Fire Hazard by Electricity
Captain William Brophy, who was well known to all the chiefs in the country, gave his views on the above subject at a meeting of the Society of Arts held at the Institute of Technology in Boston in April, 1893. He said the introduction of the telegraph, the telephone and the many other wires for electric purposes increased the danger of fire, since they were the conductors of an energy which was powerful enough to cause both heat and light. The later introduction of the arc light, the transmission of power and the electric railway increased the dangers many fold not only by the current they carried but also by their obstruction to the firemen. The liability to cause direct fires is due to an improper contact in the switches and cut-out, to the overestimating of the safe carrying capacity of the wire, causing the wires to become red hot and to melt, and also to the improper making of the joints of the wire and insulating material. Several dynamos may send their currents through a common conductor at a pressure of from 220 to 300 volts, enough to melt out all the wires in any one building, should the safety devices fail, thus increasing the fire hazard. The first cut-outs were made of wood, and very often the material warped, leaving an imperfect contact and liability to sparking and other means of causing a fire. Another dangerous ornament is the combination gas and electric light fixture, which has, often through faulty insulation and a leaky gaspipe, been the cause of the fire. Another dangerous practice is to hang two wires of opposite polarity by the same cleat, and since the life of every insulation is limited, the current soon eats through and a dangerous spark is formed. Electricity is a force capable, with precaution, of restriction within the bounds of safety.