NEW YORK FLAT FIRES.
The discussion that has arisen over the recent serious flat fires in the upper West Side residence district has been lively and forcible. It has been the opportunity of cranks and everybody with a theory. Henry B. Dwight in along article in the Commercial Bulletin sums up the matter in this way: “The evidence left by the fires clearly indicates that they were started by incendiaries, and brings us to the question, How can this danger be stopped at once?”
The great increase in the number of people who live and sleep in apartment houses of this class renders some radical change imperative.
First—Basements should not be accessible to outsiders; the method of having one janitor for a row of buildings, with his rooms in one, and all the other basements left open, so delivery men and others can come and go at pleasure, is all wrong. The entrance to a row of basements from the street should always be through one front door, which should be kept locked and watched.
Second—The location of gas meters should receive more careful attention; it decidedly increases the danger when from six to ten meters, with the soft lead connections, are placed directly over or beside a coal closet, so-called, but which is in reality a small frame room into which the tenants can put any kind of stuff, old furniture, etc., which they want to store. These batteries of gas meters should be in brick or iron closets, or placed entirely away from any accumulation of inflammable stuif.
Third—The question of the disposal of papers and light, inflammable rubbish demands the prompt attention of the city department. During the winter janitors can burn much of this in their furnaces; but as soon as furnace fires stop, this kind of stuff will begin to accumulate.
Whether these and similar fires have been due to rascality or carlessuess or not, the fact remains that an unguarded basement with rows of dry frame closets containing miscellaneous storage of inflammable materials is not a proper place to be used as a public passageway. When we consider the amount of stuff there is to take fire, the careless smoking and use of matches, and the number of thoughtless people who are going through these unguarded basements daily, the only wonder is that there arc not more fires.
If it is impossible to have a janitor on duty all the time, the passage through the basement to the dumb-waiter should be through a fire-proof hallway, enclosed by brick or corrugated iron, or some similar material. If a change is not promptly made, we are sure to have some very costly lessons.
These conclusions arc only another way of stating the truths pointed out by FIHK AND WATER last week. They are applicable not alone to New York but to every city in the country and the comparatively small warnings should be heeded before great destruction and loss of life occur.