HOW TO OBTAIN FIRE APPARATUS.
There are hundreds of places in the United States that are either wholly deficient in fire extinguishing apparatus, or are so inefficiently supplied as to be almost without fire protection. In these days of big fires, which strike, without discrimination, the large and small places alike disastrously, the neglect to provide sufficient fire apparatus for the protection of property becomes almost a criminal offense. The record of fires during the past few years reveals the fact that there have been numerous conflagrations in small villages, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property, that might have been prevented had there been suitable fire apparatus available to combat the flames in their incipiency. We are all familiar with the statement so frequently made in connection with such conflagrations, “ there was no Fire Department available.’’ Every municipal government is morally bound to give proper protection to the property of its citizens. It is for this that taxes are levied and paid, and if necessary fire protection is omitted, the authorities in power are derelict in the duty they owe to their fellow citizens. A person who invests his capital in business, and puts forth his talents and energies for the development of the city or village in which he lives, erecting buildings for business and residence purposes, is entitled to reasonable protection for his person and his property. It is amazing, however, to see how much capital is recklessly invested in this country where no protection whatever is provided against fire. Such recklessness is characteristic of our people, and it is also a luxury, the indulgence of which costs the country fully one-seventh of its earnings every year.
Many communities refuse to purchase fire apparatus because they have not the means to pay for it. and individuals protest against being taxed for it. Every public improvement judiciously made is a good investment for any municipality that makes it. The greater the comforts and conveniences afforded by a city or village the greater inducement to strangers to become residents. Water works and fire apparatus are public works that no community can afford to do without. Properly managed, they become a source of profit rather than expense. Adequate fire protection is an inducement for capitalists to invest in building enterprises, and also lessens the cost of insurance. The direct taxation which property owners pay, in the way of premiums to insurance companies, is reduced when a proper Fire Department is established, and if a good water supply is added, the rates are still further reduced. Insurance companies always encourage these public enterprises, for, while they reduce the amount of premiums which they receive, they also reduce the fire hazard to an extent that more than compensates for the loss of premiums. The insurance companies say to communities “ make your risks as safe as you can ; we charge for the hazard as we find it.” It is, therefore, essentially for the interest of every taxpayer that adequate fire protection be provided to secure him from excessive taxation by the insurance companies.
As we remarked above, there are hundreds of growing and promising cities and villages in the country that have no proper means for protecting the property of citizens from destruction by fire. It would be economy for these communities to borrow money sufficient to properly equip themselves with water-works and fire apparatus. Insurance companies would cheerfully take their bonds and advance them the money needed. Many of the companies are at a loss to secure profitable investments for their money, and, as a consequence, are obliged to take government bonds, which only pay four per cent interest. These companies would be glad to take city bonds bearing six per cent interest if the cities would invest the amount in fire apparatus or in securing a water supply. They would be killing two birds with one stone—reducing the fire hazard on their risks, and securing better returns for their money. In some States the laws relating to insurance companies prohibits them from loaning money on securities of this kind, but we have no doubt but special legislation would overcome this difficulty. The fact stands that the companies have money which they would be glad to advance for this purpose, and there are many places that need the fire apparatus. If a determined effort were made to accommodate these two facts to each other, we do not doubt but all legal restraints would be overcome. The cities or villages which adopt this course—issue bonds for the purpose of providing adequate fire protection—will meet with the hearty co-operation of the insurance companies in disposing of them.