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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A bureau of violations under an official with legal training for the purpose of enforcing regulations in the case of violations.
- 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.