Jersey City Commissioners Oppose Fire Department Inquiry

Jersey City Commissioners Oppose Fire Department Inquiry


The Board of Commissioners of Jersey City, N. J., has turned down the request of the Chamber of Commerce ot that city tor an investigation of the conditions in the fire department oy the experts o_____ the National Board of Fire Underwriters. The commissioners, in defending their action, made the remarkable allegation that at a previous investigation the experts injured the city’s fire equipment during the tests. By a vote of 4 to 1, and against the protest ot Mayor Fagan, the Board of City Commissioners, alter a protracted discussion last week, refused permission for the proposed investigation of the city’s fire-fighting service by experts under the direction ot the Natonal Board ot hire Underwriters. The request for permission had been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce of Jersey City. Although the national board will not ge_____ the chance to probe the Jersey City Fire Department, it is more than probable that as a result of the facts brought out at the meeting in the course of the peppery debate some other kind of an investigation will be ordered. Commissioner Moore favors an inquiry by some expert who is not allied with the Board of Fire Underwriters, against which most of the criticism seemed to be directed by the citizens who attended the meeting in the City Hall. Commissioner Hague, to whom this matter had been referred at last week’s meeting of the board, reported against the proposition for a probe by the National Board of Fire Underwriters on the ground that such a probe might endanger the fire apparatus, some of the tests made by the underwriters on former occasions having been far too severe for the fire apparatus. It was claimed that some of the engines were disabled after the experts of the underwriters got through with them. Hague further intimated that there was an ulterior motive behind the proposition, that it was the plan to show that the Jersey City Fire Department is defective and that therefore the Board of Fire Underwriters would be jusified in once again jacking up the fire insurance rates. Commissioner Hague produced Fire Enginer Sonneborn, who has charge of the fire department repair shops. Sonneborn told about the last inspection made by the Board of Fire Underwriters. “The fire underwriters put out engines to such a severe test,” said Sonneborn, “that several of the engines had to be sent away for rpairs, and the city was put to heavy expense and the fire department was temporarily crippled.” Sonneborn admitted that of the 19 fire engines now owned by the city eight are in Very good condition. The others are not what they should be. Mayor Fagan seized this statement as a corroboration of the claim that there is room for improvement in the fire department and that the city would be the gainer if all the facts. could .he brought out.

Fire Lieutenant Kehoe, also of the repair shops, was another interesting speaker. He charged that when the experts employed by the fire underwriters made their last inspection a number of years ago, they ridiculed the department in a shameful way

“They absolutely ruined three or four engines,” said Kehoe. “They suggested that the city buy supplies from favored dealers controlled by the fire underwriters. Another incident that made me mad occurred when one of the investigators made fun of one of our firemen who happens to have one eye. This fireman is one of the best men in our department. The examiner questioned this poor unfortunate fireman and asked him things to embarrass him. If I had been in that fireman’s place I would have taken the chance of losing the one remaining eye in an attempt to knock out the two eyes of the insulting examiner.”

Mayor Fagan brought out the fact that the fire engines, as a rule, cannot stand all the pressure they are rated at and that a fire engine is not in fact as capable as would he supposed by reading the contract requirements. Building Inspector John H. Saul also attacked the proposed investigation He charged the National Board of Fire Underwriters with acting in bad faith. He said they jacked up the rates 30 per cent. a number of years ago and promised to reduce the rates if the city did certain things The city adopted a very stringent building code that put up the cost of construction. It was expected that this code would induce the fire insurance people to reciprocate by reducing the fire rates, hut they did not.

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