SERIOUS FIRE HAZARD AT LITTLE ROCK

SERIOUS FIRE HAZARD AT LITTLE ROCK

After investigating the fire hazard at Little Rock, Ark., the fire prevention committee of the National Board of Fire Underwriters issued the following general comment: “In the principal mercantile district, serious fires are probable in nearly every block on account of the presence of many large to excessive area buildings and weak construction from a fire-retarding standpoint. In addition, the fire department is undermanned and poorly equipped, the fire alarm system inadequate and unreliable, and winds moderately high. Although block interior accessibility is good, buildings mainly low, the water supply ample and reliable for fire engine supply, and there are several fireproof and sprinklered buildings, these are not sufficient to prevent a fire front sweeping a large portion of the district under slightly adverse conditions. In the wholesale and manufacturing and the minor mercantile districts, only group fires should occur. The residential districts present the usual living-brand hazard, increased by the weak fire department and inadequate fire alarm system.”

Little Rock has 17,000 population. The land area is 11.45 square miles, of which about half is built upon. The waterworks are owned by the American Waterworks and Guarantee Co., of Pittsburg, Pa. The company operates under a 50-year franchise in 1880. As bearing on fire protection, the ordinance requires that 55 pounds pressure shall be maintained at Main and Markham streets, even under draft, with corresponding pressures throughout the city, and that the company shall install and maintain all hydrants, for which they shall receive a rental of $50 per year per hydrant for ten hydrants per mile and the actual cost of installation for additional hydrants authorized. Supply is obtained from the Arkansas river, which has a dry period flow many times in excess of maximum consumption demands. The pumping station is located within the city on the south bank of the river, with the reservoirs and filter plant about 4000 feel west of the pumning station and about 2 miles from the principal mercantile district. Three castiron suction lines, two of 20-inch and one of 16-inch, extend about 100 feet beyond the river bank; each is hung from caps on piles and has conical screen on the outer end located below low water. The 20-inch lines, about 240 feet in length, are independent suctions for the largest pumps; lines are laid in brick tunnel from the new station to bank of river; at the outer end is an elbow set vertically. The 16-inch line, about 660 feet in length, is the suction for the pumps in the old station; over each joint is a pit for access to joint or for sealing; at the outer end is an elbow slightly inclined down stream and about 50 feet from the end a tee with branch gated for emergency use at higih water periods. Provision is not made for flushing nor for raising for cleaning. The pumping plant consists of four closely grouped buildings surrounded by levee built to above high water mark The largest building, known as the new station, contains the boilers and the two pumps ordinarily used for supplying the reservoir, also the auxiliaries; the old station contains two pumps in reserve for supplying the reservoir; pumps used to supply the Pulaski Heights occupy a third building, and the shop and storeroom are in a fourth. The pumps supplying the reservoir take suction direct from the river through the intake lines under a maximum lift of 13 feet at extreme low water, and discharge under a fairly uniform head of 266 feet. Ordinarily the 5,000,000-gallon pump is used; the 4,000,000-gallon pump is operated once a week for a few hours and at times for extended periods; the reserve pumps in the old station are operated about once a month. The pumps supplying the Pulaski Heights service take suction from one of the mains leading from the clear water reservoir under head of 103 pounds, and operate under a pressure of 160 pounds which is increased to 225 pounds if called for at times of fire; the smaller pump is ordinarily used, the larger is held as a fire reserve The sedem ntation reservoir is partly in excavation; masonry lined, with embankment on all sides. Capacity 5,500,0000 callous for average water depth of 15 5 feet; only to feet available, or approximately 3500,000 gallons; top at elevation, 281,28; water ordinarily maintained about 4 feet lower. The force mains enter the reservoir anil, turning up, discharge at the full line elevation, Two 16inch swing outlets, screened at end and supported from floats, extend through the east end at different elevations and connect with a 20-inch line on masonry piers on wall of clear water reservoir; this line extends for about 1,200 feet to the filter plant. Reservoir is cleaned on an average of twice a year. Condition good. Filters are of the pressure type and consist of 22 vertical and 4 horizontal, arranged singly and in groups for cutting out for cleaning; rated capacity, 7,500,000 gallons per 24 hours. Supplied from sedimentation reservoir under 137 feet head, and discharge through effluent pipe to clear water reservoir; effective head on filters 14 feet. The filters are housed in an unexposed 1-story, large-area, brick building, with slate roof on wooden sheathing and trusses; cement floor: two small rooms formed by. frame partitions. Clear water reservoir is of construction similar to sedimentation reservoir; capacity, 5,300,000 gallons for average depth of 17 feet; about 4,700,000 gallons available; top at elevation 266 72; water ordinarily maintained about elevation 265, Condition good. Supplied from the filters; reservoir can he by-passed. Outlet is through two 16-inch lines through the eastern end; flexible joints in reservoir on each outlet and screens over ends supported from floats. The standpipe was built about 1885, and rebuilt at present location, Sixteenth and Gaines streets, in 1891. Of riveted steel on stone foundation, without anchors; capacity, 300,000 gallons; elevation of base, 136 feet; 130 feet high; top portion is slightly flattened, but apparently in good condition; frequently inspected and painted. Single 12-inch inlet and outlet, gated close to standpipe. The daily average pumpage is 3,780,000 gallons, or 81 gallons per capita. There are 6,142 services, and 2,561 meters. The average water pressure for the whole city is 67 pounds, and for the principal mercantile district 75 pounds. As to the distributing system, practically the entire city is supplied in one service by gravity from the clear water reservoir with the standpipe as an equalizer. Pulaski Heights, a section at high elevation mostly outside the northern city limits, is supplied from the pumping station through a single 12-inch main supplying a long line of 8-and 6-inch pipe. Two 16-inch mains extend from the reservoir to the distribution system, supplying a fairly well looped secondary feeder system covering the central portion of the city; a 10-inch and a 12-inch extend through the principal mercantile district and a third branch of 10-and 12-inch pipe leads to thhe standpipe; the remainder of the city is supplied mainly through the minor distributers; in the clos“ly built residential sections, these are principally 6 inches in diameter and poorly gridironed; mains are 8 inches in diameter in the newer outlying sections, usually in long lines. There are 270,350 feet of mains, most of which were laid without covers. There are 361 gate valves, 442 public and 32 private hydrants of Ludlow and Chapman makes. The average linear spacing of hydrants in mercantile district is 320 feet, and the average area served by each is 91,600 square feet. A majority of the valves are located on the property line. The average length of main that would he necessary to cut out for repairs is 1,272 feet; 127 lengths out of 211 are in excess of 1,000 feet; in the outlying districts there are four sections ranging from 5,000 to 6,400 feet that could be affected by a single break. In a test of 41 hydrants, the pressures in the mains previous to opening were barely sufficient in the high value district for effective direct hydrant streams, and in residential districts at higher elevations, were inadequate for this class of protection: the flow obtained front the tests would he available only at pressures requiring the use of fire engines. Calculations based upon results obtained show that adequate quantities for fire engine supply would he available in the principal mercantile district and residential districts: that adequate quantities are not available in the manufacturing and warehouse district to the east of the principal mercantile district, and the inadequacy of the system in outlying sections is shown. With the long intervals between mains resulting in wide bvdrant spacing, the quantities obtained, to be available, would, in many sections, require exceptionally long lines of hose

