FIRE SERVICE OF ST. AUGUSTINE.
According to the committee on fire prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, while the actual fire department of St. Augustine, Fla., is made up of good men under an efficient and energetic chief, who exercises constant supervision over them and keeps them under good discipline, it is not what such a city demands with its narrow streets and overhead wiring. Instead of having a full paid department, nine-tenths of the firemen are on call, and they are as likely as not to be late on duty or altogether absent when their services are most needed, because of the absence of any fire-alarm system, the telephone service used for that purpose being unreliable and unsatisfactory. The fire department has companies enough; but they arc all undermanned, and their equipment is by no means adequate. The one engine is small and not in serviceable condition. The hook and ladder truck is too small. The one hose wagon is good and is equiped with chemical tanks; but the other companies have to rely on hand-hauled reels—sometimes a matter of difficulty, owing to the narrow streets. The minor equipment, also, is lacking in many essentials. In the matter of drills, and training, too, there is a good deal to be desired; but then, with a force in which nine-tenths are call men, it is not always possible to get all the men together for such purposes. The fire methods are fair; but, with only one engine, the principal reliance must be placed on hydrant streams. In many respects, the city authorities are taking big chances. There is no fire marshal; there is no fireworks or comubstibles ordinance, no municipal control over explosives and inflammables, nor are the causes of fires investigated. There seems to be no law governing the construction of buildings, the majority of which are of wood, with wooden roofs inviting fire from all quarters. No inspections are made of the existing buildings, nor are any restrictions laid upon the materials to be used or the style of construction to be employed. There is no municipal control over the electrical wires. The outside wiring is good; but that inside, if new, is poorly installed. The municipal water supply is inadequate and derived altogether from artesian wells, which do not furnish enough of water for domestic consumption or fire protection. The pumping is direct and to a standpipe, with a capacity of nearly 200,000 gals. The pumping machinery is inadequate and consists of two compound engines, with a daily capacity of 2,000,000 gals. The force-main is not in duplicate and, in case of a serious fire, is altogether too small to maintain the nominal fire-pressure of go to too lbs. The hydrants are of fairly satisfactory type; but there are not enough of them, and they are spaced too far apart throughout the city. Hence, what with narrow streets, insufficient water supply, no fire-alarm system, a poorly manned and inadequately equiped fire department, the number of frame buildings in the mercantile section of the city and no check on the style of construction employed, the conflagration-hazard of St. Augustine is severe, and, as the report of the committee points out, although the Plaza and Post Office park form a barrier which should prevent the spread of a fire from one part of the principal business portion to the other, yet, if a fire were not caught in its incipient stage and the conditions were at all favorable to its spread, one whole section might easily be wiped out by the flames.