Last Year’s Fire Losses

Last Year’s Fire Losses

As has been evident during the past two or three months, the fire record for 1922 by far exceeds that of any other year in the country’s history with one exception. This exceotion—the year 1906—counts for little, however, as it had an abnormal cause—that of the San Francisco earthquake and fire. So that one can truthfully say 1922 holds the disgraceful record of highest normal fire losses by a substantial surplus, no less than $34,131,060 over that of 1921, and $46,652,495 over that of 1920.

The losses by months of 1920, 1921 and 1922 are as follows:

The total number of fires of $10,000 and over dur ing 1922 was 4,505. This compares with 4,068 for 1921, or 437 more fires; 3,457 in 1920, 2,904 in 1919 and 2,943 in 1918. The number of these fires by months for 1922 is as follows: January 407, February 412, March 412, April 359, May 367, June 316, July 285, August 297, September 334, October 393, November 394 and December 439.

December, 1922, holds the record for the year as regards fire loses, as will be seen in the previous table, it having had over $6,000,000 in loss more than November and exceeding by over $4,000,000 the next highest month of the year, that of September. In the number of fires equaling or exceeding $10,000, December also holds the record for the year, having had 439 fires, 31 more fires than either February or March, each of which had 412, the next greatest number for the year. The fires occurring in December with losses which equal or exceed $10,000 may be classified as follows: $200,000 and over, 28; $100.0000 to $200,000, 40; $100,000 to $75,000, 25; $75,000,000 to $50,000. 36; $40,000 to $50,000, 35; $30,000 to $40,000. 29; $20,000 to $30,000, 52; $20,000 to $10,000, 196. Of the fires equalling or exceeding $200,000 there were 15; $300,000, 5; $400,000, 2; $900,000. 2.

Two striking features are to he noted in the month’s losses. One of these was the number of extensive conflagrations of high loss which destroyed large portions of cities. There were three such fires, one at New Bern. N. C.. which burned the entire business section of the city, with a loss of $2,000,000. Another fire of considerable extent was in Terrebonne, Que.. with a million dollar loss, and the destruction of 175 buildings. The third and greatest of these fires was that at Astoria. Ore., destroying 24 blocks in the business section and causing a loss of $12,000,000. The other feature referred to previously was the great destruction among the religious and educational institutions in Canada. A remarkable epidemic of such fires has visited the Dominion in the last two months, with enormous losses. At least some of these fires have been of incendiary origin.

Naturally one looks for the greatest cause of this increase in the year’s fire waste. But to determine this is not so simple. Underwriters claim it is largely due to incendiarism arising from business depression. No doubt this claim is borne out, to a certain extent, by the facts; incendiarism has been very largely on the increase. But another element that has had an equal effect on the result—possibly a greater one—is American carelessness and indifference to the first principles of Fire Prevention. The records show that a very great majority of fires not of incendiary origin were preventable, and arose from causes which could easily have been removed by the exercise of care, forethought and common sense. While this fact is discouraging to fire preventionists, in which class, of course, are included all the fire chiefs of the country, yet on the other hand it should stimulate them to extra efforts during 1923 to drive home to the American people the lessons of Fire Prevention. Let every week be Fire Prevention Week!

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