FIRE PREVENTION IN WISCONSIN

FIRE PREVENTION IN WISCONSIN

CLEM P. HOST, STATE FIRE MARSHAL, OF WISCONSIN.

State Fire Marshal Clem. P. Host, of Wisconsin, addressed the annual convention of the Wisconsin State Paid Firemen’s Association, held at Racine, August 9, on Fire Prevention, as follows:

I am pleased to have this opportunity of expressing my gratification of the manner in which your members have taken up the responsibilities and burdens in the line of fire prevention work during the past year. I recall mentioning at Neenah, at ydur last convention, about the work of inspections,, apd hazarding an opinion as to the beneficial results which would come from work along this line. At that time, if you recall, 1 endeavored to present the idea that if we could keep Ml the premises throughout the state in such condition so as to prevent the rapid spread of a fire during its start we would materially reduce the fire loss. The work of inspection is not absolutely certain to reduce the loss during one year over a preceding year, as several large fires during the year, which might not have been prevented through the inspection work, will of necessity increase the loss during that year. It is my contention that during, the past year— namely, from July 1, 1913, to July 1, 1914—we have had several large fires which occurred under these circumstances, and I am therefore precluded from comparing this year’s loss, and give credit for the magnificent wo/k .which your members have done during the year. However, there is no question in my mind but what the luss would have been considerably greater had this work been neglected. A better way to compare the work which has been done through these inspections would be in relation to the number of fires which have occurred during this period. However, even this is not a legitimate comparison, as we must recall that during the past year a new law has been enforced, which compels the assured to report all lossses previous to entering into an adjustment. This practically gives us a record of every loss which occurs in this state. And there is no question but what the number of losses reported preceding years did not include a great number which through negligence never reached our department. It is therefore apparent that this comparison is also impracticable. Another consideration which ought to be given attention would be the fact that during this same period the property values in Wisconsin have increased at least $10,000,000, and same would of course cause some additional losses. There is no question but what the inspection work will certainly reduce the losses when same is figured over a period of several years, and there is no doubt but what the efficiency of the inspection work will increase each year. And when this work is thoroughly attended to we will, to a great extent, have losses caused by carelessness reduced to a minimum. There is no question but what your body is thoroughly interested in the fire loss, and you are anxious to reduce this loss. We have repeatedly heard mentioned the fact that our per capita loss is about eight times the per capita loss of the European countries. I don’t believe there is any question but what that statement is true, and it is too bad that we must admit the existence of any such situation. However, in its final analysis, if we were to consider the people of this country educated and trained from childhood to fear the dangers of fire, and if we provided for the punishment of carelessness, as European countries do, and had the superior construction in our buildings which they have, we could not expect any less a per capita loss ratio than an amount about three times that which the European countries have. This, of course, is not considering our increased fire department efficiency over that of the European countries. However, let us eliminate, for the time being, the matter of the superior construction of the buildings, which we might consider offset by our increased fire department efficiency. I think, under these circumstances, it would be fair to expect that our per capita ratio ought to be about three times the European loss. This would harmonize with our increased per capita values, which is about three times that of Europe. What can we do to reduce it from eight times to three times their loss? This question of fire prevention has come before the people along with other progresssive and humanitarian legislation during the past ten years. We are going through an era in which our citizens arc becoming educated to accept responsibilities which cause an improvement among their fellow citizens. In other words, we are learning to assume the attitude of being our brother’s keeper. It is along these lines that the public is accepting a changed view in relation to the fire waste. Our citizens are beginning to understand that the fire waste can be controlled to a great extent,, and that excessive losses eventually are paid by the people, as it is conceded that the insurance moneys are nohting less than a tax which is paid by all of the people. The education of the public is going forward rather slowly, but I think we are accomplishing considerable along that line. However, we are not proceeding nearly as aggressive as we ought in preventing incendiary fires. We are still maintaining on our statute books valued policy laws. Is there any consistency in endeavoring to crush out incendiarism and arson and retaining on our statute books laws which encourage same through over-insurance? An honest man likely does not take advantage of the valued policy law. However, a temptation is placed in the way of the dishonest one, and this law ought to be repealed or provision made for penalizing agents for over-insurance. The insurance companies could assist quite materially in preventing over-insurance if they were to allow their agents a share in the profits. I am of the opinion that a concesssion along this line would place the agency force closer to the companies, and would prevent over-insurance almost entirely, as it would make the company representation of value to the agency. In co-operation the fire waste will certainly be materially reduced. Without this co-operation we cannot expect any great results. The fire fighting force has always been ready and willing to do everything within its power to aid in this reduction. Can you appreciate the help which would be afforded if all the industries represented in this state were keenly interested in the fire waste and endeavoring to keep the losses down to a minimum? Is it not worth your while, in your tours of inspection, to take time sufficient to inform the individual in charge of risks relative to the fire hazard in his risk, especially so if you find that corrections are to be made? Is it not worth your while to give sufficient time to that individual so that he is aware of the enormous drain upon the resources of this country through this disastrous fire waste? In this way we would be bringing the education to the individual in need of same, and I know of no other work which would prove more effective. To signify the intent in this suggestion I would mention one sentence which Hon. Walter L. Fisher, ex-Secretary of the Interior, brought out in an address on the fire waste. “It seems ridiculous that a people so apt and so eager to seek out and destroy mysterious and hidden enemies of mankind should be so slow and sluggish in fighting a foe so plainly in sight and so readily vanquished.”

