General Inspector William H. Johnson, of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, has just completed his investigation of the fire protection of three Massachusetts cities, New Bedford, Brockton and Fall River. In New Bedford and Fall River he found possibility of serious conflagrations in the congested districts, while for Brockton he recommended the immediate installation of additional apparatus and men, and urged favorable action by the city council on the proposed high-pressure service.


Regarding the liability of a conflagration at New Bedford, Inspector Johnson’ said, that, notwithstanding the exemption of the city in the past from destructive fires, the fact that the buildings are nearly all of frame construction, with many hazardous risks and entire blocks of wooden structures, mostly with shingles or other combustible material for roofing, made the situation serious from a fire underwriting standpoint. The city was also subject to occasional high winds, which would readily spread the flames. According to the report, the congested district includes the area from Middle street, to and on both sides of Union street; both sides of Purchase street and both sides of Union street to the water front of the city, including Acushnet avenue, with numerous firetraps and very combustible frame structures. It also states that the congested residential frame building sections, at the north and south ends of the city, with careless occupancy, are more liable to the conflagration hazard, with attendant loss of life, than the mercantile central district. There is also a notable absence of fire-resisting shutters, or wireglass protection, upon most of the brick and stone constructed mercantile buildings where there are hazardous adjoining structures. Inspector Johnson urges energetic action by the city government to compel the Old Colony Street Railway company to install an insulated return system. In such a system there is no connection with the rails or earth, and, consequently, there is no current passing to underground mains and no electrolytic action on the forty-eight-inch forcemain and other underground piping of the city water system.



Mr. Johnson recommends new engines and apparatus for Brockton; additional alarm boxes, tappers and gong circuits; the placing of all fire alarm wires underground and the replacement of three miles of old cement pipe with standard cast iron pipes of thirty inches in diameter. The proposed replacing of the thirty-inch main would result in increasing and reinforcing the water supply to the entire system. He also strongly urges that the city government take favoiable action on the proposed high-pressure service for fire protection requirements, which would result in an increase of forty pounds to the present pressure in the congested and manufacturing districts.


According to the repoft on Fall River, the call force of firemen should be immediately replaced by a permanent regular force of at least twentyfive firemen, to be assigned as an increase to each of the present companies. Private fire alarm boxes should be located within milts at a door or gate entrance, accessible for quick use in case of fire outside the mill inclosure. The city should also secure and place in commission a steamer and first-class chemical engine. Additional hydrants are needed in the outlying sections of the city.

Forty-one years ago the average fire loss per fire in New York city was over $8,000, the number of fires being 796. In 1880 the number of fires was 1,783; the average loss per fire, about $1,800. Ten years later the figures were 3,479 fires; loss, about $1,200, and during the first year of the new century, 5,499 fires; loss, $1,400. Four years ago the average loss fell to $760, the fires numbering 5.640. Because of the low averages during the last fifteen years the average fire loss in the metropolis for thirty-seven years, beginning with 1866, was only $1,570.07—and in that time some very big conflagrations took place. The efficiency of the firemen of today is proved by the statement that the loss at each of 1,291 of the 2,861 fires which occurred in two of Greater New York’s boroughs four years ago was less than $10—in other words, forty-five per cent, of the fires resulted in nominal losses only.

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