Fire Protection in Russia
A special commission was appointed some time ago by the British Fire Prevention Committee to visit Russia and obtain reliable statistical information concerning the methods of fire protection in that vast Empire. Russia, as everyone knows, is not a country of rapid progress. It does not even make haste slowly. The Russian never hurries if he can avoid it. And the fire service of the country is apparently regulated by this principle. There have been efforts made to raise the status and increase the general efficiency of the service, but these have never got beyond the initial stage. There are four or six really good professional brigades; there are some fairly good volunteer organizations, but not many. Of the remainder there is not much to be said. The majority of towns and country districts are content with very primitive methods and appliances. Fires are apparently to them necessary evils where they are not means of revenge or making money. “Arson.” we are told in the report, “appears to be popular both among the peasantry and certain classes of minor traders.” Curiously enough, while so little attention seems to have been given by the Russian government to fire-protective measures, the most careful record is made of fires and fire losses, and this record goes to show, among other things, that of late years arson has increased and that nearly 10 per cent, of the tires (so far as the causes have been ascertained) in European Russia have been attributed to arson ! One of the outstanding features of the Russian fire brigade service is that every brigade, whether professional, volunteer, or private, is subservient to the chief of the local police. Be his social status what it may—he may even he a village constable—he is supreme at fires! Add to this the fact that the majority of the brigades are directed by officers of a very inferior type—men who can neither read nor write, and whose pay is of the smallest; that the men are still more hopelessly ignorant; that water supplies and roads are alike of an elementary character; and one has ample explanation of the lack of progress among brigades generally. Naturally, fire alarm systems are unknown, save in a few large centers. Nearly everything in the matter of fire calls and mobilization is done by signalers on watch towers and by messengers. Even in St. Petersburg and Moscow these watch towers are still in use The housing of the principal Russian brigades is described as exceptionally good, and the driving and horsemanship satisfactory. Three or four horses abreast are used for the heavy machines, and an outrider precedes each unit of the professional brigades when responding to a call. This has several advantages, both for traffic clearance and prompt location of the scene of the outbreak. Another characteristic noted is the custom of carrying flags Each brigade or unit of a brigade has its separate flag. These arc of a bright color and each bears a distinguishing mark or number, their object being utility, not ornament. The largest brigades have steam fire engines, but country brigades rely upon small manuals ot the Continental pattern, and to supply these, water barrels are carried by most brigades. Speaking generally, Russia does not yet lend itself to fire service motor appliances, except in limited areas. The report is divided into two sections, the first dealing with the Fire Brigade Service, giving a general description of this and detailed accounts of St. Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw brigades, together with the diary of the commissioners; the second section containing notes upon the Fire Congress, hire Brigade review, and Fire exhibition.