Made to the Eleventh Annual Convention of Dominion Association of Fire Chiefs in Calgary, Alberta, August, 1919, as Reported in its Proceedings

AS your representative, I have had the honour to attend the various conferences at Ottawa of the newly formed Dominion Fire Prevention Association. It may be of interest, therefore, for me to present a brief report outlining the constitution and plans of that body as they affect this Association and the more general campaign against fire in Canada. At every session I have been impressed with the prominent standing and genuine enthusiasm of the delegates present, and I am of the opinion that if the fire waste of this country is ever to be abated, it will be through the efforts of such an organization as the Dominion Fire Prevention Association.


As many of you are doubtless aware, the main purpose of the Association is to constitute a central advisory committee in which all the important industrial, financial, mercantile, labor and agricultural interests of Canada shall be represented. Its membership includes the following bodies:—Canadian Bankers’ Association, Canadian Credit Men’s Trust Association, Canadian Fire Underwriters’ Association, Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, Commission of Conservation, Department of Insurance, Dominion Association of Fire Chiefs, Dominion Mortgage and Investments Association, Dominion Trades and Labor Congress, Fire Insurance Brokers and Agents’ Association, Nontariff Insurance Association, Retail Merchants’ Association of Canada, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, United Farmers of Alberta, United Farmers of Ontario, Wholesale Grocers’ Association of Canada, Boy’ Scouts Association of Canada and all Provincial Fire Marshal Departments and Fire Prevention Leagues.

From this list it will readily be seen that the Association is of the most representative character and its decisions carry the weight of almost one million members of the various organizations connected with it. This influence will, of course, increase in time by the admission of still other bodies. It is the intention, however, to limit membership to one representative from each national and provincial organization so that the Association may not become too unwieldly to promptly and definitely deal with the matters that come before it. Even with the present membership, it has been found advantageous to form sub-committees to consider special problems such as building construction, municipal fire protection, automatic sprinkler protection, etc., and I have the honor to be your representative upon two of these committees.

The objects of the Association as defined by the executive committee are as follows:—

  1. To co-operate with the Dominion, Provincial, and Municipal Governments of Canada in attempting to eliminate needless waste by fire.
  2. To co-ordinate through a central Bureau of Information the efforts of all organizations and individuals actively engaged in fire prevention work.
  3. To investigate improved methods of fire protection and to establish reasonable physical standards of fire safety.
  4. To direct public attention to the urgent need for greater carefulness in respect to fire dangers and to promote legislation for adequately safeguarding life and property from fire.

From this statement it will be clear that the functions of the Association are not to undertake any work which is being competently carried on by other bodies but rather to co-operate with, supplement and coordinate their efforts. Every assistance will be given to fire marshal departments, municipalities, fire departments and property owner upon request and I trust that the fire chiefs throughout Canada will seek the guidance of the Association in connection with all matters that they feel can be best handled by a Dominion body. Questions of general interest are first dealt with by the Executive Committee and then passed on to special sub-committees or to Mr. J. Grove Smith, the Dominion Fire Commissioner, who is acting as the executive officer of the Association.


Before outlining the work that has been done or the plans that arc proposed it may be well for me to mention the steps that led to the organization of the Association. As every fire chief in the Dominion knows, the Commission of Conservation some years ago undertook to make an investigation of fire waste in Canada and as the result of its inquiry issued a report which many of you have read. One of the recommendations of the report was to the effect that the Dominion Government should establish a Department to have oversight and supervision of all fire prevention work in Canada. When it came to carrying this recommendation into effect it was found that the Commission had no authority to enter upon such work and the matter was subsequently taken up by the Department of Insurance. Last December, Mr. G. D. Finlayson, Superintendent of Insurance, called together a conference of representatives of all large commercial organizations in the Dominion and it was unanimously decided to form a permanent body to assist the Department in any programme it might enter upon. Mr. J. Grove Smith, who was then Fire Prevention Engineer for the Commission of Conservation was tranferred to the Department of Insurance and a Fire Prevention Branch was formed with Mr. Smith acting as Dominion Fire Commissioner.


