FIRE PREVENTION IN HUNGARY

FIRE PREVENTION IN HUNGARY

Measures Adopted for the Protection of Rural Townships and Villages in That Kingdom.

In a paper read at the International Fire Prevention congress, recently held in London, Jules de Bolcs, of Buda-Pesth, departmental councilor, Hungarian Home Office, read a paper dealing with the general fire preventive measures adopted in Hungary, especially in rural townships and villages. In that kingdom (he said) there is no general legislation upon fire prevention, the construction of buildings, or fire extinction, although the Home Secretary is now issuing “edicts” with a view to prevent the outbreak and spread of fire. On the subject of water supply for fire protection in towns and villages, the following regulations (which, like the others, are in force for the whole country) : “In parishes where the quantity of water requisite for the extinction of the fire is to he found in natural reservoirs the parish authorities are obliged to have at least one well, with an abundant water supply, and to keep the same in good order. Larger parishes must he provided with similar wells distributed in conformity with specific requirements. Where it is impossible to sink wells, owing to local circumstances, tanks, reservoirs, or ponds have to be made, which must be cleaned at least once a year. The sinking of wells must be considered as one of tbe obligatory conditions for obtaining authorisation for all large building undertakings. These wells must be sunk in places where, in case of fire, they shall be easily accessible. In case of fire, nobody may refuse to permit the water on his premises to be employed in putting out tbe fire.” The requisite quantity of water and the necessary apparatus for the extinction of fire in all places where fodder is stored must always be on band, and every parish having more than fifty houses must provide and keep in order in a safe place built for the purpose (a) a suction-pump or engine, with a cylinder of too mm. diameter, and a hose sixty m. long; (b) a watercart, with a cask of three hectolitres and a vat of one hectolitre; (c) two fire ladders; (d) two cramps; (e) two fire hooks; (f) two axes; (g) four iron forks; and (h) two lanterns. In smaller parishes, as well as on any individual large buildings, must he kept at least one hand engine or a tub-squirt; and all ordinary houses must be provided with fire implements, the number of which is fixed by the local fire regulations, to be regularly inspected and kept in good order. All parish suctions and fire hose must be fitted with the standard screw coupling in general use in Hungary. “A representative of the local authority, accompanied by the chief of the local fire brigade, must inspect each post as frequently as circumstances demand, but never less than twice a year.” He can order the demolition of dangerous property at the expense of the respective owners, direct that the necessary fire apparatus be acquired by each proprietor, and ascertain by examination whether the necessary supply of water is obtainable in the desired spot and is ready for use. The local authorities must see to it that the accumulation of forage and corn among dwellinghouses is limited as much as possible. “It is preferable that each parish should designate for this purpose, as far as may be feasible, a suitable place outside the boundaries, and that threshing of corn should also be carried on there.” Very strict measures must also be taken concerning tbe carrying of forage and corn into barns, threshing floors, stables, and granaries, and see that near these places, and in general, wherever easily inflammable materials are heaped up. the carrying of free lights, shooting with firearms, lighting fires, the use of children’s toys of a dangerous character, are strictly prohibited; and that all inflammable materials are put out of the reach of children. With respect to tramps, also: These are often the authors of fires which develop into large conflagrations, and must be strictly watched. The advantages of being insured against fires must be clearly and frequently impressed upon the inhabitants. and the construction of houses must be carried on with due regard to fire prevention, the inhabitants being encouraged to use solid and fire-resisting materials. Chimneys must be swept at least once a month, and, where the fire is kept up the greater part of tbe day and often even during the night, the sweeping must take place more frequently.” With regard to the organisation of the fire service in Hungary: There are to begin with, (a) paid firemen, (b) volunteer firemen, and (c) communal (obligatory) firemen, who are recruited in the different parishes from men of twenty to forty years of age. The latter are enlisted where it is impossible to establish either a paid or a volunteer fire service. After each fire an investigation must be held on the spot to ascertain its cause, and, if incendiary, to order the legal punishment of the guilty persons. In Hungary no insurance offices pay for losses till the local authorities have certified to the person who has been damaged. If the fire has arisen from incendiarism. negligence, carelessness, lightning, etc., the direct cause must be formally reported and the investigation must be thorough and held as soon as possible. Every important fire must be at once reported to the Ministry of the Interior by the district authorities, and within thirty days of the end of each year a return must be made on a prescribed form of