Faulty Construction Responsible for Heavy Loss
A case which probably could be duplicated in many other towns and cities is reported from the village of Milroy, Ind., by the chief of the fire department, C. S. Hougland. The fire, which started from an over-heated gas stove in a two-story frame building, which was forty years old, was so far advanced when the department arrived that the roof had fallen in and the adjoining building, a sevenstory brick structure, had caught fire. The latter building, which closely adjoined the one in which the fire originated, had a fire wall constructed of brick up to the second story and from this point up stucco had been substituted. This might not have been so hazardous, as the stucco was laid over steel lath, but the wooden joists were covered only with a thin layer of tin and this fault was the cause of the heavy loss, which amounted to $65,000. In describing this peculiar case of faulty construction the chief said: “The brick structure had been erected close to the wooden one and was constructed as a fire wall with brick up to the second story and stucco the rest of the way. In building this wall, the stucco had been brought down to the second floor and stopped. The joists were then put in and a belt of tin tacked over them, thus giving nothing between the fire and the joist but one layer of tin. No fire blocks had been placed, so that between each set of studding there existed a perfect flue with a splendid draught, sucking the blaze to the roof. The stucco with steel lath held perfectly as did the fire door covering the large windows next to the frame house. Faulty construction, therefore, was the cause of a loss of about $60,000.” Another element in the large loss by this fire was the fact that the town had no water supply system other than a series of small cisterns and the department itself was equipped with only a hand pump and could throw only two 2-inch streams. It would seem that small towns with property therein of considerable value, as was the case in Milroy, could well afford to spend a few thousand dollars in providing some method of properly fighting such fires. While the first cost for fire protection, including, say, one pumper and a good water system, might be heavy, the money so spent would be an excellent investment as the present fire, with a $65,000 loss, well proves. This kind of “penny wise and pound foolish” policy, while apparently saving the taxpayers from a heavy drain, in reality is bound to result in a much heavier loss, and one which inevitably comes out of the pockets of these very individuals. No amount of insurance can restore the buildings and materials destroyed or compensate for the loss of time which fires necessitate. In the long run the cost of such fires is paid by the citizens of the town in which they occur, so that no town, however small, can really afford to be without proper fire protection and a well regulated water supply.