Preventable Fire Loss.
In his address to the members of the National Fire Protection association at its recent annual convention President Goddard adverted to the destruction of property by fire in the United States, amounting to an average of $250,000,000 during the past five or six years, to say nothing of the sacrifice of some 3,000 lives annually. He stated that estimates place the destruction of our forests by fire last fall at the rate of $1,000,000 a day for many weeks. A well informed magazine writer, in speaking of the probabilities of serious conflagration losses, says: “Our cities are now so very wooden that the fate that overtook Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco and a portion of Boston, will as inevitably overtake and devastate large portions of every one of our cities.” Another expert uses a striking illustration of our building fires, when he says that, if the 165,000 buildings which are destroyed or damaged by fire in this country each year were allowed a frontage of only 65 ft. each they would line both sides of a street reaching from New York city to Chi cago, and that street is being attacked by fire at the rate of 3 miles each day. In other words, if our fires were concentrated, we should find that we had a very respectable daily conflagration to deal with. He contrasted some American cities and their losses with those of some in Europe. Glasgow had a fire loss in 11108 of $.325,000, and seldom does its loss reach $500,000. Boston, with less popuia tion, has a fire loss of over $2,000,000. Berlin, with a population of 3,000,000, has an annual fire loss of less than $175,000; its fire department costs a little over $300,000. Chicago’s lire loss is $5,000,000. and its fire department costs over $3,000,000, although its population is only about two-thirds that of Berlin. New York city spends $10,000,000 on its fire department, not including $3,000,000 more on its high-pressure service; yet its fire loss runs up to $10,000,000. Statistics similar to these, might be multiplied a hundredfold, but the above are sufficient to emphasise two important facts: First.— The fire waste in this country is certainly of such proportions as to merit earnest consideration. Second.—Comparison with European fire losses clearly shows that the enormous figures in this country arc unnecessary, and also goes far to explain why the insurance rates in this country are many times the rates abroad. It is claimed by those best fitted to form an accurate opinion, that more than 50 per cent, of our fires are due to what may be properly classed as “easily preventable causes”; in other words, are attributable to carelessness. The Boston Herald in an editorial on the Collinwood School holocaust says: “A spasm of horrified emotion has passed over the country as a consequence of the deaths of a crowd of children in the fire which destroyed the Collinwood school at Cleveland. The horror is natural. It is a credit to the country. But the fire and its results were the natural effects of a succession of causes which discredit the country, because they are characteristic of the country. The horror and the sympathy are human; they are common to all civilized communities; the recklessness which caused the unspeakable disaster is American. It has no counterpart elsewhere. The city authorities, the school authorities, all were negligent. Behind their negligence stands the great, gaping negligence of the public, the same negligence that causes annually in the United States more accidental deaths and injuries than three great wars. There is terrific loss of life and limb in this country from preventable causes. No other land shows anything like it or anything approaching it. This is not because of the vastness of our population, but because of its care lessness. We are the most careless people on earth. We permit a looseness of conditions, it recklessness of method, or a method of reck lessness which would not be tolerated in Great Britain or Germany or France. This laxity runs on our railroads, pervades our coal mines, meanders in our mills, asserts itself in the slovenliness of our cities and our vacant lots and is traced directly to our homes along the icy sidewalks to our front doors and the floors of our churches and public institutions. The average American cares no more about the conditions outside the walls of his home than he cares about the conditions on the most distant planet. We are indifferent and unashamed. The spasms of public horror are soon over and forgotten. They accomplish” nothing.”