INCENDIARY FIRES IN ELIZABETH.
The residents of Elizabeth, N. J., have become somewhat alarmed by the increased number of incendiary fires and false fire alarms which have of late occurred in their city. The belief is current that an organized band ol incendiaries, consisting of men or boys and belonging to the lower class of the city’s population, has been at work in the neighborhood. Within the past few weeks a number of serious fires have occurred, all in the night time, which have proved to have been of incendiary origin. Among the buildings destroyed were the Union Club stables, the Elizabeth Gymnasium, the residence of William McCormack, the dwelling-house of a colored family, a portion of the Empire Zinc Works and several barns. In these fires there were burned seven horses, several cows and other animals, besides valuable carriages and sleighs. Preceding several of the fires persons have been seen running from the vicinity, and against the side of one partly consumed building was found a heap of fuel ready for lighting. During this time there have also been frequent false alarms. On the night of the McCormack fire there were two false alarms previous to the fire.
The Fire Department of Elizabeth is a Volunteer organization. There is much strife as to which Engine or Hose Carriage shall reach a fire first. The tenders to the Engines are allowed to be drawn by boys, and it is stated that fifty or sixty boys are on hand at every alarm to have a race to the fire. This fact has given rise to the suspicion that these boys are at the bottom of the numerous fires and false alarms, setting fire to buildings for the purpose of having a run. This is a mere suspicion, however, and no facts have been put forward in support of it. The Fire Department owes it to his own good reputation to fully investigate these reports and establish the truth or falsity of them. Until such reports are set at rest, the Department rests under a stigma which is calculated to destroy the confidence citizens repose in it. It should be added that insurance agents are responsible for this version of the case, and this class of men are seldom especially friendly to Fire Departments.
Much fault is also found with the Fire Alarm Telegraph, which has been in use for many years, has been neglected, and is worn out. Seven miles of the wire is said to be unfit for service, and should be replaced immediately. Complaint is made that keys to the fire alarm boxes have got into the hands of irresponsible persons, which may account for the false alarms. The lawless population of Elizabeth must have great contempt for the administration of the law in that city or they would never venture to tamper with the fire alarm boxes. In New York the keys are given out generally, but no false alarms result. The law provides severe penalties for such offense, and the fire authorities investigate every false alarm, and if it is sent out maliciously the offender is pretty sure of being punished. If Elizabeth would send a few of the young rascals to the Penitentiary there would be less meddling with the fire alarm.
The reports regarding incendiary fires in Elizabeth indicate that better discipline is needed in the Fire Department, at least to the extent of including a rabble of boys from any connection with the apparatus. But the fault undoubtedly lies with the City Council, that it is too niggardly in its appropriations to offer any inducement for keeping the Companies full of zealous and ambitious men. Whenever we hear complaints against a Fire Department, we turn right back to the fountain head and ask the taxpayers “ what inducements do you hold out to the men to encourage them to improve their organization ? What returns do you make to them for risking their health and lives in your service? In what way do you repay them for their arduous labors in protecting your property ?” If a Department is inefficient, the fault can always be traced back to the authorities who seem to begrudge every dollar spent for the Fire Department, and who fail to provide for the comfort or convenience of the men. We arc surprised in many instances that the companies keep up their organizations at all in the face ol the discouragements they encounter at the hands ol city officials and taxpayers.
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