Heavy Fire Loss During 1893.
Beyond doubt the year 1893 will show a fire loss representing more money than was ever lost before in twelve months with the exception of the year of the Chicago fire. The grand total will reach $160,000,000, and The Age of Steel wisely remarks that it is evident that either hazards are increasing by unjustifiable carelessness or by a lapse in public morals. It is a fact not in favor of normal causes for such numerous fires that the percentage keeps ratio with the conditions of trade. It may also be said that in the erection of houses and public buildings the minimizing of fire hazards is supposed to be a general practice with builders, which if so, as there really seems no grave cause to doubt, makes the rapid increase of fires the more mysterious. The range of causes outside those of criminal intent is wide and perhaps broadens with time. Combustibles and explosives are more generally handled. The lamp and the gasoline stove, electric wires, the storage of inflammable materials without regard to possible consequence, the insanities of July four days old, the juvenile rage for cigarettes and the white whiskered chesnut of rats committing larceny on matches are all among the apologies for calling out the fire department and making a claim on insurance companies. These, however, still leave a margin that cannot well be accounted for, unless on the assumption that vicious or designing incendiarism has yet got access to the match box and the kerosene can. It might also be said that.the ambition of insurance companies to secure business is not always so conservative as it ought to be in the granting of policies, while the really justifiable eagerness to maintain a reputation for prompt payments is sometimes an obstruction to the investigation necessary to the detection of incendiarism. The old English practice of impanelling a coroner’s jury in suspicious cases to compel evidence from the insurer and others interested, was, if a cumbersome practice, yet a wise method of detecting either crime or normal causes. This ancient practice is still occasionally used when suspicions of wrong doing are exceptionally forcible. The results are generally in favor of the system when exceptional circumstances make it necessary. It may not be complimentary to assume that the rapid increase in our fire losses is due to the pressure of hard times, but whether so or not, the fact of the two being so generally coincident is certainly significant. This is no reflection on those to whom the misfortune of a fire is an added calamity to that of depressed business. To these, and to all other honest members of the community, it is a matter of grave importance that Where imposture is an ascertainable fact it should be located and exposed. Society cannot afford to run the risk of cremation to secure any man’s larceny of insurance funds.