SAFE AND SANE STORAGE AND HANDLING OF GASOLINE*
Mr. President and Gentlemen—To the fireman and the underwriter the term gasoline is synonymous with danger both to life and property. Like any other gas it may explode or it may burn, dependent on the conditions surrounding it at the time it is brought into contact with the flame. But if we are to intelligently discuss the hazards incident to the storage and handling of gasoline, we should properly begin with fundamental conditions and analyze its physical properties, and having looked well into these we can determine from what combinations and under what varying conditions the various degrees of hazard will he reached. As you are doubtless aware, gasoline in its primitive state is one of the component factors that go to conform crude petroleum, being obtained under fractional distilla tion to a greater or less extent from practically all the crude mineral oils, the percentage obtained from the paraffine base oils, such as those found in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, being much greater than in those having an asphaltum base, such as the Texas oil. Gasoline has no flash point—that is, if placed in an open vessel it will vaporize at any ordinary temperature and, in fact, down to the thermometer at zero. It is 3 1/2 times as heavy as air, and therein lies one of its greatest inherent hazards, for, while the ordinary gases, such as ordinary city gas and acetylene gas, are lighter than air and when escaping rise and are scattered and carried off, gasoline falls to the floor and will collect and stand in cellars, openings in the floor, etc., where it remains ready to flash up from contact with the first match or open flame. In the liquid state gasoline is innocuous—that is, so long as it remains an absolute liquid; it can neither ignite, burn nor explode. If while in a liquid state the containing vessel he heated excessively the liquid contained may he vaporized and rupturing pressure obtained, just as would he the case with water under similar conditions, but such bursting of the vessel would not be due to the gasoline igniting, though this would occur as soon as the thus liberated vapor reached the source of heat. Again, a pure gasoline vapor will neither ignite nor burn; it must not only he brought into contact and mixed with the air, hut must lie mixed with such quantity of air as will support combustion. It is for this reason that a carbureter forms so important a part of gasoline lighting, heating and power systems; the function of this carbureter is to mix the pure vapor of gasoline with a sufficient quantity of air to make it combustible or explosive, according to the purpose for which it is to be used, an explosive mixture being necessary, of course, for the gasoline motor. Gasoline reaches its highest point of explosive violence when the mixture stands about eight (8) parts of air to one (1) part gasoline vapor and falls off in combustibility with the relative increase of either gasoline or air, A grandstand play not infrequently resorted to by salesmen undertaking to prove the non-dangerous nature of this liquid is to boil some of it in a closed vessel, and such a demonstration generally has its effect on the uninitiated, who do not realize the all-important fact that the danger line is not reached so long as the air is excluded.
Another property of gasoline to be borne in mind is that even when vaporized and properly mixed with air it has its definite temperature of ignition, just as has wood or any other combustible material. For instance, the temperature of a lighted cigarette or cigar is just too low to ignite gasoline, but an open flame, a red-hot platinum wire or an electric spark will set it off instantly. Gasoline is more dangerous than even powder or dynamite, for while either of the latter will stay where it is placed, gasoline leaking into a room will vaporize and creep along the floor until it may ignite front a flame 100 feet or more away from the containing vessel and flashing back to the latter through this strata of gas cause a resultant explosion or fire at that point. Proceeding now from the principles involved to the actual concrete dangers met with in everyday firefighting—first, we have with us the pressing establishment, where on the upper floor back of some building this concern operates and carries in a glass bottle or bottles anywhere from 2 quarts to 5 gallons of this liquid. These concerns should be limited to a maximum of one (1) gallon carried in self-closing metal cans made for the purpose. Second, the printing establishment, with a like quantity of gasoline similarly carried in glass bottles, or in poorly made leaky metal cans closed with corks. These places should use the regular printers selfclosing automatic cans having maximum capacity of one quart each, and the aggregate quantity of gasoline carried in such cans on the premises limited to 5 gallons as a maximum.
*Paper read at the thirty-eighth annual convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers, held at Syracuse, N. Y., August 23.
Third—The automobile garage, with gasoline in the ordinary oil tank set on the floor of the building, or else the tank buried under ground, but with the filling and venting done inside the building. Here the tank should be buried under ground; if outside and 10 feet away, a covering of earth 2 feet in depth will be sufficient, but buried below the floor of the garage the earth covering should be at least 5 feet deep, thus providing such heat insulation that the building may suffer a total loss and yet the heat not affect the gasoline. It goes without saying that if the tank is thus located the fill and vent pipe should extend to the street and should under no circumstances terminate over an areaway; otherwise any gasoline spilled while filling would collect in this areaway and be ready for the first match dropped through the grating.
Fourth—Oil and paint stores. These should receive the same treatment as garages.
