NEW ORLEANS, La., November 18th, 1880.

To the Editor of the Journal:—

The Steam Extinguishing article in your issue of the 13th, challenges a reply at my hands, but I do not think the game worth the candle. The writer’s boastful assertions prove nothing, yet even they lose force from the weakness of the “ instances” which he pretends to cite. The extract from Mr. Fowler’s article (query—who is Mr. Fowler ?) beats all of the roorbacks extant. I venture the assertion that no Fireman in America will believe that such a fire as he describes (been burning two hours and a-half, “ the whole upper portion of the building had caught fire or fallen,” the walls of the lower portion broken in, etc., etc.,) was ever extinguished by steam or water or gas ; that it did anything in fact but burn out. Previous writers on the subject have carefully provided that the fire should be safely enclosed before applying steam ; but this chap stumbles at nothing—the truth and human possibilities least of all.

Now, the Steam Heating Company, in whose interest this thing is being pushed, are certainly able to put forward a stronger man than this. Meanwhile, here are a couple of the issues he will have to meet.

The first is an extract from myletter to the JOURNAL of the 28th September last : “ Generate, any how you will, enough carbonic acid gas to fill

a common candy jar, lead it into the jar with a rubber tube—it is not necessary to cover the jar, and then, the jar being open at the top, attempt to introduce a flame. It cannot be done, the fire is extinguished the mo. ment it is lowered into the gas. This I claim to be a practical and irrefutable proof that carbonic acid gas possesses fire extinguishing power. Now if the steam men can give a similar or as good a proof of the fire extinguishing quality of steam, let them do it, or forever after hold their peace. The admission, made by all of the steam advocates, that air must be excluded in order to make the agent operative, is an admission of its utter worthlessness. Exclude the air and fire will go out, wanting fueloxygen. Further than this, it is well-known that carbonic acid is generated in large quantities by combustion, and that, if the combustion is violent and in a location where fresh accession of air is impossible, the fire will be extinguished through vitiation of the air by the gas so generated. In a word that the fire will have extinguished itself.” * * * “ I do

not wish to deny that steam having been introduced, fires have been extinguished. I have extinguished fires in this way myself, but my experiments have invariably led finally to the conclusion that steam, as such, had not been the extinguishing agent. My fires were in every case put out either by consumption and vitiation of the air or by water, the product of condensation, and what could be more clumsy than the use of water in this way, since the condensation takes place preferably where it is least needed, in those parts of the room which are coolest—where there is no fire.”

On the very next day your Boston correspondent wrote as follows :— “ The usefulness of a Chemical Engine was fully demonstrated at the recent fire, adjoining Downer’s Oil Works. A large basin, 50 by 60 feet, filled with naptha and oil, caught fire and raged for fifteen minutes, notwithstanding the fact that there were some four or five Engine streams upon it, until the arrival of Chemical Engine from the city proper, when a one-eighth of an inch stream did the execution required and doused the glim in three minutes.”

And now since our friends, the steam men, don’t appear to know much about either fire or its extinguishment, I will quote them a couple of scientific facts from Pollard, who does know something of both. Here are the facts and I hope that they will be useful in preventing some false conclusions being drawn when our friends begin their experiments.

1. “Ten per cent of gas (carbonic acid) is required to check combustion, and twenty per cent inevitably extinguishes all flame.” 2. “The perfect combustion of one pound of coal requires two pounds of oxygen, and the product is three pounds of carbonic acid.”

Now if I figure correctly from these data, the outcome is about as follows :—Given q close room whose air capacity’s one hundred;—total self extinguishment of fire will take place when thirteen and one-third per cent of the air has entered into combustion.

I have neither taste nor talent for controversial writing, and have entered the arena in this case only because a very dangerous fallacy was being pushed by interested parties without opposition. Now that I have called them to a halt, I hope that abler men will take up the cause and see that it gets at least a fair showing.

Very Truly, &c.,


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