SHOULD NEW YORK’S FIRE COMMISSIONERS BE ABOLISHED?
THE plain duty of the fire commissioners of the city of New York, in the case of Superintendent Smith, of the fire alarm bureau, was to fill his position with a man of more progressive ideas. The commissioners who voted for his acquittal of the charges brought against him have failed to discharge their duty towards the people they represent. The evidence produced at the trial of Superintendent Smith showed that New York’s fire alarm system was very far behind the age, and that Mr. Smith was responsible for this condition. The antiquated boxes in use should have been replaced long ago by those of modern make, yet Mr. Smith seems not to have realized the importance of adopting this improvement. Comment has been made on this trial in former issues of FIRE AND WATER, wherefore, it is only necessary to say here that the best thing the St^te legislature can do is to legislate the present board of fire commissioners out of office and appoint in its stead one commissioner who will not be afraid to do his duty. Incompetent, weak men have no right to control such an important branch of the municipal service as the fire department of a great city like this. Brooklyn and Boston are able to get along very satisfactorily with a single-head commission, and Chicago with a fire marshal, who is alone responsible for the workings of his department. The clumsy methods employed by the fire commissioners of New York and their recent wrangles make the system more of a farce than a good business organization. The best policy to pursue, in order to have the affairs of the fire depart of New York city conducted in a proper manner, is to wipe out the present system of commissioners, and not to wait for the adoption of the charter for the Greater NewYork. When this is done, a good, competent business man can be placed in charge of the fire department. The testimony of City Electrician Brophy of Boston, of Mr. Carty, electrical engineer of New York city, and the fact that there were 101 failures of the fire boxes in the New York system to none in Chicago, ought to be sufficient evidence to convince the commissioners that they have failed in their duty by reinstating Superintendent Smith. There ought not to have been any sentiment whatever in the matter. The commissioners were appointed simply to discharge their duties in the same manner in which they would manage their own private business. Instead of doing so, they introduced a singularly unwise and very dangerous precedent, and have, besides, failed in the discharge of their duty. So long as such men control the fire department of New York, the insurance companies and others will have to keep a close lookout for blunders similar to those which Commissioners Sheffield and Sturgis have made; otherwise some startling catastrophe may be looked for. There seems to be no doubt that the same antagonisms exist in the personnel of the board at the present time as those which agitated it during the tenure of office of the late Commissioner Ford. Such being the case, we trust that the newly elected members of the State legislature will lose no time in bringing about this much needed reform in the fire department of New York. The present board of fire commissioners ought to go and the department be placed in charge of one fearless, responsible head. We shall comment further upon this matter with a view to bringing it about that the present fire service of New York city be kept up to its present standard. As it now stands, its fire alarm branch is its weakest part. It has been made so by the commissioners named above.