Fifth—Dry cleaning establishments. These places are especially entitled to consideration; they operate with 30 gallons or more of gasoline in each revolving drum, which is kept in a violent state of disturbance, so that unless kept constantly closed the tendency is to throw off fumes in heavy volume. When the garments are removed from these drums and put in the rotary dryers or centrifugals more fumes are thrown out into the room, and finally the function of the drying room is to enable the garments to throw off such gasoline as still remains in them so that this room must be especially thick with such vapor. Generally a number of open vessels containing from 5 to 50 gallons of gasoline will be found sitting about the room like vessels of water, and finally open pans are used for cleaning gloves, laces and other light or filmy fabrics. The hazard in such places is too apparent to be dwelt upon, and the best treatment to accord such concerns would be: First, to
force them outside the fire limits at least; second, to specify the construction of the buildings, requiring those in which hazardous processes are carried on to be fireproof, one story, without basement and properly ventilated; third, require the main supply of gasoline kept outside in underground tanks and that in use inside to be in closed vessels.
Sixth—Generally speaking, where gasoline must be used every precaution should be taken to prevent fire “striking back” to the main supply even should the vapor resulting from some leak become ignited. One very efficient device for use in connection with piping systems to prevent striking back in the fine mesh wire gauze, Fire cannot follow gas back through openings of less than certain fixed diameters, varying more or less with the gas involved. For gasoline the flame may hardly be expected to strike back through an opening less than 1-64 of an inch, and if wire gauze of 100 to the inch he inserted in the line of piping this safeguard may be relied on.
In our own city the dangers from gasoline explosions have been only too clearly demonstrated at different times. In the year 1906 an explosion occurred in a dry cleaning establishment very near the center of the city and less than 20 feet front one of the department’s engine houses. This explosion severely burned five firemen, and the gasoline following water out of the building came very near causing a serious fire. In 1909 an explosion occurred in the drying room of a similar establishment, which laid brick walls and the roof flat on the ground. Fortunately no one was inside. In 1910 another explosion in a dry cleaning establishment resulted in the death of two employes, though the fire was controlled with the department’s chemicals. A number of explosions have occurred in pressing establishments and automobile garages. The dangers front the large storage tanks used by the oil companies are liable to spread destruction over a larger area, as demonstrated by the recent explosion at Knoxville, Tenn., and the more recent fire, at the Texarco Company’s works, due to gasoline on the water being ignited by a match after it had been used for lighting a cigar.
Upon motion, duly seconded, the papers were ordered printed, and a vote of thanks extended to the gentlemen preparing same.
Tire Penalties in Touring Events.
According to the latest news from Akron, an other effort will be made by the Fireston Tire and Rubber Company to have the A. A. A. introduce tire penalties in all long distance tours, endurance runs, etc., in the future. It is claimed that tires and demountable rims are just as much a part of the car’s equipment as the brakes, wheels, fenders and other parts that come within the limits of penalization.
“Strenuous long-distance events, such as the Munsey and Glidden tours, furnish an ideal opportunity to introduce tire panalties,” said R. J. Firestone, in discussing the subject, “and it is our belief that the management of these events should avail themselves of this opportunity. Every one of the strong points in a car should be brought out, as well as the weak points, and the events of the past year have shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is a great difference in tires. The Munsey historic tour proved this, when all the eight cars having Firestone tires went through the terrific grind without the loss of a tire and with only six punctures all told. The car-maker who furnishes a superior tire or who equips his cars with demountable rims is entitled to credit in these touring events, for the better service his customers will get in consequence. Such events count for nothing anyway unless they are a guide for the prospective customer, and we maintain that tires and demountable rims are important enough to be taken into consideration when assessing penalties.”
New Intake at Toronto.
Toronto’s water system will be augmented next year by a new 6-foot intake in addition to the present one, which is to be extended and a new conduit pipe to conduct the water from the filtration plant to the 8-foot tunnel. From the filterbeds to the mouth of the tunnel there is at present only one 6-foot steel pipe. This will be augmented by another of the same capacity, and the city will then be at its limit for the present tunnel. This will mean a possible supply of about 80,000,000 gallons per day. The new intake will he carried out into the lake about three-quarters of a mile, and the present pipe will be extended to about the same length. The construction of these improvements will entail an expenditure of about $300,000.
A considerable number of physicians in Toronto. among whom are men of almost national reputation, say that no water should be drunk without being first boiled, until the filtration plant is completed, and that the neglect of this precaution is filling the city hospitals with typhoid patients at an alarming rate. In 1900. one out of 9,804 citizens died of typhoid, and in 1909, one out of 3.941.
Since during the first eight months of this year. 107 persons have died in Toronto, the total number of fatalities for 1910 will greatly exceed that of any other year. It would not be fair to compute the rate for the remaining four months of the year on the figures for the first eight months, because during January. February and March there was an epidemic, which carried off 63 persons. This leaves 45 during the five months between March and September, or an average of 9 per month. At this rate there will be 36 more deaths from typhoid before 1911. a conservative estimate when it is remembered that the regular autumnal typhoid is now raging. The total number of deaths for 1910 will hardly fall far short of 143, and in this case the rate for the year will he one death for 2.517 persons.
Poor Fire Alarm Service of New York.
