INCREASING FIRE LOSSES.
The statistics of fires collated by the underwriters show a steady increase year by year in the fire losses of the country. This is to be attributed to several causes: I. Natural increase in the amount and value of property; 2. The unsubstantial nature of our buildings, owing to defective building laws; 3. The constant addition of new and dangerous causes of fire; 4. The ease with which large amounts of insurance can be obtained, leaving no incentive to propertyowners to build substantially or to exercise proper care over their property. For the first six months of this year the losses to insurance companies equalled 71 percent of their premium receipts. As their expenses average 45 per cent, it is obvious that the year’s business is likely to be most disastrous to the underwriters. Under existing conditions, however, they have no right to expect any decrease in fire losses in the future, unless they reform their practices, charging rates in accordance with the risk, thus compelling propertyowners to put their buildings in proper condition to resist fire. If the companies were also prohibited from paying more than three-fourths of any proved loss, thus making the owner a a co-insurer to the extent of one-fourth the value of his property, all incentive to incendiarism would be removed, while owners would be induced to provide proper safeguards against fire.
The losses of the last month were largely in excess of the corresponding month of any previous year. The Commercial Bulletin of this city, which keeps a careful record of fires as they occur, gives the following statistics of the losses occurring in September : “ In collecting, from our own files, the fiery facts and figures of September, we are not a little surprised to discover that the month was not only one of much severity in this wasteful direction, but considerably more so than any September of late years. Omitting all fires in our record where the reported loss was less than $to,ooo, we find that mention has been made of 123 fires, the losses by which aggregate $6,205,000. It is safe to assume that the smaller fires and those which have not been recorded will add at least $1,300,000 to the above, and so make a grand total of $7,500,000 as the cost of the nation’s September ash heap. During the five years, 1877-1881, the average loss by fire in September in the United States and Canada has been $5,950,000, the figures of each year being as follows: September, 1881, $6,433,500; September, 1880, $6,944.600; September, 1879, $5,614, too ; September, 1878, $4,550,800; September, 1877, $6,199,400. It will be seen, therefore, that the fire waste of last month was 81,500,000 above the average, or in the ratio of 25 per cent increase, taking the five years together.
We give below our usual monthly list of fires of $10,000 and over:
These 123 fires, ranging between $10,000 and $700,000, foot up, as already stated, an aggregate of $6,200,000—an average of more than $50,000 each. Analyzing them, it is seen that there were 45 fires which destroyed between $10,000 and $20,000 worth of property ; 28 between $20,000 and $30,000; 21 between $30,000 and $50,000; 10 between $50,000 and $75,000; 5 between $75,000 and $100,000; 9 between $100,000 and $200,000 ; 3 between $200,000 and $400,000, and 2 of more than $400,000. The largest fires of the month were the following: Portland, Oregon, $100,000 ; Denver, Col., $175,000; Quebec, $150,000; Montreal (batracks), $500,000; Brooklyn, $150,000 ; Elmira, N. Y., $210,000 ; Crockett, Texas, $125,000; Toledo, O., $350,000; St. Louis, $250,000; Susanville, Cal., $150,000; Birmingham, Conn., $150,000; Philadelphia (sugar refinery). $700,000 ; New Or eans, $100,000 ; Vicksburg, Miss, (steamboat” R. E. Lee”), $175,000. Here were 14 fires causing losses agregating $3,285,000 and averaging $235,000 each.
As each month’s fire record has been made up since May, we have been forced to notice an increase in the aggregate losses month by month, over corresponding months of previous years. Now that threefourths of 1882 have passed, enough is known to prove that this is to be a red-letter year in the matter of fires. Thus far, not less then $67,500,000 has become ashes, being $5,000,000 more than in the same nine months of 1881, $7,000,000 more than in 1880, $500,000 more than in 1879, and $17,000,000 (!) more than in the same nine months of 1878. And the outlook for the rest of the year is far from reassuring as to any reform or cure whereby our national curse, carelessness, may be removed and so this awful fire waste checked.