MODERNIZATION PROGRAM GIVES HAMILTON EFFICIENT DEPARTMENT
Old Apparatus Replaced, Reserve Strength Built Up and Operations Streamlined
THE Hamilton, Ohio, Fire Department, Fire Chief George Schlotterbeck, has completed half of its long-range “retooling” program, an enterprise that has, in five years, rejuvenated a long-struggling, undermanned fire force.
On January 1, 1948, the department stood a good chance of losing its fire insurance rating. Equipment was lacking; most of that in use was obsolete. There was no reserve equipment; even necessities such as good hose was in short supply.
Then, with the aid of city officials, the Chief developed what he called a “long range re-tooling program.” It was adopted. Each year the budget is set up to take care of any new equipment needed in the ensuing year. Since its inauguration, improvements have steadily been made, and it is now at the stage where the department will need only one major piece of apparatus every two years until all old, obsolete equipment is replaced.
No longer is personnel bothered by bursting hose; the new program established a yearly test system for all hose. Right down the line of small appliances and equipment, the department has been brought up-to-the-minute.
The Chief’s office too has had its face lifted; the Fire Prevention Bureau has been housed in an office of its own, and is now in charge of an assistant chief.
The files of the Bureau contain a record of every business, factory, church, school and public building in the city, and these locations are inspected periodically.
The department is particularly proud of its three-way radio installation which, the Chief says, enables the department to maintain contact with all units at all times. In addition, it prevents needless runs, and hurries the companies back into service. The department has its own radio frequency and radio operators.
All fire hydrants have been converted from the old double 2 1/2-in. openings to include a 4 1/2-in. steamer connection. The Water Works is being revamped, too, in accordance with recommendations of the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Standpipes are being installed in the low pressure areas.
During the last few years shop, or industrial, fire brigades have been organized and trained under supervision of ranking officers of the department. These brigades operate under direction of a chief selected from the companies’ personnel.
The department has no drill tower, but yearly, during summer months, a training program is undertaken at the City Water Works, an isolated 4-story structure. An Assistant Chief directs all training, which includes hose and ladder evolutions, and simulated fire control problems, with emphasis on use of heavy streams. In wintertime, members are given book work, which includes study of locations, street numbers, etc. Recently the department was equipped with Davy life escapes, and salvage covers, the first time it ever used these necessities. Incidentally, it is a rule that all members must wear helmets, and carry hose straps, during working fires.
Although still undermanned, personnel has increased from 63 men in 1948 to 80 men at the present time. There are six engine companies and two aerial ladder companies, located in six stations. Two additional stations are planned. The weakest element in the department, at present, is the fire alarm system, which is antiquated. The first step in its replacement will be taken this year and within a few years the system will be entirely recreated.
All equipment in the department is standardized insofar as possible. Different tools and appliances are located in the same position on all apparatus. New pumpers have pre-connected 1 1/2-in. lines with discharge valves at the operators’ side of the pumps. All older pumps have been changed over and have one 1 1/2-in. preconnected line ready for quick action.
Addition of new pumps has permitted placing three pumps in reserve (two 1000 GPM and one 500 GPM). These are always ready for operation. Off-duty men respond to multiple alarms and man these pumps and one quad. In addition, the City can rely on help from two neighboring volunteer departments, Fairfield and Millville.
This is only a part of the program that has seen rehabilitation of a department that five years ago was rated as only “fair.” But Chief Schlotterbeck and his men are not satisfied. The pace of improvement continues. Whatever and better in fire control and extinction, develops as the years pass, that is new will get a thorough going-over by the Hamilton, Ohio, Fire Department.
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In the year 1952 the Hamilton Fire Department responded to 1,238 alarms, of which 298 were for fires in buildings. Fires in other than buildings amounted to 226. There were 34 false alarms and 21 “non-malicious” false alarms.
The life squad answered 366 calls. Total fire losses for the year were $209,720.00, compared with $93,960 in 1951.
The department extinguished 411 fires with 1-in. hose lines; 85 with 1 1/2-inch; 43 with one 3 1/2-inch, 32 with two 2 1/2-inch and 4 fires with three or more 2 1/2-inch lines. CO2 was used on 11 fires.
During the year the department traveled 4,350 miles; used 1,299,362 gals, of water; raised 7,389 ft. of ladders and laid a total of 120,470 ft. of hose.