FIRE CONDITIONS AT ROCKFORD
A report superseding one made in 1900 was recently issued by the Committee on Fire Prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, on the conditions at Rockford, Ill. The population of the city is estimated at 54,000, an increase of nearly 10,000 since the 1910 census.
City in General.
The city is situated cn both sides of the Rock River, in the northern part of the State, and covers an area of 9.62 miles, four-fifths of which is built upon. The principal industries include the manufacture of agricultural implements, sewing machines, watches, furniture and other woodwork, and the products of foundries, tanneries and knitting mills. The main business and manufacturing sections are along the river. Grades of 7 per cent, are found in one residential district, but the main streets are paved or macadamized. In the mercantile districts and closely built sections, streets arc mostly 66 feet wide. Of the 174.6 miles of streets, 90.3 miles are unimproved, 71.4 miles are macadamized and 12.9 miles are paved with brick, asphalt and concrete. A central heating plant serves buildings in the business districts. Some Lng periods of intense cold have occurred, as the maximum temperature has been below freezing about 56 days per year, in one instance for 47 consecutive days. Maximum frost penetration about 6 feet. The gross fire loss for the yast 5 years, as given in the fire department records, amounted to $685,533, varying between $17,785 in 1914 and $266,438 in 1910. The average number of fires was 142, varying between 131 in 1913 and 148 in 1911, with an average loss per fire of $966. The average number of fires per 1,000 population, based on an estimated average population of 49,300, was 2.88, and the average yearly loss per capita was $2.78.
The fire department has been full paid since 1881. For the appointment and disciplinary control of members the department is under the supervision of the board of fire and police commission of three members, one appointed annually by the Mayor: present members are: F. E. Carpenter, president: C. H. Burlingham and Chas. Mahm: C. C. Lofquest, secretary. The City Council, through the Fire Committee, of which O. H. White is chairman, purchases supplies and apparatus. Much of the detail management and purchasing of supplies is left to the chief. The chief, known as fire marshal, is the executive officer of the fire force and has entire control of men and apparatus, including the fire alarm system, with power to enforce discipline, subject to the approval of the commissioners. He acts as building inspector and has control of fire escapes and of private protection in theatres. Fire Marshal Frank E. Thomas, age 52, has been marshal for 14 years and a member of the department for 29 years. He is a capable and progressive official and a good disciplinarian. Assistant Fire Marshal S. T. Julian, age 61, was appointed to his present position in 1891 and has been a member of the department since 1881. He is in charge of the department in the absence of the marshal and makes weekly inspections and reports of all fire stations. He is said to be a raoable officer. The captain of Engine 1 acts in place of the assistant marshal. The total membership is 67, an increase of 22 since the previous report. The expenses in the department, exclusive of the alarm system, in 1914, were: Salaries, $70,433; general, $16,589: total maintenance, $87,022. The per capita expense for maintenance in 1914 was $1.66. based on an estimated population of 52,350. The members are under civil service protection and can be removed only for cause after trial. Appointment and promotions are made by the board from eligible lists obtained through competitive mental and physical examination by the board. Physical examinations are made by one of the city physicians. For appointments, age limits are 21 to 33 years, height limits 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 4 inches, weight limits 145 to 235 pounds and circumference of chest, 35 to 41 inches. Vacancies, including the chief, are required to be filled from the next lower grade, when practicable, and seniority and length of service are given weight. Examinations for promotion are to be competitive and from those holding the next lower rank, the appointment to be from the three having the highest standing. New appointees are on probation for six months, the chief being the judge of efficiency. Substitutes, usually candidates on the eligible list, are employed to fill vacancies caused by sickness and unusual absence. A Firemen’s Pension Fund, maintained by 1 per cent, of all licenses collected by the city, 1 per cent, of salaries, one-half of the 2 per cent, tax on the premiums of foreign fire insurance companies, fines for violation of fire ordinances or violation of department rules, gifts, rewards and an annual firemen’s ball, pays a pension of halfsalary in case of total disability, or any member may retire on half salary after 22 years of service. Pensions are also paid to widows, minor children or dependent parents of deceased members. A relief fund, supported by assessments and donations, pays hospital, doctors and funeral expenses. Members receive full pay during sickness or as a result of injury while on duty.