FIRE ANI> WATER ENGINEERING has several times referred to the delapidated condition of the fire alarm telegraph system in New York City, and to the possibility of a conflagration on account of some trifling mishap that would render it useless. The city, however, is to be congratulated upon the prospect of the installation of an entire new system in the near future. Other publications also have commented upon the old system, among these being Municipal Facts, through whose courtesy we are privileged to reproduce the accompanying illustrations. The photographs are reproductions from the report of the National Board of Fire Underwriters’ Committee of Twenty and represent conditions as they have existed for several years, and as they exist at the present time. An accident to the fire alarm cable suspended from the Third avenue elevated railroad structure would deprive nearly all that part of the city, from the Battery to Central Park and east of Seventh avenue, of fire alarm protection. The first step necessary to obliterate the hazardous conditions that exist is to put all fire alarm signal wires underground in conduits separate from those carrying currents of high power. The second is the entire abolishment of the present system, which is practically the same as it was when it was established forty years ago, and the construction of a system which embodies the results of the inventions and experience of the fire alarm telegraph systems which are installed by commercial companies. The conditions revealed by the investigations of the Board of Fire Underwriters in 1905 and 1908 have been laid before Fire Commissioner Waldo, and he is thus armed with all the data necessary for a complete understanding of what should be done to the end that property Owners will receive from his department the fullest measure of protection possible. As an important preliminary step the commissioner has secured the services of an eminent electrician at a salary of $3,000 to act as superintendent of the fire alarm telegraph system. He will supervise the rehabilitation of the system.
Approval of Fireproof Construction.
Confidence has been inspired when the sheet metal contractor has invited purchase of fireproof materials for building equipment bearing the label showing that the construction has been approved by the fire insurance underwriters as the results of tests in a laboratory maintained for the purpose in Chicago. Every commendable interest is served when buildings are so constructed as to resist fire to the greatest possible extent, and while many constructions clearly demonstrate to the average man that they possess such advantages, there are others on which only an expert can give assurance of positive merit. Unfortunately, however, those who have sought the approval of this insurance organization have suffered a delay in securing a consideration that, in their opinion, is wholly unnecessary in view of the charges required for the service and the simplicity of the construction to be reviewed, and its similarity with those which have already been approved. Some are inclined to the opinion that the delay is not wholly in the interest of safety against fire, but sometimes in the interest of constructions already approved. It would be most unfortunate if confidence in this examining body should be lost, and in view of the reports that come from various sections of the country of the delay that is experienced at the hands of this organization, it is possible that its usefulness would already be impaired, were it not for the fact that it is backed by so powerful an organization as the Underwriters. They can refuse to accept insurance on a building which is equipped with unquestionable fireproof and fire-retarding devices, if these have not secured, through the faults of the Underwriters themselves, the approval of the laboratory which they maintain, and for the delays attending which they are responsible.— Metal Worker.
Chief Resents an Insult.
Chief Thomas J. Shanley, of the Harrison. N.J., fire department, has returned a check he received from Altred P. Sloan, jr., manager of the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company, of that town. The receipt of the check brough out a story con cerning treatment that Assistant Fire Chief Charles F. Johnson received after a fire in the Hyatt factory a week ago. Chief Shanley had gone from the fire to another that broke out, leaving Assistant Chief Johnson at the Hyatt place to make an investigation. According to Johnson’s statement to the chief, a Mr. Weiss, superintendent of the factory, came along and demanded to know whom he was. On being informed, Johnson says, Weiss told him to get out or he would throw him out and asking who sent for the firemen.
Johnson says he informed Weiss that the call for the firemen came from the company’s private box and that the department responded to put out the blaze, which they did. Johnson did not report the occurrence until a few days later to Chief Shanley, who says he got “hot” when he received a letter signed “C. I. Shirley” and containing a check for $25, drawn to the chief’s order to use in any way he saw fit. The letter stated that the writer had been directed by Mr. Sloan to express his “sincere thanks” for the prompt response of the firemen at the Hyatt blaze, and to add his “commendation for the active and efficient services rendered by the men.” The latter added that the department “being a purely voluntary one, therefore demands the loftiest degree of self-sacrifice of your members.”
With the check, when Shanley returned it, went letter, in part, as follows:
“The enclosed check is returned. Under no circumstances will it be accepted by the firemen from the Flvatt Roller Bearing Company. The treatment Assistant Chief Charles F. Johnson received on the morning of the fire, after the blaze was out, from a Mr. Weiss, if I am correct in his name, of your company, was considered an insult. To have one of their officers insulted after doing good work at a fire is something the firemen do not intend to let pass without a strong protest and have taken the matter up with the National Board of Fire Underwriters.”
All Weiss would say in regard to the incident was: “There must be a mistake; what happened was not intended in the way taken.”
Combination Wagon for Olcan.
The $5,000 auto truck ordered from the American-La France Fire Engine Company, by Olean. N. Y., will be the twenty-third one of its
kind turned out by the company. It carries a 40-gallon chemical tank, hand chemical extinguishers, 1,000 feet of hose and 20 extension ladders. axes, extra tires, etc. Its weight when equipped and carrying the firemen will be about 7,000 pounds and its horsepower is rated 45-60.