The old-fashioned idea of drowning out a fire belongs to the past. More science, more intelligent action, is needed, and this depends upon a thorough knowledge of at least the elements of building construction. All this is necessary to reduce the heavy losses by fire and water, and accidents and fatalities among firemen.

Office buildings in this city, and in general, are commonly grouped under two classifications: fireproof and non-fireproof. The non-fireproof class are usually from four to seven stories high, of brick and wooden joist construction. In most of these buildings will be found open wooden stairways, open elevator shafts, wooden lath and plaster partitions and ceilings, and large light shafts, generally in center. The contents of offices are nearly all highly combustible, and in many cases the electric wiring is exposed. These buildings were erected years ago, all the timbers are dry, and the spread of fire therein is very rapid. When fire occurs in one of the offices, should it extend to the halls, you can see the immense danger of the entire building being involved, and of possible communication to exposed adjoining buildings. The thing to do, of course, is to confine that fire within the room of origin and extinguish it with as little water as possible. If this is not done and the fire extends into the hall, other offices are immediately involved, the fire travels at high speed along the hallway, up through the light shaft and open stairway, the elevators are cut off, the building becomes a furnace and a most serious condition arisen.

Night Fires and Day Fires

The night fire is most dangerous to property; fire in the day time, most dangerous to life. We will consider each. Fire at night may gain great headway and extend laterally through unprotected window openings and communicate to adjoining buildings before being discovered. Fires in the day time are more easily detected, and alarms are usually received before fire gains much headway. The danger is to life, as many people are housed in these buildings and may be endangered if fire gains much headway. The first thing to be done is the rescuing of the occupants. You may find them trapped above the floor on which the fire occurs. Ladders should be raised immediately to windows on street front and in rear, if practicable, providing every possible avenue of escape. Never forget that life must be saved, and it is up to you to save it. There must be no delay in action and no fault in judgment. The occupants must be removed as quickly as possible, and streams put on the fire.

Plan of Fighting the Fire

In fighting the fire you must try and hold it within the office in which it originated, and every effort made to prevent it from extending laterally to adjoining buildings, or vertically to other floors. Remember, there are four sides to the building, and rear and side exposures are more dangerous because of the close proximity of other buildings and, frequently, unprotected window openings. Examine rear and sides at once so as to guard against communication. If you are the first officer to arrive, and in command, find out what is in the rear of the buildings, and what is on the sides. The building may be between loft buildings or skyscraper office buildings, and if so they must be carefully guarded to prevent fire entering them.

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You will occasionally find another type of narrow building, sometimes 200 feet long and placed tightly between two high skyscraper office buildings. Fire originating in this narrow building may run its entire length before being discovered. The heat from the fire may be so intense that it may radiate through shutters or windows of the high adjacent buildings creating fire in them. Fire leaps up side walls to considerable height and communicates to window frames and contents. Cut out window frames that show fire and operate house lines from windows above fire, and don’t forget to dose shutters or windows on all exposed window openings. At a fire in Maiden Lane recently, the fire occurred on the seventh floor, and the people on the ninth floor were in the act of leaping from the windows. The elevator shaft was charged with smoke and fumes and the occupants above the reach of our ladders. Companies forcing their way up the stairway above the fire directed them to stairway and safety. None of these people had ever used the stairway or known the location of them and depended entirely upon the elevators. This is a most common condition.

At the Union Trust Company fire a truck company started to go to the floor beneath the fire, using the elevator. The fire was on the sixth and seventh floors, and the elevator operator intended to stop the elevator as ordered on the fifth floor, he found he could not do so, and the elevator continued on up the shaft to the ninth floor. Not only that, but it did not stop at the floor, but midway between floors. The company had to break down the elevator door to get out of the floor, and found themselves two floors above a most serious fire, and in great peril. This plainly illustrates the fact that elevators cannot be depended upon when fire is raging in upper floors of buildings. As a precautionary measure use the stairs should there be considerable fire on a floor in a building of this type with open shafts, and stairways. The fire may at any moment communicate to halls and then extend to shafts, and if fire does not, the heat surely will, and may expand the drum and cable on top of shaft making the machinery inoperative. This may occur on your way up to the seat of the fire in an open shaft such as occurred at the above fire. In fighting a fire in this type of bulding, especially when the fire is a small one, use the house line and don’t delay by taking them off and putting on your own line. Very little water will be necessary for an ordinary office fire.

If the fire requires it do not hesitate to send in a second or greater alarm for assistance, and connect your own lines to outlets below the fire by using stairway and fire escapes. If you are the second due company and the fire is a high one take a couple of lengths of hose and nozzle up with you, as a lot of time can be saved by being ready to go to work when ordered to, in place of climbing up to the twelfth floor and then going all the way back to the street again and returning to the fire floor with your hose. All of this time could be saved in the first instance by taking your hose up with you in reporting in.

Buildings Over 150 Feet High.

Buildings over 150 feet high are treated as a distinctive class because they are by law required to eliminate all burnable material in their construction. In addition to this they are required by law to install fire pumps with sufficient capacity to deliver fire streams at their highest elevation. The modern skyscraper is constructed of steel frame, brick walls, stone fronts, flooring and roofs filled with fireproof material, stone and iron enclosed stairways. Enclosed fireproof elevator shafts, hollow tile or terra cotta partitions, and wire glass. There are many buildings in New York above 150 feet high, the principal ones of which are the Metropolitan, Woolworth, Singer, Equitable, and Bankers Trust. With this kind of construction fires do not spread as rapidly as in the older type high office building. The stairways and elevator shafts are in a fire proof enclosure, the window frames and partitions are fireproof, and in most cases the contents such as desks and filing cabinets, etc., are metal. Fire should easily be confined to point of origin and its extension prevented to other offices.

