OPTICS OF THE DAY

OPTICS OF THE DAY

WE print in this issue a paper upon the anchoring of buildings, which attracted much favorable notice when read before the chief engineers at their recent convention, by Henry A. Goetz of New Albany, Ind. The lamentably frequent accidents to firemen from falling walls invest the subject with peculiar interest, and a study of Mr. Goetz’s paper and his plain and clear diagrams will be found instructive.

WOULD-BE tenement house burners have been particularly active in New York city of late, and in several instances it has been by the merest chance that human life has not been sacrificed. Only the other night some fiend started fires with kerosene on all four floors of a house in which twenty persons were sleeping. They were awakened by the yelling of a frightened cat, and the flames were put out; but a little more delay would have meant sure death to some of them. It is about time for a few convictions and severe sentences for arson in this city. This continued immunity from detection and punishment is having its effect, and the criminals are becoming bolder day by day. Let the fire marshal and police wake up.

WE learn from the insurance press that the following circular has been sent by the chief engineer of the Mobile Fire Department to the fire insurance companies doing business in that city :

The efficiency of the new paid fire department of Mobile has been very effectually demonstrated to the public. The activity displayed and the good work done by the department, limited as it is in number of men and of apparatus, is worthy of great praise and of material aid from all good citizens. It is a well-known fact that the remuneration the men of the department receive from the city is insufficient to enable them to provide suitable clothing for the winter, so necessary for them returning from their arduous duties on cold winter nights. This appeal is therefore made to raise funds to procure a winter bedding and uniform for the men, in order that their appearance may be creditable to our city, as well as comfortable to the men themselves. It is believed that were it not so late in the season some entertainment, such as the picnic given by the police department for the same purpose during the past summer, would prevent the necessity of this appeal. A generous response will show the men that their value as an organization is appreciated and will stimulate them to increased zeal and usefulness.

If the facts are as above stated and the firemen of the chief city of Alabama are so ill-paid that they must go humbly, hat in hand, to the insurance companies for money to buy proper clothing, it is a disgrace alike to the authorities and citizens of Mobile, which should be remedied without delay.

NEW ORLEANS’ water supply has been pretty roundly abused before now, but nothing which has heretofore been said of it beats the following from The Picayune’s description of a recent fire which destroyed several houses: “ The Broad street canal, which was only a short distance from the fire, was found to be filled with mud and slush and had no water. The streams thrown on the fire were nothing less than filth from the canal. At one time, owing to the high weeds near the burning buildings, the entire square was threatened with destruction. The firemen were powerless and stood by and looked at the buildings burn down.” From all appearances though, nothing short of a sweeping conflagration will ever stir the people of the Crescent City up to the pitch of insisting upon the improvements in its fire protection which are so sorely needed.

THE determined and costly attempt which was made at Albany to obtain an adequate supply of water from driven wells appears to have failed. The contractors guaranteed a supply of 15,000,000 gallons a day, but as yet from 390 driven wells a supply of but about 6,000,000 gallons a day has been obtained. Professor Mason of the Rensselaer polytechnic institute of Troy, in speaking of the subject recently, stated that Albany needed a supply of 20,000,000 gallons of water daily, and at the rate at which the wells are now yielding it would require about 1200 wells to furnish this quantity. Professor Mason believes the Hudson river to be the only adequate source of supply upon which the city can depend, but says that the river water should be thoroughly purified, and favors the adoption of a complete modern filter plant for this purpose.

THERE was no change of moment in the electric light wire situation in New York city this week. The companies affected have been actively engaged in replacing defectively-insulated wires with new ones, but many streets remain in darkness, relieved only by the occasional red glow from the gas-lamp posts supporting the fire alarm boxes and by lights in the windows of houses and stores. In the parks, however, and many other streets the gas lights are again burning cheerily, and as fast as the gas lamps can be obtained they are being placed on the old posts. Until the injunction proceedings are finished it is difficult to predict what will happen, but Mayor Grant and the public have shown very plainly that they do not propose to be played with any longer, and that safety to life and property will be insisted on in future whatever it may cost.