As indicating the scope of the organization, it may be of interest for me to call your attenion to some of the questions discussed by the Association at its December conference. Briefly, these were as follows:—

  1. To carry on a campaign of fire prevention education throughout Canada in co-operation with the provincial fire marshal departments.
  2. To arrange with the educational authorities of each province to have fire prevention instruction given in the public schools.
  3. To impress upon municipal authorities the necessity of some improved system of building inspection.
  4. To consult with insurance companies as to the advisability of having their inspectors report to local fire chiefs all defective conditions found in buildings.
  5. To require a written application from every person insuring property stating the value of the property and it physical condition.
  6. To frame model building and fire prevention by-laws for municipalities and suggest methods for their better, enforcement.
  7. To establish a uniform size of hose couplings following the recommendation of the Dominion Association of Fire Chiefs.
  8. To compel the installation of automatic sprinkler equipment in all large manufacturing and mercantile buildings and in the basements of hazardous properties in congested districts.
  9. To recommend the enactment of legislation making carelessness in respect to fire a criminal offence.
  10. To get fire marshal laws enacted in every province, such laws to be administered by competent officials.

All these questions together with the suggestions of the Association were taken by the representatives to their various organizations and fully discussed by them. A second conference was held on May 9th of this year and the representatives reported back to the Association as to the opinion of their members upon the matters at issue.


In the interim, an amendment to the Canada Criminal Code making it a penal offence to cause a fire by negligence or through contravention of any by-law or ordinance and giving power to the Dominion Fire Commissioner to order the removal of fire hazards and demand the installation of adequate protection in any property in Canada, had been presented to the Senate and House of Commons and enacted by these bodies. I have arranged for copies of this legislation to be distributed to every member here and I trust that any fire chief who feels that he has a good case will take advantage of the law. If a fire occurs through the negligence of any person to observe your local by-laws, refer the matter to your provincial fire marshal or attorney-general with the request that he take immediate action under the Dominion Criminal Code. If you find it difficult to get your recommendations in respect to the better care of property carried out, communicate with the Dominion Fire Commissioner at Ottawa and ask him to give you the assistance of the Dominion Government. I feel that this legislation is just what the fire chiefs of Canada have been anxiously awaiting and it certainly gives them all the authority they can wish and supports their orders with the greatest power in the land.


This important legislation having been passed it was decided bv the Association that the next step must be to secure proper protection of all large properties. At the suggestion of the Association, the automatic sprinkler system of protection was investigated and the sprinkler constructing companies approached with a view to preventing a combine or undue increase of prices following action by the Association. I may say that an arrangement has recently been entered into which gives the Dominion Fire Commissioner supervision and adequate control of the entire sprinkler business of Canada. If any property owner decides to have sprinklers installed and will communicate with the Department a survey of the property will be made, the cost estimated, reduced insurance rates quoted and the contract with the installing company supervised. It is expected that this arrangement will reduce the cost of automatic sprinklers about 25 or 30 per cent, and guarantee to property owners that the companies are not taking an excessive profit.


Before concluding this brief report it may be well for me to review what the Association has been instrumental in doing and what it purposes to do in the future. The work was not definitely commenced until last March, but in the ensuing months I believe that more has been accomplished for the prevention of fire waste than at any previous time in the history of the country. First of all, as I have already mentioned, an amendment to the Criminal Code making carelessness a crime, has been drafted, carried through the Senate and House of Commons and is now the law of Canada Fire Marshal laws have been drafted for the Province of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and a Fire Marshal department has already been established to deal with the matter at their next legislative sessions. It was suggested to the province of Alberta that the Fire Marshal Act passed some years ago be put into effect and this was done by proclamation on July 1st of this year. It is hoped to get amended fire marshal laws in British Columbia and Quebec in the near future. Advice has been given to 17 municipalities in respect to the framing of building and fire prevention ordinances and numerous other requests for similar direction are now under consideration. A new building code applicable to the whole of Canada is being drafted by the Dominion Fire Commissioner in consultation with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and it is expected that this model law will be available in a few months. Municipal waterworks systems and fire departments have been inspected in 27 of the larger cities from Charlottetown in the east to Calgary in the west and ten municipalities are now awaiting recommendations for the improvement of their fire protection services.

