Rigid Discipline in San Antonio Fire Department
GENERAL FEATURE ARTICLES
When there is a fire or an alrm in San Antonio, Tex., each piece of apparatus responding goes by a previously arranged route, each engine locates in an already selected hydrant, and with some little adaptation to fit the nature and location of the fire in the building, a plan, already outlined, is followed in extinguishing it. No matter what building it would be. this would be true. Also the building would present no problems to Chief Wright and his assistants not already considered. They all know everything necessary to know about the building. They know just where all of the exits are, whether or not the building is equipped with any kind of fire lighting appliance, the exact nature of such appliance, just how to operate it, where each water cock is located, the location of fire escapes, and in fact everything that ought to be known. But this is not all. There is no fear of agility or test of strength, no peculiar handling of the department’s apparatus that any fireman would be called upon to perform that he has not done twice a week ever since his connection with the department. If he is called upon to descend by a rope from a high building, if he is required to jump from the third story, if he must catch people jumping from such a height, if it is found necessary to take a person from a six-story window and descend with him on a rope safely to the ground, he has done till of these things.
It is a peculiar idea in San Antonio that the fireman’s job when he is not at a fire is the easiest in town. Nothing to do but sit around the fire station. This is far from the facts. When the fireman is not fighting a fire he is preparing to fight fire. When he is not keeping himself in trim as a fireman he is keeping the fire apparatus and the horses of the department in trim. As a matter of fact he works harder during the time that the average man believes he is doing nothing than he does at most fires. If he did not do this he would not be a good fireman. Every day at the Central Station there is a rigid fire drill. One man is taken from each of the sixteen companies, a different man every day. Truck companies 2 and 3 go from one station to another and drill the men at their own stations. They get over the department in a week. In this way every man is put through the paces twice a week. At intervals there is a drill with the aerial truck. Then there are “runs” in which the hydrants in a given neighborhood are located. In addition to this the captains are taken in classes over the principal buildings at regular intervals and are required to learn everything in connection with the buildings that might be of value to fighting a fire. There is also a pampier exercise on the department drill tower. In all this the department is kept drilled up to the minute. The constant work to keep the men up to a high point of efficiency is the principal work of the department. Not only are the regular men drilled, but also the extra men or substitutes. In this way a supply of trained men are kept on the waiting list Chief Philip Wright is constantly striving to in. crease the department’s efficiency. It takes about three years to make a first-class fireman in San Antonio, and once he is made it is to the interest of the department and the city to hold him. It is for this reason that in recruiting men Chief Wright requires that they shall not be over thirty years of age and shall not weigh less than 156 pounds. It such men can be induced to make fire-fighting a life work the community profits by it. In his own way Chief Wright has set before himself a high ideal as to what a department should be and he is working night and day to realize it.