SAFEGUARDING WOOD FROM FIRE.
Franklin H. Wentworth, secretary of the National Fire Protection Association, in a recent address before the National Lumber Manufacturers’ Association, at Chicago, advocated that steps should be taken to compel the safeguarding of wooden buildings from fire by the installation of fire-extinguishing devices and by proper individual care. Mr. Wentworth is quoted as saying, in part: “Your industry is to-day in a difficult situation. You are purveyors of combustible material in a country of natural and unconscious incendiaries, and no present consideration of your problems and responsibilities can be had apart from the psychology of the American people. We have been born and bred in the notion that our lumber supply is inexhaustible, and it has seemed to us more logical to build and burn and build again than to correct our vicious and irresponsible individual habits in the handling and care of fire. Every American city is to-day vulnerable to conflagration attack, and only good fortune and the exceptional skill of our fire departments save us from a larger number of disastrous, sweeping fires. Two considerable fires at the same time are all any fire department can handle. To burn most European cities fires would require to be set in almost every house. The month of March, with its high winds, exacts its annual toil, This year Nashville, Tenn., Augusta, Ga., and Paris, Tex., saddled the immense cost of their rehabilitation upon their sister cities, any of which may require the same kind of help at any moment. What arc we to do? The problem is both physical and psychological. We cannot tear down and rebuild our cities as they stand; we must, therefore, safeguard them physically as far as we may and legally restrain the individual carelessness that is our principal fire cause. Experience shows that the two principal physical agencies by which sweeping fires are spread are the unprotected wall opening and the wooden shingle. The wooden shingle spreads fire in the residence districts and the unprotected wall opening spreads fire in the mercantile districts from which the shingle is usually excluded. As the values in the mercantile districts are greater, the unprotected wall openings to-day entail the major loss. With windows unprotected fire goes through a brick, stone or concrete building as easily as through a wooden one. The outside wall merely offers less fuel. A so-called fireproof building full of combustible contents is merely a stove, with its window openings serving as the draft holes. Proper protection of the window openings only can safeguard such buildings from outside fire attack. Setting these physical facts before you I appeal for your co-operation in reducing the sweeping fire hazard of our cities. The protection of individual properties, requiring special treatment, may well await the solution of the immediate collective problem of safeguarding the entire city. It is our purpose to undertake definite local movements to reduce the conflagration hazards of individual cities, and in such efforts your representatives arc invited to share. Your aid in securing the passage of reasonable building laws, compelling window protection in hazardous properties, will react favorably upon the lumber industry. If wood is to hold its place as building material —and wood, not only because of its utility but because of its beauty, is dear to the hearts of many—it must be shown that its use will not contribute largely to sweeping fires. The fireproofing of wood of interior use is a secondary consideration. It is in another field, however, that your members in their various localities can assist in the cause of fire prevention, and work in this field should arouse your enthusiastic effort. A carefully educated people might make even a wooden city reasonably safe. Every blow you strike at fire carelessness; every intelligence you quicken to better habits with fire, will serve to modify the present fear of wood construction. This fear perists because of our natural habits. Wood does not start fires; it merely provides fuel for fires. Good housekeeping will vastly help your efforts to hold a place for wood, for wood cannot serve as fuel to fires which never start.”