An arrangement has been effected with the automatic sprinkler companies by which the Fire Prevention Branch has supervision over the installation of sprinkler systems and a Dominion wide campaign is being undertaken to bring the value of sprinkler protection to the attention of property owners. An attempt is now being made to organize fire prevention leagues similar to that of Ontario in every province in Canada.

Public meetings have been addressed by the Dominion Fire Commissioner in 56 cities and towns from the Atlantic to the Rockies and there is every evidence of a great awakening to the importance of fire prevention.

A special monthly bulletin is being issued by the Department containing articles of vital interest to fire chiefs. It is hoped that the members of this Association will look upon the bulletin as a medium for expressing their views. In that way we can each help the other and bring about concerted action in respect to the problems we frequently encounter. Pamphlets dealing with the proper protection of special hazards in manufacturing properties are in preparation and also leaflets dealing with the common causes of fire. This literature will be distributed throughout the whole of Canada by the members of the Association.

Special bulletins are being prepared for Fire Prevention Day, October 9th next, and an effort is being made to have the Governor-General issue a Royal • proclamation asking for the observance of that day throughout the Dominion.

N. F. P. A.

Large and comprehensive as is this programme, I cannot close without mentioning the convention of the National Fire Protection Association held at Ottawa last May upon the invitation of the Dominion Fire Prevention Association. Hundreds of delegates from all parts of the United States and Canada attended the meetings and the programme was probably the most successful ever carried out in Canada. Every visitor to the Capital City went away feeling that great things had been accomplished in the promotion of fire prevention and that the two countries, the United States and Canada were one in the common fight against our waste of wealth and resources by fire. It is to the awakening of such general interest that we must look if we wish to benefit to the utmost this Canada of ours, and in according the Dominion Association of Fire Chiefs representation at its conferences the Dominion Fire Prevention Association has extended a privilege which I am sure we all appreciate to the fullest extent.

Chief Graham: There may be one or two other things I might say. You notice I mentioned the Advisory Committee. That Advisory Committee will be a splendid thing for the smaller town where they find it rather hard to keep or get equipment. As we all know these things rest with the aldermen or the council, but if a fire comes along and beats the fire department, the department is blamed for it. This Advisory Committee will be composed of fire chiefs. If, in Moose Jaw, they cannot get the equipment necessary, the Fire Chief could write to the Dominion Fire Commissioner and the Dominion Fire Commissioner would send say Chief Smart to Moose Jaw to make a survey of the fire department there and he would send a report on to the Dominion Fire Commissioner, who in turn would send that on to the Council of Moose Jaw, and in that way he backs up and strengthens the Chief and his recommendations. That, I think, will be a good thing for the fire chiefs. As you know there is no fire department that has not got its antique piece of apparatus, but they cannot get a new one until they have a very big loss and then they will have a whole lot of new ones. There is a set of building by-laws put through in 1910 in Ottawa and there is not one paragraph that you cannot bore holes through. This Board will take a whole lot of work away from the Engineer or Building Inspector and make it much better for us all. The way buildings are erected now, they are fire traps and that is why we have such a big fire loss, or waste rather, in Canada. One is poor building laws and the other is carelessness of the people.

Ex-Chief Heath: I would like to ask if there was a committee to take up the number of men that should be on a department, according to the size of the city?