Baltimore is also becoming alive to the risks from the electric light wires. A press dispatch from that city the other day said :

This city is now agitated by dangers from the electric light wires, and Mayor Latrobe said to-day that steps will be taken to compel the companies to adopt some plan for the protection ol the public. Last night a live electric light wire crossed a wire of the fire alarm department. In consequence a great deal of the fire apparatus in the city hall was destroyed, many alarm boxes were rendered useless, the city was threatened by fire in half a dozen places, a policeman narrowly escaped death and for a long time a large part of the city was left without means to summon engines. The damage to the city’s fire alarm apparatus will amount to about $5000. Superintendent Charles J. McAleese of the city’s fire alarm apparatus, says that the only relief is to compel the companies to put their wires underground. All the principal streets of Baltimore are now a network of wires and the sidewalks are lined by unsightly poles.

COMMENTING upon the recent costly blaze in the Studebaker mansion at South Bend, Ind., caused by the spontaneous ignition of oily rags thrown carelessly into a closet by painters, who had been at work, Building remarks : “ Many other instances might be cited as to the danger of fire from rags, cotton waste and other refuse which contains any oxidizable matter, such as oils, dye stuffs, etc. The total heat generated by an equal amount of oxidation is identical, whether it proceeds at so low a rate as to show its effect only in the change of appearance of the article, or so rapid that the temperature is high enough to consume the substance and ignite the fabric. Architects should exercise the greatest vigilance in demanding the complete removal of all waste material and refuse of every description before making the final certificate on a contract. It is only by taking the most stringent precautions that such a disaster as the above may be unrepeated and unexpected.”

THERE is a strong movement in progress at Montreal in favor of levying the water tax on the propertyowner instead of, as at present, upon the tenant. Investigation among the poorer classes of the city dwellers has revealed a large number of cases where the cutting off of the water from tenements because of non-payment of the tax has wrought great hardship upon the very poor, sick and unemployed, the details in some instances, as published in the daily papers, being most pathetic. Montreal’s system of collecting this tax is beyond question a mistaken and mischievous one. Apart from the suffering which the stoppage of the supply of water must necessarily bring upon many worthy, if unfortunate, persons—and in Montreal some have been forced, we are told, to pawn their household goods in order to pay their water tax and prevent this—the question of the health of the whole community is involved. Lack of water means an accumulation of filth and a generally unsanitary condition of affairs conducive to epidemics of disease. At Montreal was noticed last week a pent-up alley containing eight dwellings. The unpaved yard was covered with garbage, the houses in filthy condition, and that of the tenants nearly as bad. The water, owing to non-payment of the tax, which amounted to $5 and upward for each dwelling, had been shut off for several days. No more favorable conditions could well have been imagined for the starting of a serious epidemic. Again, as we noted not long since, it has been proved that the system of charging the tax to the property not only results in more prompt and full collections, but is a positive advantage to the owner. The sum comes, indirectly of course, out of the pocket of the tenant, but is not appreciably felt by him, and he is not tempted, as is now the case at Montreal, to change his quarters periodically to evade payment of his tax bill. Montreal would unquestionably find a change from its presentmethods of collecting water rates to the advantage of all concerned.

OPTICS OF THE DAY

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OPTICS OF THE DAY

RECENTLY a kerosene lamp exploded in a passenger train running between Buenos Ayres and Rosario, and now the government has decided that the kerosene lamp must go, and that all trains must be lighted with electricity. And yet we in the progressive North, after decades of roasting in wrecked trains, have not yet succeeded in effectually banishing the death-dealing car stove.

THE wholesome water supply for Paris is not sufficient, and to meet the demand the water department pumps directly from the Seine into different parts of the city, for twenty days in one portion and for the same length of time in another, without any warning. The Sanitary News calls attention to the interesting fact noticed in regard to this that an outbreak of typhoid fever follows in about two weeks after the introduction of the water from the Seine.

ONE morning last week the son of Deputy Sheriff Stansbury, living near New Iberia, La., fell from a tree, breaking three ribs and injuring his spinal column. That evening the daughter of the family encouraged the kitchen fire with kerosene, and was terribly burned; her father in extinguishing the fire in her clothing was painfully injured, and the house took fire and, with its contents, was entirely destroyed. So unlucky a day does not often fall to the lot of one family.

AN intelligent coroner’s jury, after hearing all the testimony given in the case of the recent fatal tenement-house fire on Seventh avenue, New York, has brought in a verdict to the effect that the ten unfortunates lost their lives in a fire the origin of which is unknown, and exonerates the suspected restaurant keeper, Snyder, who has consequently been discharged from custody. The testimony of the little Italian, who swore to having seen a man, whose features he did not recognize, in the restaurant throwing burning material upon the floor and pouring some inflammable fluid over it, seems to have carried no weight with it. Snyder, in his own behalf, said that he was outside when the fire broke out, and his cook swore that he also was outside behind the house, and that his employer rushed out to him and bade him alarm the inmates as quickly as possible. The fire department officials and building inspectors who were examined said they believed the fire to have been of accidental origin. Moreover, they asserted that the fire escapes were of excellent construction and as required by law. Consequently that part of the question may be let drop, but we can hardly think that the fire marshal can rest content with the result of the coroner’s inquest. Someone was responsible for the loss of those ten lives, and that responsibility should be fixed.

