NEW YORK CITY TO HOLD EXAMINATION FOR CHIEF
Twenty-Four Candidates to Compete—Present Officers Must Have Large Amount of Scientific Knowledge for Department Has Expanded
FIRE COMMISSIONER JOHN J. DORMAN of New York has requested the Municipal Civil Service Commission to hold as soon as possible an examination for promotion to the rank of Chief of Department to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of John Kenlon.
Twenty-four Deputy Chiefs of the thirty-three deputies in the Department have applied to take the test. A requirement of the Civil Service Commission that all candidates must be at least six months in the rank will exclude Deputy Chief John J. Flood who was promoted December 24, 1930, unless the examination is held on or after June 24 next and this is a very remote possibility.
The Deputy Chiefs who filed to compete in the examination are: Thomas F. Dougherty now Acting Chief of Department, John J. McElligott, Patrick Walsh, James W. Heffernan, Raymond L. George, John J. T. Waldron, Henry B. Helm, Joseph O’Hanlon, Frank Murphy, Elmer W. Mustard, Robert E. McGannon, Frederick Mahoney, Daniel Carlock, David J. Kidney, George T. McAleer, Daniel J. Cavanagh, James A. Quinn, Patrick Maher, Ferdinand Butenschoen, Thomas R. Langford, John J. O’Connell, George O’Shea, Garrett Langdon and John Davin.
The Deputy Chiefs who failed to file for the examination are: John F. King, George L. Ross, Denis J. Curtin, Gerhardt Webber, Richard J. Marshall, Arthur J. Wright, Martin Kelly and George L. McKenna.
The announcement of the examination recalls the previous test for this position twenty years ago at which time the then Mayor William J. Gaynor thought enough of the importance of this position of public trust to appear before the ten candidates accompanied by the late James Creelman, President of the Municipal Civil Service Commission and make the following address:
“You are to be examined, gentlemen, for one of the most Important offices in the city. There are ten of you. It is an office requiring courage, skill and mental equipment. The equipment required is much higher than it was twenty-five years, fifteen years, ten or even five years ago. I am sorry that one of your members was unable to participate, having been debarred by physical infirmity which was the result of doing his duty in the Fire Department.
“Now the old way to appoint a man to this place and to other places was for each man to look out for himself and run to the Mayor and run to the Commissioner and run to the political leaders and to the clergymen and accumulate all the influence he could and mass that influence on the appointing power and so get it in that way.
“The substitute for that way is the way you are now pursuing. You are brought here in an honorable examination. It may be that the best man will not make the best showing in his papers. I can see that that sometimes may happen. Nevertheless this method will, we all concede, evolve a good man—the man fit for the place.”
That examination produced John Kenlon and three others on the eligible list—Kenlon with a final rating of 85.08; Joseph B. Martin with 84.79; William Guerin with 84.21 and Thomas R. Langford with 82.13. Of the ten deputy chiefs who competed in that test twenty years ago only two remain in the service today. They are Thomas R. Langford and Patrick Maher, both of whom have filed for the coming examination to succeed Kenlon. Of the others, John Binns, John Burns, William T. Beggin, Thomas Lally are dead; Joseph B. Martin, John Kenlon, Fred. Gooderson and William Guerin have retired.
The man to whom Mayor Gaynor referred as being debarred from the examination by reason of physical infirmity sustained in the line of duty was Thomas J. Ahearn, one of the department’s outstanding heroes in his time who was so badly injured and burned that it impaired his hearing, although he had scores of times been the Acting Chief of Department with its accompanying responsibilities every time that Fire Chief Edward F. Croker took a week-end holiday at his country place at Good Ground, L. I., and there were many such week-ends.
Niagaras of fresh and salt water have been poured on many thousands of fires in this city since that examination was held and the complexion of the Fire Department has changed considerably since John Kenlon became Fire Chief on August 1, 1911.
The coming examination for promotion to Fire Chief will have to be a great deal different in many of its phases because in twenty years a more scientific and modern fire fighting army of Gotham has been trained in that art. In all probability the examination will be held within two months. It will require all of that time to make charts, maps, and diagrams and to propound questions which will test the fitness of the competing candidates.
Twenty years ago there were 13,868 fires in New York. Last year there were 31,391; the losses in 1911 were $12,470,806 and last year they were reported as $18,116,305. The lire fighting force has grown front 4,420 men to 6,757. There were only eleven pieces of motor fire apparatus in 1911. Today there are 723. In 1911 the department had 1,443 horses and not a single one of them remains now. The departmental budget in 1911 was $8,187,459. The budget for 1931 is $24,361,393. New York boasted of 260 fire companies twenty years ago whereas today there are 354 fire companies in service.
These figures are but a small cross-section of the growth and the changes that have taken place in the fire fighting service of the city which the ambitious candidates for the highest rank in the fire department will have to be guided by. Fire Headquarters has moved since that last examination from its own fire station in East 67th Street to become part of a huge office building downtown. The horses and the harnesses have gone, the moustaches have disappeared almost entirely from the faces of fire fighters; the twoplatoon system has come; the book of rules has been revised twice within twenty years; traffic congestion has come to be a serious and important part of the Fire Chief’s problems; the height of office buildings and hotels lias gone Heavenward and thereby increased the perplexities of the chief commander of the fire fighters.
The entire city has been changed as to its fire alarm box locations; four new isolated fire alarm central operating plants have been opened for service; the motion picture film, the extensive use of gasoline and fuel oil, the fire hazards in airplane hangars, the introduction of fire foam and carbon dioxide as substitutes for water in quenching flames—in fact a hundred and one different changes have taken place in the daily life of the fighter, having in mind all of the time that the population has climbed to 7,000,000, the number of buildings to be protected has reached 637,000 and the property values today are at the $18,000,000,000 level.
The entire department is keyed up with interest in the coming battle of the flames on paper. Civil service has its advocates and its detractors too. In the examination for Fire Chief twenty years ago one of the candidates in criticising the questions said “It was a test of a man’s memory— not of his thinking powers.”
Right there is should be noted that some of the ambitious candidates for the mantle of Chief of Department are sixtysix years of age. Others are as young as forty-seven years. Some of the veterans in the competition were fighting fires before their youthful competitors were born. The years of service of the candidates range from twenty-four to fortyfive years.
Everywhere in the department the question is being asked: “Who is the next Chief of Department?” and the best answer right now is, “The man who comes out first on the eligible list.”