New York Fire Prevention
Three hundrea delegates attended tne fifth annual meeting of tne New York State Conlerence of Mayors and Municipal Othcers, at Auburn, N. Y., last week. Municipal reforms and immprovements were the principal matters discussed in the papers read by tne delegates. Joseph O. Hammitt, of the New York City Fire Prevention Bureau, urged the enactment of a State law making property owners liable for damages for loss of life and the expense in connection with extinguishing conflagrations when such fires occurred through their negligence. Mr. Hammitt urged also that licenses be withheld from theatre managers who fail to comply with the fire prevention requirements. Mr. Hammitt declared that more than fifty per cent of the fires which occur are preventable. “An extensive campaign of education through the country,” said Mr. Hammitt, “showing that each family is being taxed about $27 a year for smoke, would probably awaken the public conscience concerning the supreme importance of fire prevention. More than half of our fires could positively be prevented. This would save the country millions of dollars. There is no excuse or palliation for our enormous fire waste. We have diagnosed the disease; w’e have studied its causes; we have discovered the fire germ, so to speak—its name is carelessness. We have also discovered the remedy—fire prevention. Perhaps you know that in some foreign countries a man on whose premises a fire is started is frequently held responsible for the cost of extinguishing the fire and also for damage to the property of others. I do not know exactly how the laws under which this responsibility is fixed in foreign countries are phrased, but we have in the New York City Charter a provision under which we think that if a fire occurs or spreads because of the absence of precautions required by law or by lawful orders of the fire department, the owner of the premises or person responsible for the violation is liable for the cost of putting out the fire and injuries to firemen sustained in fighting it. No suit had ever been brought under this section of our city charter till the present fire commissioner w’ent into office. We had a disastrous smoke fire in the cellar of a loft building. It could easily have been extinguished by a single company without danger to the firemen if an order of the Bureau of Fire Prevention for the installation of a sprinkler equipment had been complied with. Because of failure to comply with this order the fire department holds that the Greenwood Cemetery Corporation, which owns the building, is responsible for the cost of putting out the fire, and he has brought suit to recover. We expect to bring suit also for the injuries to the firemen.”
Mr. Hammit is the successor of William Guerin, former chief of the Fire Prevnteion Bureau.