Fire Fighting as Seen by an Outsider
Fire Department Should Be Kept Out of Politics— Adequate Salaries Should Be Paid to Chief and Men
TODAY in the United States we lose from fifteen to eighteen thousand lives every year from fires, and we presume between four hundred million and five hundred million dollars worth of property is burned up each year, and you seldom see anything about it in the papers. We must educate the public to fire prevention. It is much easier to fight the fires before they start. In most cases the insurance company pays for the loss so far as the property is concerned, but there is no recompense for lives lost on account of fire.
In the city of Shreveport some years ago, we had a bad fire record, but thanks to our efficient Chief Flores, we have a much better record today. He has put in a system of inspection, especially in the down town district, whereby the business establishments are visited regularly, and the men performing the work must report to the Chief on each piece of property inspected. I believe that has cut down the fires in Shreveport from one-third to one-half, just by this inspection work.
Must Keep Fire Department Out of Politics
Another thing that is most important is that the Fire Department should never be mixed up in politics. When politics enter the Fire Department the efficiency of that department is lost. A man working for a fire department has by constant work and efficiency been promoted to captain or Chief. Then a politician comes in office and puts him out, after he has given all these years to that service. This is not just or fair. I recently talked to a gentleman who had given 47 years of his life to fire fighting-
It is wrong for politics to enter a fire department, because a man has very little to work for. when he knows that a new administration may get his job any time. Of course, so far as the insurance companies are concerned, they have to pay a large occupation tax to the city, but this is borne by the public, as well as everything else. The public pays the cost.
Cooperation With Fire Department
Bear in mind that all insurance agencies want to cooperate with their fire department, due to the fact that we cannot make money for the company we represent without it. In Shreveport, we have the fullest cooperation from Chief Flores, working through the Insurance Exchange. Tf we find conditions very unsatisfactory; that is to say, if we find a hazard, or what we consider one. or a bad arrangement of schools, churches, theatres, etc., we make a complaint. The agent’s name is not given. Chief Flores will go personally, or send one of his men to inspect that place. If he finds it a hazard, he has it corrected and put in proper shape.
We have a case coming up in Caddo Parish Court, which is going to be tried soon, whereby the property owner had a fire in his residence and the house next door caught fire. The man who owned the house next door had no insurance, and he is now suing property owner for his loss. In New York City this proposition has been threshed out and taken to the Supreme Court, and the man who suffered the loss was able to get a judgment against the man who had the fire. This is brought down from the old English law in regard to those hazards.
Should Guard Against Over-Insurance
One of our great evils today in so far as insurance companies are concerned, is from the agent, who will over-insure property. This we should guard against.
“THE Fire Department should never be mixed up in politics. When politics enter the Fire Department the efficiency of that department is lost. A man working for a fire department has by constant work and efficiency been promoted to Captain or Chief. Then a politician comes in office and puts him out, after he has given all these years to that service. This is not just or fair.”
We have in many instances tried to help the lire department in securing equipment, because we could see the need of it; besides the insurance rates are based on the amount of losses, and the efficiency of the lire department, as well as water supply.
A Model Building Code
For several years in the city of Shreveport, we did not have an adequate building code. Fast year a Building Code was adopted and put in use in the city, which is recognized as a model building code for towns and cities. The city authorities have worked faithfully at this work. The matter was put up to the contractors and a committee was appointed to study the needs here. We did not want to work a hardship on any one; after months of study and much hard work, and many meetings held, they finally completed our present code. 1 think it is a wonderful work, and much credit is due the ones responsible for it.
Does Not Favor State Insurance
Many people advocate state insurance funds. No state should ever enter into the insurance business. Eighteen states have tried the state insurance fund and out of the 18. there have been only two that were able to successfully operate it. In these cases the plan has been in operation but a short time, so it is not declared a success. One reason is that the insurance companies operate privately, but when the state goes into business, it is operated from a political standpoint. It gets into politics. The man is appointed by a politician and knows he does not have to give a day’s work, or send any proof or reports, because the job is strictly political. We do not believe any insurance fund can be operated by any state over a period of a year and be successful.
Educate the Public in Fire Prevention
The people can only be informed to the danger of fires by education. The National Board of Fire Underwriters spends a large amount of money in the different states through advertising, in regard to preventing fires and lire prevention. We cannot say too much about tire prevention.
If any other country, according to population, should have fires as we do, it would simply be a crime to them. We burn up $5.50 where the “foreign country burns up from 18c to 20c. It is costing the people and the people have to pay for it. If you have insurance on a building and happen to have a fire, the cost goes back to the people. We should, therefore, educate the people—-it would certainly be mony well spent. If our fire department should not make a run in the whole year, we shouldn’t mind that; it would be money saved.
Poor Fire Department Salaries
I might state here that in my personal opinion, I think tlie men in the Fire Department and Police Department are the poorest paid men there are. I don’t know what they pay in other places, but I know what they are paid here in Shreveport. This is not a criticism against the city of Shreveport, but at the salary we pay, it is a shame and disgrace to ask a man to work for it. Of course, this is my personal opinion and I am not criticizing the administration, because 1 know they don’t have the money, but it seems as if some arrangements could be made to care for that item. New Orleans raised more money—Chief Evans went out and asked the people to help him, and they did. It isn’t right to ask a man to go through the things that a fireman has to go through, risk his life, subject himself to such dangers, for the salary he receives. There are a few cities that pay as much as $150 per month. It is not the Chief’s fault that you do not receive more money. He would be willing and glad to give it, but, these men should not be asked to work for a such a small salary, when they could get from forty to fifty dollars a week by working as a mechanic, or most any other occupation. These firemen get up all during the night—when the bell taps, they must get out. I believe that it is only through education that we can ever obtain results.
As to Firemen’s Pensions
Until a few years back no action was taken toward pensions for firemen. We have what is known as a Pension Fund for retired firemen and policemen in Shreveport. Most of the large corporations, railroads and other great industries, retire their men on a per cent of his salary, after they have been in service for a number of years, and that will enable him to live and give hi menough that he will not have to call upon his family for support.
(Excerpts from a paper read before the annual convention of the Southwest Fire Chiefs’ Association at Shreveport, La.)
Frank Hand, Chief in Titusville, Pa.—Frank G. Hand has been appointed chief of Titusville, Pa., in place of A. Longtine who was chief for the past twenty-eight years. Chief Hand has served the department for thirty-five years.
Forest Fire Imperils Long Island Homes—About two hundred firemen were called out to fivlit a forest fire north of Patchogue, L. I., N. Y., which threatened many Long Island homes.