Chief Graham: That is another thing that this Advisory Committee will attend to. Then there is the sprinkler equipment. It is something I have been worrying about for some time.

Ex-Chief Heath: To my mind it is one of the best movements I have heard tell of in the Dominion of Canada. It will eliminate a fire chief having to worry about getting along with a poor piece of apparatus.

Chief Graham: There is another thing that I would like to mention and that is the bulletins that are being sent out. Lots of us have ideas but we do not think of publishing them. Having this bulletin distributed tneans that we can get these ideas published and distributed throughout the country. This is going to keep ahead of any fire journal we have.

Chief Hardy: you say that the Advisory Committee will be appointed or is to be appointed for each district?

Chief Graham: There is one now and it would be impossible, or at lease require a very large staff, to keep them travelling from one end of the Dominion to the other, and the staffs would be such as we have in the Fire Marshals’ offices to-day. Suppose for some reason they had trouble in Moose Jaw, not having the proper equipment or the right number of men, they would write to J. Grove Smith and he would send, for instance. Chief Smart, who is the nearest and most competent man they could get to go to Moose Jaw to make a survey of the conditions and he would have a conference with the Chief and would not undermine him in any way, and anything the Chief could suggest would be embodied in his report, which woidd be forwarded to the Executive Officer at Ottawa and Mr. J. Grove Smith would go there himself or send a letter to the Moose Jaw Council with his report.

Capt. White-house: Taking our worthy Chief Ross’ case when he was speaking about being three times removed from office. Is there any Advisory Committee that can take up such a case and carry it out to a satisfactory conclusion and have him reinstated?

Chief Graham: I could not say that he would be reinstated, but suppose some mayor had his knife into a chief for no. reason in the world and the fire chief was removed from office, that would be taken up and investigated by this Advisory Committee and the case reported on. If it was some fault of the chief’s, we cannot of course back him up in some foolish action of his. But if, in our opinion, he was a competent man we would want to know why and wherefore of his being let out.

Chief Hardy (Lethbridge) : For instance a chief is condemned by an alderman or council, who has his knife into a fire chief, and the fire chief cannot put up a good enough defence, is the Advisory Committee able to go into the matter and see*if the chief was right?

Chief Graham: Certainly that is what they will do. This Advisory Committee is to improve the fire departments of the country.

Delegate: I hope the municipalities will pay more attention to their recommendations than they do to the Underwriters.

Chief Armstrong: The municipalities look with suspicion upon any recommendation of the Underwriters because they always think they are after some more money.

Chief Graham: Well, this Committee will have nothing to sell and no axe to grind.

Chief DeFields: What would be the result if they investigated a case and found that a municipality had a knife into the chief and that he was not guilty, what then ?

Chief Graham: I could not answer that now.

Chief Hardy: You might get an isolated case where the man is innocent.

Delegate: In the case of equipment,—if the Advisory Committee is asked to take up the question and they investigate the case and they decide that another piece of apparatus is required, and they report it to the council, do they take any further action upon it or is it a report that is filed and dies a natural death.

Chief Graham: I hope it won’t. As I stated at the start there are lots of chiefs who have plenty of influence with the council and are known to the aidermen sometimes from their childhood. Then they would get the report of the most competent man within a few hundred miles of that town and when the Advisory Board recommends it they are taking a big chance not to pay attention to it. At one time I wanted two steam fire engines and I was asked if one would do and I told them personally I did not care about one because I was the expert who was engaged to decide what they should get. I had the satisfaction two years later in getting three, but in the meantime they put a surtax on the insurance premiums with the result that the town had to pay a lot more than they would have done had they bought engines.

President: What is your pleasure regarding this paper. It has been pretty well discussed?

Moved by Chief Armstrong, seconded by Chief McLeod, that the paper of Chief Graham be received and printed in the minutes of this Association, and that the thanks of the Association be tendered to Chief Graham for same.

Motion is put and carried.

No posts to display