Right of Way for Fire Apparatus

Right of Way for Fire Apparatus

In his very interesting article on general matters of interest to fire chiefs, in connection with his annual recommendations appearing in this week’s issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING, Chief Mesnar opens up by a reference to a vital problem that is attracting countrywide attention—that of the right of way for fire apparatus and the interference with them by automobiles.

The automobile has raised several important problems in fire-fighting since its introduction as a means of locomotion, among which are the hazards of the garage with its inflammable materials; the hazards of fires from backfiring of automobiles; the hazards of the garage built under sleeping quarters and so on.

But this question of the interference with the fire apparatus strikes at the very heart of things in fire-fighting. The absolute necessity for fire apparatus to be at a fire in its beginning, whenever possible, makes a clear passage for them of vital importance. If they are compelled to slow down at frequent intervals to avoid collisions with autos that should be drawn up at the curb and stationary, but instead are racing with the fire engines, there can be no surety that the firemen will arrive promptly at a fire. The minutes lost in thus being compelled to drive slowly may mean lives lost or a fire that has gotten beyond control. Or, per contra, it may mean a collision and the sacrifice of the lives of firemen or those of the interfering motorists and, of course, still more serious delay in answering the alarm.

Traffic signals are an excellent remedy but they do not insure against the reckless motorist who is willing to take a desperate chance in order to enjoy a little excitement. The things that count are a law that is distinct and unmistakable in its provision as to all matters connected with interference of the fire apparatus and a strict and impartial enforcement of this law by the police authorities.

No doubt many cities have adopted, or are about to adopt, model laws looking to control this problem of the interference with fire apparatus by motorists. Others are considering the subject and would he glad for hints to help them. Send a copy of your ordinance to FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING for publication and let us know how you plan to meet the difficulty.

Right of Way for Fire Apparatus

Right of Way for Fire Apparatus

How often are the fire apparatus and chief’s car hampered and their way impeded by the rattle-brained autoist, bent only on seeing the fire and enjoying the excitement of running with the fire fighters. No matter how much this individual, who represents a class, may delay the apparatus he must get to the fire first or at least enjoy the thrill of racing with the apparatus. Chief R. O. Mesnar, of the Canton, Ohio, fire department has this to say on the subject in his annual report just presented to the mavor and council of the city:

“I wish to call your attention to a deplorable condition existing in our city and that is ’the right of wav’ for our fire department in responding to alarms. This condition has been bad for years and is steadily growing worse and if something is not done soon there will probably be somebody killed or injured. The increase in automobile traffic from year to year is responsible for much of this condition. It is doubtful if you could find a city in the United States where conditions in this respect are equal to those in Canton. Street car motormen with a few exceptions won’t stop their cars till we get by and some not then and others will actually laugh at you as you pass by. Even some of our traffic police are lame to help us out when we pass their place of duty.

“In some cities people will even run their autos partly up on the sidewalk to give the department the right of way. But they will do nothing like that here. Here are a few instances to illustrate how we are handicapped when going to a fire. Boys on bicycles will race in front of the apparatus or in between two apparatus and try to beat us to the fire. Should one of these boys strike an obstruction while so doing, the chances are that he would fall off his wheel and the apparatus would run over him and probably kill him, and then would come the howl that it was the department’s fault and preparations would be made to sue the city for damages.

“Also there is the man who tries to beat you across the street intersection. Some of our prominent citizens have been guilty of this practice. It is a safe bet that if a collision resulted under these circumstances, it would be the department’s fault and a bee line would be made for city hall to get damages. There is also the man who races behind the apparatus. Should a fire truck make a quick stop for one reason or another which is sometimes necessary, the man or boy racing behind in his auto is liable to rim into the apparatus endangering the men on the rear or breaking ladders or other equipment which extends back from it. This has actually happened on several occasions, in one of which two ladders on a hook and ladder truck were broken. When the guilty party was asked to pay the damages, he put up an awful howl and it took about six months to collect. Many of our citizens who drive trucks are also in the habit oi watching a pretty woman on the sidewalk instead of attending to business and several collisions have resulted from this in our own oity.

“Another handicap to us which happens quite frequently is the blocking of railway crossings. The railroad men are not very fast in clearing crossings for us so we can proceed to a fire and some time ago a dwelling was totally destroyed because we were held at a crossing for about eight minutes. We could see the fire blazing away, and we had no earthly chance to save the house after we got across the railroad Now I again say that it is high time that something is done in giving us the right of way in going to fires and serious or fatal accidents may be avoided if the proper steps are taken.”

B. Haywood Hagerman, of Kansas City, Mo., has donated a site to the fire and water board of that city for the location of a new engine house in the Swope Park district. The board had been trying for months to decide on a site in the district but all of them under consideration niet with disapproval of property owners. The present site is said to be satisfactory to all.