Inspections by Chief Reduces Small City’s Fire Losses

Inspections by Chief Reduces Small City’s Fire Losses

Through a voluntary use of his leisure time in frequent and systematic inspection of store cellars, other places where inflammable material is stored and numerous and various fire hazards throughout his jurisdiction, Chief Edward J. Cotter of the Derby, Conn., fire department has materially lessened this type of municipal menace.

Not only does Chief Cotter make his frequent and systematic inspections, but summary action is taken to remedy conditions that he classes as fire menaces. Warning is first given that conditions must be remedied within a reasonable period of time or prosecutions backed by state and city authorities will follow. The procedure is much along the progressive lines followed by fire department heads in many of the larger communities, where a special squad of men, either attached to a detail or assigned from each fire station to a certain district keep track of such conditions and give needed orders.

Inspections are not haphazard. Half a dozen store cellars or other likely fire menaces are selected for visitation each day. A record is kept of conditions found. Where dangerous accumulation of rubbish or storage of inflammable material are found, summary orders are given for an immediate cleaning up. Where conditions are found satisfactory, a visit may not again be made for several weeks, or may be made within the next few days. Where conditions are ordered remedied, a reinspection is made within 24 or 48 hours. Failure to comply with orders results in a report to the state police, or prosecuting authorities.

In this work, not only does Chief Cotter supervise an efficient fire protective system, but gains much valuable information as to the layout of buildings within the city that will prove invaluable in case of future fires. It was only within the past month that, during an inspection of tenement cellars, Chief Cotter came across a particularly dangerous fire menace, a one-family house electrically wired, without any pretense of having insulation protection provided. Not only did the wiring constitute a grave fire menace to the house in question, but the building was in the midst of a number of other frame dwelling houses. Outbreak of fire in the one in question, if not checked quickly, would likely result in spread of the flames to a number of the other buildings, a serious condition and probably heavy property loss.

Summary action was taken, Chief Cotter not waiting for owner or occupant of the property to take his time in making needed changes. Orders were given that the electric current be turned off until the wiring had been placed in proper shape and that proper insulation be added by a qualified electrician immediately. Orders were also given that the changes be made on the day the hazard was reported, or that the case be referred to the state police and city prosecuting authorities. That night he visited the scene and found the changes had been made and the building put into safe order, as far as being a fire menace was concerned. This is but one of the instances found by Chief Cotter in the protective work carried on by him.

“If manufacturer, merchant, property owner or tenant cannot use common sense along this line, methods will be used to compel him to do so,” says Chief Cotter. “Some allow rubbish to collect or store inflammable material in dangerous places unintentionally or without thought of possible consequences. For them only a word of advice is sufficient. But those who do so through indifference, laziness or carelessness of employes, no leeway is given, but summary orders to clean up, and do it immediately.

“These frequent and thorough inspections may appear of comparative unimportance to many, but they cannot help but greatly lessen the fire menace to any community; decrease fire property loss and serve as a preventative toward costly blazes, especially early morning ones, when there may be a delay in getting apparatus to the scene, due to relying upon the volunteer-department system in vogue and possibility, at any time, drivers of apparatus may not be available.”

Chief Cotter is taking no chances. Although realizing there will always be fires of an undetermined origin and no matter how rigid precautions are taken, he believes the number will be materially lessened, if the public co-operates in seeing conditions are such, there is much less likelihood of one getting a start.

Golden Jubilee of Bethlehem, Pa., Fire Company.—The fiftieth anniversary of Liberty Fire Company, No. 2 of Bethlehem, Pa., was fittingly observed on May 2 and 3 by members of the company. A banquet was held and a theatre party enjoyed.

Firemen Meet at Gooding, Idaho.—The first meeting of the season of the Southern Idaho Firemen’s and Police Society was held in Gooding, Idaho, recently. The society will hold only three meetings this season—the next meeting will be held in Filer on the second Sunday in July.

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