FIRE INSURANCE AND ITS RELATION TO INCENDIARISM
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention: I want to say before readying this paper that it is not overshort and it is not overlong. I also want to thank you for the privilege of saying these things to-day, and at the some time I believe that I am doing this convention a service, if my humble judgment may be taken for it, in reviewing what the New York fire department has done towards stamping out incendiarism. Since this paper was written we have gathered statistics on the number of and loss from fires occurring in New York City subsequent to the inauguration of our anti-arson crusade, and am happy to inform you that as far as I can make out the fire loss in the city for 1913 is lower than it has been for several years, perhaps for 10, and that the loss up to this date is only 60 per cent, of that of last year.
The views of Comm ssioner Johnson on this subject having appeared in this journal before, it is omitted here.
President Magee: You have heard the reading of the very able and instructive paper; what is the will of the association thereon?
Chief Knofflock, of Mansfield, O.: The food for thought contained in the most excellent paper just read by Commissioner Johnson, in fact, one of the most instructive papers I have ever heard read, is well worthy the serious consideration of every member here. I rise to make a motion, hut in so doing wish to make myself distinctly understood that instead of cutting off discussion I wish to precipitate it, and that motion is that the paper be spread in full on the record of our proceedings and a vote of thanks be extended to the gentleman who prepared it.
The motion was declared unanimously carried. Chief Knofflock, of Mansfield, O.: Now, in order to start the ball rolling, I want to say what you have heard me say before: I am a crank on the subject of fire prevention. What has been done in New York should be an object lesson to the whole country. You can have inspection in any country town, and it will produce good results. I do not want to make a speech, but wish to hear all of those present talk on this important subject. Now. brother chiefs, get up and tell your experiences and let us have the benefit of what you have already accomplished and arc now accomplishing.
Chief Hynes, of Grand Junction, Col.: Chief Knofflock, I want to say that I think this a very important paper and that a discussion on same would he most helpful to fire chiefs. I learned something from you in the Denver convention, Chief Knoflbiclt. when you spoke on fire prevention. Upon going home to my own city I put into effect some of the suggestions made by you, and I have saved $15,000 worth cf property in the year that has since elapsed.
Chief Rockwell, of Raleigh, N. C.: I want to say’ in this body that I had the good fortune to get a copy of Commissioner Johnson’.s book on incendiarism, and think it contains most valuable information to fire chiefs. We have a fire marshal in North Carolina and he is greatly interested in the prevention of fire. The work being done by him is very beneficial to our State. That paper just read by Commissioner Johnson is one of the greatest papers we have had before this convention. I think it will be of great help to every chief when he goes back home. Every chief has two kinds of merchants in his city to-day; one is honest and the other dishonest. If just as soon as you get back to your city you will go before your council-and there are many cities of 20,000 and 25,000 inhabitants throughout the country that have no laws on this particular point—and get a little ordinance passed requiring merchants to keep their premises clean, you will find it an easy matter to have many dangers eradicated. And you can have a penalty attached requiring cleaning up, so that when you give notice, if some one is slow or does not wish to comply, you may compel it. Just as soon as you go to a sensible and honest merchant and show him where the debris and rubbish in his cellar or back yard is jeopardizing $25,000 or $50,000 worth of stock he will clean up mighty quickly; but if. you strike a merchant w’ho does not do so you can haul him up under your little ordinance and require him to do so. If you will do this you will be rendering your people a greater service by far than though you wait until the fire starts and center your whole attention on extinguishing it.
Chief Walden, of Wichita. Kan.: Those members who were at Denver last year will well remember that this matter was started, or, I will say, 1 believe this paper was the result of the discussion and conversations that took place in that convent on. I remember that we then had a paper on inspection and prevention of fires by members of fire departments, and, in discussing that paper, members would get over on the toes of the overinsurance proposition. Several members were called to order when they did so, and 1 was one of the number. Chief Kenlon, of New York, in discussing the proposition said while there was a bar on a certain part of the discussion. that that was the crux of the whole thing. So it is that I say I believe this paper of to-day is the result of that controversy in Denver. Directly afterwards Commissioner Johnson made his expose of the overinsurance matter in the city of New V’ork. After that time fire-prevention meetings were held by the insurance companies in several States. One was held in our State (Kansas), and 1 was invited. While the chief of every fire department of the State was invited to attend, and a great many were present, not one was asked to talk upon the proposition— because the expose had been published in the newspapers, and the fire insurance people had the information collected by Commissioner Johnson showing the methods of the companies in the city of New York. 1 want to say, gentlemen of the convention, that inspection by members of the tire department for the prevention of fire is a splendid thing. It is my own practice, and I think it is done in almost every fire department throughout the United States. But that is not the subject particularly before us in this paper; the matter now under discussion is, how can we prevent overinsurance? It is a matter we have nothing to do with. We can make people clean up their premises and get rid of rubbish and cease putting it there; we can do that by State statutes or city ordinances, but how are we going to make the companies cease granting overinsurance? That is a matter of prime importance in connection with fire prevention, and I believe this paper will go a long way toward remedying the trouble. If each and every member will take this paper home with him, and if you will have reproduced in your daily papers important extracts from it, I believe a sufficient public sentiment will become crystallized to bring about the desired,result. You must have public sentiment behind a thing of this kind to get favorable action from State legislatures and city councils, because of the influence of the insurance people, who have representatives attend all meetings to look after their end of the proposition. In conclusion I want to say that I regard this subject as one of the most important subjects that ever came before this association; that 1 regard the presentation of the subject by Commissioner Johnsoir a most complete and able one, and that I believe it will be the means of doing more towards better appreciation of the importance of looking after a means of reducing the number of incendiary fires than anything else we have had. (Applause.)
President Magee: There are two other papers on this subject, and I think it would be better to hear them read before we enter upon a discussion. I will now call upon Mr. Lock.