Because of the illness of the correspondent of the FIRE ENGINEER the report of the Annual Convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers did not reach the office of publication in time for this issue. A full report will be made at a later date.—Editor.
THERE are publications, circulating amongst firemen, which seem to assume that their extraordinary popularity can be maintained only by purusing methods commonly regarded as outside the pale of reputable journalism.
Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that literature of a character commonly circulated among persons of poor reasoning powers finds readers among firemen. For there are in fire departments many very young men who have not had the idealism and unbounded confidence of youth modified by the stern realities of life.
Aspirations based upon idealism render young men impatient of things which, to them, seems senseless old fogyism.
The only means of protesting against injustice, inefficiency or unprogressiveness, available to members of military or semi-military organizations, is to support the dissemination of discontent amongst their fellow vocationists. This is the condition which cause firemen, often against their judgment, to support publications which help to demoralize the service.
The foregoing circumstances renders the judicious direction of youthful aspirations a matter that should engage the attention of the sane and able in every vocation into which large numbers of young men find admission. There is, perhaps, no other vocation in which the necessity for a comprehensive direction of the surplus vigor of youth is more imperatively demanded than in that of the fire fighter. For this there are many reasons, among them the following:
- The average age of fire department personnel is less than that of any other well established civil vocation.
- Few firemen have experienced the sobering effects of prolonged and profound study.
- The high physical standards which prevail in many cities bring to the fire service men of more than average physical vigor while the labor involved is not sufficient to furnish an outlet for the expenditure of a reasonable amount of their overteeming spirits.
- The work that firemen now perform in commercial districts could not be safely intrusted to untrained men, hence modern cities are absolutely dependent for their very existence upon the faithfulness and the devotion of their firemen.
- The very importance of the fire service renders members of fire departments especially liable to invite attention from forces that would disrupt and destroy the governmental order under which we live.
Of the various means by which the class of publications, with which we are now dealing, contrive to direct the progress promoting energies of youth into channels where it may develop into hatred of that justice and liberality which render our community life so agreeable, we can at this time treat of but few.
A favorite method is to accuse government officials, mayors, fire commissioners, fire chiefs, etc., of tyranny, injustice, incompetency, dishonesty, etc., etc. As such charges, unfortunately, too often have the odor of fact it is difficult to pin down traducers so that their lies may be made evident to persons of casual interest.
There is one form of scurrilous fabrication, indulged in by rancor breeders, in which the falsity is so obvious that it is impossible any writer could be so utterly ignorant of his subject as to issue it in good faith.
By illustrating how lies, which the writer of them must know to be lies, are given circulation among firemen we propose to show that their authors are knowingly, and purposely, endeavoring to deceive firemen as to their true interests.
Any one who glances through publications having Fire as the first part of their name cannot fail to have observed certain illiterate, rambling, attacks upon fire insurance companies. In these attacks fire insurance officials are held up as enemies of firemen. How men possessed of sufficient intelligence to pass civil service examinations can be so deficient in discerning powers to believe it possible that directors and managers of fire insurance companies are opposed to the best interests of firemen is difficult to understand.
The relation between firemen and fire insurance companies, and their officials, may appropriately be likened to a partnership. Of this partnership each individual fireman, and his personal interest is a party.
It is of the first importance to fire insurance companies that positions in fire departments be made desirable for it is only by the maintenance of such conditions that a capable class of men may be attracted to the work, and it is only by securing the services of men of ability that fire losses can be kept down
Men receiving good pay and working reasonable hours, under congenial conditions, are likely, not only to be more efficient in combatting fires, but to be more considerate in handling goods during the process of overhauling than, they would be, if disgusted and rendered miserable by the harshness of working conditions. Hence fire insurance companies would be acting in derogation of their own interests if they opposed the personal interests of individual firemen.
That fire insurance interests favor everything that promotes the best interests of firemen should be clear from the following.
The enactment of laws and regulation promoting fire prevention and protection against fire are beneficial to both. Rules which render firemen’s work less dangerous lessens the probability of large fire losses.
The most important movement for the bettermen of fire departments, and the one to which many others may readily be traced, consists in bringing within the reach of firemen many of the advantages of liberal education. No other one factor has done so much towards furnishing such opportunities as fire underwriting interests. Fire insurance companies maintain an expensive Laboratorium in which are made a great number of elaborate and exhaustive tests, the results of which are freely furnished to firemen
Engineers employed by The National Hoard of Fire Underwriters assist the civil service commissions, of cities throughout the country, in preparing questions for civil service examinations and by introducing matter of a scientific and strategetic character, are leading firemen to a study and investigation of things which will, if persisted in, result in fire control developing into a scientific engineering profession.
Fire insurance companies endeavor to secure the promotion of men who possess the energy and initiative to, and who take the pains to, acquaint themselves with the physical hazards and characteristics of structures in their districts, and bv doing so help to bring the ablest men to positions of responsibility. Fire fighting under the direction of men of this character is less dangerous and difficult than it would be under the direction of men selected without regard to their fitness, and these things constitute no small advantage to firemen generally.
There is not one particular in which the interests of firemen and the fire insurance companies are at variance.
In view of all these good reasons for a common friendship, between firemen and fire insurance officials, he seems a man of poor discernment, indeed, who will permit the mere word of a common demagogue to arouse his prejudice or cloud his vision.
It is from amongst the readers of this magazine, and, works issued in connection with it, that fire department officials of the future shall be drawn, a circumstance which imposes upon us a duty to warn firemen that a publication, detrimental to the best interests of the fire service, is receiving support from some of their members. The effect of such a publication, and the object of those who issue it, is to promote contempt for lawful authority, develop resistance to it and in every way possible undermine the sterling Americanism of which firemen of the past have been such worthy exponents.
Forward looking firemen should withdraw their support, and urge their less cautious brothers to withdraw theirs also, from any publication which persists in giving circulation to doctrines that foment discord in the ranks of firemen, alienates their affection from their natural friends, or which prints matter unfit for persons aquainted with American customs, ethics, and ideals.
To persistently spew forth upon firemen a venom intended to promote their hatred of department heads, or of those who by their circumstances are the natural friends of firemen, is not sufficiently profitable to justify the belief that it is engaged in solely for the financial reward it brings. In circumstances such as these it is necessary to seek a motive, nor in this case, have we far to seek, for if it be admitted that there ever was an organized attempt made to disrupt the governmental forms-under which we live, then to poison the minds of firemen was a part of that attempt. It was not only a part of that attempt, but a by no means unimportant part of it, for the very existence of great commercial communities is dependent upon the devotion and faithfulness of their firemen.
The justice and liberality which were formerly a focus for the hate of militarism is now no less an object of Bolshevist enmity. Masters have changed but the purposes are the same and old methods still in evidence.