SKETCH OF THE MINNEAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT.
Minneapolis as an intelligent progressive city has many things to be proud of, says the Tribune newspaper of that place, but no one thing is of greater importance or more highly appreciated than the fire department. In the Department, including Chief Engineer, First and Second Assistants, and Drivers, there are sixtyseven men, receiving in the aggregate $2,444.95 month. Of course this list is not made up of “regulars” altogether, but includes “call men” and all others in in any way connected with the department. A large number of the Firemen are employed in the mils and other manufactories, and are only in fire service when an alarm sounds, and receive for this work $5 per week, fire or no fire. The life of e Fireman, or rather his position, like that of a policeman, is generally looked upon as a soft thing, but it is anything else. He has not the steady drudge and toil o the ordinary laborer nor the fret and responsibility of those in higher positions; ye he has enough. No momeat is his own. He never knows a moment in advance when the sharp, clear ring of the alarm bell will come to summon him to painful toil and peril. He never asks a question when the bell sounds; neve stops to argue, to think or to quarrel. A pause of a moment on bis part may be sufficient to let horses and apparatus dash out unattended—for the horses know only that which has been carefully and patiently trained into them, tolbound out of their stalls at the alarm call, run to their respective places at the apparatus where the automatic working harness tails and they bound away. The head that wears a crown is not more uneasy than that which presses the Fireman’s pillow.
It is rather a funny sight, that of the Fireman responding to an alarm about midnight. In each Engine-house, on the floor above the apparatus, are arranged neat and comfortable beds for each and every man belonging to the apparatus of the house, and as a rule at midnight all are occupied. But no one of the men ever goes to bed unprepared tor an emergency. By long practice he is enabled to lay his clothes and boots just where and how he can tumble into them the quickest, and by the time he has lrft his bed, got to the trap, slid down the steel rod, and reachtd the ground floor he is generally dressed and ready for service. All is s ill in the Engine-house. Even the sleek, well-kept horses have ceased their munching and are asleep. Suddenly the alarm sounds I Then follows a scene of excitement even to those who are accustomed to its every-day occurrence. The same flash of electricity that strikes the first signal on the gong, turns up to full blaze the gts, stops the clock, opens the trap to give the Fireman exit by means of the pole, open, the doors of the horse stalls, prepares the harness for falling into place on the horses, and—well, in fact, that one flash of intelligent lightning does everything but drive the apparatus to the fire. There is no yelling or loud talk; no clash of men or horses at cross purposes. All is quick and noiseless, and within a space of time almost incredulous for its brevity the horse, dash out of the House like mad. But they are not so much excited as we might imagine. The horses are far less automatic in their movements than their human companions; they seem to imbibe the spirit of the occasion and never need urging; they dash from their stalls to the pole of the apparatus with the precision of a trained soldier going through (he manual of arms, get in proper position, and know to a dot when the harness Is In place and all th: sn ips snapped. Simultaneously with the last snap they start and the driver can only hope to guide them.
Every day practice is maintained at all the Engine-houses. The men are sent to bed, the horses placed in their stalls, and all made ready as for a fire. Then the alarm is sounded and the men and horses are called out for practice the same as for a fire—and this is repeated again and again until the Foreman is satisfied that his men and horses are in clean trim and ready for any work they may be called upon to perform, and they are then dismissed. So it goes every day and every night, and in this may be explained the efficiency of the Department. Every member is obliged to report at his respective Engine-house at 9 o’clock p. M. sharp, 365 nights in the year, and he is not excused save for good cause. One night off in the week is granted each member, but he may, under the rules, get ofT more than one night by obtaining permission of the Chief and furnishing a substitute. AH members of the Department are obliged to sleep at the Engine-houses save when excused or off duty. About one-half of the members have families, and in order to provide for their families in case of fatality or for themselves should they meet with an accident, the Firemen have organized a mutual benefit protective association, into the treasury of which monthly dues and all complimentary purses go for the general good.
The Fireman must needs be a person of judgment and in active physical training. Life and properly many times depend upon his ” keeping cool” and not ” losing his head.” He must also be a man of nerve and decision, brave but n it r ckless, quick but no’ impetuous, ready at any moment to give up his life, if needs be, that others may be saved. He may lounge about the Engine-house all day, toasting his shins at the stove, and at night just as he becomes fast asleep the alarm may sound, and he is sent to the fire, there to battle with the destructive element perhaps until morning, wet through to the skin, face and cars and hands frozen, and his form encased in ice. It is far from funny or pleasant, and death lurk3 in every step. And when the blaze is quenched the Fireman and his apparatus is returned to the house, sometimes just as another alarm sounds, and away he goes again to meet old perils and hardships with maybe just a slight variation. So fir as the Chief or the writer knows the Minneapolis Fire Department contains not one coward, not one laggard and not one man that will not cheerfully and promptly respond to the call of duty. Drunkards and objectionable characters of all sorts find no place within its honored ranks, and none but solid, trusty men are kept. It is useless to add that the Department is first-class, that people place in it unlimited confidence and hold for it respect. Never yet has it failed in time of need, and the money it has cost and will cost could not be better applied to any branch of the public service. Occasionally some Alderman emits a slight growl at same item of expense for improvements, but it never amounts to more than a passing objection. The Department a3 a whole has never been in better trim than at present, and perfect harmony exists in all branches.
—At a fire in a furniture store in Milwaukee a few nights ago great damage was done by water. The insurance men have put on their thinking caps, and are now debating whether they could not keep money in their pockets by establishing a Salvage Corps. There is some question as to whether the frequency of fires in the store buildings of the city would justify the expense of keeping up a patrol, but, with a few more losses similar to that referred to it is believed that the q lestian will bedefinitely settled in the affirmative.