SLEEPING QUARTERS FOR FIREMEN.
“The abolition of dormitories for more than one as sleeping quarters for firemen,” is my subject. It has been claimed that an Interested party can always produce a good argument in behalf of any movement he may advocate, and, in speaking on the subject already given, I may, perhaps, be accused of having something to gain personally, if my suggestions should be carried out. I can only say in answer to such criticism, if it should be made, that a person having personal and practical experience in any direction is far better qualified to advance ideas and suggestions than one who has nothing but theories to offer. The soldier who served in the war is in a better position to tell about it than the man who stayed at home and read about it.
Now, I thoroughly believe from personal experience that the matter of suitable, proper, healthful, and convenient sleeping quarters for members of a fire department who are required to be on duty at enginehouses is a subject of the most vital importance, not merely to the firemen, who are directly and especially affected, but more especially to the fire service. We see iu all cities of intelligence, culture, and prominence special efforts made to place the fire departments on the very best footing. Broad passageways from the houses to facilitate safe and rapid exit in answering alarms; specially constructed and carefully lecated stalls for the horses that are to run the apparatus, quick hitches, and electric appliances, sliding poles, and everything that experience has shown to be necessary are provided with great care; but little attention is given to proper and healthful sleeping quarters for the men.
No one would think for a moment of coraling five, six, or more homes in one large stall in an enginehouse and expect that, in the rush for places when the alarm rings in, there would be anything but dire confusion. The most ignorant person, without the slightest degree of training in fire department matters, will admit that such a state of things could not be tolerated for a moment. And yet the men who are expected to be alert, careful, and trained in the art of handling horses and apparatus as welt as extinguishing fires are generally herded iu one room, breathing vitiated and enervating air, denied the privacy of an apartment where the great luxury of being alone for a brief interval would be appreciated, and, from the very nature of the situation, forced to rush in a bunch for the sliding pole when an alarm comes in.
It seems so very strange that this all-important matter has been allowed to continue in its present condition, when a greater efficiency, better and more orderly service, and a more healthful state of things can be so easily brought about by providing each man with a separate room. By separate room I do not mean a palatial boudoir, with silken hangings, tapestry carpets, mahogany wainscoting, and a grand piano.
I refer only to a comfortable sieepingroom, properly ventilated, that a man can feel Is his own to use.
I admit that the money cost of separate rooms will he a little more than the expense of providing a dormitory, but I cannot refrain in this connection from calling attention to the fact that it costs more to have separate stalls for the horses. Separate rooms could he so arranged as to permit the men who should be first on the fioor of the house to reach the sliding pole immediately, the others following who are to ride to the fire and assist in the work of extinguishing the fames. It may be claimed that it borders on the sentimental to assert, as I do, that separate rooms would give an opportunity for each man to make for himself a tasty, homelike apartment by adding for himself such little personal comforts as might suit his fancy in the way of pictures or souvenirs. If it is sentiment that causes a man to prefer pleasant and agreeable surroundings, then let it be so. I care not what it is called, so long as it tends to elevate a man and give his life and work a touch of pleasure of the better sort. A man can mow a field with a scythe today if he wants to, but he doesn’t, neither does he reap corn with a sickle. Such methods were relegated to the past long ago, and it is time that the enginehouse dormitory was told to “go way back and sit down,” in order that a better, more decent, and more healthful system of separate rooms may prevail. I do not believe any one will deny that firemen, who are required to spend twentyone hours out of every twenty-four in their enginehouses, should receive anything but fair consideration, and that every reasonable effort should be made to make them comfortable and their duties as pleasant as their nature will permit.
*Paper read at the convention of the Masaachusetts State Firemen s association, Holyoke, Mass., September, 1901.
I doubt if I can give you a specific plan for the arrangement of separate rooms that will be adapted to all enginehouses, but an architect of ability, in planning a new house, can easily provide for such rooms, properly grouped near the sliding pole, and ventilated and lighted in a healthful and pleasant way. The dormitory system is decidedly bad, and, as the world progresses and people become more interested and intelligent in the matter of healthful living, the evil effects of the dormitory become more and more apparent.
I trust that some city will give the separate room system a trial in the near future, and I am confident that from that moment the dormitory is doomed.