PORTSMOUTH NEEDS BETTER FIRE EQUIPMENT
Commenting on the possibilities of fire at Portsmouth, O., the engineers of the National Board of Fire Underwriters say: “The principal mercantile district is in two sections which do not expose each other, but each is subject to serious sweeping fires because of the weak construction from a fire prevention standpoint, the absence of fire breaks and the inadequate fire-fighting facilities. Manufacturing plants are isolated or in small groups presenting no conflagration hazard. In the compactly built frame residential sections there is the usual serious hazard of flying brands on the shingle roofs.”
Portsmouth has a population estimated at 28,000; is located on the Ohio river and covers an area of 3.47 square miles, about 75 per cent, of which is built upon. The waterworks, which were built in 1871-1872, are municipally owned, and are under the superintendency of Job L. Philips, who has been in charge for the past six years. The supply from the Ohio river is pumped from one station, direct to a single system of distribution. The greater portion of the city is rather flat and 40 to 50 feet above normal river level; numerous hills, rising 200 to 300 feet above the city, are scattered along the corporate limits to the north and east. Street elevations range from 526 to 573. In one service, supplied by direct pumping from a single station; area supplied is mostly flat, with elevations ranging from 526 to 573; average elevation of principal mercantile district, 532. A 12 and a 16-inch main leave the pumping station in opposite directions and extend for very short distances into the distribution system; two 10-inch branches extend through the older section of the principal mercantile district; the newer section is fed only through 6-inch mains. Two 10-inch branches extend short distances into other parts of the system, and a 12-inch main is laid in the northern part of the city; these are not looped or connected except through the gridiron system, which is poor and consists largely of 4 and 6-inch pipe, with a very small amount of 8-inch. Dead ends are frequent in the outlying parts of the system and long unsupported lines of small pipes, 1,000 feet or more in length, are numerous, except in and around the center of the city. All pipe is tarcoated cast iron. The oldest pipes have been in service nearly 40 years, but a considerable portion of the old 4-inch pipe has been replaced by 6-inch in recent years. There are 36 miles of mains. During the past four years, pipe has been purchased from catalogue weights, slightly in excess of those of the American Waterworks Specifications, Class B. Pipe is supposed to be subjected to a hydrostatic test pressure of 300 pounds, and be suitable for a working pressure of 86 pounds; it is hammer tested at the trench, but not subjected to pressure before back-filling. In the principal mercantile district the average length of main that it Would be necessary to cut out in case of a single break is 1,010 feet, with four out of 25 sections in excess of 1,400 feet and a maximum of 4,250 feet. In a representative residential district, the average was found to be 1,000 feet, with a maximum of 3,600 feet. Valves have never been thoroughly inspected, but are operated frequently in connection with the flushing of hydrants. An inspection of some 50 valves in different sections of the city by National Board engineers, in January, 1012, indicated that they were generally in good operative condition; several leaked through stuffing boxes in operation, and one 16-inch valve could not be operated by two men. The fire department is notified by telephone when valves effecting hydrant supply are closed for more than a short time. The records of the department gave 183 public hydrants in service January 15, 1012; all are of the post type, have two 2 1/2-inch hose outlets, 4 or 4 1/2-inch barrels, and 4-inch connection to main. With few exceptions, valves are not placed on branch connections. The makes are about evenly divided between the two types of Holly (old and improved) and the Bourbon; those of the latter make have swinging valves over outlets, which in a great many cases were found partly closed, and unless carefully watched are likely to interrupt the flow during fires. The average linear spacing of hydrants in the principal mercantile district is 455 feet, and the area served by each, 160,000 square feet. In a representative residential district, the average spacing is 530 feet, and the area served by each hydrant was 184,000 square feet. There are 38 brick fire cisterns, of which 15 are in and adjoining the principal mercantile district. They have an average storage capacity of 8,000 gallons, and. with one exception, have 4-inch gated connections to water mains. Owing to the generally inadequate supply from hydrants, cisterns are very largely depended upon for fire engine supply. Tests at i8 hydrants in six well distributed groups were made by National Board engineers, in January, 1012, to determine the probable supply available for fire protection purposes. Only three hydrants were included in a group, as a greater number would overload the pumps, which were in very unreliable condition; the hydrants in a group were opened simultaneously and the free discharges measured by means of Pitot tubes. Tests were made as nearly as possible under conditions as they would exist during fires and between the hours of 8:30 and 10:30 a. m. Insufficient quantities, and at pressures much too low for effective streams direct from hydrants, were obtained in all of the tests, including those made in the principal mercantile district. All tests failed to show an average discharge per hydrant of 600 gallons, a fair supply for a second size engine. During tests near the pumping station, pressures at the pumps were lowered 10 to 15 pounds, owing to insufficient pumping capacity.
THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.
The fire department is full-paid and consists of 23 men, under Chief Charles E. Hancock, appointed in January, 1912. Charles E. Duels is assistant chief. One ladder and three engine companies are in service at three stations. An engine and a ladder company are located within one block of the principal mercantile district, but are over 3,000 feet from some points within it. An automobile combined engine and hose wagon is located within approximately one mile of the center of the district and the remaining engine company about 1 1/2 miles distant. Streets to the business and important manufacturing buildings are mostly paved and grades arc moderate. The ladder truck and the automobile engine respond to all alarms in the city. One of the steam engines was purchased in 1904, and the other rebuilt with a new boiler in 1905; one is equipped with automatic relief valve, and each with one length of stiff suction provided with strainer and a reducer for connection to 2 1/2-inch outlets on hydrants; each is provided with a heater. A Webb automobile fire engine, purchased in 1911, is in service as engine 2; it carries 30 gallons of gasolene in two tanks: no supply of gasolene is kept at the station. Tests made by National Board engineers showed the engines to be in very poor condition; coal was of poor grade and the stoker of No. 1. inexperienced; the automobile engine was not well handled and could not be kept cool when running under full load. As a result of the tests, the engines were overhauled; owing to weather conditions, another test could not be made, but at a fire occurring a few days later the steam engines delivered two streams each and were in good condition; the automobile engine delivered only one stream. The truck carries a 65-foot manual-raising aerial, and seven other ladders. It is fairly well provided with minor equipment, but does not have rubber tires and is in need of repair. The hose reels are in rather poor condition. The automobile engine carries hose; it has pneumatic tires and carries an extra one.
Water Supply.—Municipal ownership; management and organization poor. Records very incomplete. River supply ample. Pumping capacity insufficient and unreliable; station nonfireproof and poorly protected. Consumption high. Domestic pressures fair; fire pressures poorly maintained even under small draft. Distribution system poor and very deficient in carrying capacity. Mains contain excessively large quantities of sediment. Gate valves in good condition; spacing wide. Hydrants in poor condition; all of too small dimensions; spacing poor.
Fire Department.—Full-paid. Discipline and efficiency fair; training of new men insufficient. Companies undermanned. Engines in fairly good condition, but of inadequate total capacity; other apparatus in rather poor condition; minor equipment inadequate. Hose supply insufficient; no 3-inch hose in use. Response to alarms fairly well arranged, considering the small amount of equipment. Fire methods fair, but no salvage work done and chemical equipment practically lacking. No inspections. Records, as now kept, satisfactory.
The annual report of Carl E. Stromquist, superintendent of Coffeyville, Kas., makes an excellent showing, and contains complete data of the plant for the year 1911. He gives the valuation of the system as $191,271, the total receipts from water users $30,491.39, and operating expenses $22,745.25, leaving a net profit of $7,746.41. The city has a population of 15,000, while its number of services is only given as 1,000 and the number of meters in use as 765. The number of gallons pumped per day for 1911, was 1,833,480, and the daily consumption per capita is 122. The per cent, of commercial users metered is 95.6, and per cent, of domestic consumers metered 39.6. There is an outstanding bonded indebtedness of $50,500.