New State Fire Marshal
(From our regular correspondent)
“The best way to reduce the fire loss is to make people responsible for damage caused by fires due to carelessness,” said George C. Neal, recently appointed state fire marshal by Gov. Calvin Coolidge, of Massachusetts. “There is a growing sentiment in favor of laws that will put the responsibility for fires where it belongs,” continued Mr. Neal. “When there are laws providing adequate penalties to be imposed upon persons on whose properties fires start, there will be a great reduction in the number of needless fires. I believe that the use of wood construction should be limited as much as possible, and that the shingle roof should be entirely eliminated,” said Mr. Neal, in an interview with a representative of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING. “I am a strong advocate of automatic sprinklers, and should like to see their installation made compulsory in all hazardous locations such as cellars, storehouses, etc.”
George C. Neal, as State Fire Marshal, takes over the duties formerly performed by Frank Lewis, Fire Prevention Commissioner, which office has been abolished. Mr. Neal, who is 76 years of age, was born in Lynn, and has been active for years in fire prevention work. After being employed in one of the large shoe factories in Lynn for some time, he became a member of the city government. From 1880 to 1884 he was president of the common council in Lynn. He was also a member of the school and library boards. Mr. Neal was much interested in police matters, and in 1886 he was made deputy chief of police, later becoming chief of the Lynn police department. He was in Lynn at the time of the great fire there in 1889, and with a corps of his men succeeded in alarming the tenants of buildings in the path of the flames, effecting many rescues during the spread of the fire.
In 1909, Mr. Neal took an active part in the agitation for a safe and sane observance of the Fourth of July. He drew up the law of the state for the safeguarding of the public, and was the author of the regulations that included the prohibition of the granting of permits to keep or sell fireworks in any buildings used as tenement, school, apartment, or factory. As a result of the measures advocated by Mr. Neal, the record of 430 accidents and 16 deaths on July 4 in the year 1909, was reduced the following year to 63 accidents and no deaths in the state from July 4th causes.
The law requiring the storage of motion picture films in fireproof vaults and prohibiting films from being kept in buildings not of fire resistive construction was drawn up by Mr. Neal, as well as the rule barring film exchanges from the shopping district of the city of Boston.
Mr. Neal made a study of the causes of conflagrations and their widespread destruction, issuing a report on the lessons to be learned from these fires. He also issued an illustrated report on the St. John’s Parochial School fire in Peabody, Mass., Oct. 28, 1915, where 21 girls lost their lives.