FIRE-WASTE

FIRE-WASTE

The Technologic Branch of the United States Geological Survey, which is charged with the investigation of the structural materials of the country looking toward more accurate data concerning the strength and fireresisting qualities of the materials that go into the buildings owned by the government, has had its attention directed frequently to the enormous fire losses in the United States in comparison with those suffered in European countries. In order to satisfy itself as to the accuracy of the statements appearing in the public press and the insurance papers of the country, a general inquiry was instituted by the Technologic Branch into the total fire waste in the United States for 11)07, the cost of additional water supplies due to protection from from conflagrations, the maintenance of fire departments, the payment of insurance premiums (less benefits returned), protective agencies, etc. I he results obtained from this general investigation, covering practically every city in the United States, proved that the figures of the hire Underwriters were not exaggerated, but were even less than the actual cost.

While you are interested in the waterworks phase of this question, it is interesting to note that the total cost of tires in this country in 1907 amounted to more than $456,485,000, a tax upon tin people exceeding the total value of gold, silver, copper and petroleum production of the United States for that year. The actual tire loss due to the buildings and their contents being destroyed amounted to $215,000,000, or a per capita loss for the entire United States of $2.51. The significance of these figures is realised when it is known that the per-capita loss of the six leading nations of Europe amounted to .33 per-capita. The insurance loss in the United States for the year amounted to $145,000,000, being a difference between the total premiums paid on policies, $260,000,000, and tile benefits paid to the insured, $140. 000,000. The cost of lire department maintc nance and interest on capitalisation amounted to $44,000,000 of the total. Private fire protec lion for the year amounted to about $18,000,000. The total cost for the year 1907 is swelled by the amount invested in city water supply services and distributing systems primarily neces sary on account of fire protection, and over ami above that estimated as necessary for domestic consumption. This includes interest on capital invested in city fire protection, $9,826,800, and maintenance charges, $8,465,500, the sum of which aggregates about 22 per cent, of the total cost of city water supply. The depreciation charges and taxes on the above amounted to $15,107,500.

The total cost of the waterworks systems of the United States amounted to $1,129,247,532, the total amount chargeable to domestic service is $883,575,856, and the amount chargeable to lire service $245,671,676. In these systems the total tons of pipe used amounted to 7,097. 800, of which 5.080,873 tons were used for domestic service and 2.016,927 for tire service. The total number of hydrants amounted to 420,394 and the number of hydrants in fire service was 350,152. The cost of hydrants for fire service was $29,761,400 and the value of established or contemplated high-pressure fire systems amounted to $22,191,388.

Realising that the total loss from fires due to destruction of property involved but a fraction of the total loss of structural materials and property values due to the necessity of combating fires, a thorough study of the cost of the additional water supplies was undertaken. Five thousand seven hundred blank reports were mailed to engineers and superintendents of waterworks in an endeavor to obtain information regarding each Diant with respect to the cost of construction, amount chargeable to domestic service, amount chargeable to fire service, etc. Fifteen hundred replies were received, only a small per cent, of which were complete enough for use in tabulation. The total cost of such water supplies vvas therefore extracted from the Census Reports on Municipal Finance or cities over 30,000 population owning waterworks. The data for cities under 30,000 population was obtained from the Spectator’s Year Book.

The total cost of waterworks systems in the United States as thus derived was segregated to show the total cost in each of five geographical divisions of the United States— namely: Middle and New England States; Southern and Southeastern States; Central States; RockyMountain, or arid region; Pacific Slope States. The total cost of the waterworks system in each of the geographical divisions was then subdivided to show the total cost in cities according to the following classification: Population of 100,000 and over; population of 30,000 to 100,000; population of 5,000 to 30,000; under 5,000. This same plan of classification was pursued in tabulating reports received from engineers and superintendents who gave detailed information sought. This information for each geographical division and classification by size of cities was then applied to the total cost of waterworks systems for the corresponding geographical division and classification by sizes of cities, and the same preparation and distribution made for the various inquiries.

Statistics gathered show the additional cost necessitated by fire protection. These reports are not based on the idea that waterworks are constructed for two purposes of equal importance—namely: domestic water service and lire protection service; nor upon the proposition of what it would cost to construct waterworks systems for protection from tire alone; hut rather with the idea of showing how much additional expense was incurred in cost of construction in order to secure ample protection against conflagrations. Viewing the matter from another standpoint—namely, what per cent, of the cost of construction of waterworks should he legitimately chargeable to domestic service and what per cent, to fire protection service, it is the generally accepted opinion of engineers that the cost should he equally divided, except in larger cities, where a much greater per cent, should he charged to domestic service.

The devision into geographic districts is important because of the different conditions existing in different parts of the country. For instance, in the New England and Middle States in recent years much consideration has been given the subject of increased water suplily for lire protection, including separate highpressure service systems. Throughout the Southern States this feature has been little considered. while in the arid regions requirements of domestic supply on account of irrigation preponderates to such an extent that practically none of the water supplies had consideration on account of fire protection, the magnitude of the domestic supply being sufficient to take care not only of an ordinary fire but also conflagrations. The latter condition is true to a less degree in the case of cities of over 100.000 population, which is the reason for the tabulation being discussed not only by geographic distribution but also by population.

