Going After New York Fire Traps.
The right of the fire commissioner of New York to force factory owners to equip plants with automatic sprinklers having been established by Supreme Court decisions in the Christman and Winter cases, Fire Commissioner Johnson has decided to order them installed wherever he finds conditions that warrant them. Two hundred or more buildings will be ordered so equipped in the near future, it is said. An inspection of loft buildings and manufacturing quarters was one of the first official acts of Chief Kenlon, after which he sent a letter to the tire commissioner in which he said: “In order to minimize as far as possible the danger to life in loft buildings, especially those loft buildings used for the manufacturing of cotton fabrics and such light clothing, I would respectfully recommend that you require the owners of all such buildings to equip them with automatic sprinklers.” Commissioner Johnson upheld Chief Kenlon in his recommendation, and said the plan should be followed. He said: “While it is not the desire to bring about a condition where any industries might be driven from the city, the fact remains that certain buildings exist in which a far better protection for employes is not only urgent, but necessary. It is in these buildings that the fire department will endeavor to lessen the danger to hummaan life immediately. Conditions such as existed in the building in Washington place, where all those lives were lost, do not exist in every building of that general type in the city, but in some of them grave conditions do exist, as the inspection by Chief Kenlon shows. It is against the latter that the activities of the fire department will be directed. I do not want to be understood as entering upon any wholesale or indiscriminate crusade. There may be lofts of the exact character of the Washington place building loft where there is very little fire hazard on account of the character of the work being done; the materials used in this work may not he inflammable, and we might not regard a condition under those circumstances as dangerous. But wherever light, flimsy and highly inflammable materials are being worked, especially fabrics, we shall have to exercise the closest scrutiny to see that every safeguard is placed around the workers.” Chief Kenlon said: “At least 60 per cent, of the loft buildings in lower Manhattan are protected in this manner. Of the loft buildings which have been inspected, the unprotected 40 per cent. are without doubt the greatest menace to human life by fire now existing in New York. These buildings are more than 200 in number, and are used in many cases as sweatshops. Most of them are south of Twenty-third street and west of Fourth avenue.”