Salvage Operations at Fires
Lessons Giving Instructions as to Methods Considered Good Practice in This Work — Best Arrangement of Goods for Salvage Purposes
(Continued from last issue)
IN considering the effect of a fire on various stocks it is generally conceded that the greatest salvage value will ordinarily be found in staples, for the reason that these can be reclaimed and have a market even at a reduced price. This is particularly true of dry goods. Novelties, generally bought for gift purposes, lose their entire value when damaged. Among the many things affecting salvage value is the fashion of the day or style; a change of style may reduce the value of an article to practically nothing. Shopwear, indicated by faded colors, tarnished metallic embroideries, and soilage, to mention a few of the common effects, must be considered in determining values. In the following list little attempt has been made to estimate the value of salvage, the discussion being limited to cause and effect. (List is continued from last issue).
- Coffee: Coffee is packed by jobbers in many different kinds of packages. Expensive coffee for retail often comes packed in tins, which is intended to retain the flavor; this package is waterproof. Other grades for retail are packed in cardboard packages and paper bags, which offer little protection to the contents. For the wholesale trade coffee is packed in burlap bags. Roasted coffee is more susceptible to water damage than green coffee. Green coffee may be wet without damage, if it is dried and roasted within a reasonable period of time. Roasted coffee will quickly mildew and is worthless in this condition. Coffee is a commodity frequently subjected to fire and water damage due to the fact that the majority of jobbers do roasting and this process presents a serious fire hazard with resultant numerous fires.
Roasted coffee for retail should be packed in tins, or in bags lined with waterproofed paper. A waterproofed inner lining should be provided for burlap bags intended for roasted coffee.
- Colored Materials: Colored materials are peculiar in some of their characteristics. Many of the colored wash fabrics will not run when washed because they are carefully rinsed and dried. If wet and allowed to stand in this condition colors will spread.
Embroideries may have a brownish cast sometimes attributed to smoke and water stain but often the result of age. Embroideries stained by water will have an uneven color.
White materials, intended to be washed, are sometimes assumed immune to water damage, but there is always the danger of mildew and all material that is wet should be throughly dried.
- Corsets: Because of the steel frames and brocaded materials used corsets are particularly subject to water damage. Rust will work its way through stock which has been wet and heavy losses can be expected in stocks of this kind, particularly in the cheaper grades and unless the stock is adequately boxed.
- Crockery and Glassware: The chief danger in stock of this kind is breakage, although there is also an expense due to handling wet or smoked crockery. Tables used for the exhibition of fragile merchandise such as crockery and glassware should be constructed with a pipe frame running above the table and fastened to uprights at the center of each end. This rack can be used for hanging advertising literature or other displays and will facilitate the spreading of salvage covers without breakage or delay.
- Electric Floor Lamps: One of the stocks most difficult to protect is that of electric floor lamps. Floor lamps are often found in large numbers with shades in place, and when in this condition present a most difficult covering problem.
Only samples should be placed on display. The shades should be stored in cases and the stands remain wrapped and stacked in a manner convenient to cover.
- Fibers: The term combustible fibers covers cotton (including linters and cotton waste), sisal or henequen, ixtle, jute, hemp, tow, cocoa fiber, oakum, baled waste, kapok, Spanish moss, and excelsior. These fibers are usually formed into bales and may be partly covered by burlap or other wrapping. Their hazardous characteristics are, according to the nature of the fiber, a high degree of combustibility, absorption of water, tendency of some fibers to swell, and the bursting of bales by burning of the confining bands or ropes.
All such materials stored in the open should be enclosed in tarpaulins. In warehouses bales should not be tiered or piled and should be separated into small units by aisles and clear spaces. Where bales must be tiered or piled the stability of the pile is of great importance.
Bales should be grouped to permit covering with salvage covers.
Cotton in bales gives a varying salvage dependent largely upon the quality of the cotton and the state of the market.
- Floss and Down: Floss will mat if wet and articles stuffed with it usually suffer severely. Down and kapok can ordinarily be renovated.
- Flour: Flour in barrels and bags presents a peculiar resistance to water. A barrel or bag of flour coming in contact with water will immediately form a thick paste on the side exposed, and this in turn tends to prevent the water and smoke taint penetrating the entire barrel or bag. For this reason a large salvage is often realized from such stocks. Skidding and covering the stock and keeping piles away from the side walls is recommended to facilitate salvage work.
- Foodstuffs: Foodstuffs suffer severely in fires as a rule because they are exposed to smoke and water taint. Bacon, meat, solid fats, butter and cheese may give little or no salvage even if not actually attacked by flame if the fire has been bad, or if there has been much smoke. Greasy smoke causes the worst damage. The pure food laws largely determine the precentage of salvage permissible in foodstuffs.
