Small Town Has Paid Fire Department
Bloomington, Ill.—Perhaps the most perplexing problem of a municipal nature that confronts the smaller cities of the United States, is that of fire protection. Those of less than 5,000 inhabitants can not afford the force of fire fighters, constantly on duty and with costly apparatus and buildings, that are so essential in the larger centers of population. As a result, a volunteer department, with antiquated pumps and hose reels, is about all that most towns of small population can depend upon for protection against the destroying element. An exception is Sycamore, an enterprising town of central Illinois, which boasts of 4,500 inhabitants and first class fire protection, the cost of which is but $150 per month. Most aldermen will declare that it can not be done. Sycamore, however, is doing it and is ready to prove it.
The arrangement is somewhat out of the ordinary. A contract has been entered into with the firm of Butzow Brothers, who operate a public garage. A modern motor driven, combination pump, ladder truck and hose reel, was purchased and is stored in the garage and manned by employes. The garage gives the starter a daily test and there is constant inspection in order that the apparatus is always in good working order. Whenever there is a fire, the machine is handled by four employes of the garage, the day and night shift responding in accordance with the time the fire occurs. But a few minutes is required to reach a fire and the garage mechanics have achieved a notable record in their prompt response to alarms and efficient handling of the apparatus and attacking the fire.
The fire loss in Sycamore is at its lowest point since the new system was inaugurated. There is no longer the worriment that was pronounced in the days of the volunteer department and the bucket brigade. The garage proprietor finds that the truck adds but little to the expense of operating the plant while the monthly revenue is very welcome in meeting the payroll and other obligations. The employes arc paid a fixed sum for each alarm they respond to. They enjoy this feature of their work and take pride in the maintenance of the machine and their service for the public.
Should there be any accident because of the negligence of the employes, the city is not to be held liable, under the contract. The city has installed a telephone and fire alarm system and also pays for any parts of the machine required. The ordinary upkeep is looked after by the garage attaches. The co-operative system has proven so satisfactory and so economical, that it is attracting the attention of others towns of similar size and they may take similar action.