N. Y. City to Have Most Efficient Fire Department
All Horse Drawn Apparatus to be Abolished
Many and varied are the changes that are planned for the New York Fire Department during the present year. It is a large order, this fighting fire in a city the size of New York and no equipment is too expensive in the eyes of the taxpayers. We believe this article will have a wide interest.—Editor.
WRITING in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Charles E. Shepard declares that by the end of the present year New York City will have the most efficient fire department in the world. He bases his assertion on improvements and changes that are scheduled to be made during the coming months, one of which will abolish all of the horse drawn apparatus, substituting motor driven vehicles. Discussing the changes that are being made, Mr. Shepard says:
By the end of this year there will be 700 pieces of motor apparatus in the service of the department. There are now 80 horse-drawn vehicles, besides the motor apparatus. There are 261 horses still in the service. These will all be gone by the end of 1921. There are 306 companies and 290 fire buildings outside of headquarters.
There are 10 fire boats, as follows: Zophar Mills, built in 1882, at a cost of $65,000, 550 horsepower engines; The New Yorker, built in 1890 at a cost of $98,250, 750 horsepower; William L. Strong, built in 1898 at a cost of $56,490, 350 horsepower; Abram S. Hewitt, built in 1903 at a cost of $83,750, 450 horsepower; George B. McClellan, built in 1903, cost $84,000, 500 horsepower; James Duane, built in 1907, cost $125,000, 900 horsepower; Thomas Willett, built in 1907, cost $125,000, 900 horsepower; Cornelius W. Lawrence, built in 1907, at a cost of $97,800, 500 horsepow’er; William J. Gaynor, built in 1914 at a cost of $118,749, and the launch Velox, built at a cost of $20,000, used for conveying the Chief to the scenes of fires and furnishing supplies to the boats of the marine division. The Abram S. Hewitt and the William J. Gaynor are moored at the Brooklyn water front and the other boats on the North and East River and Harlem River fronts of Manhattan.
Building Most Powerful Fire Boat
The City has now under construction the most powerful modern fire boat of the kind in the world, an oil burner, to cost $222,000. It is to be completed before next winter.
The fire boats are necessary because of the long piers along the Brooklyn and Manhattan waterfronts. The City owns 127 miles out of the waterfront of 577 miles of shore front within its boundaries, or 22 per cent of the entire front, and has built 244 piers. One hundred and three miles of waterfront have been developed, either by the municipality or private owners. The value of the dock property owned by the municipality upon the completion of the piers under construction will, by the end of this year, be approximately $200,000,000. It is to protect all of these public piers, as well as the private piers and the fabulous amount of costly merchandise stored on these piers, more than half the imports of the entire United States coming through this port, that these fire boats are constructed and maintained. The fire boat fleet is in charge of a Deputy Chief of the Marine Division, and the force aggregates 300 captains, lieutenants, pilots, engineers, firemen and civilian stokers.
The fire fighting force of the city consists of 6,000 men, a body of the finest fighters in the world, at the head of which are Commissioner J. T. Drennan and Chief John Kenlon. Every man of the force is a picked employee from the chief down. The applicant is sent to a school for 90 days, during which probationary period he is instructed in the handling of various kinds of fire appliances; in the use of scaling ladders and mounting ladders, and if he is not made of the right kind of stuff he will not get in the department. The men selected as drivers of the motor apparatus and as engineers are all taken on the force after they have proved their efficiency. The tests are as severe as any known among the best municipal fire departments of the world. Some of the remarkable rescues made by them, such as that of a woman in an upper story of the Hotel Bossert last year, attest to their expert efficiency.
The cost of protecting $4,348,226,475 worth of private buildings, over 1,000,000,000 of public structures, uncounted billions of costly merchandise, the greatest aggregation of values in a single municipality on earth, and over 6,000,000 human lives, many of them, men, women and children, crowded into fire tinder boxes of tenements and apartments, is this year about $17,000,000. The number of fires in the past year was 14,368. The total of fire losses are being reduced year by year.
Motor Outfit Increased
In 1920 there were delivered to the city twenty-one gasoline propelled and pumping engines, costing $10,000 each, the most efficient fire fighting machine on the market; six city service gasoline propelled hook and ladder trucks with 50-foot ladders for outlying sections of the city, costing $9,000 each; six hose wagons, gasoline propelled, costing $7,000, making thirty-three pieces of apparatus in all.
