Data of Interest to Progressive Chiefs and Firemen

Hints for Inspection Work

A very important work of the chiefs and members of the fire departments is that of inspection of the homes comprised in their districts. Often the details of this work are so great that small matters may be overlooked. A few points in this regard put out by the State fire marshal of Pennsylvania, Howard E. Butz, will prove of great value in giving hints to the householders as to precautions they should observe in the routine of everyday life:


The attic, cellar and all closets and out-buildings should be cleaned at least once every year, and all useless material and rubbish removed therefrom and burned. These unnecessary accumulations are dangerous, and are the causes of many fires. Store all remaining material neatly so that a clear passage may be had between or around boxes, cases, barrels, etc. Metal waste baskets, only, should be used. In storing clothing, first remove all matches or other material from the pockets and then carefully fold and neatly place away. Do not hang clothes where they will be near hot chimneys. Do not go into closets with lighted matches or candles. Care should be exercised in burning leaves, dead grass or rubbish. Keep these fires a safe distance from buildings, and never light them on windy days. Do not bank houses in the winter with straw, excelsior or other readily inflammable material; a chimney spark or carelessly thrown match may ignite it.


Use only safety matches, and make it impossible for children to get them. Always place burned matches in metal receptacles; never throw them on the floor or into waste baskets.


To smoke in garages, in bed, or around stables containing hay is deliberately to invite disaster.

Lighting Hazards

Swinging gas brackets are dangerous, and never should be allowed near curtains or dressers. Fix them rigidly so as to avoid contact with combustible material. If open gas flames are within two feet of ceiling, see that ceiling is protected with sheet metal or asbestos board. Tips for gas lights are inexpensive, while a light used with a broken tip or without a top often causes fire. Don’t use pendant gas mantles unless protected underneath with wire gauze. Hot carbon deposits form and drop from mantles of gas arc lamps. A globe closed at the bottom is safer. Examine the gas meter, sec that it is securely set and well connected, and is not located near open lights or furnaces. An outside gas shut-off valve to service-connection is desirable. Never look for gas leaks with a match, candle or lamp. Where a dwelling is lighted by a gasoline vapor or acetylene gas system the rules governing the safe use of these illuminants should be carefully studied and rigidly observed.

Illuminating oils should be kept in closed metal can ; in a safe place, and lamps should never be filled except b daylight. Kerosene lamps should be kept clean and properly trimmed. If allowed to burn all night, select one that contains much more than enough oil. A dirty lamp containing only a little oil is unsafe. Lamps with broad bases are preferable. Care must be taken not to place them near inflammable material, under shelves, nor to set or leave lamps or lanterns in stables or other places where animals may upset them. Never allow little children to carry lamps, and never set a lamp on a table cover. Children may pull them over. Do not use paper or decorative shades of inflammable material on lamps or electric light bulbs.

Heating Hazards

Coal and kindling should preferably be kept within a brick or stone enclosure and not stored against frame partitions nor directly against walls of boiler or furnace rooms. Never put kindling into the oven. Deposit all ashes in metal receptacles or upon non-combustible floors, removing same from building at least once a week. Barrels or boxes should not be used for storing or carrying ashes unless they are constructed entirely of metal. Before starting fires in the autumn, thoroughly clean out furnace and flues thereto, also fireplaces. Carefully examine them and immediately repair or replace any defective part. Don’t burn out chimneys and flues by making an especially hot fire with paper, etc. Main chimneys should be cleaned from room to cellar, and all stovepipes where entering them provided with metal collar and rigidly fixed in place. Replace any tile, crock of flimsy flues and chimneys with substantial brick chimneys. Long lengths of metal stovepipes are dangerous. At least an eighteen-inch clearance is necessary between top and sides of furnace, breeching and flues from ceiling, partitions. and other combustible material. Repair at once any broken plaster in ceiling or partition walls. Do not have steam pipes in contact with wood work or near inflammable materials, and do not permit rubbish to accumulate behind steam coils or radiators.

Gas stoves or other heaters should have a ventilating flue to carry off the burned gas fumes, which are poisonous. Do not use portable rubber or similar tubing, but connect all gas stoves rigidly and securely with gas pipe. Examine valves and see that they are tight and do not leak. Never permit a stove of any kind to be set tip without stone, brick, concrete or metal protection underneath, or near a partition without a metal shield and air space. Never run stovepipes through partitions, or paste paper over flue holes. All types of open fireplaces or stoves, especially where there are children, should be provided with substantial spark screens. Don’t throw waste paper on an open fire. Every period of extreme cold results in numerous fires due to forcing the heating apparatus. Keep this in mind next winter. Watch your heater. Keep hoods and pipes of kitchen range free from grease and lint by cleaning with hot water and lye. Do not hang clothes or bags near stoves, or on stovepipes or steam pipes. Do not not allow your family to jeopardize their lives bv pouring kerosene onto the kitchen fire to hurry it along. Extreme care should be used with alcohol or kerosene stoves. They should always be filled in the davlight and away from any open flame.




