Fire Department officials of the United States have recently been taken very seriously to task by one of our contemporaries for their apparent indifference to the possibilities of wireless as “a part of the firefighting equipment of our cities.”

England, France and even China are said to have officially adopted, “after long experiment and demonstration,” the wireless telephone and the wireless telegraph, as part of their fire-fighting equipment.

To what extent the wireless is in use in the countries mentioned, and how successful it has been, The FIRE ENGINEER has been unable to learn, but we may well believe it is not in use to any great extent, if at all, where the fire alarm telegraph, or the telephone, are available. Indeed, the only possible excuse for the use of wireless would be the lack of other and more dependable means of long distance communication.

The charge that our Fire Departments are “asleep” may be answered by the statement that the City of New York is just now putting into service a fire alarm telegraph system, the cost of which, for Manhattan Island alone, reached the enormous sum of $3,200,000.00, or more than the total value of all the fire alarm telegraph systems of the British Isles.

The telephone is in such general use in this country, both in urban and suburban communities, that fire apparatus may never be out of almost immediate touch with headquarters, and when these conditions obtain, there is no call for the less reliable “wireless.”

The latest statistics available as to telephone service in the countries under discussion show the following comparisons:

This would indicate that at least the telephone companies of the United States are not “asleep” and the record of the signal engineering corps of the A. E. F. was such that a goodly number of them were retained in France by the French Government at the close of the Great War to rebuild and modernize the French telephone and telegraph systems.

The story is told of an officer of the A. E. F. who, during the War, applied to the French officials for the construction of a telephone line several miles in length, and was told it could not be built in less than three weeks. He got in touch with the signal engineering corps of our Army, and the line was in working order that day and within one hour after work was begun on it.

Whenever and wherever the need may arise for “wireless” in connection with of Fire Departments in this country, such need will, no doubt, promptly be supplied, as it has already been supplied in connection with airplane patrol of our great western forest areas.

The efficiency of this service is most clearly shown in a recent report of the Bureau of Forestry that, of the 196 forest fires sighted and reported last year by the airplanes operated out of the Sacramento, Cal., base, maintained by the U. S. Forest Service, 33 per cent, were located within ¼ mile of the exact location as later determined by actual surveys on the ground.

Ten per cent, of the total number of fires were discovered by the air patrol before the rangers knew of their existence; ‘42 per cent, of the fires were reported by radio, while the airplanes were in flight.

Besides acting as look-outs to detect and report fires, airplanes were used to direct fire fighting operations and to patrol fire lines which had been built but which needed watching. If reports from the air showed the line to be clear, the fire fighters were kept at work elsewhere, but if the observer reported that the fire had broken avay, a force of men could be rushed to the spot.

In addition to the two planes which have been operating daily on fire patrol service from Sacramento, two planes have also been operated from three other stations, namely, Fresno, Riverside and Red Bluffs.

The capable men in the fire service of this country arc not “passing up” anything in their constant struggle for increased efficiency.

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