The fire pumps installed in these buildings are of not less than 1,000 gallons capacity, and are used for fire purposes only, thus providing four fire streams such as are required by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, namely 50 pounds nozzle pressure on a 1 1/8-inch nozzle, giving approximately 250 gallons per minute each. These pumps are under the care and supervision of trained engineers and in most of the buildings the porters and engineering force constitute a fire force of the building. In many cases employees use no judgment when operating fire streams and much damage is done before arrival of our department by excessive use of water. Of course the fire department is blamed. Have these lines shut off immediately on your arrival if in operation, as they are all provided with open nozzles.

Method of Operating.

When you go to a fire in such a building, you must ascertain just where your fire is, at what level and determine pressure necessary at source of supply. Don’t forget the fire pumps in the building, and make use of them. The pumps in these high buildings can furnish streams for outside fire protection if called upon. At the fire in the Equitable building, the Singer building pumps, two blocks away, delivered effective fire stream for twelve hours continuously. The water in such cases as these is metered and the owners of the buildings pay for such water used, so they should not be used in this manner except in cases of absolute necessity. Don’t forget that the standpipes and house pumps are installed in buildings for use of interior fires and protecting the building from other exposed buildings, and use lines and pumps necessary.

At a recent test of the pumps of the new Equitable building four fire streams with 1 1/8-inch nozzle were operated at a level of 515 feet from street grade, pump delivering over 1,000 gallons a minute, and nozzle pressures varying from 40 to 55 pounds. This building has no intermediate tanks, and reducing valves are installed in stand pipe fire lines to regulate pressure at different levels, so that at no time should there be more than 50 pounds at each floor outlet. In ordgr to test the reliability of the reducing valves, a line of hose was connected to outlet at grade level, valve at outlet opened, and the pressure at nozzle showed 125 pounds. This clearly indicated that the reducing valves were ineffective. So don’t depend upon the reducing valves giving you the calculated pressure at any level, but be on the safe side and open valves at outlet very slowly.

Now as to pressure required at fire level, you know you have no time to figure out exactly the pressure required, but you are all familiar with the simple rules given by the New York Fire College. A difference of a few pounds at the nozzle makes little difference as long as you are on the safe side. If you use the rules given you, you will be able to give intelligent results. The formulas give very nearly the correct values. We are not hydraulic engineers and don’t expect the figures we get regarding pressures will be absolutely accurate, but we should be able by a rapid mental calculation to closely approximate the nozzle pressure desired. Suppose the pressure on the high pressure system when you arrive at a fire is 125 pounds, and the fire is burning on the eighteenth floor. Do not wait until you arrive at the eighteenth floor and find you have insufficient pressure, but order whatever pressure you consider necessary before you start, and do this whether working with high pressure, fire engine, or house pumps.

Another thing, steam fire engines have a certain capacity at certain pressure. We know that the maximum pressure is 200 pounds, and that the maximum pressure of the high pressure system is also 300 pounds. We also know that 300 pounds pressure at grade level will not give an adequate fire stream at the top of the Woolworth building. We do know, however, that the house pumps have sufficient capacity, and that a motor pumping fire engine will do it. At a recent test conducted by this department at the Woolworth building, a motor pumping engine assigned to Engine Company 35, was connected to a double hydrant and two 3-inch lines connected to Siamese connection of a 6-inch standpipe in building. Pump pressures ranging from 400 to 450 pounds were developed on pump of engine and at an elevation of 730 feet above grade level two efficient fire streams were operated, with nozzle readings as follows: 1 1/8-inch nozzle. 67 pounds; 1-inch nozzle, 69 pounds. Two engines of this type are located in Manhattan, one at Engine 65, the other at Engine 35, and can be called if required.

*Copyright, 1918, by Fred Shepperd.

Suppose there was a fire at a high level in the Woolworth building and the house pumps only were depended upon to furnish the supply, as the fire is above the capacity of the fire department equipment on hand. As a factor of safety, should this condition be found, it might be well to special call a motor pumper of the above type, while operating, so that if house pumps became inoperative, on which you are entirely dependent, you would be in a position to procure sufficient pressure without delay. It may not be of sound judgment to raise the pressure on the high pressure system to its maximum of 300 pounds and maintain it at such for any length of time, especially for a small fire on top of a high building where a high pressure was necessary to reach the seat of a fire. A heavy pressure may result in a break in the system and be dangerous to firemen and others, in the event of another fire in the high pressure zone, and this must be considered very carefully.

For interior fires in these buildings above the fifth floor use the standpipe and get in touch with the engineer and start the house pumps in operation. Don’t stick to the rule of connecting to outlet on floor below in fires in these buildings if you can get a line to work from the standpipe outlet on the fire floor, for this may eliminate the laying of long lines and save time. These buildings cover large area, the stairways are all enclosed, the hallways are long, and the nearest outlet should be used as there are several on each floor.

Regarding Siamese connections, if you arrive at a fire and cannot connect to the Siamese connection, don’t waste time, but go inside the building and connect to the first outlet on standpipe as taught in company school. If the fault should be in the caps on the Siamese, keep a man at them until they are removed. This is very important as the fire may gain headway and the Siamese must be used to avoid long stretches, and provide sufficient volume. In making inspections of Siamese connections, impress upon your men the importance of having them ready for instant use, and that the caps are lubricated and easily removable; that the Siamese connection is of the standard design as called for by this department. This is very important as at a test recently a Siamese connection burst at 150 pounds pressure. This would be a serious condition with a high fire where both a heavy pressure and volume is required.

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A new high pressure pumping station installed more especially for use by fire apparatus in case of fire, has been completed, in the town of Enola, Pa. In addition to the added fire protection afforded by the new pump, it will be of great benefit to the town in case of water shortage in hot weather.