THE EIRE DEPARTMENT.

The fire department, consisting of Chief C S. Hafer and 34 men, is full paid. Charles A Burns is first assistant and John N. Woolford second assistant. The cost of maintenance of the department and fire alarm system during 1910, including $2,440 for fire station rentals, was $41,982; this amounted to 91 cents per capita, based on a population of 45,940. Two engine, one ladder and three hose companies are in service, at five stations; another hose company is at present without quarters and its members are stationed with Hose Company 1. There is a capital for each company and an engineer is assigned to each engine. The first assistant chief attends fires with the ladder truck and the second assistant chief with an engine company Engine drivers act as stokers; the chief’s chauffeur is relief engineer. The engines are of reciprocating type. All have automatic relief valves, and those in service have hand relief valves; the newest engine has a suction gage and rubber tires and carries a Siamese and a Y connection and two play pipes with 1 1/8-to 1 1/2-inch ring tips. No engine heaters are provided. The new engine has two large hard suctions; each of the others has a hard and a soft suction. The engines were tested by National Board engineers, April 25, 1911. to determine their condition and the ability of the crews. Engine No. 2 was in good condition. Engine No. 4 showed excessive slip in the pump and the reserve engine developed leaks in various fittings. All steamed poorly, due partly to irregular stoking, but principally to inferior coal. The truck in service is in fair condition, hut in need of painting. Equipment includes a deluge set, door ooener, large street pipe with Siamese connection, roof cutter, ropes, 100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, two extinguishers and a few small tools. A reserve truck of the slow-raising aerial type, with a small stock of heavy ladders, is kept at the city hall. It could be used in emergency. The tank of the combination wagon is provided with a 2 1/2-inch connection. The other wagons are of local make and plain type; one has a turret pipe. Wagons carry rather short lines of hose on account of poor condition of many of the streets. There are two 4-wheeled reels and a 2-wheeled reel in reserve. The chief is provided with an automobile, which carries two 3-gallon chemical extinguishers. There is a chief’s buggy in reserve, which is sometimes used by the first assistant chief.

GENERAL SUMMARY.

Water Supply.—Private works; organization and management good. Supply from river adequate; pumped to reservoir, filtered and distributed by gravity from reservoir at good elevation; emergency provisions for direct pumpage. Pumping stations non-fireproof; protection insufficient; pump and boiler capacity sufficient; intake fairly reliable. Reservoirs in good condition; about two days’ domestic supply; storage largely reduced when cleaning. Consumption moderate. Pressures good to fair; insufficient for effective direct hydrant streams under heavy fire draft. Main arteries and secondary feeders inadequate; minor distributers incompletely gridironed. Mains in good condition. Gate valves well maintained; spacing wide. Hydrants in good operative condition; spacing wide.

Fire Department.—Full paid. Under control of council committee. Appointments and discipline in hands of a capable chief; discipline and personnel good. Appropriations for maintenance small; department undermanned. No company located in principal mercantile district; eastern manufacturing and southern residential districts poorly protected. Engine, chemical and ladder service weak. Engine capacity inadequate and reduced by poor coal and stoking. Minor equipment slightly deficient. Plose in good condition; supply small; no large hose provided. Ordinary fires well handled, but department too weak to control spreading fires; no salvage work. Building inspections regular and fairly efficient.

Conflagration Hazard.—Owing to the presence of many large areas, several conflagration breeders, much weak construction, poor electric wiring and inadequate fire alarm system, and a weak fire department, the conflagration hazard is severe in parts of the principal mercantile district. Buildings are mainly low, block accessibility is good, and the water supply is sufficient for engine streams, but these are not sufficient to prevent a fire from sweeping a large portion of the district under adverse conditions. The minor mercantile, warehouse and manufacturing districts arc mainlv in detached groups and present little conflagration hazard. Residential districts present the usual flying-brand hazard.

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