Data of Interest to Progressive Chiefs and Firemen

Handling Small Special Fires

There are several groups of special fires which, small in themselves, require a certain amount of care and judgment in handling, and a certain knowledge of the conditions best adapted to their extinguishment, as they may cause much damage to adjacent property if wrongly handled. One of these is the awning fire. Street awning fires are very often the result of carelessness of individuals on the floors above, such as the dropping of a lighted match, cigar or cigarette upon the awning. This danger is, of course, more imminent in summer, as not only are the awnings in most cases taken down in winter, but the windows are open in summer, and the hazard naturally is greater.

In pulling down burning portions of an awning, the firemen should exercise great care that no part of the flaming material drops onto another awning or into an open window, where there may be flimsy curtain material. Also they should use care not to strike or let the hook fall against plate glass or other windows. Such windows are easily broken and are very expensive to replace. A small stream is usually sufficient to extinguish an awning fire.

A fire requiring care and judgment is that among lime sheds or lime barrels. Water should be used very sparingly, as the lime when wet generates very strong heat. Much better practice is to use quantities of sand, dirt or ashes to smother the fire.

Also, care should be exercised in using water where there are barrels of cement in storage in the building on fire or where the water will reach them, as cement, once wet, must be used without delay or it will be rendered useless.

In fighting fires in lumber yards one thing is important to remember. If the lumber be piled on cross-pieces, the fire should be tackled from the sides, owing to the fact that spaces are formed in arranging the lengths on the crosspieces which are accessible at the sides but not at the ends. If cross-pieces are not used, the reverse is the rule. The fire should be fought from the ends, as the water will not enter from the sides. The flat nozzle described in a previous issue is a very important adjunct in handling this class of fires.

But one thing should invariably be done, no matter how completely the fire seems to be out. The piles which have been on fire should be very thoroughly overhauled. This is to avoid the danger of flames lurking in some obscure corner of the pile, smouldering and only awaiting a breeze or a draft to burst again into flame, probably after the apparatus has returned to quarters.

The Discovery of Defective Flues

It is much better to discover a defective flue before it has caused a bad fire, with possible loss of life, than afterward. This is not so difficult. A defective flue is caused by some obstruction in it, or some fault in construction that permits smoke to issue from openings or crevices in the chimney wall where it never was intended to come out. This often is found between the floors and ceilings of buildings where through an omission of the builder the chimney wall has been left unplastered or where the mortar between the bricks has become loosened, or again where wooden floor or roof beams have been allowed, through criminal carelessness, to penetrate into the chimney. Criminal carelessness is used advisedly, as to allow this is not only against the law, but may be the cause of a night fire which in the case of a dwelling would probably result in the death of some of the residents. This defect can generally be detected from the fact that the ceilings are apt to become blackened around the ends of the beam so placed.

When the defect is the result of spaces between chimney bricks for lack of mortar or want of clay pipe lining and there arises a doubt as to which flue is affected, place a piece of cardboard or tin across the top of the chimney and burn a piece of paper in the stove or furnace. The smoke being shut off from its natural outlet, will issue from the defect, and show its location.

Fire in a Motor Vehicle

Fires in automobiles are usually the result of a leakage of gasoline, kerosene, oil or other fluid used for the purpose of propulsion or lubrication.

In most cases, especially if the fire is a small one, chemical powder, sand, ashes, wet cloths or bags, or liquid chemical extinguishers are sufficient to handle it, as the best practice is to extinguish the blaze by smothering it, while the indiscriminate use of water would have a tendency rather to spread the fire than put it out. If, on the other hand, the fire has gained too great headway to be controlled in this way, water should then be used, but sparingly and in the form of spray. The reason for this is that a large amount of cold water, suddenly coming in contact with the hot tubes and cylinders, or the gasoline or other tanks, would be apt to cause an explosion that would do more harm than the fire itself, besides causing injuries and possibly loss of life.

A very good plan in spraying the automobile is to ascertain the location of the gasoline tank and drive the fire away from it by means of the spray. This will avoid the extra hazard of an explosion, and facilitate the putting out of the fire. Then when the tubes and other metal parts are properly cooled, water may be used in quantity and the fire entirely extinguished.

Care should he exercised after the fire has been extinguished to see that no sparks or burning insulation or other material remain, as these would readily cause a serious explosion, should they come in contact with the gasoline.

Another excellent method of extinguishing automobile fires when in their incipiency is by the use of the steam from the thaw pipe of an engine.

To Open Iron Gates That Are Secured

When a fire occurs after the closing hours of stores and other places of business the entrances are often found closed by iron gates, fastened on the inside by an iron or steel bar running from their center to a fastening in the stone sill or sidewalk, and there secured by a padlock. Where it is possible to do so a fireman should climb over the gate and knock off the padlock with the back of an ax. The door can then be readily opened.