There are an auxiliary squad, one ladder company and six engine companies in service, in six stations. Each company has a captain and lieutenant, each engine company an engineer and assistant engineer and the auxiliary squad an engineer. Twenty-one men are trained as chauffeurs and 7 to operate the automobile pumping engines. Members are allowed 3 hours daily for meals, 1 day off in 5 and 2 weeks’ annual vacation. There is, for each engine, an engineer or some one competent to operate it on duty at all times. Chauffeurs assist at fires and drivers of horses assist at serious fires. The engineer of the auxiliary squad is experienced in operating both automobile and steam fire engines and operates the engine of any company in an emergency. During vacation and meal times the force is reduced to about half of its total membership. Men are required to respond to second alarms during meal times and on days off and to secure permission from the chief before leaving the city on their day off.
Three of the engines in service are steamers of double pump reciprocating type and three are Ahrens-Fox automobiles with double or quadruple plunger, double-acting pumps. One engine is 16 years old, the remainder have been purchased within 8 years. The automobiles have solid or cushion rubber tires; the steamers have iron tires. The ladder truck is a Seagrave with a 75-foot spring-balanced aerial, a 45-foot extension and 10 other ladders, including one with roof hooks and 2 pompiers. The truck has solid rubber tires and the tractor has cushion tires; dual tires on rear wheels. The two Seagrave motor hose wagons have cushion tires, single front and dual rear; the car with Engine 5 has pneumatic tires. The Ahrens-Fox squad car carries a 100-gallon booster pump, 50-gallon water tank, 200 feet of 1-inch hose, 500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, 2 sections of 2 1/2-inch stiff suction, 2 axes, a marine torch, hydrant gate, plaster hook, shut-off nozzle with 3/4-inch tip and hose straps. It is equipped with pneumatic tires. The chief owns a 45-horsepower automobile, in which he attends fires. The fuel wagon, loaded with about 1 1/2 tons of coal in bags, two 10-gallon cans of gasoline and a can of lubricating oil, is stationed at headquarters. Hose is double-jacketed, cotton, rubber-lined, purchased by the chief under a 3-year and 300pound guarantee. At time of delivery hose is tested to 300 pounds and annually to 150 pounds. From 1,000 to 1,500 feet of hose is purchased annualy. At two houses hose is dried in towers, at other houses in the cellar or on the walk in good weather. The amount of hose on hand allows an average of 1,500 feet for each piece of apparatus carrying hose or 2,300 feet per station. Couplings of this and neighboring cities are of the usual screw type. A small repair shop, equipped with hand tools and a blacksmith forge and chain hoist is located in the rear of the apparatus floor at Headquarters. Horses are purchased by the chief; all are said to be in good condition and well adapted for the service. They are exercised daily unless they have had an early morning run. Horses are taken to the nearest shop for shoeing. Harness is of modern swinging type and in good condition. Stations are 2-storv. joisted brick or brick-veneered buildings. Two are heated by steam and four by furnaces and stoves. Three have concrete or brick apparatus floors. Apparatus doors are hand opened, swinging inward; one station has automatic stall trips; at other stations horses are released bv hand; each station has a push button for ringing the gong for tests and verbal alarms.
Operation of the Department.
