Their Efficiency in Saving Life, and Objections to Their Use in Some Cities
When it is said that naval statistics show about twenty per cent, of a foreign clement in the American service, and that this can be very nearly doubled so as to include the number who have for reasons enlisted as American citizens, when they are really foreign-born and trained, the British process of turning out a tar becomes of consummate interest to all Americans. Not for this reason alone, but as well because the United States is using nearly identically the same system as the British for producing men for the navy; and ten years from this time there will be very little, if any difference. Of course, there are at all times more liberality and individual consideration in American methods, and raw material, whether it is a boy from an Ohio canal boat, a lad from the mines of Colorado, or a confident imp from the streets of New York, is always more apt in steamship gunnery, mechanics, and small arms exercises. The boys are first taken aboard a receiving ship, and their pay begins at once. After being trained alboard the receiving ship, which is for the most part an old wooden man-of-war, they are transferred to cruising school ships in some cases, and in other cases sent to sea in a man-of war. It is in the training ship stage that the handwork is the salient feature. Therefore, we can readily see that, in order to become a member of the British or United States navy, a thorough course of training is the first requirement for the service, and, therefore, it seems to me that without any question one of the most, if not the most important department in every city and village of these United States, yes, of the whole world, is that of the fire service. And, while our army and navy are thoroughly trained, and are provided with training schools, not twenty per cent, of our fire departments through this educated land have training schools for firemen. I have personally made inquiries why such a small per cent, of organised departments were so lax. The answers I received in some cases were laughable. Old age of firemen in many cases was the excuse; so many not being able to perform severe duty, owing to their age, but who were very faithful and on the spot on paydays. In others, the lack of funds to provide proper equipment was the excuse. In one particular instance, the answer was, “Our training school is at the fire.” There were, however, a great many other answers too numerous to mention. The pompier ladder, or, as it is very often called, the scaling ladder, has been on the market for a number of years, and has been successfully used by a great many departments. But in some cases where the department has been equipped with pompier ladders, they were thrown to one side, not because the ladders were not of service, but because the men who attempted to use them were not familiar with their use, and knew nothing about the handling of the sealing ladders— probably no more than they did of caring for or manning a steam fire engine. Suppose our engineers were not schooled, or were not familiar with their engines, what would be the result? In order to use the scaling ladder, proper training is the first and main step. Scaling ladders, without training for those who are to use them, are of no use, are, indeed, a very dangerous part of any equipment to have in the service. Many of you are acquainted with the fact that in a great many cities training schools are constantly in operation, and, in order to become a member of the fire rank from chief engineer, a certain time must be occupied at these training schools. In New York State, New York city, Syracuse, Yonkers, Gloversville, Utica, Elmira, Watertown and Schenectady are properly provided with training schools. The main particular feature of the use of scaling ladders is their handiness. In so many cities where the telephone, electric and many other wires are running to buildings overhead making it impossible to raise ground or aerial ladders before all or part of the wires are cut, which causes a delay, with a scaling ladder on each apparatus in many cases, it is not necessary to wait for the arrival of a truck. For instance, probably many of you had read in the New York papers of the work performed by that small and useful article, the scaling ladder, when it is properly handled. On November 28, 1901. at the fire of William S. Uptgrove and Bros., at Tenth street and avenue A, New York city, when nearly thirty firemen escaped with their lives only through the prompt and heroic work of comrades, who saved them from their perilous perch on the roof of an adjoining building by the quick and skilful use of a scaling ladder. Before the extension ladder could be placed in position, the imperiled firemen were nimbly footing their way down the scaling ladder to safety. Is not that enough to teach the educated man the efficiency of such an article? And, if it were necessary, I might quote many experiences of a large number of cities. But the training school is not alone for the scaling ladder; it is to instruct in the different ways of handling hose ladders, connections, explosives, etc. Confidence is one of the most important of all to any fireman. I have seen men of good physique, intelligent, willing and with firemanic experience, at the first few drills in the training school, alter climbing two stories, announce from that story when looking to the ground, “I shall fall, I certainly must fall.” But with careful coaching, and after receiving confidence for a few days, they were placed on the roll and have certificates of being first-class firemean, and able to perform any duties required of them in a first-class department. Confidence, with proper coaching, as a rule, will develop good firemen. I have explained a few of the good features of the scaling ladder, but only a very few of their objections to their use in some cities. My reason for that, I might say, was, because the objections were so ridiculous that it would be a shame put them in print. I wish that every member of this association, who is in any way opposed to the scaling ladder, whenever he is near a city w’here schools of instruction are held, would visit such a place, and without any doubt his opinion will be greatly changed. Our school children are taught the English language, and in nearly all cities throughout the East their rooms are fitted with a fire gong, which is sounded monthly, at least, without warning. All pass quietly and quickly down the stairs or fire escape to the ground. This is called in my city a fire drill. I personally attend such drills, and have known 400 children to be out of a school building in less than two minutes. This will show you that our army, our navy, the school children, and even niotormen on the cars of well equipped and disciplined railway systems are instructed in their work, and still we find fire department after lire department where no attempt has been made to instruct properly the most valuable of all our lifesavers—the firemen in the use of these ladders. Let this most worthy association endeavor to impress upon the minds of all municipal authorities through their chief engineer the necessity of having a training school where the use of the pompier ladder as well as other instruction is given for the good of the fire service.
* Paper read at the convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers, Chattanooga September, 1904.