Finally, the outcome of this discussion indicates that whereas in the meetings of waterworks associations and in a few published papers bearing on the subject it has been often assumed that the additional cost of water supply on behalf of fire protection may run as high as 40 to 60 per cent., this inquiry indicates that in the average for the whole United States, 22 per cent, of the total expenditure on behalf of public water supplies, or less than one-fourth of the total cost of waterworks svstems is due to the additional supplies necessary for protection against tires of such magnitude as may he propagated beyond the building of origin. This extra cost includes 2.000,000 tons of metal having a value in excess of $127,000,000 and the metal in 350.000 hydrants having a value of $30,000,000: all of which is wasted on account of a need of preparation tofight fires, which, because of the inflammable character of building construction in this country, would develop into conflagrations without adequate water service and lire departments. The range in additional cost of waterworks systems due to fire protection is found, after careful discussion of the most accurate data received, to he from practically zero up to 60 per cent, in certain classes of small modern cities.

In connection with this inquiry certain statistics as to the per-capita cost of waterworks systems in cities is of considerable interest. In cities of 100,000 and over, $32.72: in cities from 30,000 to 100,000, $29.06; in cities from 5,000 to 30,000, $23.60; in cities under 5,000, $16.59. The statistics showing the per-capita cost of waterworks systems according to geographic districts is also interesting. In the New England States, $32.19 per-capita; Central States, $20.35; in the Southern and Southeastern States, $19.34; in the Rocky Mountain and Western State’s. $63.77; and in the Pacific Slope States, $28.96.

The total cost of waterworks (construction and equipment) chargeable to fire service is shown to he $245,671,676, of which the source of water supply cost $66,482,220; the distributing system, 2,016,927 tons of metal, $127,236,668: hydrants, 350,152, $29,761,400; and separate high-pressure service, $22,191,388. This makes up the total cost of construction and equipment chargeable to fire service; the total annual expenses of waterworks chargeable to fire service, including depreciation and taxes $10,563,881, interest chargeable $9,826,867, and maintenance $8,465,487, making a total annual expense due to fire service of $28,856,235.

Fire Waste.

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Fire Waste.

The subject upon which I have prepared a few remarks is one which has received much attention by the authorities throughout the country, and upon which many forceful articles have been written, and it may be considered presumptuous on my part to attempt to add anything of interest at this time, yet, from my short experience in fire marshal work, I am convinced it is the most important subject with which we have to deal, and one to which too much attention cannot be given. The subject to which I refer is commonly called the fire waste, or which could more reasonably be called the fire hazard, as the large losses and waste are unquestionably due to the extensive and flagrant hazards. From the nature of the fire marshal’s position and from the expectations of the public, it is imperative that all losses of a questionable nature must be inves tigated, and 1 believe that the experience of all of us is that the demands from this source are so large that with the equipment possible in almost all of the departments but little time or opportunity is left to take up other phases of the work, yet it appeared to me that while this work is necessary and that beneficial results are obtained, not only in the prosecution and conviction of firebugs, but in the deterrent effect that this work may have upon people, who otherwise would feel less restraint, yet I still believe that more actual good and more net gain could be made to the public if some plan could be successfully worked out which would result in a betterment of the conditions at present existing, and in an awakening of the public to its responsibility that would result in a greater care in the future not only as to property existing, but more particularly to future construction. In the majority of arson cases, even if they result in a conviction, there is no property loss saved, as it is the exception where the owner himself is responsible for the loss, and consequently suffers the penalty. As a rule the crime has been committed by some person who had a grudge against the property owner and this necessitates the payment of the loss in case of insurance, which means the distribution of the loss among the general public; but, on the other hand, a judicial order issued by the fire marshal department may result in the correction of all conditions which would have caused a heavy loss. The fire waste in this country is considered almost criminal, and yet the public have not come to realise the fact that it is due to a natural carelessness nor that the remedylies within themselves. Carelessness would almost seem to be a natural characteristic of the American people. This can be shown when a comparison is made in this country as compared with any other country in the world. There has been some criticism made of the oldfashioned methods and the failure to keep up with the modern trend of affairs by some foreign countries to the extent that it has retarded progress. As, for instance, during recent years an effort was made by American capitalists to establish a large department store in one of the large European cities, and it took months of effort on their part to secure any modification of the building restrictions, which had been in force for more than a century, even though their agreement was to build with the modern fireproof construction. This conservatism, while it is considered out of date by our people and, possibly, loses them the beauties of modern construction, has certainly lesulted in a very large reduction of their fire waste. Therefore, I say that the existing conditions throughout this country and failure to impress this organisation and the possibility of devising ways and means, which would result in a lessening of the hazard and a corresponding awakening of the public to its duty, would be time profitablyspent. In order to accomplish any appreciable results, I have been casting about for some plan, which would result in an organised effort along this line, and in which we could interest some considerable number of people, more than the few deputies in the fire marshal department. To this end I have a plan under consideration at present, which, if upon investigation it appears to be satisfactory, I propose to inaugurate. My plan is to make the chief of the fire department in every city and village in the State .of Wisconsin a regularly commissioned assistant fire marshal, delegating to him the powers which we have to investigate conditions and is’ue orders for the correction of the same. In the past few weeks I have had this under consideration with some of the fire chiefs, and in every instance it has met with hearty approval and with the assurance on their part that if the plan was carried out they would use their best efforts to improve the local conditions. If this plan proves feasible, it will give a working force of hundreds of men, which would give personal interest and a personal pride in the betterment of local conditions, and the work of construction carried on would result in a very material benefit. As I say, this plan is only under consideration at the present time, and for that reason I am bringing it up before this association with the purpose of obtaining the views of other fire marshals which have been in operation for a longer period, and I hope that, if there appears to be any reasonable objection to such arrangement, the fire marshals from other States will feel free to criticise at this time.

CHIEF OLAF JOHNSON SUPERIOR, WIS.