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.