FIRE DEPARTMENT OF WILMINGTON.
WILMINTON, DEL., is fortunate in being so well protected against fire Its water supply is ample—the total daily pumping capacity being 25,000,000 gallons, with a storage capacity of 42,050,000 gallons, in its low and high service reservoirs, its water tower at Brandywine Park, and its two standpipes. It has 100.6 miles of mains, and 765 fire hydrants set. The Gamewell fire alarm,with sixty-six boxes, operated by storage battery,is in use.
The population is 76,508, and an area of 10.18 square miles, comprehending 93.8 miles with 16,500 buildings, public, ecclesiastical, educational, residential, commercial, and manufacturing, many of them large and imposing edifices, filled with property amounting to millions of dollars. Yet, thanks to the excellence of the fire department, the loss by fire during the last year was phenomenally small. As the report of Chief Welsh has it: “With real estate at an assessed valuation of $38,000,000, the real estate loss was $32,951.50: personal property, $42,668.25; total loss, $75,619.75. Real estate insurance, $277,000; personal property, $107,710; total insurance, $474,710—the proportion being 98 8-9 cents per capita, as compared with a loss of $264,773.22 or $3.45 2-3 per capita for the year preceding.” Such a showing would speak well for a high-class paid department: Wilmington’s is altogether volunteer, which makes the above report all the more conspicuous and accentuates the excellence of the training and discipline prevailing in that city’s department. During the year ending May 27, 1901 ninety-five alarms were answered, of which seventysix were first alarms; eleven, telephone; seven, still; and one, general. Several suburban and out of town calls were also sent in, including five from Maryland and one from Pennsylvania, at which efficient service was rendered.
The department comprehends the following companies: Friendship fire company No. 1.—Organized December 22, 1775; incorporated. January 5, 1805. It has forty-four active, and fifty honorary members, and three horses.
Reliance fire company No. 2.—Organized March 4, 1796: incorporated, January 23, 1802. It has sixtyfour members, all active, and three horses.
Delaware fire company No. 3 (hook and ladder).— Organized April 22, 1819; incorporated, January 26, 1820. It has thirty active, and twenty-nine honorary members, and four horses (Hayes first-class truck, three-hose hitch).
Phoenix fire company No 5. (engine and chemical).— Organized, December 3,1825. It has sixty active, and ninety honorary members, and six horses.
Water Witch fire company No. 5 (engine and chemical.—Organized, March 13, 1833; incorporated, January 22, 1835; disbanded, August 11, 1885; reorganized November 2, 1801, re-incorporated, April 12, 1893. It has 134 active., and 136 honorary numbers, and four horses.
Fame fire company No. 6.—Organized January 1, 1839; incorporated, February 9, 1841. It has 230 members, all active, and three horses
Washington fire company No 7 (engine and chemical).—Organized, January 4, 1840; incorporated, February 9, 1841. It has 110 members, all active, and five horses.
Weccacoe fire company No. 8 (engine and chemical). —Organized, July 16, 1869; incorporated, January 24, 1871. It has ninety-eight members, all active, and five horses.
Liberty fire company No. 9.—Organized, September 11, 1890; incorporated, February 12, 1891. It has thirty members, all active, and three horses. The apparatus is as follows: Steamers, eight; chemical engines, two; combination trucks and chemical, two ; combination chemical and hose wagon, one; chemical extinguishers, six; hose carts (four wheel), five; hose wagons, two; supply wagon (attached to Phoenix fire company No. 4), one; feet of ladders, 508; capacity of chemicals, 426 gallons; feet of chemical hose, 1,000; feet of two and one-half-inch firstolass hose, 18,800; chiefs buggy and horse (with harness), value $369.50. The various companies are sole owners of their houses, apparatus, and stock. The total value of the real estate of the department amounts to $116,000; personal property, $77,993.
The most fiery month during the year was April, in which the loss amounted to $30,894; the least fiery was, June, with $641 loss. More alarms (thirteen) were turned in in February than in any other month during the year; the fewest in May, (three); Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday were the favorite days for fire—seventeen alarms on these days during the year; on Sundays and Saturdays there were fewest—only nine. There were four false alarms; seventeen fires for which no claim was made; and twenty-seven where the loss was under $100. The most destructive fire caused damage to the amount of $28,-000; the next, $20,000. Defective flues caused eight fires; oil stoves and overheated stoves, five each; spontaneous combustion, four; incendiary, three; “unknown,” twenty-two. The Delaware company (hook and ladder), answered seventy-nine alarms; the Phoenix company (hook and ladder),seventy-eight; Washington chemical,sixty-one; Washington No. 7, fifty-one.
Chief Welsh is a charter member of Liberty fire company No. 9; First Assistant Chief H. M. Wiley, of Friendship company No. 1; second assistant, Chief John Palfrey, of Phoenix company No. 4.
The present is the thirty-third annual report of the department and the first sent in by Chief Welsh. He was born in Penncoyd, Pa., on May 7, 1869. He was elected second assistant chief of the department for one term; first assistant, for one term; and finally, chief. He has the distinction being the youngest man to have filled the above responsible positions in the Wilmington fire department.
It might be suggested that, as he has proved himself a good fireman, an efficient subofHcer, and an able chief, he should not be changed at the end of the year, but continued “during good behavior.” By so doing the Wilmington department would strike a telling blow against the system of electing a different chief, or subjecting a capable chief to the possibility and mortification either of failing to secure a re-election or of being obliged to canvass for renomination—something which takes the’spirit out of the average selfrespecting man and tends to demoralize both himself and the department.
First Assistant Chief Harry M. Wiley joined the Friendship company on February 22, 1883, and has held various offices in the company. He was awarded the Saulsbury medal in 1893.
Second Assistant Chief John Palfrey was bom in Liverpool, England, and came to Wilmington when he was eight years of age. He joined the Phænix fire company on July 4, 1882, and, besides holding the position of president, vicepresident, and trustee in that company, has served as president of the Delaware State Firemen’s association. The above three officers are paid an annual salary, and the chief is, besides, allowed an annual sum for the keep of a horse.
Chief Welsh recommends the abolition of overnead wires of all kinds; stricter laws regarding the storage of illuminating fluids; keeping all cellars free of rubbish; permanent drivers for hose carts; a semi-annual test of apparatus and efficiency; and ample safeguards for skylights and light wells. He also considers that “screens on factory windows are unnecessary.”
It is pleasing to notice that, while Chief Welsh extends his thanks to his assistants for the “able manner in which they have assisted him,” his services and those of his subordinate officers and the members of the department in general have been duly appreciated by the mayor, the city council, and the citizens of Wilmington.
During the year there died former Second Assistants James P. Purcell (1898-99) and William McFadden (1886-87), of the Weccacoe and the Washington companies, respectively, and nine of the rank and file, the Water Witch company losiug four; the Washington, three, including former Second Assistant Chief McFadden; and the Weccacoe, three, also, including former Second Assistant Chief Purcell There was no loss of life to members of the department nor were there any serious accidents while on duty at fires. Two women were burned to death; one, by the explosion of a coal oil can; the other (it is supposed), by the upsetting of an oil lamp.