MEDDLING AND MUDDLING ON THE PACIFIC COAST.
FIRE departments on the Pacific slope are probably in a worse condition than any others throughout the country, for the reason that they are mostly controled by ward politicians. From San Francisco we are informed that “Boss” Buckley, a noted Fifth ward politician, is after the scalp of Chief Sullivan. Buckley is working hard to get control of the board of supervisors, and, when this is accomplished, he will ask for Chief Sullivan’s resignation. This is a deplorable state of affairs, and is fraught with the greatest danger to all large cities. There seems to be no way of downing the political boss or of preventing him from interfering with such an important branch of municipal government as that of the fire department. That a great part of this interference should be allowed or possible mnst be attributed to the lack of interest manifested by the insurance people. If it were understood that insurance companies who take risks in such cities as San Francisco would raise the rates when any interference with the working of the fire department was discovered, it might have a salutary effect. It is absolutely impossible for a chief engineer to have control of his men and to conduct his department in a satisfactory manner, unless it is known that he is not merely a nominal head, but the actual chief in command, and that his position is permanent, so long as he administers his official duties with satisfaction. The only remedy that occurs to us that will succeed in preventing politicians from such interference is, that the different States enact laws to protect the officers of the fire departments from the onslaughts of political cormorants who derive their power mostly from the denizens of the slums they misrepresent. Chief Sullivan, of San Francisco, was appointed to his position solely upon his merits. As a fireman, he distinguished himself by long and faithful service to the city, and assuredly he has over and over proved himself to be a thoroughly competent man. There is no reason, then, why he should be molested; and it will be a disgrace to the leading city of the Pacific, if it does not at once proceed to establish a precedent by which the chief engineer of the fire department shall be recognized as the permanent officer of that department, with full control of the conduct of its affairs, so long as he shows himself competent to do his work properly. When the men of his department recognize this fact, better discipline maybe expected, and without doubt a corresponding improvement in the services rendered in all cases of fighting fires. And what applies to San Francisco applies equally to Portland, Ore., another Pacific coast city, where Mayor Pennoyer and his pliable board of fire commissioners, moved solely by political reasons, have ousted Chief Campbell from his office. For this there was no excuse. The deposed chief was undeniably an able officer, with an unassailable record, and in every way fit to fill the position of head of the city’s fire department, which, owing to Chief Campbell’s deposition, has now been still further depleted of its older and more experienced members, of whom twenty-one walked out with the chief on the night which saw him superseded. The places of these firemen will, of course, be filled by raw recruits, who will add greatly to the difficulties to be encountered by Chief De Boest, whose position as the new head of the fire department will, for some time at least, be by no means an enviable one.