New York Fire Department Report.

New York Fire Department Report.

The New York Fire Department Report for 1910 was issued last week by Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo. The document, which is of the usual voluminous character, shows the manual force to be 4,332 uniformed officers and men and 523 civilian employes and comprises 257 companies. There are in service 804 pieces of apparatus and 243 separate buildings are occupied, Commissioner Waldo strongly recommends the establishment of a Bureau of Fire Prevention, separate from the regular uniformed force, but under the supervision of an official who shall report directly to the Commissioner. The cost of such a bureau, the Commissioner says, would be small, as he proposes to consolidate the Bureau of Combustibles, the Bureau of the hire Marshal and the Bureau of Violations and Auxiliary Fire Appliances into the new Bureau of Fire Prevention. He suggests also that authority be given him to detail to the proposed bureau such members of the fire-fighting force as, by reason of age or injuries, may be incapacitated for fire duty. He recommends also that the functions of the Division of Electrical Inspection of the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity, insofar as they relate to the inspection and regulation of wiring in private buildings, for the prevention of fires, should be transferred to the proposed new division of the hire Department, together with the personnel engaged in this work. “The number of fires in the City of New York,” he says, “would be materially lessened by the establishment of a bureau of this character, with sufficient power to enforce its regulations.” This Bureau of hire Prevention, he suggests, should he subdivided as follows:

  1. A division of auxiliary fire appliances, which should have charge of the installation of such auxiliary fire appliances and fire escapes as may be required in various buildings, including automatic sprinklers, standpipes, tanks, pumps, extinguishers, etc. This division should be in charge of a competent engineer.
  2. A division of combustibles, to perform the work now being done by the Bureau of Combustibles. This bureau to regulate the manufacture, sale, use, storage and transportation of combustibles.
  3. A division of inspection. This division to carry on a systematic inspection of premises to determine whether or not all regulations which may be enacted for the prevention of lire are being observed.
  4. A bureau of violations under an official with legal training for the purpose of enforcing regulations in the case of violations.
  5. A division of the Fire Marshal. This division to investigate fires for the purpose of determining whether or not any criminality is attached and bringing offenders to justice.

The Commissioner suggests that the law establishing the new bureau should give the Fire Department authority to control all matters with reference to fire escapes, as fire escapes are used, he says, not only for the purpose of escape in case of fire, but for fire fighting as well. “Under the present system,” he says, “the Fire Department has no authority over them. In some cases fire escapes are under the control of the Building Department and in other cases under the Tenement House Department. The department should have the necessary authority to eliminate dangerous conditions caused by accumulations of rubbish in cellars and the improper storage of explosives and combustible material. It should also have the power to obviate dangerous conditions arising from improper construction of chimneys, flues, etc. It should also have authority to require necessary lights in cellars and hallways and the installation of automatic or available manual shut-offs for gas, water and electric currents. The department should lie granted the necessary power to make and enforce regulations for the preventing of fires and the limiting of the damages therefrom. The F’ire Department should have the same power as is now granted the Health Department to deal with hazardous conditions, especially where life and property are in danger. Under the present law the penalty for non-compliance is a nominal fine which cannot lie collected until after many months, and in no way compels compliance with regulations.” The Commissioner suggests that theaters to which firemen are detailed should be compelled to pay for the services of the men. This, he says, would create a revenue of more than $100,060 a year which could be turned over to the pension and relief fund. He urges that the highpressure system should be established as rapidly as possible throughout the Borough of Manhattan, south of 155th street and throughout the densely populated and manufacturing sections of Brooklyn and the Bronx. The extension of the high pressure, together with the introduction of motor apparatus, he believes, will bring the equipment of the fire-fighting force to the highest efficiency. He figures that the installation of fire apparatus will bring about a great saving. A motor high-pressure hose wagon, now in use, has cost for maintenance and fuel for one year about $85. The maintenance of three horses necessary for the same apparatus would have been about $660. The Commissioner explains that in the coming year the department will employ its own force of competent journeymen horseshoers and shoe its own horses. It is estimated that this will save more than $25,000. The Mayor is informed that no permits were issued last year for the retail sale of fireworks and that the policy prevented many accidents and fires. The Commissioner says that the fire-alarm telegraph system in Manhattan should be replaced as quickly as possible and that an electrical engineer has been appointed to superintend the replacing the present antiquated system. The Commissioner reports a saving of $126,974 last year in the Bureau of Repairs and Supplies and a saving of $12,000 in wages and salaries of employes of the repair shops, though the work done has been increased about 33 per cent. “The uniformed force under the supervision of its Chief,” says the Commissioner, “has maintained its traditions for bravery and efficiency and merits the approbation of the citizens of New York. Discipline has been improved by the elimination of improper infiuences in the administration of disciplinary punishments. Injustice and wrongdoing have been ended by making all appointments in the order certified by the Civil Service as the result of competitive examinations.” In the entire city there were 14,405 fires in 1910, as against 12,437 in 1909. The Fire Marshals reported the loss by fire as $8,591,831 last year, against $7,431,635 the year before.