the fires that have taken place in each year, so as to furnish the necessary data to the statistical department. These statistics have also an administrative aim—namely, to furnish material to serve as a basis for drawing up fire preventive regulations which shall take into account the decrease of damage caused by fire. As to the organisation of the Hungarian fire service: “The interests of the firemen in Hungary are protected by the ‘National Association of Firemen,’ which was founded in 1871. This association attaches a very great importance to the special knowledge of all that is connected with their work. To this end a special course of instruction is held annually in Buda-Pesth, which is the seat of the association, and those candidates who succeed in passing the course receive their first step of official rank from the association. In this manner, and by the special courses held both in fire preventive and fire brigade measures, tbe association renders very useful service to the country.” Candidates for the post of parish clerk, student of the Board School Teachers’ preparatory college, and students of tiie Agricultural college likewise participate in the special course for firemen. The army, also, for the future will be similarly instructed, and the “ordinary firemen will have to put at the disposal of the army the necessary apparatus for teaching the extinction of fire, and will also co-operate with the soldiers during their special instruction. All these arrangements tend to improve both the fire preventive and fire brigade measures.” By means of all these precautions and the zealous co-operation of the various branches of the Hungarian Firemen’s association, there has been a great improvement in the way of fire protection and prevention. Still the “country suffers very much from the absence of uniform laws controling the construction of houses; the building regulations, unfortunately, being fixed only by local bye-laws.” As a consequence, the construction of houses still leaves very much to be desired. For instance, “to mention only one point, wood and straw are still used in many places for roofing purposes, and, in some instances, roofs ihatched with reeds are to be found. The situation is, however, improving from one year to another, for the building regulations defined by recent local statutes generally expressly stipulate that within the parish boundaries incombustible materials must be used for roofing purposes. In the towns, of course, the methods of construction answer modern requirements better than in the country; whilst in Buda-Pesth itself, the capital and royal residence, the conditions prevailing in respect to security from fire arc such as few towns on the continent can boast. The laws upon fire prevention and the construction of public and private houses, which are now in preparation at the Ministry of the Interior, are aimed at remedying such evils as still exist.” M. de Boles would have the enactment of a modern law comprising all branches of fire prevention and protection generally and in its fundamental principles, not in its details, uniform; the institution of obligatory insurance, with the insurance companies compelled “on the principle of reciprocity to hand a certain percentage of their business revenue to their respective States, in order to meet the expense incurred by fire-preventive measures. The taxation under this head of the respective companies could not, if the material advantages accruing to them by the enactment of obligatory insurance are taken into consideration, in any way cause them expense which they would not be able to support ; and, if we further take into account that, owing to the continual development of the fire service and its apparatus on the one hand, and on the other the enactment of adequate laws on fire prevention and building construction, the number of firewill decrease, and also, as a consequence, the risks of the fire insurance companies, then their taxation under this head undoubtedly finds complete justification.” M. de Blocs would also have the local fire chief inspect and report upon the site and plans for all public and private buildings, and have an official report made upon the special experience gained at any serious conflagration, “with reference to similar experiences at the burning of other large buildings, pointing out the aids or obstacles to the extinction of fire, which arose from the method or material of construction, to he presented to the local building committee for their information in examining future plans.” He also proposes that a special journal he published in three languages French, Herman, and English—say. by the technical commission of the International Fire Brigades’ Council recording the “experiences acquired during the extinction of fires, especially the causes which have hindered or helped their extinction due to the system of construction, should be reported. These data should he furnished by the fire brigade officers to their respective national associations for transmission to the technical committee of the International Fire Brigades’ Council.” Finally, he suggests, that any decisions or resolutions of the recent congress, or any proposals in connection with any papers read at its sessions should he “communicated by the delegates of the States here represented to their respective governments, in order that the latter may take the necessary measures to give them immediate consideration.”

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