THE electric light, whose clear, pure beams have done such effective work in lessening crime in our cities, was the other night made the innocent accomplice and helper of a bold and bad man. He was confined in the prison at San Quentin, Cal, and did not like his quarters. Having charge of the electric lights, he so arranged the carbons that during the night the lamps gave out. As he expected, he was called upon to attend to them, but, instead of doing so, knocked the guard down and escaped under cover of the darkness.

WILL our e. c., The Fireman’s Herald, kindly tell us where it got the little piece of information which recently appeared in its columns to the effect that the Atlanta Fire Department is to be changed “ from a part paid volunteer to the full paid system ? ” As far as our knowledge goes, the Atlanta Fire Department has been a full paid force since July, 1882, with eleven men in each company. The item in our e. c., doubtless rather surprised Chief Joyner, who certainly might be excused for thinking that a firemen’s paper should know at least that much about one of the crack fire departments of the country.

SECRETARY HENRV A. HILLS of the National Association of Fire Engineers, writes us to explain why he has as yet issued no notice regarding reduced railroad fares for delegates to the National Association meeting at Kansas City. He says that as early as April last he wrote to the Trunk Line, the Central Traffic and Western States railroad associations asking them for reduced rates. The Western States Association has granted a ij4 rate for the round trip, but neither of the other associations has responded to Secretary Hills’ request as yet. We trust that this is an oversight on their part, which will be remedied while there is still time. It certainly would be a rather small piece of business on the part of the railroad companies to refuse so small a favor to the firemen of the country, to whom the companies so often find themselves so deeply indebted for voluntary and valuable services.

COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS GILROY of New York has sent to the board of electrical control and all of the gas, steam and subway construction companies copies of a list of all streets about to be repaired. He calls upon them to at once proceed with any work contemplated in the way of laying any new mains or connections, or in fact anything which may involve disturbing the surface, and notifies them that after the new pavements are down no laying of new mains will be allowed and permits for repairs granted only in cases of absolute necessity. This is beyond doubt the only proper course to take in order to keep the repaved streets in any kind of decent condition.

WE are asked by a Southern correspondent the requirements as to size, weight, age, etc., for admission to membership in the New York Fire Department. To become a fireman in New York a man must be not more than thirty years of age. He must be at least five feet seven inches in height, and at that height he must weigh 140 pounds and measure thirty-three inches around the chest. If five feet eight inches in height, his weight must be 145 pounds and his chest measurement thirty-four inches. For each additional inch in height, an increase of five pounds in weight and one-half inch in chest measure is required ; and it will thus be seen that, to enter the New York Fire Department, a man must be well proportioned, but not necessarily of more than medium size.

RECENTLY the cable brought news of a fire which destroyed something like twelve hundred houses in the town of Ostrog, Poland. The town was built principally of wood, was utterly destitute of means for fighting the fire, and the flames had full sway till outside assistance from neighboring towns arrived. A number of persons perished in the fire, one falling building burying about thirty. To add to the horror of the scene robbers from within and without the town fell upon those shops which had survived the flames and pillaged them, so that the military had to be summoned to keep them in check. Conflagrations of this nature are a perfect godsend to the lawless classes in Poland. In the general panic no one thinks of driving them away from their prey, and when at last the soldiers come upon the scene they are charged with the double task of helping to put out the fire and guarding the property. According to those who travel among them, none of the inhabitants of these Polish villages think of helping their neighbors in time of danger, all being bent upon saving their own few chattels.

