FIRE DEPARTMENT OF BALTIMORE.
BALTIMORE MD., last year gave its fire department more work in the way of answering alarms than in any year since the paid department was established—1,110 altogether—of which 815 were from street and automatic boxes and 295 by telephone or were still alarms. The record for 1896 was: Box and automatic alarms, 720; still alarms, 265—showing an increase in 1897 of ninety-five box alarms and thirty still alarms—total, 125 alarms. Chief McAfee recommends the addition of a hook and ladder and four engine companies, an additional fireboat—the destructive Tunis fire at Canton having taken place when the fireboat Cataract was undergoing lepair, a water tower, and twenty-one firemen. He likewise insists upon the absolute necessity of abolishing the overhead wires, whose number, he notices, is on the increase. On this subject he adds that for their being put under ground
no stronger or more convincing argument could be produced than the experience of the department with them at large fires, any one of which will serve as an object lesson to illustrate the danger to life and property the wires present.
The need of additional fire alarm boxes is strongly adverted to. Chief McAfee says that
in each of the public schools there should be a fire alarm box, to be connected with t e fire alarm telegraph system, thus placing these buildings, which are daily filled with children,in direct communication with the fire department. A fire alarm should be put in all theatres, concert halls, or other places of public gathering, which maybe designated by this department. Overcrowding of theatres, concert halls, etc., should also be prohibited by law. Uniformed firemen should be detailed at each performance or gathering, to see that the provisions of the law and the regulatioas of the fire department are carried out, as well as to prevent, if possible, the occurrence of fire. Each room in all hotels, boarding houses, lodging houses or buildings similarly occupied, should be provided with a por table fire escape of a kind to be approved by this department The law relative to the erection of fire escapes should amended or reenacted,in such form as to bring within its buildings not included in the present law,but which should provided with fire escapes.
The city now has its Gamewell fire and police telephone alarrr system in better shape than ever before. In February of Iasi year the wires, instruments, etc., were transferred from the old office on the ground floor to the present quarters on the fourth floor, without a single mishap or a second’s interruptior to the system. The greatest improvement lies in thesubstitu tion of the storage battery for the old style gravity battery By this means a steady current is furnished at all times, while the gongs in the various engine and truck houses now require practically no attention, and are besides perfectly reliable, With the gravity battery the gongs worked so imperfectly that the time of one man was spent almost entirely in adjusting them. In addition to this the annual saving effected by the change will be about $3,000. During 1S97 the system of overhead lines was practically rebuilt, with the result that interruptions caused by crossed and grounded wires have been reduced to the minimum—the average being about five per cent, of what it originally was. Covered wire has been substituted for bare wire at nearly all points where the circuits cross trolley lines. The carbons have been removed from the various cable boxes,and thus the danger from crosses with wires carrying heavy currents which frequently destroy the boxes has been almost entirely obviated. The underground portion of the city has given entire satisfaction and there has been no deterioration of the cables nor any trouble from the causes which generally affect them. During this year Supt. Lemon will give special attention to a n.ore complete interlacing of the undergroui.d circuits, and, as far as possible, will separate the overhead wires from those under ground. At present only four out of a total of thirty box circuits are all under ground; wherefore, a box ora number of boxes in some important downtown district may be thrown out of service by some defect in the overhead wire at a point in the suburbs. At the same time, to the best of Supt. Lemon’s knowledge, not a single box which had been properly pulled for a fire failed to register during the whole of the past year. The speed of all boxes that would admit of it has been so increased that at present a box records in the Central office in about half the time required prior to the change. Quite a number of the new style of doors have been put on the boxes, and others are being added as quickly as possible. On these doors is the notice: “To open door, break glass and turn key.” Supt. Lemon, backed by Chief McAfee and the fire commis sioners, recommends the installing of 100 additional fire alarm boxes, a change in the telephone system, and the purchase a new manual three-dial repeater—the who’e appropriation for the police and fire alarm telegraph system for 1898, Mr. Lemon says should be $32,000.
The accompanying illustrations give two views of the office fire alarm telegraph.