Fire Risks in Electric Lighting.
From a communication sent to The Electrical World by a prominent insurance company it appears that the fire underwriters are greatly disturbed by the increased fire losses said to be due to electricity. They claim that there is a great need of a better understanding of this matter by the fire underwriters, for under the present circumstances they say it is contemplated to charge for the use of electricity in a building—that is, to increase the rate where electricity is used. We are asked, says The World, to solicit articles on this subject from those who have had exterience in this field, and to publish as much information as possible for the mutual benefit of ihe insurance companies and those insured. Although we would not like to endorse the statement that fires are caused by electricity as often as has been claimed, yet we do agree with the insurance companies that the matter ought to be perfectly well understood and agreed to by both parties. It is evident that electrical conductors in a building can start fires if improperly laid, but it is just as certain that wires may be run so as to be perfectly safe. There are two things to be done: First, it ought to be determined as definitely as possible exactly what is safe wiring if properly installed, and what is not. The insurance companies ought to make their very best efforts in conjunction with the electric light companies to determine this in an impartial and thorough manner, and they ought to be just as careful not to make any unreasonable rules and requirements as to make those that are reasonable. This is evidently to their own advantage, for by requiring precautions which are unreasonable they will injure themselves, as the tendency of wiremen will be to object to and try to avoid the rules wherever they can. Secondly, having established such rules, they, as well as the owners of buildings, ought to see that these rules are rigidly adhered to and strictly enforced. This is, perhaps, even more important than the laying down of the rules, for, with any reasonably good method, there ought to be little danger if the work is well done. Unfortunately, the existing cut-throat competition among wiremen leads to underbidding, which results in a careless and inferior class of work. The best system, if improperly laid, may be of the most dangerous character. This is particularly the case in concealed work in which the wiremen have an opportunity to cover up defects, trusting that they will not lie discovered by the ins, ector, and that they will get their money before a fire is started. It is for this reason that among all electrical artisans the wireman is, apparently, the most unreliable. In almost all other classes of work a mistake is discovered, and the responsibility can be placed, but if a fault in wiring causes a fire the wireman feels that he is safe, and that all proofs of carelessness have been destroyed by the fire, ami he can safely say that it cannot be proved to be a fault of his, that it was probably caused by water, by the plumber, or the carpenter’s nail, or, if all other excuses fail, he attributes it to rats, as no one can deny that the rats did it. Assuming that wiring can be made safe, and there is no question about that, what is wanted most is a thorough understanding as to what the requirements are, and then to employ only such wiremen as have good reputations and whose aim it is to keep them and not merely to get their money, (living the work to the lowest bidder is a very poor, short-sighted and dangerous policy in wiring a building. Give the work to the man who has a good reputation and is anxious to keep it, and then pay him enougl to enable him to be conscientious. Careless, dishonest wiremen, such as many of them are, ought to be branded and then starved out of the business, as they are dangerous both 😮 employers and the owners of buildings. When we are sick we do not employ the “lowest bidder ” doctor; why then should we be less wise when our property instead of our lives is at stake ? It is of interest alike to the electrical fraternity as it is to the insurance companies to see that the safest methods are adopted, provided they are not unreasonable, and then to make it compulsory that these should be properly carried out. Another possible way out of the difficulty is to let all buildings wired for electricity be insured among themselves, so that each one is more directly interested in the adoption of the safest methods. We solicit the views of onr readers on this subject and would like to see the matter thoroughly ventilated in our columns.