RHINELANDER WALDO. Fire Commissioner, New York.




The annual report of Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo, of New York fire department, for the year ending December 31, 1909, constitutes a volume of interesting information. Herewith are a few statistics succinctly compiled: At the close of 1909, the total membership of the uniformed force in all boroughs was 4,350 officers and men, an increase of 106 over the number on the corresponding date of the previous year. The fire extinguishing force at the conclusion of 1909 consisted of 172 engine companies, 73 hook and ladder companies, 8 hose companies, 10 fireboats, 3 searchlight engines and 4 water towers, assigned to 42 battalions and 13 divisions. The department responded to 13,359 fire alarms. The fireboat fleet successfully protects the 153 miles of the city’s water front. There are ten of these boats— namely, the New Yorker, James Duane and Thomas Willett, berthed on the North river shore of Manhattan : the William L. Strong and George B. McClellan on the East river shore; the Abram S. Hewitt, David A. Boody and Seth Low on the Brooklyn shore of that river; the Cornelius W. Lawrence on the Harlem river, and the Zophar Mills at St. George, Staten Island.

The underground system at the close of 1909 consisted, in the borough of Manhattan, of 1,203.24 miles of conductor laid in 138.75 miles of subway duct. During the year 62,845 feet of cable were pulled in, of which 35,768 were for alterations and repairs and 27,077 for extending the system. Wire to the amount of 29,750 feet was strung for alterations and repairs and 119,010 feet taken down. 16,226 feet of aerial cable were strung. 9,666 for alterations and repairs and 6,560 feet for extending the system. In the borough of The Bronx 173,666 feet of wire were strung for alterations and repairs to the system, and 227,990 feet of wire taken down. 5.460 feet of aerial cable were strung for alterations and repairs. In the borough of Brooklyn the fire alarm system consisted of 1,090 7/8 miles of aerial conductor; 289,003 feet of wire were used for repairs, and 60,720 for extending the system. In the borough of Queens 39,040 feet of wire were used for repairs. In the borough of Richmond 36,180 feet of wire were strung, also 810 feet of aerial cable, cable.

In the boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx and Richmond, the total number of fires was 8,132; estimated loss, $5,388,390; average loss per fire, $662.61. There were 44 arrests in these boroughs for arson and suspected incendiarism, and 8 pending front 1908, a total of 52 cases. There were 7 convictions and one committal to an insane asylum. Of the remaining 44 cases, 22 of those arrested wore discharged by magistrates, 9 acquitted by juries, one was discharged by the Court of Special Sessions, and the indictments against two prisoners were dismissed by the Court of General Sessions, leaving 10 cases pending at the close of the year. During the year 1908 the number of convictions was 39 and of acquittals, 55. In the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens the number of fires for 1909 was 4,305, with a total estimated loss of $2,043,245. The average loss per fire was $474.62. There were 44 arrests in these boroughs for arson or suspected incendiarism, which with one pending from 1907 and 10 from 1908, made a total of 55 cases to be disposed of. There were 15 convictions and three committals to insane asylums. Of the remaining 37 cases 7 were discharged by magistrates, in four cases the grand jury failed to indict, and in another the indictment was dismissed, and 25 indictments have been had and the cases now await trial.

