Fire and Water Service of Decatur.
Engineers from the Illinois Inspection Bureau have been looking over the water and fire departments at Decatur. The report says that there are numerous dead ends on the system which prevents an otherwise good circulation in the outlying districts. All fire companies are undermanned to such degree that responding to fires at meal hours the complement of men is hardly sufficient for effective service and further, on account of the lack of men, extensive mercantilee inspection cannot be made. Further the report says: The use of automobile fire apparatus has become a necessity in order to cover the town limits. Some runs arc from one to one and a half miles, which is far too long for horsedrawn apparatus. There is also an urgent need for an additional fire station in the northeastern portion of the town to protect the rapidly developing factory district. The department is further handicapped by insufficient small apparatus such as relief valves, cellar pipes and nozzles. During the last five years the building valuations have increased over 25 per cent, and the number of alarms have increased over 30 per cent., but during the same time there have been very few extensions made in the fire department to protect the increasing valuations. The insurance loss for the last six years has amounted to $841,920, of which $631,240 occurred in one year. The average loss per capita for the six years was $4.50 per annum, an exceedingly high figure though during one year it amounted to but 44 cents and two years $l06 and $1.07 respectively—comparatively low figures. The lire alarm system is in need of a general overhauling. The engineers recommend among other things, complete maps showing the location of all water mains, indicating the site, and a book showing the location of all valves, records not possessed by the city. An increase in the pumping capacity to 1 6,000,000 gallons per day, almost double the present capacity. Also that the high service capacity be increased from 12,000,000 to 18,000,000 gallons per day with such increase of boilers as is necessary. Two automobile combination hose and chemical wagons are also recommended and a new house in the northeastern part of the city with a crew of five men. Five additional men for various other branches of the service, all of the crews being too small according to their theory. With the new house at least ten additional men would be needed.
After the number of men has been increased it is recommended that test alarms be sounded calling the department to the districts where most serious conflagrations might develop, declaring that such drills are of especial advantage in giving the men opportunity to demonstrate just what they would do if they were called into actual service in such districts. They would have schools of instruction in which individual members of all companies would be required to make diagrams of buildings within the district under their protection in order that the men might become familiar with the details of the buildings and know just where they were going if called by an alarm of fire, and maps of the watermain system should hang on the wall in every fire station that the members of the department might become familiar with the location of all mains and all hydrants. The city should have a fire marshal whose duty it would be to inspect buildings and enforce ordinances whose regulations were designed to lessen the danger of fire. By degrees all wires except trolley wires should be put beneath the surface of the ground.