Leshure on Building Laws.
According to the revised laws, every city and town in this state, except Boston, has a right to make laws or ordinances for the prevention of fire and the preservation of life, and may regulate the inspection of buildings, their materials, construction, alteration, and use, and prescribe penalties not exceeding one hundred dollars for each violation.
There is no question that there is a necessity for such a code for congested districts in cities and towns, and a rigid enforcement of the same.
At the present time, there is a discussion of the merits and demerits of the different materials for the construction of buildings to make the same as near tire-proof as conditions may allow. The older buildings, erected thirty years ago or more, called joisted brick, and furred out for plastering. left a space more or less for a lire to go from cellar to attic. They still remain, and must be continued in use, for no law can compel the owners to rentev’the same, or (ire-stop them, and make them safe and secure, or to conform to i he new methods of construction unless there is a proof of danger to the public. Consequently, firemen must continue to meet this emergency, although there have been improvements in such buildings’ when reconstructed, into which fire retardants are placed, and a disposition shown to make tkun better as being the most economical to the owners, and for rental they are preferred to the cheaper construction, so that we may look for greater improvement in the future building laws, made to include the latest methods and best materials.
If the inspection of buildings during their construction might be made by the firemen as often as possible, and cards containing information relating to any defects discovered were filed for future reference, that would have some effect on the owners and contractors to tire-stop to their satisfaction, and give the firemen useful information which would be of great value.
A. 1’. LESHURE, Ex-Chief. Springfield, Mass.
There is no doubt that a stringent code of building laws rigidly enforced would be a most effective means of lire prevention while lire extinguishment and fire prevention must go along together for the reason that the buildings built in the past with no thought of fireproofing are so inflammable that there will be fires to extinguish. It seems to me that the all important part of this topic is the last part, “a rigid enforcement of the same.”
After all adverse influences have been overcome by the passage of a suitable code of building laws, then all the ingenuity of those, whose private interest it is to build fire-traps and conflagration breeders in opposition to the law, must be met. Now comes the question : Is the public interest and safety of more importance than private interests? It is one of the principles of government to conserve the public welfare and finally the people will have as good laws and as rigid enforcement of the same as they demand.
Then it is necessary first that the general public be brought to a realizing sense of the need of doing something .to prevent the enormous national fire waste, which for the year 1908 amounted to about $*>50,000 per dav.
When we wake up to the fact that this is a public loss that cannot be made good, such laws will be enforced.
Suitable laws should provide for a system of inspection that would include all classes of buildings, private residences included, their heat ing and lighting, contents and outside surroundings and all conditions from which fire would be liable to result. Such a system, properly car ried out, would do more to reduce the lire loss than all the lire departments combined, whose ordinary duties do not begin until after a lire starts. Or another way of saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Second Asst. Chief, Springfield, Mass.