- Furniture: Crated furniture when wet at fires is liable to serious damage unless the wrappings are removed immediately. Such stock is wrapped in excelsior with a binding of ordinary paper or burlap and crated. When allowed to remain in a wet condition or even partially wet, the varnish spots and the glue softens, causing serious damage with small salvage possibilities. A wrapping of waterproofed paper should be used.
- Furs: The damage to furs and skins is usually considerable, when they have been subjected to heat or smoke. Water has a bad effect on the natural grease in dressed fur, especially if it has been dyed or faced, making the fur hard and loosening the hair.
The accompanying instructive symposium on Salvage operations at fires has been furnished through the courtesy of Chief Edward H. Warr, of the Baltimore, Md., Fire Insurance Salvage Corps. It comprises Lessons No. 21 and 21A of the Salvage Corps School of Instruction. This lesson was attended by practical demonstrations given by the members of the Salvage Corps under the direction of Chief Warr. The lesson and demonstration was well received by more than 150 members of the various volunteer fire companies throughout the state of Maryland.
- Gentlemen’s Furnishings: Men’s laundry goods, such as shirts, collars, and cuffs, when damaged, will always sell at a fair price, and in the work shirts the damage is very slight.
Derby and stiff hats are almost worthless if badly wet or smoke stained, but the damage to fedoras, cloth and soft hats is much less since they are more easily reconditioned.
Work goods of all kinds, trousers, shirts, junipers, overalls, and gloves are all damaged to a less extent than dress garments. A small damage in a work garment might easily be a large damage in a dress garment. Work trousers, overalls, and jumpers, as a rule have metal buttons, and unless these are cared for will rust and rot the cloth next to the button, thus materially damaging the garment.
Suspenders, arm bands, garters, and any article with rubber in it will be badly damaged, as extreme heat will take the life out of the rubber.
Cheap jewelry and cuff buttons are mostly of metal and will tarnish.
The colors in fancy neckwear are likely to run if wet. The plain colors are less susceptible to damage. Men’s ties are frequently filled with a wadding or padding, which if wet renders neckwear useless.
- Gloves: Leather gloves are very susceptible to damage principally due to stitching rotting and clasps or fastenings rusting. Dress and walking gloves, if damaged, are very hard to sell unless they have sufficient weight to be used as working gloves.
Damaged gloves other than leather will sell at reduced prices.
Gloves should be salvaged promptly, and as kid gloves sometimes mildew in stock, care should be taken to differentiate this damage from water damage.
- Grain: Grain is usually seriously affected by fire; is subject to swelling which may burst the walls of the building in which it is stored, and generally ferments. Salvage should be handled promptly.
- Handkerchiefs: These when smoked or water stained are generally sold “as is,” although the more expensive grades are sometimes laundered.
- Hardware: Hardware, both finished and unfinished, is very susceptible to water damage. Frequently stocks of hardware become damaged by their remaining in damp places without actually coming in direct contact with water. In such cases the only possible method of salvage is to heat and ventilate the premises by forced ventilation, using portable fans, and removing the water from the premises as quickly as possible. Many hardware manufacturers have taken this damage into consideration, not from the viewpoint of fire loss, but from the standpoint of shipping. Stock in transit frequently remains in damp freight houses and may be subject to moisture and dampness on drays, etc. To guard against this danger many articles are wrapped in oiled paper. Hardware manufacturers could carry this practice further and include other articles, such as screws, bolts, nuts, nails and other rough hardware now being packed in common cardboard boxes and kegs which might be lined with heavy waterproof paper.
Proper shelving and bins should be constructed to accommodate this class of stock in wholesale and retail stores.
- House Furnishings, Table Linens, Towels, and Domestic: Sheets pillow cases, table linen, and towels are only damaged by water, as far as salvability is concerned. Towels sometimes have colored borders and these may be affected.
Silkolines and cretonnes are usually prints, and for this reason the colors will readily run.
Blankets are shrunk before being finished, and water will shrink them little if any. As in other goods, the poorer the quality, the greater the physical damage.
Curtains in the best quality are usually not dressed and will not be damaged greatly by water. In the cheaper qualities the starch will soften and the curtain will lose its shape. Strong smoke, or intense heat, will draw the mesh of curtains and materially damage them.
Comforters are filled with either shoddy, cotton, wool, or down, and are covered with various materials, such as silkoline, cretonne, silks, or satins. The down or wool filling can be renovated or restored to normal condition, after either smoke or water damage. If the comforter is of the better grade, it will usually be worthwhile to consider recovering, and if necessary renovation. The poorer qualities will not justify this expense. The cotton or shoddy filled comforters will pack when wet badly and are then of no value.