On December 31, 1909, in the boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx and Richmond, there were 840 horses in the service, and in Brooklyn and Queens 709. The volunteer system in the borough of Richmond consists of 13 companies, with a membership of 388, and in the borough of Queens of 41, with a membership of 1,700. There was no further extension of the paid system into volunteer territory during the year 1909. Since consolidation in 1898, 44 volunteer companies have been disbanded in Richmond and 35 in Queens. These companies have been superseded, respectively, by 14 and 23 companies of the paid system.

On December 31, 1909, the active personnel of the department in the boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx and Richmond numbered 3,097, the fire extinguishing force comprising 2,686 members, assigned with the exception of 42 chief officers, to the companies of the 22 battalions. The companies are classified as follows: Engine companies, 89; hook and ladder companies, 45; hose companies, 1; fireboats, 8—total, 143. Of the above companies six are known as combination companies, each equipped with an engine and hook and ladder truck and hose wagon. Ten of the engine and nine of the hook and ladder companies are known as double companies, provided with two sets of apparatus, one of which remains in quarters while the other is absent in response to an alarm. Three of the engine companies are known as high-pressure companies, two of them each supplied with two high-pressure hose wagons (one an automobile hose wagon) and the third with two high-pressure hose wagons, in addition to an engine and an ordinary hose wagon. One of the engine companies and two of the hook and ladder companies have each a water tower assigned to them. One engine company and one hook and ladder company are each equipped with a searchlight engine. The active personnel of the department in the borough of Brooklyn and Queens, numbered 1,796, the fire extinguishing force comprising 1,664, assigned, with the exception of 35 chief officers, to the 111 companies of the 20 battalions. The companies are classified as follows: Engine companies, 73; hook and ladder ocmpanies, 29; hose companies, 7; fireboats, 2— total, 111. Of the above companies 12 are known as combination companies, each equipped with an engine, hose wagon and hook and ladder truck. Three of the engine companies are known as double companies, one equipped with two engines, two hose wagons and one hook and ladder truck, and two each equipped with two engines and two hose wagons. One of the single engine companies is equiped with a chemical engine and one with a searchlight engine. One of the hook and ladder trucks has a water tower assigned to it.

During the year there were 228 appointments of probationary firemen and 2 of pilots, a total of 230; 79 promotions, 13 resignations, 16 dismissals, 17 reinstatements, 26 deaths on the active list; 53 retirements after 20 years or longer service, and 31 for disability. There were also 25 deaths of retired members of the uniformed force.

Seventy-one persons lost their lives at various fires during the year 1909, 46 as the result of carelessness. A careful investigation of these fires disclosed the following facts: 20 were burned to death by carelessness in the handling of matches; 16 lost their lives through their clothing igniting from stoves and gas ranges; 7 lost their lives through carelessness with lighted cigars or cigarettes; 5 died from burns received by the explosion of celluloid; 2 died from injuries sustained by jumping from windows; 4 were suffocated in hallways while attempting to arouse the occupants of burning buildings; 2 lost their lives from locomotive sparks setting fire to building; 8 lost their lives in a fire of suspicious origin at 37 Spring street on April 30, 1909.

The receipts of the New York Fire Department Relief Fund during the year were $736,993.05, which added to $851,124.12, the amount on hand December 31, 1908, made the total resources $1,588,117.17. The disbursements for pensions and allowances to widows and orphans was $736,773.57, leaving on hand, December 31, 1909, $851,343.60. The number of retired officers and men was 667; of relieved men, 54, and of widows and orphans, 624. The New York Fire Department Life Insurance Fund amounted, on December 31, 1908, to $16,942.73. There was received by way of assessments upon beneficiaries of the fund and interest the sum of $68,200.78, a total of $85,143.51. There was disbursed during the year for death benefits the sum of $57,001, leaving a balance on hand at the end of the year of $28,142.51.