FINE RECORD OF THE DUBLIN BRIGADE
Specially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.
Apropos of the proposed changes in the building laws of New York (changes that are not for the better), it may not be amiss to point out that, given a big fire a good chance to get ahead, even with the vaunted (but not proven) superiority of the city’s fire department over those of Europe in general and the British islands in particular, the probabilities are all in favor of con flagrations proving more disastrous in New York or, indeed, any other city on the American continent than in those of the Eastern hemisphere, Turkey being a possible exception. This statement is founded on the fact that the buildings in theold world, though laving no claim to be generally fireproof, are constructed of lire-resistant materials, on scientific principles and according to the letter of strict building laws, duly administered and providing for a constant inspection by competent officers, who are appointed on account of their practical knowledge of such work and not as a reward for being the henchmen of some political party. London is usually taken as the standard of comparison. Omitting it, however, on this occasion, and taking the lire reports of any of the larger British cities and towns, such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Dundee, Dublin or Belfast, a careful study of the number of tires, the strength and equipment of the various fire brigades and the loss in life and property, and comparing these with the reports of the lire departments of New York city, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Buffalo, Lowell, Pittsburg, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, or any other large city, seaport or manufacturing. on this side of the Atlantic, then the comparison is not complimentary to the Western hemisphere. ‘To take but one instance, and that at random: The report of Chief I homas P. Purcell. of Dublin, happens to he before the writer at this moment. Those who are familiar with the Irish metropolis Know that it abounds in many old buildings, ramshackle, so far as their interiors go, devoted to the use of a tenement population, but constructed of solid brick, many large and valuable breweries, distilleries and factories, some involving serious lire risks, and a large number of official, business, educational, ecclesiastical, military, charitable and residentiary structures. The tire brigade of the city received 286 calls to tires within the urban limits during the past year, of which eight were false alarms; two were to houses that had collapsed from other causes than fire; 115 were for chimney fires; and 164 to actual tires Taken all round, these tires were chief ly in factories, sawmills and lumberyards in crowded sections; very few were in the residential district timncr Vat th,’ total amount of loss in the city, out of a total value of $3,853,665 at risk, was only $148,8)5 during the whole of the year 1905— about as heavy as at one of the many moderatelv large fires that take place every year in New York and other first-class cities in the United States. In the ca-e of only three of these tires did the loss extend outside of the place of origin, and only on 158 occasions did the brigade turn out to fires with horsed apparatus, firemen, with smaller appliances, attending all other calls. It may tie urged, however, that Dublin and other large British cities have more powerful apparatus, a larger equipment and a stronger firefighting force than those of the United States and Canada. This plea can, of course, be put forward only by those who do not pretend to know it all, and not by those who, judging either from hearsay, as is commonly the case, or by a cursory glance at one or two tire stations in the larger British cities and the apparatus and methods of operation at one or two fires they have chanced to see. have held such apparatus and fire brigades up to ridicule, and sneered at them, as if the whole system of firefighting elsewhere than on this continent was beneath contempt and not worthy to be named in the same breath with the New York and other first-class fire departments. Eor the information of those just alluded to, therefore, it may be stated that the Dublin fire brigade is equipped with only three steamers, of 800-gnllon, 300-gallon and 200-gallon capacity respectively, three aerial extension ladders—sixty-six feet elevation, with water tower apparatus (one being in reserve), three hose tenders, with accessories, including two folding pompier ladders, one hose wagon, two hand hose carts, six telescope fire escapes and three telescopic ladders, fourteen handpumps, seventeen standpipes, twenty-five branchpipes, and 13.500 feet of two and three-quarterinch canvas hose. One steam lire engine was used to supplement the hydrant pressure at only five fires within the city and at three outside the city limits, with effective results. Out of sixty-seven lives endangered only six died, and these in hospital from shock due to burns. These figures show the efficiency of the apparatus and methods employed in extinguishing fires and preserving life and property. And when to these is added tile fact that the whole firefighting force, including officers, consists of only forty-eight men—all full paid, of course—with two turncocks detailed by the water department for special duty with the fire brigade, it must be acknowledged, even by the self-appointed critics of British fire brigades and their methods, that, taking Dublin with its extended fire area, its congested districts and large population, as a fair standard, with a department and apparatus about the same as to strength and equipment to that of a second or third-rate American city, the destruction of property is about equal to that incurred at one biggish lire in New York or Chicago, while the loss of life is almost infinitesimally small, in comparison with that which not unfrequently takes place at one tenement house or factory fire in New York or elsewhere. By parity of reason, therefore, the British papers might fairly ar r ic that, if lire brigades in the old world, with such “poor apparatus” and firemen so few in number and “inferior in training” are accompanied with comparatively so small loss, the numerous firemen and their officers belonging to departments eQi.inneH with Snrli ttowerfnl apparatus and such an abundance of it must be altogether incompetent, and should be at once replaced with men trained after British methods. No such absurd comments, however, are ever to be met with in the columns of any British paper, technical or other. It is only occasionally suggested by their editors that, with the conditions reversed, the figures would be all the other way, and that the case is just one in which comparisons are odious. More than that, the British fire papers and fire chiefs are remarkably free from such insularity and altogether refrain from making invidious remarks as to the methods of firelighting followed on this continent and the apparatus employed or the personnel of the fire departments. On the contrary, they give unstinted praise where praise is due, and indulge in very moderate criticism—that of those who confess to judge only by hearsay—in such cases as, in their opinion (which is not always wrong), such criticism is deserved. The fire chiefs, also, who have visited this country, have shown a similar spirit, and, so far front evincing the narrow-mindedness sometimes displayed on this side of the Atlantic, have introduced many American methods into their own brigades, and with the happiest results. The Gamewell fire alarm telegraph, the Vajen Bader smoke-protecting helmets, the quick-hitch, and other helps in the same line are cases in point. The only fair conclusion to be come to, therefore, is that the fire-resistant type of buildings in European cities enables the fire brigades to dispense with the more powerful engines and the other pieces of apparatus used in America and Canada; renders unnecessary the employment of such a large force of men and horses; serves as an aid to the firemen in restricting the flames to their place of origin, getting them down more quickly and affording the inmates of the burning buildings greater facility for escape. On the other hand, when American cities are built with a view to permanence, and do not spring up like mushrooms, as in the mining and some manufacturing districts, to be utilised temporarily as a means of catching the nimble dollar, and when, instead of wooden buildings or structures run up merely to sell—and, incidentally, to collapse even before they are occupied—then it will be found expedient to adopt less costly methods in the w-ay of fire protection. As, however, that day is apparently very far off, these methods must still be employed, and the same expense incurred. But that fact should not be seized upon by a few prejudiced and ignorant folk as an excuse for exalting American fire departments at the expense of those of the country which first taught them howto fight fires, and in the beginning supplied them with apparatus— the models followed for many a long day after the Declaration of Independence. This lesson, if no other, can be learned, at least indirectly, from Chief Purcell’s report and the experiences of the Dublin and other British fire brigades during the past and former years.