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Fire Prevention in Wisconsin

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Fire Prevention in Wisconsin

Half a million fire loss, 28 deaths and 18 serious accidents due to chimney tires was the Wisconsin record for last year. State Fire Marshal T. M. Purtell offers these suggestions with a view to preventing such losses:

Stoves—Place a metal stoveboard on the wood floor under the stove, and extending at least 12 inches in front of the ashpit door. Protect all walls and partitions within two feet of any stove with a metal shield, leaving an air space between the shield and the wall. Leave no kindling or other wood in the oven over night. Do not hang clothes too near the stove or stovepipes.

Pipes—See that the lengths of stovepipe are well fitted together, free from rust holes and parted seams, wired firmly and fitted perfectly into the chimney. Stovepipes passing through partitions, walls, floors, attics and roofs arc dangerous at best. Where these must pass through partitions, walls or floors always use a large, ventilated double thimble. You cannot observe the stovepipes in the attic. They may come apart or rust. Fluff and spiderwebs are likely to gather on and around them to be set on fire when you least expect it

Chimneys—Chimneys should be built from the ground up and never rest on wood supports. The settling of the woodwork will cause cracks in the chimney. Nor should the chimney walls be used to support joists or other woodwork. Soft brick and poor mortar arc often responsible for defects in the chimney. Use a good quality of brick and cement mortar up through the first floor and above the roof. Chimney walls should be at least eight inches thick, the flue of ample size and lined with fire clay or terra-cotta. Never stuff up flue holes with rags or paper, nor cover them with cheese cloth, paper or anything but a metal stop.

Furnaces—Protect all woodwork above and around boilers, if within three feet, with a metal shield, also all woodwork near furnace pipes. It is best to rivet the lengths of pipe together to prevent disjointing. The pipe should fit perfectly into the chimney. Examine the pipe frequently for rust holes or other defects. Keep them free from dust, fluff and spiderwebs, which are easily ignited.

Defects—Defective stoves, boilers, furnaces, pipes and chimneys should be promptly repaired or replaced.

Overheating—Beware of overheating stoves, boilers, furnaces and pipes.

Ashes—These should never be placed in wooden receptacles or bins, on wood doors or against wood partitions, walls, fences, buildings or any other woodwork. Use metal receptacles only, and on the outside dump ashes away from all buildings.

Care—These matters are not technical, but very simple and call simply for ordinary care. You cannot afford to be careless when the lives of your loved ones and the property of yourself and neighbors are at stake. Let “care and caution” be the watchword in these matters.

The new location of Fire and Water Engineering is at 154 Nassau street.