There have been contracted for, to be delivered soon, two 65-foot hook and ladder trucks and two 75-foot, to cost $15,000 each, for work in big buildings; four city service hook and ladder trucks with 50-foot ladders for residential sections, to cost $9,000 each; also a rescue wagon for Brooklyn for all sorts of accidents, for collisions, for men caught on cars, caught in ammonia stores, deadly fumes in the holds of ships and in elevator accidentsThese wagons have all sorts of appliances, including jacks, axes, acetylene torches for burning away beams in rescue work. The department is called upon to do all sorts of lifesaving work in other accidents as well as fires.
In substituting gasoline-propelled vehicles for horse the bodies of wagons that were good were used. The city bought chassis and the department put standpipes on hose wagons. For $2,500 they got machines worth $6,000.
The following apparatus is now being advertised for, to be delivered in six months: Twenty gasoline propelled and pumping engines, to cost $10,000 each; 5 65-foot hook and ladder trucks and 5 75-ft. hook and ladder trucks, to cost $15,000 each; 10 city service hook and ladder trucks, to cost $9,000 each, and 4 gasoline fuel wagons, to cost $10,000. a total of 44 pieces. This means an expenditure of $500,000 this year, which will do away, almost entirely, with horses.
These modern $10,000 fire engines, capable of throwing three streams over the Woolworth Building, and the $15,000 hook and ladder trucks are as far ahead of the old hand-engine Washington bought for the Brooklyn Fire Department in 1785 for 150 pounds sterling, or the old Neptune No.,1, bought in 1795, or the Franklin No. 3, drawn over the cobblestones of Brooklyn for the first time in 1810, as is the fast mail airplane, making the, trip from New York to San Francisco in 24 hours, ahead of the old-fashioned stage coach of Colonial days, which consumed two weeks in going from Boston to Philadelphia.
This apparatus is all put to a very severe test before being accepted by the Fire Department, as it is necessary that it should stand every unusual strain. There is given a 20-mile road test to be finished in one hour with its complete equipment of 16,000 pounds. The “city service” hook and ladder trucks are compelled to climb Fort George hill, a 14 per cent grade, in 3 minutes. The Fire Department officials always figure on the odd chance, said Commissioner Drennan. “We prepare for any emergency and have to make our way through snow or ice and obstacles that would be considered insurmountable to any commercial vehicle.. The dense population, unusually high buildings and density of traffic are serious difficulties with which the Fire Department has to contend.
“In 1920,” said the commissioner, “we put in 23 new complete electric light systems in the fire houses, and 1921 thus far we have contracted for 10 more.
“We have a system of powerful reflectors, known as ‘Kemjey Lights,’ furnished by Honorary Battalion Chief Edward J. Kenney, without charge to the city-
Modern Fire Alarm System
“It is hoped to have completed in Manhattan this year the most modern and efficient fire alarm telegraph system of its kind in the world. All of the wires in Manhattan will run underground and into a new modern fire proof building in Central Park, isolated and free from any danger of fire from any other building or any communication means whatever. This has meant the building of a complete new fire alarm system in Manhattan independent of the existing system.
“A new fire alarm system is being built in Brooklyn which will be completed this year. The wires will all run into a new building on the line of Malbone St., in Prospect Park, also fire proof and isolated from any other building. A large part of the ground plans have been prepared for the removal of the Brooklyn wires to underground ducts and the removal of the present wire central in Jay St., which is not considered absolutely safe, to the new central in Prospect Park. The present telephone system in Jay St., ow -ing to the old style building, has compelled an arrangement with the telephone company to switch t_____ fire alarm wires over to the main telephone building on Willoughby St. in case of an emergency and this could be done in an hour’s time.
“Similar plans are being carried out in The Bronx. A central fire proof building is to be erected there and the wires are being placed under ground. An additional appropriation of $75,000 each for the Brooklyn and The Bronx new fire alarm centrals was made a week ago, to be used for interior equipment. The introduction of the new system will mean a reduction in insurance rates.
“One of the most important arms of the service is that of the Department of Repairs and Supplies under the charge of H. T. Treacy, chief of the Bureau of Repairs and SuppliesTo the big repair shop on W. 56th St., between 11th and 12th Aves., in Manhattan, go the crippled engines, hook and ladder trucks, hose carts and motorcars from every section of the city, from points as far apart as Far Rockaway in Queens and Bay Chester on Pelham Bay in the Bronx. In this model workshop comprising within its four walls every branch of manufacture in connection with the building or rebuilding of fire apparatus, 160 engines and hook and ladder trucks have been changed from horse-drawn to motor-drawn vehicles. The entire establishment employing 140 men is in charge of Chief Richard J. Marshall and Capt. Herman F. Kuch, who have served in the New York City Fire Department 27 and 23 years, respectively, and are thoroughly acquainted with parts or accessory of every piece of apparatus used in the department. All of the employees are skilled, mechanics selected after a severe practical test for their special work.
