RECENT PHILADELPHIA FIRES.
THE JOURNAL has been criticised because it has pointed out the corruption and inefficiency of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Two big fires recently have demonstrated the truth of our assertions, and Philadelphia begins to find out that the safety of the city depends upon the efficiency of its Fire Department. Since the two recent fires, the Philadelphia papers have indulged in quite as forcible criticism as ever we did. The Bulletin has taken the matter up in earnest, and among other things says:
“There was the old story of bursting hose at the fire, yesterday morning, and the other old story of insufficient water supply. Both stories are told after every large fire, greatly to the discredit of Philadelphia, at large, and to the destruction of property and often of life itself. “ Penny wise and pound foolish ’’ is the working motto of Philadelphia in these respects. We buy the. cheapest, not (he best, hose. We keep it in service long alter the Fire Department knows that it is unfit for use, and we do it in the sacred cause of public economy. Some small demagogue, who happens to he floating on the tide of office, and who is grasping about for straws and chips wherewith to buoy himself along the current of popular favor, distinguishes himself by •• retrenching” the cost of the Fire Department either by refusing to buy new hose when the old is worn out, or by insisting upon buying from the lowest bidder, who may often he the highest bidder, for official votes behind the scenes. The public applaud the Roman virtue of the small but noisy demagogue, and when the time comes for a raging conflagration, spread far and wide by the bursting of the rotten hose, the public has quite forgotten the particular small demagogue who is as responsible for the spread of the flames, as if he had carried the blazing embers into untouched buildings with his own hands. He and his comrades had “ saved the city ” a thousand dollars or so a few years before, and their saving now costs hundreds of thousands in the inevitable result of their stupid and wicked folly. It is impossible to reckon bow much of the destruction in the Sixth Ward, yesterday, is chargeable to this cause; but it cannot he denied that the frequent interruptions of the service, in order to replace hurst sections of hose, while a furious fire was sweeping one point after another within its grasp with lightning rapidity, were fatal to any high efficiency on the part of the Fire Department.
“ The other old story repeated, was the deficient water supply. The general alarm that was sounded was a useless one, for the preceding alarm had brought more Engines to the.scene than could be put into service. There was not water enough and^there very rarely is at any large file. There is apparatus enough in Philadelphia to drown out almost any fire, and there is a body of Firemen capable of carrying the water into any place where men can possibly live, and sometimes where the possibility is terribly small. But with a large river close on either side, Philadelphia has not water enough to feed the Fire Engines, or to meet any other unusual demand. It is considered economical not to spend money in enlarging the water supply. And unfortunately these near-sighted economists are one class and the people who are burnt out in great conflagrations are usually another.
“ There is another reflection suggested by this fire. Our system of attacking fires is yet very imperfect, and some of its imperfections were signally shown yesterday. As the flames poured out across Sixth street, threatening the opposite buildings with apparently certain destruction, the opposite effects of horizontal and vertical streams were well illustrated. A single powerful stream pumped by a stand pipe attached to Mr. Wanamaker’s building to its roof, poured a steady torrent directly into the face of the flames, every drop going directly to the right place. At the same time two of the most powerful Engines in the Department were sending tremendous streams from Sixth street in a nearly perpendicular direction, sweeping far above the tops of the building, but either wasting their force against the blank wall or scattering themselves in spray far above the flames. It may well be questioned whether any large fire was ever extinguished in this city by water thrown into upper windows from the street. The streams strike the ceilings, and not the floors where burning goods are stored, and accomplish nothing. A fire must be fought on its own levels, if it is to be conquered, and until this is done, both by apparatus suitable for the purpose and by seizing the salient points of surrounding buildings, instead of the futile fighting from the street, the system must be confessed to be very inadequate for the work required of it.”
“ TIIK FIREMAN’S DAUGHTER “is the title of a serial story to be commenced in THE JOURNAL January 3. Now is the time to subscribe.