New York Fires Down, Losses Up
The 1956 report of the New York Fire Department submitted by Commissioner Edward F. Cavanagh, Jr., to Mayor Robert F. Wagner shows a significant drop in the number of fires over a period of three vears. The report shows that in 1953 there were 54,392 fires and in 1956, a total of 44,511, a drop of 9,881 in three years. The commissioner said the reason for the drop was due to the cooperation of the citizens with the fire department, increased fire prevention inspections and the activities of the fire prevention education program.
Commissioner Cavanagh said that the fire prevention program was marked by increased activity in 1956. Fire inspections rose from 867,774 in 1955 to 1,032,258 in 1956, or a 19 per cent increase.
Fire losses in 1956 totalled $27,738,380. This exceeded the 1955 losses by $3,997,495. The increase is more than accounted for by the Wanamaker fire in July and the Luckenbach pier fire in December. The commissioner said that both of these fires were caused by carelessness and neglect of safety precautions.
The effectiveness of the fire fighting force was shown by the fact that 44,492 of the 44,511 fires were confined substantially to the area involved at the time the men and apparatus arrived.
Of the 44,511 fires, 19.680 were extinguished without engine streams; 368 by sprinklers and 22,290 with a single engine stream. There were 262 second alarms transmitted, 72 third alarms, 20 fourth alarms, six fifth alarms and two simultaneous alarms. The 362 major alarms were 114 fewer than in 1955. The department used 87,211.583 gallons of fresh water and 24,350,380 gallons of salt water for fire extinguishment purposes.
Fatal fires decreased to 105 which was 17 fewer than in 1955. These fires caused the deaths of 131 men, women and children, a decrease of 23 under 1955.
There were four fatal fires caused by kerosene heaters which resulted in four deaths. This is a marked improvement over 1955 when 26 persons died in 12 such fires.
Careless smoking accounted for the largest number of deaths—43. Of these, eight resulted from smoking in bed. Children playing with matches caused 13 deaths. Sparks from an oxyacetvlenc torch were responsible for the death of 10 persons at the Luckenbach pier.
Incendiary fires increased from 204 in 1955 to 294 in 1956, or 44 per cent. Suspicious fires increased from 224 in 1955 to 243 in 1956. Arrests for arson numbered 156 and 119 convictions were obtained.
A number of other progressive accomplishments of the department were noted. During the past year the instructional facilities were greatly expanded and the in-service training for probationary firemen was started. Shifts in population centers were met by redistribution of manpower and apparatus. Safety belts and smoke masks were installed on all apparatus.
The commissioner reported with regret that during the year 13 firemen died in the line of duty and 219 other members performed deeds of great heroism.