fire alarm. The alarm system was in use for years in New York, Boston and other large cities. Other inventions had to do with saving lives. Chief Hale formed the George C. Hale Company, of Kansas City, Mo., which dealt in fire apparatus and appliances.

Chief Hale leaves a widow, daughter and two grand-daughters.

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