Public Support in Fire Prevention
The very interesting and very important address made before the late annual convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers, at Kansas City, Mo., by Jay W. Stevens, manager of the Fire Prevention Bureau of the Pacific, at San Francisco, Cal., appears in our columns in this issue with particular pertinence at this time, considering the near approach of Fire Prevention Day, October 9. Mr. Stevens lays particular stress upon the handicapping effect upon the chief of the fire department that the lack of support of the business men of his community will have. Another matter that he mentions very feelingly is the effect of politics upon fire prevention. He says: “He (Chief Kenlon) asked me: ‘Are you going to be hampered by politics?’ I said: ‘Oh, no; not in the least.’ Little did I know. For I found that, while I had the backing of the administration, and was absolutely friendly with the mayor of the city, I found there were more people to be considered than the mayor, and that there were a great many angles to this political situation. And I want to say here today, that I am of the opinion that politics, or the effect of politics, on fire prevention is very great and causes more fire losses than all the other causes combined.” ‘Phis is strong language, but there is very little doubt that it is justified. Politics —meaning the worst application of that term—is the bane of the chief’s existence, and the one thing above all others that hampers him in his work for fire prevention. Mr. Stevens makes the astonishing assertion that, when his prevention work was beginning to show fruit, a prominent banker came to him and suggested that he “lay off”; that certain individuals were not in sympathy with fire prevention, and required to have fires once in a while. The result was the formation of a Safetv Commission in San Francisco, composed of the best citizens who, with Mr. Stevens’ and Chief Murphy’s assistance, succeeded in arousing public sympathy and interest in the cause. After two years of this campaign, and many convictions, in 1917 the per capita losses had been reduced from the astounding figure of $6.98 to approximately 80 cents. In conclusion, Mr. Stevens suggests that a drive should be inaugurated to create a sentiment in favor of vigorous public backing for the chief of the fire department. In this connection a very important circular letter is published in another column from Chief John Kenlon, president of the I. A. F. E., in which he urges the chiefs to give effective co-operation to the city authorities, the school systems, and all other forces that may be enlisted in a patriotic fire prevention day observance of unprecedented scope and impressiveness. Fire Prevention Day this year should be particularly emphasized, and the people should be led to consider, by every possible means at command, the necessity of looking squarely in the face the terrible truth that America is the one country on the face of the globe that has a fire record entirely out of proportion with the character and ideals of its people. It is the result of carelessness and indifference, pure and simple, and requires only a little education to bring the truth home to the public to correct the evil. This task is up to the fire service to accomplish. GET BUSY!