Fire Chiefs” Convention an Epoch-Making Event
International Association of Fire Engineers at Louisville Convention take steps to make huge fire prevention fund available—Record attendance—New Orleans selected for next year’s Convention
THE official launching of the proposed nation-wide fire prevention campaign which promises to be one of the biggest things ever undertaken by the organization, was the outstanding feature of the 53rd Annual Convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers held at Louisville, Ky., Sept. 29-Oct. 2nd inclusive. The plans for this work as announced by Jay Stevens of San Francisco, at the head of the committee in charge, were received with great enthusiasm and the chiefs went on record unanimously in support of the project.
The fire prevention campaign will have as its start a feature motion picture entitled “The Passing of the Horses,” now in course of preparation by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and under an arrangement made by Mr. Stevens it is expected that the Association will receive between $150,000 and $250,000 as its share of the proceeds of this picture, which money will be used by the Association to finance nationwide fire prevention propaganda.
Louis B. Mayer, President of the film company, was on hand at the Convention and told the chiefs how the picture was to be put over and promised his personal support as well as that of his organization.
With a record attendance of 965 active and associate members, with an unusually interesting list of topics and a lively lot of discussions, and with a line-up of exhibits as fine as has been shown in many years, the Convention was a grand and glorious success from every standpoint. Of those present 167 were new active members and 128 new associate members, all of whom joined at this Convention. The total attendance exceeded last year’s by just 100.
The election of officers resulted in the advancement of Chief James Armstrong of Kingston, Ont., from 1st Vice President to President and Chief Thos. R. Murphy of San Francisco, from 2nd to 1st Vice President. The 2nd Vice Presidency, the only contested office, went to Chief Ross B. Davis of Philadelphia by a narrow margin over Chief Alex Henderson of Kansas City, Mo., the only other contender. Chief James J. Mulcahey of Yonkers, N. Y., was re-elected Secretary and Chief Peter B. Carter of Canden, N. J., Treasurer.
New Orleans was chosen as the next Convention city. Indianapolis made a strong fight but lost out because it was considered too close to Louisville. Other cities making a bid for the next convention were Philadelphia, Key West, Fla.; Detroit, Mich.; Memphis, Tenn., and Hot Spring, Ark. Portland, Oregon put in an advance word for 1927.
Rarely before have the business sessions of a Convention been so well attended as they were at Louisville. President Sam B. Boyd took occasion to remark that in all the twenty-five years he has come to conventions he has never seen better attendance at the business sessions or more attention paid to the proceedings. All the meetings, with the exception of the opening session, were held in the gymnasium of the Jefferson County Armory which housed the exhibits.
An elaborate program of entertainment was provided the visitors by Chief Alex Bache and the local committee. The weather, while somewhat warm, was comfortable on the whole.
The Opening Session, Tuesday
The Convention was called to order at 10 A. M. in the main ballroom of the Brown Hotel by President Sam B. Boyd. An address of welcome was given by a representative of Mayor Huston Quin of Louisville, who was unable to be present. This was followed with an address by President Boyd and memorial services for departed members.
The afternoon session opened with a reading of the financial report by Treas. Peter B. Carter, which showed that the Association, just prior to the Convention, had a balance on hand of close to $10,000.
Word was received at this point of the inability of Chiefs Coleman of Miami, Murphy of San Francisco and ex-Chief Thompson of Toronto, Ont., to attend the Convention because of illness. The Secretary was directed to wire the Association’s regrets.
The first topic on the program “The Fireman’s Gas Mask and Its Uses,” was presented by Capt. Edward Steidle, Supervisor of Co-operative Mining Courses, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pa. Capt. Steidle explained the various types of smoke masks and helmets now generally in use and warned against types that were not considered safe for fire department use.
(An abstract of this paper will appear in a later issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING).
Considerable discussion followed during which several of the chiefs mentioned both satisfactory and unsatisfactory experiences with smoke protection devices. Chief Haney of Jacksonville warned against the original Army gas mask, mentioning an incident in his city where one of his men nearly lost his life while wearing such a mask. Chief Foster of the Portsmouth Navy Yard expressed the feeling that with the increasing use of chemicals it has become necessary to give some attention to the development of a dependable self-contained helmet.
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Fire Chiefs’ Convention at Louisville
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On the next topic, “Oil Storage and Its Fire Hazards” the Committee to which it was assigned consisting of Chief Ross B. Davis of Philadelphia, Chairman; Chief T. R. Murphy of San Francisco, Chief R. J. Scott of Los Angeles, Chief A. Davis of Bayonne, N. J., and Chief August Emrich of Baltimore, confined itself to a study of the proper distance between aboveground storage oil tanks from the standpoint of fire safety. Chief Davis stated that the Committee found it impossible to arrive at any conclusion and referred the subject back to the Convention for discussion and debate. It was brought out by Chief Davis that he was instrumental in preventing the National Fire Protection Association from adopting at its 1924 meeting a standard table which provided that tanks above ground of three hundred gallons or less be placed five feet apart, five hundred gallons or less ten feet apart, etc. — distances which he felt were entirely unsafe. The whole matter has been in the hands of a committee composed of representatives of Oil, Underwriters and other allied organizations, and even though this committee has made a long study, no definite decision has yet been reached. It was decided that the committee headed by Chief Davis be continued to make a further study and report at the next convention.
