Fire Ladders

Fire Ladders

The most noticeable deficiency of modern Fire Departments is that of ladders. We have our Hook and Ladder Trucks, equipped with any number of short ladders, and with extension ladders, which can be readily put together and will reach to a height of about sixty-five feet. But even these are cumbersome compared to what a quick-service ladder should be, and their length falls far short of the requirements. In the large cities ground room is so costly that buildings are run up to the height of six, eight, and even nine stories, way beyond the reach of the present extension ladders. Numerous attempts have been made to provide for this deficiency, and long extension ladders, aerial ladders, etc., have been devised, but not one has yet come to the front that answers the requirements of the service. When the ScottUda ladder was first brought out, it was thought it might serve the purpose, and the then New York Commissioners paid somebody $25,000 for the privilege of making such as were required in this Department. But, after three of them had been built, and before either of them had been put into practical service, one of them broke at an exhibition, killing one Chief of Battalion and one or two Firemen. Then the Coroner’s jury condemned the ladders, and they have since been stored up as old lumber. In Boston, however, this same ladder has been used with good effect, and is commended by the officers of the Department, but is still found to be deficient in many respects. There are other long ladders which have attracted some attention, but none have found favor enough to bring them into practical service. The necessity for ladders that are serviceable at 100 feet from the ground, safe for men to ascend and also to carry hose and other burdens, is seriously felt. Fires frequently occur in the upper stories of tall ^ buildings that cannot be reached by any ladders now in use. How much loss results from the inability of the Firemen to reach such fires quickly cannot be estimated. At the Field & Leiter fire in Chicago, the inefficiency of the ladders in use was generally commented upon by the press, and it is conceded that the great loss attending that fire was the result of the inability of the Firemen to reach it in the top floor, where it originated. One great trouble with the long ladders heretofore invented is that they constitute a separate apparatus, costing alone as much or more than a fully equipped Hook and Ladder Truck. There are but few, if any, Departments that can afford such expense for a single ladder, whereas, if it was combined with a regular Truck equipment, it might be found serviceable. At every great fire in this city the want of long, serviceable ladders is severely felt, and it is undeniable that the lack of them has resulted in serious fires that would otherwise have been slight ones. They are required, also, for life-saving purposes, as well as for fireextinguishing service. We do not know that lives have ever been sacrificed for the lack of such ladders, but it is unquestionably true that had they been at hand they would have been frequently used in saving life, and would have enabled the Firemen to do it more easily and at far less personal risk. We are surprised that the inventive faculty which is so largely possessed by our Firemen, many of whom are practical mechanics, has not heretofore given us a Hook and Ladder Truck, having, as a part of its equipment, a safe, serviceable, and easily handled ioo-feet ladder. There is money in it for the man who first gives practical shape to this idea, and supplies a want now felt in all our principal Fire Departments.

FIRE LADDERS

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FIRE LADDERS

The main reason for the destruction of Field & Letter’s dry goods establishment, in Chicago, recently, lay in the fact that the fire originated in tho attic above tho fifth story, and was perfectly inaccessible to the Firemen. No means were provided by which the roof could be reached from tho outside, and the flames had taken posssession of every avenue of approach inside. As a consequence, the Firemen and citizens had to stand by uml see the upper portion of the building burn without being able to cheek the flames. This fact has led the Council to pass an ordinance requiring metallic ladders and fire escapes to be provided for such lofty buildings, thus furnishing a ready means by which the roof may he readied. The matter of enforcing the ordinance is left to a Commission, which consists of the Mayor, Fire Marshal, Superintendent of Buildings, Chairman of the Council Committee of Fire and Water, and Chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings.

That the ordinance is faulty in some particulars is shown by the Chicago papers, and also by the fact that the Commission named is given a great deal of discretion in carrying it out. Thus it requires that all buildings of four stories and more (except those used as private residences) shall he provided with metallic ladders “extending from the sidewalk to the upper stories of such building.” This would indicate the intention to construct tho ladders on the front of the building. But such a plan would he utterly impracticable in some cases, and it is undesirable in all cases where the rear of the building is on a court or alley which can he reached from the street. Not only would the proposed ladders disfigure the front of a handsome building, but almost all buildings to which the ladders should be attached have large, heavy projecting cornices on the sides with street fronts, and the ladders could not bo run over theso in such a way that tho Firemen could use them to gain the roof without great danger. There is also a positive advantage in locating the ladders in the alleys; the alleys are usually from fifteen to twenty feet wide, with high buildings on each side. If one building is burning in such a way that the ladder attached to it cannot be used, the ladder of the building directly opposite can be used to reach the roof or one of the higher stories. This may of itself give the Firemen a commanding position from which to fight the flames. Otherwise, they can draw up some of their own ladders, and throw them across tli© alley from one building to the other, either from the roof or window of corresponding stories, and thus secure a practical bridge over which they can gain access to any part of the burning building they may desire to reach. There are few buildings to which these iron ladders ought to he attached that do not back on alleys or courts.

New York neods appliances of this character quite as much .as Chicago. Amid the tall buildings in this city there are hundreds whose roofs could not be reached by the Firemen in case of fire. We are supposed to have ordinances which cover this point, but that they are not enforced is a fact well known to all Firemen. Some day we will lose some fine building for the same reason that the Field & Leiter building was destroyed—because the fire which is consuming it is inaecessable to the Firemen.