For minor offences the chief usually reprimands and for more serious cases men are suspended and brought before the board for trial. Charges are preferred through the chief to_ the board. The boaru may fine or suspend without pay, but cannot dismiss until all evidence has first been reviewed by a special circuit court, whose decisions are final. The board recently oeciaed to deprive men of days off rather than suspend without pay. The board generally upholds the chief and follows his recommendations. During warm weather each company drills for one hour, one day a week. The entire company goes to some factory building, engine is connected up, hose lines laid, turret pine connected and practice with other appliances had. The engines are frequently operated at these drills. During the winter indoor drills are held. Captains instruct new men in the use of tools and equipment. Horses are hitched once a day and on all alarms. Engineers train their assistants and a third member of each company in operating the engine. The chief holds a monthly meeting with the captains, at which department affairs, conditions noted during inspections, and other matters of interest to the department are discussed. The running card provides for outlying companies to move up after first and second alarms to protect uncovered territory. The chief attends all alarms; the assistant attends all except night alarms in outlying residential sections, generally on the squad car. Records of the fire department for 1914 show that of the 110 fires requirmg the use of apparatus, 37 were extinguished with hand pumps, 9 with chemical streams, 50 with streams from the booster pump, 7 with a hydrant line, 1 with a pail of water, 4 with hand pumps and chemical lines and 2 with engine streams. A strictly enforced rule requires laddermen to open up and venilate burning buildings and make a way for the pipemen. If the fire lasts 15 minutes a team is sent back for the fuel wagon or to the nearest coal supply. In the water power district, seven manholes are provided in the raceway at which engines may draft; four bulkheads have also been provided at the river for this purpose. Eleven cisterns, ten in the yards of furniture factories, are also available. When impossible to avoid long lines of hose, engines are worked in relay on the one line. Continual inspections of business places, factories, churches and schools are being made by members of the department. The daily inspection force consists of 16 detailed members. Each, man makes a detailed report of each premises inspected and notes all dangerous conditions. Once a week the chief makes a report of all inspections to the local underwriters, calling attention to specially hazardous conditions. The chief makes inspections at intervals of gasoline storage and of new buildings in the fire limits, inspects for rubbish, and examines old buildings whenever notified of objectionable conditions. Previous to July 4th, he also inspects all places where powder or fireworks are kept. In 1914 there were only 4 rubbish fires. The chief keeps a record of all fires attended by the department, roster of members showing dates of appointment, transfers and promotions, and charges preferred, a record of notices served for improvement in unsafe buildings, and a financial record. Recent recommendations were for a new headquarters building near the city hall, a service truck for the east side, an automobile tractor for Engine 5 and one or two new stations. Since the report of 1909 the following changes and improvements have been made: The force has been increased by the addition of 22 men, a hose company changed to an engine company, the auxiliary squad organized, and the following equipment purchased: One steam fire engine, three automobile pumping engines, three automobile hose wagons, an automobile aerial truck, the squad car, considerable hose, three turret pipes and other minor equipment.
Fire Alarm System.
The fire alarm system is a part of the fire department, under the supervision of the chief, and is maintained by City Electrician Fern Shaver; other help is employed as needed. He was appointed in 1908, previous to which he had about 12 years’ experience as an electrician and lineman. He also installs street lights and maintains the police signaling system. The central office is located on the second floor of fire department headquarters, a brickveneered building erected in 1887. The apparatus at headquarters is of automatic type and Gamewell make, installed in 1903, and includes the following: An automatic, non-interfering repeater, with contacts for 4-box circuits and one closed alarm circuit, a 4-circuit slate charging and operating board, with the usual testing and charging devices and a wooden terminal rack in the battery room. Current for operating the fire alarm system is supplied by storage batteries in duplicate sets, consisting of 120 cells of the 3-plate, 5-ampere-hour chloride accumulator type, mounted on glass plates on rubber pads on iron racks. Each set is capable of supplying current for the system for about 48 hours without recharging. The total number of boxes in use is 78, an increase of 10 since the previous report; all are noninterfering, spring-actuated with trigger pull.
The following recommendations are included in the report: That a new headquarters building be erected near the City Hall, with quarters for Engine 2, chief officers and repair shop, and be provided with a drill tower. That a ladder company, equipped with an automobile service truck, be installed with Engine 4. That an engine company equipped with automobile combined pumping engine and hose wagon be installed in the vicinity of North Main and Auburn streets. That the assistant chief be provided with an automobile. That fire alarm headquarters be removed to a fireproof building. That new equipment be installed at fire alarm headquarters, as follows; A 10-circuit non-interfering repeater, with contacts for 4 closed alarm circuits. A 12-circuit battery charging and testing switchboard. A terminal board for all circuits.