Relation of a Municipality to the Fire Department.

Relation of a Municipality to the Fire Department.

In a paper read before the convention of the Illinois State Firemen’s association at Edwardsville E. B. Glass, former mayor of the city, treated of the “Relation of a municipality to the Are department.” In it he recalled some of his experiences as a volunteer fireman of the city—one not of the pleasantest, which had set him thinking what the municipality of Edwardsville was doing for him at that time. He had indeed been released of his poll-tax—$2; but, instead, had had $40 worth of clothes ruined while operating on a fire and been fined fifty cents because, being wet through, he had gone home after the work was done without first reporting at the engine house at roll call. He had, therefore, left the department. Afterwards, however, he came to the conclusion that, as a citizen, he would do all he could in case of fire to put the fire out. In course of years, on becoming mayor of the city, he did all he could to encourage and help the firemen, but found himself handicapped in many ways, and chiefly “because the laws were not adequate to meet the demands of the times.”

The mayor proceeded as follows:

“The relations existing between the municipality and the firemen should be mutmlly agreeable. Extremes should be avoided by either party, and anything that would lead to disagreements will eventually lead to defective service, a want of interest on the part of the aldermen or the firemen, or both, and sometimes through rash and inconsiderate action on the part of either will lead to a feeling of trying to ‘get even’ with somebody, which will eventually border on little less than a spirit of revenge. No good can come out of such a state of affairs. In speaking as I do, I have reference more particularly to where we have volunteer companies. A glance at our laws will convince us that more attention and care have been taken to provide systems in the cities of 50,000 and over than has been done for the smaller places. In those cases it provides for paying for services, and in old age, or after a service of twenly-two years, benefits are provided for them, and in case of death, funds are provided for their families and small children to protect them from want—a per cent. of all licenses collected by the municipalities being set apart for such purpose. But we have no wise provision under the laws for the benefit of the volunteer firemen adequate to the demand of the ever-growing progress of the smaller cities, villages, and towns. In late years the legislature has seen fit to give municipalities the power to tax a two per centum on all foreign insurance companies doing business in such places. This tax in some cities may amount to considerable, while in others it is a trivial amount. Vet the intention of the legislature, so far as it went, was good. And the theory of this law is that insurance companies are benefited to that extent in the saving of losses by fire by the fire companies. We may ask what kind of companies, and the answer comes, in the majority of cases, by volunteer firemen. It is proverbial in this country that if you ask for little, you will get but little, and if firemen ask for little, they will get but little: in many cases, if they ask for much they will get but little anyway, if not told to ‘go way back and sit down.’ * * * that the safest way to get the citv council to do their duty is to ask for everything ’ in sight, and then you may get ‘a hand out.’

“While I do not believe in extravagance on the part of the municipality. I know of no arm of the city government which can be strengthened to better advantage than that of the fire department by liberal and judicious expenditures along the proper lines. By doing so a fire company can be made both useful and ornamental. When I see a city trying to put on airs without a No. I fire company, it puts me in mind of a peacock trying” to strut without its tail feathers. The municipality should see that the men are of a required standard and equipped with neat uniforms, not gaudy and expensive, and supplied with the most modern and improved appliances for firefighting. Money expended in this manner is not wasted, for it can be saved many times over to the people and the insurance companies. At the first glance, such expenses to the public eye may seem extravagant: but they are not. as the best is always the cheapest. And when the department goes away from home to a contest it should be under the charge of competent, sober, and gentlemanly officers, who will enforce proper discipline over the men. Such a company will be the pride of the citizen and a splendid advertisement to the city it represents, both at home and abroad, and in these days of advertising the municipality should keen in the lead. The citv doing this will be heard from and greatly benefited in the public estimation. Such a company, on returning home from victories won, will be met at the depot by every public-spirited citizen, eager to shake hands with the boys and say. ‘Well done, our good and faithful servants!’

“I want to ask here, How many of our members of the city council are elected upon the idea or theory of benefiting the fire department; or who have any well defined ideas of the duties required of them upon this subject? I am almost forced to answer the question by saying, None. In some cities, how ever, there may be exceptions to the rule. As a generalthing, the salaries of the city officers are so small that capable and competent business men will refuse to stand for election, and the result is that designing men get out candidates for the purpose of beating, or getting even with somebody for some fancied or imaginary wrong, or else they have an axe to grind, and no purpose of benefiting the city government. The result is damaging in the extreme, and no good results from such action. I believe that in our State all cities under 50,000 population should be classified in some manner whereby it should be made by law the duty of the municipal officers to provide by some system of taxation a fund, whereby men disabled in the discharge of their duty could be provided for to some extent, or, in case of death, that the wife and small children could at least reap some benefits: and, furthermore, to make some provision whereby, when it became necessary for firemen to visit tournaments, etc., that there could be a standing fund to draw on for the purpose, so that they would not be subject to the liberality or the penuriousness of the city council, as the case may lie. The money raised at balls and picnics always comes out of the firemen’s pockets and out of those of their friends, and not from the property protected by firemen. The expenses of fire companies should fall upon the property, not upon indi viduals.

“Officers of municipalities and firemen should get together and seek a remedy, whenever they find the law insufficient, and appeal to the legislature for relief in the premises which shall be in keeping with the progress of the present age and this because property destroyed by fire is so much labor and capital wiped out of existence, and payment of the insurance to the owner is no replacement of the property destroyed. The property we have should be saved, and the money that would be used in rebuilding destroyed property could be put into new buildings.

“In these days of telephone, wireless telegraphy, and the navigation of air by balloons under control of man, and wonderful progress on every hand, why should not firefighters have an inning, and an opportunity to keep up with the age in which we live? But they can do so only when the municipal officers intelligently comprehend the duties required of them, and equip the firemen accordingly.”

No posts to display