- Jewelry: The damage to expensive jewelry by smoke and water is not likely to be heavy, due to the care used in storing. Jewelry of the higher grades can, if wet, be refinished and polished at a small cost. Cheaper grades suffer and like hardware reconditioning is costly. Jewelry cases are often covered with dust covers after hours. These dust covers should be made of a light rubberized material.
Shelves and cases are generally easily covered, although clocks hanging on walls and cases against walls without clearance present great difficulties.
- Laces and Trimmings: The damage to a trimming lace is much greater than to ordinary wash lace. A wash lace is nearly always put on a garment that will be washed before it is used, while a trimming lace is put on a garment not intended to be washed. Very few laces look as well after washing as before, and washing naturally shortens the life of any material. Laces with any dressing or filling are seriously affected by water.
Gold and silver are commonly used as trimmings and after a fire should be handled at once if tarnish is to be forestalled. What are known as gold and silver cloths should be dried quickly, as they will become a total loss if they are allowed to tarnish. Any silver or gilt trimmings will tarnish from age, if kept in stock a long time. The tarnish from age is usually general while the tarnish from water will show in either spots or streaks. Mohair braids or trimmings will be damaged little, if any, by water, except in the bright colors which may run. Water will draw a great many of these trimmings out of shape, as they are frequently made of various combinations of wool, cotton, silk and mohair and the effect of water is different on each material. When wet, one material will shrink away from the other and draw the trimming out of shape.
- Leather: Leather in boots, shoes, or gloves is liable to get hard after water soaking with the added risk of cotton stitching being rotted by heat or water. Good sole leather may give a good salvage unless it is actually burned. Inferior leather in cheap shoes or gloves will give but little salvage if exposed to any extent.
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- Lighting Fixtures: Lighting fixtures are susceptible to breakage and to injury by debris and by water dripping from above. In displays, lighting fixtures are found hanging from the ceiling in large numbers. It is practically impossible to protect displays of suspended lighting fixtures. Frequently fixtures are hung from a false ceiling or deck at the level of the ordinary living room ceiling to display the fixtures more effectively and to facilitate wiring. Such false ceilings should be of strong contraction and watertight. Exhibition of a large number of fixtures hanging from ceilings should be discouraged.
- Millinery: Millinery can be broadly classed under three different headings: (1) staples, such as velvets, velveteens. silks, laces, trimmings, ribbons, wires, and buckram; (2) Plumes: (3) fancies, consisting of flowers, feathers, birds, maline, chiffons, and ornaments.
Staples are more than likely to be in fancy colors and are therefore subject to greater damage. In the fancy section the loss may be excessive. Flowers are nearly always wired together, and even when this wire is covered, the water will reach it at the joint, in a short space of time the wire will corrode, and the flower will separate from the stem. In nearly every style of fancy the joining is done either by wire or glue, and when the wire is affected, as above stated, the glued fancies will fall apart, water seeming to kill all the virtue in the glue. Wings and birds are sometimes put together by the same method and the same damage results. Feathers will, if wet, stick together in little bunches. They will never, even after drying, look the same and are decidedly unsalable. Plumes are the best of the articles that are not strictly speaking, staples.
Maline and chiffons are absolutely of no value if they are once badly wet, even though the colors are fast. A starchy substance is used to give them a certain body and sheen; as soon as moisture touches them, the life immediately leaves them. The buckles and ornaments are subject to different degrees of damage. These are made of cut steel, glass, aluminum, celluloid, rubber and bone. The glass will not damage unless the fire actually touches it, celluloid will ignite if exposed to very little heat. The rubber orna-
ments are made of some substance in conjunction with rubber. and it does not take much heat to melt them. Untrimmed hats are made of various materials such as, felt, velvet or straw. Felt will spot from water worse than any other material, and the cheaper the felt, the more susceptible it is to damage. The principal damage to untrimmed velvet hats is the lining, which is usually of Buckram. This Buckram. when exposed to dampness, will shrink away from the velvet, and even if the velvet is not damaged, will cause serious damage, as the value of an untrimmed hat is usually more than 50 per cent labor. In straw shapes, the damage is regulated by the grade of material. Straw s of poor shape are filled with glue dressing and water will take all the shape out of them. The better grades of straw keep their shapes very well. and will reblock. To reblock the Panama straw it is steamed or soaked in water and then put on a block to reshape. Generally the only chance for salvage to be realized on a trimmed hat is the possibility of some part of the lining or trimming being utilized.
(To be continued)