EXTINGUISHING FIRES IN OIL CELLARS.
THIS is the first time I have had the pleasure of appear, ing before y ou with a paper; yet there are none who have noted the proceedings of your conventions more closely and attentively than myself, chiefly, owing to the object of your meetings.
The gentlemen of your executive committee have assigned to me, with others, for consideration, two topics, namely: “What is the best plan to extinguish a fire in a cellar, stored with oil, when the only entrance is on the inside of the building?” “Fire in attic of frame building, best plan for extinguishing same. Should streams be thrown from both ends or hole through roof, or both? ” It, is of the former topic I wish to speak. Having been in the fire department for some twenty-five years, and I might say, having been reared in small cities, my experience has not been very great on this subject. I have had this experience, and that only a little over a year ago. Fire in basement of a hardware store, the fire had not made its appearance, but from the color and smell of the smoke, I took in the situation at once and knew it was from oil of some kind. The location of the fire was hard to determine, and the smoke was so dense no man could stay in the building any length of time, while the only entrances were small windows in the front and rear. I soon had streams from front and rear, and closed all openings on first floor, and had two streams carried on second floor through elevator. I then entered the building on the first floor and with some difficulty located the fire. I ordered holes cut through the floor and a stream turned in with spray nozzle on. Although the streams from front and rear could not reach the fire, the water, I found, helped to generate steam: and with the water from above, to my great surprise, soon got the fire under control. The pipeman, not knowing what the oils were, heavy or light, could take no chances. Another plan suggests itself; Reach the fire by means of the stairway or trap-door, provided either one or the other exists. The distance of these openings from the doors on ground floor might be so great as to render it impossible to reach them through a dense smoke, suoh as would arise from burning oils. Under such circumstances or in the absence of stairways or trap-doors, another plan would be to cut boles through the floor of just sufficient size to insert a play-pipe with spray nozzle. Should these not happen to be in a position to reach the fire directly, I would then insert open-butt streams and proceed to fill the cellar with water. When the surface of the water reached nearly to the under side of the floor, then, there being nothing to support combustion, the fire would cease to burn.
Another plan would be to break a hole from the outside through the wall into the cellar. Unless the floor was fifteen inches or more above the sidewalk or street, it would be useless to attempt to do this, as it is doubtful if it could be done under these circumstances before the floor was burned away. Auother plan: Keep all the draft you can from the fire, cut holes or lift up as little of the floor as possible, and flood the same. No chance should be taken when you know the oils are light, for explosions are likely to occur at any time during the progress of the fire, and it would be assuming an unnecessary risk to human life to require a man to work on the inside under these circumstances when the oils are light and subject to continual explosions. The sooner the oil ⅛ submerged in the cellar, the tetter; and the fewer the openings while at work, the safer it will be to those in charge of the fire. The last plan, I might say, covers two subjects, light and heavy oils, one explosive, and the other non-explosive; and I think our ideas on same are properly covered.
J. A. Crawford, chief of the fire department of Benton Harbor, Mich., added the following as his experience in the same sort of fire fighting.
If fire has made such headway that it would be impossible for the pipemen to enter the cellar, openings should be made in the cellar, and the pipemen supplied with cellar nozzle to place in the openings. Should the smoke be so dense that the firemen cannot enter the the building on the first floor, then turn in all streams from front and rear of building that can lie spared, confining the fire to the cellar and first floor, if possible.
I would suggest that necessary precautions should be taken in such a way as to prevent fires of this kind, as they generally result from carelessness on the part of the occupant. Every department should be divided into districts for inspection of buildings, and have the cellars thoroughly inspected once a week or month, by the captain or lieutenant of engine or hose companies, and by all means, have the city council pass stringent ordinances against reckless storing of goods liable to spontaneous combustion and the storing of hay, straw, paper, rags, boxes, boards, barrels, shavings, kindlings or any other combustibles in cellars, area ways, in any street, alleys, or yard abutting or joining to such buildings, known to have such goods therein.
* This paper was read at the convention of the National association of Fire Engineers at Montreal, by Henry Heiifmiller, chief of the Fire Department of Columbus, O.