Fire Regulations in Rome.
We are under special obligations to Hon. Aug. O. Brown, United States Consul General at Rome, says The Insurance Monitor, for the pains he has taken to answer our inquiries touching the Italian laws and customs in regard to fires. In his letter accompanying the data he adds that the construction of houses in Rome, and in Italy generally, is such as to render it almost impossible that a building should be materially injured by fire. I have been here over two years and have never known one to be destroyed by fire. The walls and partitions are always of brick or stone, and are never furred off. The first floors and often the others are arched with brick. When the floors above the first are not arched with brick, iron beams with flat arches are used. It might be safely said that as a rule, no wood is used in the construction of a house except the doors and door frames, window sash and frames, and the roofs, which, however, are always covered with tiles.
The fire departments of Italy are not composed of distinct bodies of men, dedicated exclusively to the service of the department, as in many countries ; but the men are taken from those classes of working men whose occupations render them most serviceable, as for instance, carpenters, plumbers, locksmiths and masons.
1st. The fire department of Rome, although a military body as regards discipline, is dependent entirely upon municipal authority, and is divided into three classes, namely, first class, second class and supernumerary. The first class numbers 280 men, and includes those most experienced in the service. The second class is composed of 140 men, who are of less experience, while the supernumeraries are taken on trial to be afterward appointed, if worthy, as regular members of the department. The entire corps, including the supernumeraries, numbers a little more than 500 men. Of these nearly 100 constitute the staff, with a commander at the head.
Tfie salary of the men of the first-class is forty-five lire (a lire is about nineteen cents of United States currency) per month ; of the second class, twenty-five lire, while the supernumeraries have no regular salary, but are paid only as substitutes.
The commander receive 5000 lire per year, and other members of the department in proportion, making an annual total of salaries to the fire department of 250,950 lire. This, together with the expenses for the engines and materials, make the total expenditure for the fire department of Rome average between 400,000 and 500,000 lire per year.
The firemen are called upon not only in cases of fire, but tor inundations, falling of houses, and other simi’ar disasters.
There are throughout the city seven fire stations, all equally furnished with engines, horses and other accessories. Every fireman must serve twenty-four hours each week, making twelve men on duty in each station daily.
On Sundays the commander calls together the entire body of firemen for instructions, practice and manoeuvres, when all are obliged to attend.
To give the alarm, in case of fire, use is made of the alarm boxes, of which there are twenty in the city, and the alarm is given in the American system.
2d. There are no regulations as to the building of houses in general to prevent fires, with the exception of the theatres. These must be isolated; must have an abundant supply of water under the roof and beneath the stage ; must have doors of egress in proportion to the seating capacity of the building ; must have a guard of firemen in waiting at each representation. It may be added that a similar guard is required at every large public gathering, where there may be danger of fire. For these and other extra services, the firemen are paid by the person or corporation engaging the service, according to a fixed tariff, established by the municipality.
Buildings in process of construction are inspected with reference to the solidity and hygienical arrangements, but not in regard to fire, except for theatres, as stated above.
3d. The fires which have occurred during the last five years are as follows:
Year 1887 No. of fires 373
1888 ” ” 345
* 1S89 “ ” 34
** 1890 *’ “ 328
“ 1891 (until Dec. 10) 321
4th. The greater part is confined to rooms. From two to five per cent of incendiary origin. The amount of losses cannot be ascertained.
The regulations with regard to the discovery of the origin of fires are the same as in the cases of thefts and other crimes.
5th. Property is not valued by the insurance companies before issuing the policy, nor is an inventory made.
6th. In case of fire, the insurance company sends competent men to investigate and to ascertain, as far as possible, from the furniture that may remain, and as well as from the known conditions of the insured, the real or possible loss.
THE ANTIQUITY OF Plumbing.—Truly the times change, and we change with them. The ancient craft of plumbing has kept its name through the centuries, but how marvelously has its scope altered 1 The ancient plumber of the Middle Ages was, as his name imparts, a “lead worker,” the title of craft being derived, as every apprentice is aware, from the Latin word for lead—-plumbum—and he was an extremely good lead-worker, too. The modern plumber is by no means so deft at hand working, but then every “ R. P.” is, or should be, a fairly efficient “ sanitary engineer.” How little the oldtime plumber knew or cared about sanitary work, even as recently as last century, is vouched for by an ancient technical book published in the year 1747. The author thus defines a plumber’s duties in a house : “ He must furnish us with a cistern for water, he must fix a sink with lead, he covers a house with lead when it requires it, and makes gullies to carry off the rain water, he makes pipes to convey water to our kitchens and office houses.” Nothing said about elaborate w.c.’s observe, and even if “ office houses” may be taken to mean privies, nothing is stated of traps, soil pipes or drains.