Adopt Report on Cooperation of Fire and Water Departments
The delegates were unanimous in adopting the report on “The Co-operation of Fire and Water Departments,” as presented by Frank C. Jordan of Indianapolis, Chairman of the Joint Fire Prevention Committee of the American Water Works Association, International Association of Fire Engineers and the National Fire Protection Association, each represented by five members. This report, which will be published in full in next week’s issue, suggests that through the cooperation of these organizations the fire losses of the country could be reduced by the establishment of such close cooperation between fire and water departments as will assure an effective water supply, creation of Fire Prevention Bureaus, modern drill schools, officers’ training schools, the improvement of building codes and extension of fire alarm systems, urging wider use of sprinklers, standardization of sprinkler connections, passage of ordinances governing inflammable liquids, methods of stopping arson, etc.
The adoption of the report was strongly opposed by Chiefs Healy of Denver and Haney of Jacksonville, who felt that the report embraced matters that were entirely out of the sphere of the purpose of the Committee and had very little bearing whatever on the Committee title. They both felt that the report should have been confined strictly to matters pertaining to the direct relationship of fire and water departments, such as the proper maintenance of fire hydrants, suitable fire pressures, etc., rather than dealing with factors that are entirely a fire department problem and had no direct or indirect connection with the water department. Mr. Jordan and Sherwood Brockwell made it clear that the report, which had already been adopted by the other organizations, was intended merely to further in a general way the cause of fire prevention and there was no intention whatever to tell the fire chiefs what to do, as had been inferred by Chiefs Healy and Haney. Mr. Jordan explained, too, that the report was not planned merely as a topic for the Convention, but rather as a program to reduce fire losses.
Chief Gilday of Hoboken expressed regret that no reference had been made in the report to the matter of over-insurance, which he said had become such an important factor in boosting fire losses. Considerable discussion followed on this subject, but no action was taken.
Jay Stevens Tells of Proposed Fire Prevention Work
At this point Jay Stevens was called upon to tell of the proposed fire prevention campaign the Association was about to undertake under his direction.
Mr. Stevens told of his negotiations with various motion picture interests to put over a fire prevention film and how with the assistance of Chief Scott of Los Angeles he finally entered into a contract, under the Association’s authority, with Louis Mayer, President of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios to produce a fire prevention film entitled “The Passing of the Horses.” The contract provides that the Association is to receive 25% of the net profits of this film which Mr. Mayer estimated would be somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000. It is the intention, said Mr. Stevens, to use this money to place the Association in a position of leadership so far as fire prevention work throughout the country is concerned. The plan is to have the Association with the cooperation of the chiefs throughout the country take the leadership in all matters relating to fire prevention and act as the chief medium through which all fire prevention propaganda will be issued. This promises to be the biggest thing the Association has ever attempted, said Mr. Stevens, and both he and Chief Scott urged that the chiefs give their fullest cooperation in putting the film over so that the Association can be assured of the fund which will enable it to do the most constructive work in its history.
Mr. Stevens announced that in order to stir up further interest Mr. Mayer of the film company has donated a group of trophies to be presented to cities in various sections of the country making the best showing in the reduction of the number of alarms. Mr. Stevens said he was going to do everything possible to put the Association over in the big way its position warrants and to place the fire chief up in front where he belongs in matters pertaining to fire prevention.
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Fire Chiefs’ Convention at Louisville
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The Association gave a unanimous vote of approval to the contract entered into by Mr. Stevens for the motion picture and Mr. Stevens was enthusiastically applauded for his work in the interests of the Association.
Other film producers, who unsuccessfully negotiated for the contract are planning, according to Chief Scott, to steal the thunder of the Association picture by coming out in advance with similar pictures of their own in which the Association will not participate at all. Chief Scott urged that the chiefs do everything in their power to prevent such pictures from being shown in their respective communities. He also presented a motion, which was passed unanimously, that the Secretary be directed to send communications to the Universal and other producing companies requesting that any pictures conflicting with the proposed fire picture be withheld until the latter has been properly disposed of.
As a means of making more effective the Association’s efforts in pushing the fire picture and furthering the work of fire prevention generally, Chief James Armstrong, newly elected President, said he plans to appoint a list of State Vice-Presidents who have the ability and are in position to properly carry on this work. In the past, the State Vice-Presidents served merely in an honorary capacity with no work to do.
This wound up the business of the day.
The entertainment for the day consisted of luncheon at 1:30 and a sight-seeing trip at 2:30 for the ladies only, with a general “Get-Together-Dinner” in the evening for all the delegates in the ballroom of the Brown Hotel. Dancing followed this latter event.
(Proceedings of the Convention will be continued in next week’s issue).