Kentucky State Fire Marshal Report.

Kentucky State Fire Marshal Report.

Valuable statistics on fire, conflagration, damage and waste in Kentucky during the year just closed are contained in State Fire Marshal William F. Neikirk’s annual report, just completed and addressed to Charles W. Bell, insurance commissioner of Kentucky. Among other things, and perhaps the most important of all, the report states that, owing to the activity of the State fire marshal and his staff of deputies throughout the State, incendiary fires have been reduced to less than one-half what they were one year ago. In addition to this welcome statement the booklet contains much valuable information on building and the proper way to handle combustibles and inflammable material in order to avoid disaster to life and limb and loss of property.

In one part of his report Mr. Neikirk deals with incendiarism, the evil that has treatened nearly every State in the 1 nion .at some time or other in the past. With, regard to this he says m part:


“During the first part of I ‘JOS there were forty-eight of these fires reported to this office. During the first quarter of 1909 there were only twenty-two. 1 believe the work of the office during the year has had something to do with this. We have also been enabled to. make our investigations more thorough, as will appear from disposition of these twentytwo cases. Two were shown by investigation to be purely accidental fires. Five were classed as of unknown origin, with no positive evidence of incendiarism. In nine there were evidences of incendiarism, but not sufficient to charge any person. Six have been submitted to the grand juries, and in one case a conviction has been secured. We are now able to reach a lire soon after it occurs and to give more time to the investigation. Again, having to some extent become acquainted in many parts of the State, we find it easier to obtain information.”

According to figures in another part of the report, the number of conflagrations reported to the office of the fire marshal during the year by 103 counties was 2.018, inflicting financial loss to the extent of $2,566,613.49. The number of fires reported in the class with those called “cause unknown” was 491, while the number of incendiary and suspicious fires was 145.


That part of the report which is of interest also has to do with the methods pursued by the fire marshal and his representatives in apprehending culprits suspected of having applied the torch to property. It says that under the law fire chiefs, police in small towns and county sheriffs must co-operate with the fire marshal whenever there is sufficient cause to suspect that a building has been reduced to ashes through the act of a criminal. The report says that all these men must fill out a printed form with the following facts:

Date of fire, location of fire, owner of prop city, occupant, description of building, how used, value of building, value of contents, in surance on building, insurance on contents and probable cause of fire. If any fire is at tended by suspicious circumstances the fire marshal is, by the law, given the power of an examining court for the purpose of summoning and compelling the attendance of witnesses and if, in his opinion, there is sufficient evidence to charge any person with willful burning he is authorized to cause such person to arrested, charged with the offense, prosecuted and bound over to the Circuit court. He is then required to furnish the Commonwealth’s attorney of the district in which the fire occurred with all the information obtained by him, together with a copy of the testimony taken.


Through the careless use of matches, Mr. Neikirk says in his report that a large majority of the fires that eat up and consume the property of the people are brought about. Many disasters are traceable to this cause, for the loss in the State last year through carelessness was $80,624.85. Children playing with matches inflicted damages amounting to $8,279, while rats and mice ignited matches, damaging property to the extent of $34,508.50, making a total loss of $118,4 12.35.

“Many fires can be traced directly to matches being carelessly dropped round stables or other buildings or left in clothing which has been hung away in some wardrobe or closet,” the report says. “Matches dropped round stables are liable to be ignited by stock stepping on them or by rats or mice carrying them to their nests underneath the flooring. I am thoroughly convinced a large number of the barn fires investigated by this office during the year originated in this way. Numerous fires are caused by F.nglish sparrows carrying these matches to their nests, where they ignite. The theory that rats and mice carry matches to their nests and ignite them has ceased to be a subject of debate, much less ridicule. I, therefore, think, in view of the many fires caused by the earless use of matches, that special attention should be called to the matter and the substitution of safety matches encouraged. These matches can only be ignited by striking on the box and are. therefore, com paratively safe.”

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