HYDRANTS AND WATER SUPPLY
The conditions in our north coast towns and cities are peculiar in that, as a rule, Nature has provided a most bountiful supply of water for each, which is not yet distributed or made use of to Rive the protection it could afford against the tremendous fire hazards. Considering our sore experiences of the past, we may take this as bearing out the old saying, that the most disastrous conflagrations usually occur in communities having inexhaustible supplies of water within easy reach, as witness those of Chicago and Boston in the East and of Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver and New Westminster nearer home. It does seem strange that in each case the light of the flames was reflected upon bodies of fresh or salt water, and yet millions of dollars worth of valuable property went up in smoke, because these could not be properly drawn upon. Since our disasters great progress has been made, and we now boast of a commendable number of very excellent fire departments, paid, call and volunteer. Yet there are some localities where the happy-go-lucky conditions of fifteen years ago still prevail: our volunteer organisations are not supported as tney should be; and one can rind certain very ambitious young cities where the stranger will be overwhelmed with the facts and figures as to growth in population and industries while the matter of fire protection gets no attention worth speaking of. He looks in vain for a fire alarm telegraph or a really efficient water system; he may be boastfully informed that the city has a first class paid department, but upon investigation it is found to be miserably inadequate. Our “old-timers” recognise this state of affairs at once as the same that resulted in the fearful conflagrations of recent years, and say that such people arc too shortsighted to profit by the costly experience of other communities, and must be taught by terrible calamities falling upon themselves. But why need this be true? If at any of our conventions means can be devised for bringing one of these shamefully delinquent municipal corporations to a realisation of its own fire hazards and to an intelligent installation of proper fire service, we shall be conferring a benefit greatly to the credit of our association. History repeats itself, and sweeping fires will come in time, whenever there is not due preparation and constant vigilance. Should half the business portion of one of these most promising young cities burn tonight, many will call it a visita tion of Providence; but those of us who have made a study of the subject will attribute the calamity to inexcusable neglect. Right here it might be said that too much dependence is placed upon statistics of fire losses in former years, upon the false security ingendered by long periods of freedom from disaster, which good luck is usually attributable to matters of chance for the most part. Coming back to the particular subject of water distribution, the writer believes that even our most advanced cities in this extreme Northwest have not yet the protection in their business districts they might reasonably install. Certain of the younger towns of considerable size expect their firemen to do good work with homemade, and often defective hydrants, two blocks or more apart, even where risks are very great, and only located here and there in residence portions. Hydrants of four inches inside diameter are by no means uncommon. When a big fire comes, long lines of hose must be laid, and the most of the pressure is wasted in overcoming friction in hydrant and hose, but the average citizen talks of the eighty or too pounds pressure available, and blames the firemen for the weak streams. Our largest cities have by no means hydrants enough in the most dangerous districts, and some of these now in use require the firemen to scratch round in snow or mud to find the valve stems or to look for auxiliary valves outside the curb line because the main shut-offs are entirely unreliable. By reason of the hydrants having only one four-inch discharge opening, more than one steamer cannot be attached to advantage, and so some of the engines are compelled to take position so far from the fire that most of their power is lost by reason of friction Something is radically wrong when a very large steamer is working at its full capacity on a long line of hose, and yet throwing a stream no more efficient than could be handled by an engine of little more than half the weight, but obtaining its water close in to the fire. Our councilmen could easily be convinced that a double four-inch outlet hydrant at each one of the four comers of a given block affords plenty of water for eight steamers, and each of these needs only short lines of hose to reach a fire within that block. Of course, the standard two and one-ha1finch outlets may be placed on the hydrant also (where hose streams are used direct), if the capacity of the water passage is increased in proportion, but the most important matter, wherever there is more than one outlet, is to insist upon an independent gate for each, so that any one stream may be controled separately. The practice in the large Eastern cities is to have two steamer openings on each hydrant, and as many of the latter as possible—often two at each street in tersection and one at alley corners. This same prin ciple is just as valuable to the smaller towns, and should have careful consideration. A pressure of seventy-five pounds at hydrant or steamer will throw a stream III feet high through 100 feet of hose, and only fifty feet when 1,000 feet is required, and in each case with inch nozzles. Larger streams and pressures result in much greater waste, for the friction increases as the square of velocity with which the water moves in the hose. Consequently, much is gained by having plenty of hydrants, and it should be remembered that, while there is not much difference in cost between a section of hose and a hydrant, the latter is practically a permanent investment and will outlast a very large value in hose. How much easier it is to handle a large fire when the lines of hose do not exceed 300 or 400 feet! This matter of the waste of power by friction has resulted in the trial of hose with larger diameters than the standard two and one-half inches; but here we are again restricted by the great weight of the big hose when filled. Any fireman who has put in several hours dragging the standard hose round a fire will not be surprised to learn that the water alone, in fifty feet of two and one-half-inch hose, weighs 106 pounds, and, with the hose and couplings, it amounts to nearly 160 pounds. An increase of but a quarter of an inch makes an additional weight of twenty-two pounds of water and a total excess of about one fifth, while fifty feet of three-inch hose holds 152 pounds of water, a weight nearly equal to that of a section of standard hose filled. Of course, these diameters effect considerable saving in friction, but it is a question whether this is not counterbalanced by the great additional weight and the complication and confusion resulting from couplings of different diameter. The largest city fire departments probably have enough men in their companies to handle such hose: others complicate matters again by carrying one and one-half-inch hose to attach and carry up into build ings. As the friction in these small diameters is simply enormous, it is a question whether it would not be just as well—as it is much quicker and simpler—to make the whole line two and one-half inch. It is worth while knowing that doubling a line of two and one-half-inch—siamesing into an outlet—practically decreases its length three-fourths; or. in other words, if a second line is laid alongside one a thousand feet in length and both connected into the nozzle, there is then no more loss than in a single line of 250 feet. This offers an easy solution of the problem of throwing large streams on fires, and there is no excessive weight to handle, at the multitude of smaller “blazes.” Who is to impress these matters upon the people and strike for better conditions, if not the fire chiefs? Much is sometimes expected of the insurance men. but, if the matter is looked at in its proper light, they are not the ones to agitate for better fire protection, except as against conflagrations. The real province of the underwriter is to take risks as he finds them, and establish rates accordingly, and he makes the most money when conditions are dangerous—providing the terrible sweeping fire does not come. Besides, it is no uncommon thing foP his suggestions or requirements to arouse opposition from those who will not see that the property owner’s interests are vastly greater than those of the insurance men. The chief will find that he is the architect of his own fortunes, and whatever improvements are needed can best be advocated and urged by himself. He need not expect any large amount of thanks or even credit for his efforts, especially if he is a volunteer chief, but he can have the satisfaction that comes from duty well performed, whether he is successful or not. Insist upon good hydrants—there are several reliable patterns—and object to any four-inch diameters, unless you must take them with single outlets or for resident districts. Get as many of them as you can. not with the argument of having more streams on fires, for you will have to use good judgment not to put on any more than your mains will well supply, but to save the waste caused by friction and to get better and more effective streams.
Park City. Utah, is reorganising its fire depart ment.
*Paper read before the recent meeting of the Fire Underwriters of the Pacific.