The Blacksmith Shop
“There is here a big blacksmith shop with the best of forges and trip hammers; a foundry, with its big shelves filled with hundreds of patterns for parts of engines and trucks and where are cast steel, iron and brass parts of apparatus including even the bells; an electro-plating shop; a woodworking shop in which are made wheels and ladders and other pieces of apparatus and containing a big lumber stock; a shop for the repair of rubber tires and hose and for the testing of new material; a room in which batteries are made and recharged; a well-equipped machine shop; a large tool room and stockroom with hundreds of bins of bolts and nuts, screw’s, sprocket wheels and chains, valves and many other pieces needed in the every day work of repair. There is kept on hand a stock of spare radiators, fenders, wheels which can be rushed to a broken-down machine at a fire at a moment’s notice. A night force is kept on hand at all times for emergency calls. Scattered throughout the city are 25 spare engines, 15 or 20 extra hook and ladder trucks and an equal number of hose carts ready to be supplied in a case of need at any given point.
“Plans have been approved by the Board of Estimate and formal contracts are ready for advertising for a new fire house at Holland Station, Rockaway Reach, to cost $90,000. It is proposed to place three companies in this house, a hook and ladder and two gasoline propelled motorcars. This building in housing the three companies, will do away with renting three old volunteer houses used as engine houses in this section.
“It is also proposed to build a double house at Forest Hills for two companies to serve Forest Hills and Kew Gardens section; an engine company is to be installed on the Hoffman Boulevard in the old town of Newtown; a new engine company is to be located at Clason Point in the vicinity of Westchester Ave., and a new house is to be built and engine company to be established at Fdgemere in the Rockaways.
New Companies Organized
“On February 15 last two new companies were organized in Hollis, an engine and hook and ladder, a paid department taking the place of the volunteer companies and giving better protection to the villages of St. Albans, Queens and Springfield.”
The city’s apparatus is fairly distributed in all the boros according to the needs of each. Manhattan has 247 motor driven pieces of apparatus, Brooklyn 157, Bronx 71, Queens 67 and Richmond 21. Manhattan has 51 steam pumping engines drawn with tractors, Brooklyn 28, Bronx 15 and Queens 14. Manhattan has 25 gasoline propelled and pumping engines, Brooklyn 22, Bronx 11 and Queens 9. Manhattan has 42 motor propelled aerial hook and ladder trucks, Brooklyn 22, Bronx 20 and Queens 1. Manhattan has 6 High pressure hose wagons and Brooklyn 1. Manhattan has 54 regulation hose wagons, Brooklyn 18, Bronx 10 and Queens 6. Manhattan has 5 combination hose wagons, including chemical tanks and hose; Brooklyn 31, Bronx 5 and Queens 19. Manhattan has 5 water towers and Brooklyn 1. Manhattan has 1 boat tender and Brooklyn 1. Manhattan 1 rescue wagon. Manhattan has 3 fuel wagons and Brooklyn 1. Manhattan has 1 city service hook and ladder truck. Brooklyn 2, Bronx 4 and Queens 10. Manhattan has 35 chiefs’ touring cars, Brooklyn 10 and Bronx 1. Manhattan has 18 chiefs’ runabouts, Brooklyn 20, Bronx 5 and Queens 8.
Manhattan has 6 horse drawn pieces of apparatus, Brooklyn 85, Bronx 35, Queens 20 and Richmond 4.
Upon the putting into effect of the two-platoon system 875 veterans of the war were appointed to the force. Commissioner Drentian says that they will make excellent fire fighting material owing to the discipline they received in the Army. War veterans are given the preference in appointments-
The esprit de corps of the members of the New York City Fire Department is one of the finest exhibitions of loyalty, devotion and enthusiasm to be found among any body of men in the public service anywhere. The men forget their own welfare even to the safety of their lives when duty calls them to posts of danger. There are numberless instances of their having gone to their death fearlessly in the holds of ships, in burning warehouses and in rescue work in tenements.
One of the important undertakings of the department is the giving of lectures in the public schools by members of the force on fire prevention in the home and public places. Last year 110 medals were given to public school children for the best written essay on fire prevention. The competition was keen, and among the prize winners were the children of the tenements of all nationalities. The women and children are taught the location of the nearest fireboxes in their section and how to send in an alarm.