NEW YORK’S FIRE PERIL.

NEW YORK’S FIRE PERIL.

New York City is the great commercial metropolis of this country. Within its limits are contained hundreds of millions of dollars worth of merchandise, stored in immense warehouses and business blocks, from which the merchants of all sections draw their supplies. So much has been said and written recently in regard to the danger by fire that threatens it at all times, that a representative of THE JOURNAL recently concluded to interview some of the prominent authorities in regard to the means of fire extinction in use. The first person addressed on the subject was Vincent C. King, President of the Board of Fire Commissioners. Herewith we give the substance of the statements made by him, premising the report with the information that Mr. King is not an excessively communicative person.

” Mr. King,” said THE JOURNAL man, ” do you regard the tire extinguishing apparatus in use in this city adequate to the protection of the city, and equal to the requirements of its architectural construction ?”

“Our Fire Department,” replied Mr. King, guardedly, ” I believe to be the best equipped of any in the world. We have the best apparatus known, and will always have the best, and our corps of Firemen arc skilled in the work assigned to

“ But do you consider the apparatus equal in an emergency to protecting the great wealth stored in the city ?”

” It has been very successful in doing so thus far, and 1 don’t know where we can get any better. Fires very seldom get away with us. If the alarm is given promptly, so that our men can get to work before the tire gain* much headway, we never let it get beyond the building in which it originates. With prompt knowledge of the existence of a fire, and a good water supply, wc are confident of our ability to protect the city. What we want is that instant notice of a fire shall be given to us by the Fire Alarm Telegraph. If every person discovering a fire will immediately summon the Department instead of trying to put out the fire themselves, we can be trusted to control it. What we want is that when a person discovers a fire, he shall send in the alarm first, and then do what he can to put out the flames; but the first thing to be done is to send in the alarm.”

” Do you not think Engines of greater capacity could be used to advantage ?”

” They could not be transported so readily, and the present capacity is equal to most occasions. If we need more power, we can Siamese two or three Engines into one line of hose, and so get the power. We do not depend upon fighting fire from the street; our men are expected to carry their lines of hose into buildings, and to the top of them ; to seek out the actual location of the fire, and to.fight it from every point of vantage. With plenty of water we are all right, and it is seldom the water supply runs short. I do not think the water supply adequate to the demands of the city, but the amount used for fire purposes is not great. All we used last year was r.ot equal to one day’s supply for the whole city. There are some matters of detail connected with the Department that might be improved, but we have not money enough to perfect them all at once.”

“ Do you not think that the water of our rivers should be introduced in the streets for fire purposes ?”

I do not. The city requires a greater supply of fresh water, and in obtaining that the wants of the Fire Department will be supplied. I do not think the use of salt water would be good from a sanitary point of view, nor do I think it neces-

John J. Gorman, another of the Fire Commissioners, who has been a Fireman all his life, and is enthusiastic in the business, was next questioned. He is always willing to talk freely on fire matters, and while admitting the superiority of the present system, is a great admirer of the old Volunteer Firemen. In reply to interrogatories similar to those propounded to Mr. King, he discoursed substantially as follows:

“I think the apparatus in our Fire Department and the men in the service the best in the world. Our success in controlling fires proves this. We have no serious conflagrations. There are fires, ot course, in which heavy losses occur, but this comes from the fact that great values are stored in single buildings, and the buildings are not constructed to resist fire. It is seldom that a fire gets beyond the building where it starts. We have devoted much attention to getting our apparatus quickly to a fire, and the recent inspection shows that the average time for hitching up and getting an Engine, a Truck, or a Hose Tender out of the house is less than eleven seconds. Some Companies are much quicker than this, but eleven seconds is the average time throughout the city. If the alarm of fire is sent in promptly, the Engines will be on the spot in a remarkably short space of time. The officer in command can tell at a glance whether he needs assistance, and his instructions are to send out a second or a third alarm if he has even a suspieion that he wants help. We hold the officers to a strict accountability in this matter It is b’tb-r to send a third alarm a d zen timer when the extra appara us is not n ed -ri than to neglect s-ntii ig it once when it is needed. If we get the alarm promptly wc have little difficulty in controlling fires. In a city like ours we expect a good many fin s ; if wc confine them to one building, or extinguish them without srrtous 1 iss we must be conceded to be doing good work. Our apparatus is certainly the best that can be had—we cannot afford to have any oth’ r—and we are always ready to test any new ideas or improvements upon old ones. We used to have Engines of greater capacity, but they were heavy and cumbersome, and could not be got to a fire quickly. Wi h our light Engines we gain much in time. We have’recently purchased a new Engine with larger pumps than ordinary, and I think this is the style we want. We get greater pumping capacity without additional weight.