EVERY now and then some inventor comes forward with a new invention in the shape of a smoke mask for firemen, or such like device, and occasionally also with a fireproof suit of clothing. These devices, although frequently tested, have not been looked upon with favor by firemen in general, the old “smoke-chewers” preferring to gauge the density of the smother by their own lungs rather than depend upon mechanical apparatus, while as for fireproof garments it has not been found practicable to manufacture asbestos cloth light enough to be comfortable or convenient. Prom Berlin, however, it is now announced that a fire and smokeproof suit has recently been tested there with success, and it is thought that they will prove of great service for purposes of life saving. The test was made in the open air by having a lane made of fir branches and other combustible material sprinkled with petroleum. Two men, clad in the suits, which are made of jute and impregnated with a chemical, and with straw shoes, also impregnated, while covering their heads with a straw cap, with two glasses for the eyes, walked several times through the lane of fire, which gave off such a heat that the spectators had to retire some distance. A third man, who covered himself with a fireproof cloak over his ordinary clothes, carried a rabbit in a fireproof satchel, and afterwards a couple of pigeons, through the lane of fire, all returning safely and none the worse for the experiment, because such devices have not hitherto proved successful in America is no reason why they should not be perfected and become of service in some cases. It is said that a number of additional trials will be made at Berlin with these suits, and their issue will be looked for with interest.

AMONG the electrical plants recently established on the continent of Europe one of the most remarkable is in operation near Lake Lucerne, Switzerland. About 1200 feet above the lake, says The American Architect, on the Burgenstock, is a hotel, which is now connected with the steamboat landing on the shore by means of a cable railroad which uses electricity as a propelling force. The track is laid at an angle with the horizon which reaches thirty-eight degrees in some places, and the cars, in trains of two, are dragged up this slope, and around the surprising curves which diversify the line, by means of a series of endless ropes, driven by a huge wheel at the top, which is itself driven by an electric motor supplied by a current from three dynamos placed near the shore of the lake and actuated by turbine wheels. The turbines derive their force from the stream known as the Engelbcrger Aa, which here falls into the lake, and the current from the dynamos serves not only to operate the railway, but to light the hotel and the neighboring roads and to drive the pumping machinery by which the settlement is supplied with water.

WE New Yorkers have a good fire department, as is universally conceded ; but it comes high, that is indisputable. It was thought that the appropriation for 1889, $2,136,043, was pretty large, although it was given without grudging, as it was felt that the needs of the service demanded it. This year, however, the amount asked by the fire commissioners for the expenses of 1890 is $2,360,492. Of this sum, $1,362,467 is for the salaries of the active members of the engine and hook and ladder companies. In addition to the salaries of the chief of the department, his assistants, the officials at headquarters and the cost of maintenance of the combustible bureau, fire marshal’s bureau, etc., the building bureau is put down as needing $106,900, and the fire telegraph bureau $30,920. The amount asked for the repair shop is $69,005 ; for the hospital and training stable, $8070 ; for the completion of the new fire boat, $43,000 ; for new houses for engine and hook and ladder companies, $100,000 ; for placing the department wires in the subways, $100,000, and for apparatus, supplies, etc., $406,000. Questions as to the cost of maintaining the New York Fire Department are so frequently asked by subscribers and correspondents that we take occasion to put these figures prominently upon record. We would note, however, that the estimates of the fire commissioners are usually cut down to some extent by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and that these must not be quoted as having been already appropriated.

IT looks just now as if by the end of the year the people of this country would begin to have a fair idea of the feelings of the contemporaries of Noah. Flood has followed flood, dam after dam has gone down before the rush of waters, with damage more or less severe to property and the loss of many valuable lives. The latest disaster of this nature was the bursting of the Spring Lake reservoir, about fifteen miles from Providence, R. I., which supplied the row of mill villages along the Pawtucket river. The immediate cause of the breaking of the dam is not yet known, but one man having seen the embankment go, and he was at some distance from it. The lake contained about 35,000,000 gallons of water and covered an area of eighteen acres of ground. The dam was 925 feet long, 17 feet 9 inches high, 8 feet wide at the top and 35 feet wide at the bottom, and was composed of clay and gravel in layers and puddled. The water poured itself out, leaving a gap over sixty feet in width, and rushed down over the lowlands, which were fortunately sparsely settled, until it emptied into the Pawtucket. Three persons were overtaken by the flood and drowned, while others had narrow escapes; owing to the nature of the country which lay in the course of the torrent, the damage to property, however, was limited to about $25,000. The rapid rise in the Pawtucket river caused great alarm to people along its banks; it was thought that the Ponegansett reservoir, the largest in the State, had burst, and the villagers at first left their houses and fled in dismay. This occurrence will not tend to quiet the nerves of the dwellers in many cities and towns conveniently placed for a flood, beneath the level of large reservoirs, and who have been kept since the Johnstown horror in a state of constant apprehension of disaster. It certainly emphasizes the need of an early and most careful examination of all such structures.