Fire Prevention on Railroad Trains.
Dr. Henry B. Baker, Secretary of the Michigan State Board of Health, has sent to Hon. S. R. Billings, State Commissioner of Railroads, the following communication :
Relative to the question asked of you by John S. Lorimer, general storekeeper of the Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway, in his letter of November 14, referred to me yesterday, I can report that the State Board of Health has not recently considered the exact subject of hand file extinguishers for use on passenger trains; but some years ago the general subject of “The condition of inflammability” was very thoroughly investigated and reported upon by Professor R. C. Kedzie, then a member of this board, which will be found valuable for its suggestiveness, in relation to the subject of the prevention of fires on wiecked passenger trains; because it is probable that if the cars, interior fittings and contents could be made incombustible, or even incapable of burning with a flame, a great part of the danger from fire would be done away with. That this can be done so far as relates to the cars and fittings, at an expense which would be justifiable, I have no doubt. The report to which I refer is published in the annual report ot this board for the year 1880. I refer especially to pages 180-183.
The substances which can be applied to wood, cloth, paper, etc., and thus render such substances incapable of burning with a flame are common, not expensive, and are numerous, so that no difficulty should be found in selecting those which will not interfere with the ornamentation of the car or its fittings.
In complying with your important suggestion that “ All railroad companies doing passenger business in this State, provide all coaches, baggage, express and mail cars with the best known appliances adapted for hand use to extinguish (ire ; such fire extinguishers to be placed within easy reach and most convenient for use,” some of the principles set forth in Professor Kedzie’s report should be useful to the storekeepers for the several railroads. In that report a number of solutions are mentioned which, when applied to woodwork, cloth, paper, etc., render such articles not easily inflammable. Solutions to be kept in the so-called “hand grenades” for extinguishing fire must, I suppose, be of such strength that they will not freeze, and thus break the glass or other container, but I think this is easily accomplished. A saturated solution of common salt would not freeze and would be a useful article in such “hand grenades.” But it is possible that there are substances much more useful than that. (Many a soot fire in a chimney has been extinguished with a few handfuls of common salt.) By having two kinds of grenades kept for use together, each to break into the other, one containing a solution of bicarbonate and the other a solution of an acid sulphate, carbonic acid gas could be liberated, as is done in the chemical fire engines, on a principle similar to that of the Babcock fire extinguisher. If desired, I have no doubt this board would have a special investigation made to ascertain what methods would be most feasible, or at least what scientific principles are available.