” What is most needed in this and all other large cities is greater ladder facilities. Owing to the obstructions of elevated railroads, telegraph wires, etc., it is becoming more and more difficult to raise our ladders. There should be a law compelling owners of buildings to affix ladders to their buildings reaching from the roof to wiihin twenty-five or thirty feet of the ground. We could then readily reach them with our short, light ladders, and so gain access to the building. These permanent ladders could be made ornamental, and should be plaeed at every twenty-five feet of street front. II a building is twenty-five feet front, I would have one permanent ladderon it; if it is twenty-six feet front, I would have two such ladders ; and if it is fifty feet front I would only have two. I would also require that iron shutters above the first floor should be left unfastened, or so arranged that the Firemen can readily gain entrance. With these facilities furnished by propertyowners, our work would he mu h more readily performed, and the loss by fire considerably reduced, By means of such ladders we could run our lines of hose to any part of a building on fire in an incredibly short space of time. If wc had to fight fire from the ground, our apparatus would be lacking in capacity; but it is comparatively seldom that a stream is thrown from the street; the hose is stretched in from the Engine, and the pipe enrned as close as possible to the point where the fire is raging. Our men are instructed to locate the exact place where the fire is burning the first thing, and then to put it out quickly with the least damage possible. By enforcing these instructions, the losses by water have been greatly reduced ; we use no mote water than is necessary, and when we think damage has been uunrco sanlv incurred by too much water, we bring the responsible officer to account for it. We have recently made great changes in some of the Enginehouse-. to fat ilitute quick work; every second of time we can save in getting the Engines to a fire is worth thousands of dollars. Our attention is directed rather to preventing c nflayrations than to putting them out after they get going. New York has had nothing in the shape of a conflagration in many years, and this immunity is due to the efficiency of ihe Fire Department. As to the capacity of our Engines, l would rather have two light ones than one heavy one with a capacity equal to the two. They would be more available in reaching fires quickly, and, nine times out ot ten, would have the fire out before the heavy Engine reached the

” But there is one contingency I stand in fear of. That is two serious fires occurring simult neo.isly. At every third alarm of fire a large number of Engines respond, h aving a large portion of the city unprotected during their absence. In case a large fire should require, say, twenty-five Engines, for several hours, and another fire should occur requ ring as many more, the Department could not supply them, and th re would be danger of a co. fl.igiation. This I regard as the greatest peril we are exposed to—several large fir.s occurring at the same time. To remedy this, 1 would have two Engines In each house, and the companies consis ing of sixteen instead of twelve men. Then when an alarm came, twelve men would go out with the first E igme, and the other four would put the reserve Engine i i readiness to tespond to any oth-r alarm that might come in. The district covered bv toe c .mpany would not then be left unprotected. Four men would be able to pul the extra Engine into service, and could always command assistance, in an emergency, from volunteers. I do not consider New York sate while so much territory has to be left unprotected by the withdrawal of Engines to respond to third alarms. 1 hope to se; the day when ail the must dangerous districts will be thus protects 1 bv two Engines instead of one.

” As to thepersonnel of Ihe setvice, it would be difficult to obtain a better class of men than we have at present. The officers are men of experience, who take a pride in their profession, are ambitious to excel, and who maintain a generous rivalry with each other. The men are mostly experienced in the Fire Service, a large proportion of them having served in the old Volunteer Department. Our discipline is strict, and therr is, consequently, few dissipated or immoral men in the service. If tney get in they do not stay long. Their work is 1 .borious and confining. They are r> quired to be in quarters 21 hours out ot every 24, with an occasional ” day off.” At a fire, their work is hard manual labor, accompanied with much excitement. They encounter all sorts of peril, are wet through sometimes for hours, and thus exposed to all manner of sickness. 1 he pay they receive is certainly not too liberal for the labor they perform, the risks they run, and ihe sacrifice of comforts they are obliged to make. They si arcely see their families, and their amusements are few and far between. Taken ail in all, 1 regard the New York Fire Department as the most efficient m the world, and, considering the character of the property it has to guard, the most successful.”

We shall, from time to time, give the opinions of other authorities on fire matters, and shall include some of the views of prominent insurance men.

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