SOME FIRE STATISTICS.
The American Exchange and Review, of Philadelphia, commenting on the greater number of fires in this country than in European countries, presents some interesting statistics, to which we give place below. Outbreaks of fire make but a very small part of the subject of destructive burn ngs, but such ignitions have especial significance as relating directly to the personal origin of fires, whether such origin is by ignorance, negligence, or design. The personal relations do not, of course, determine the combustive conditions, and fires rage according to physical conditions, irrespective of the character of the personal ownership or associations of the property, and even ignition from personal cause will occur at the highest relative frequency at the highest stage of combustibility ; but the question of the origin of a fire is distinct from the contingency as to whether the loss will be one dollar or one million dollars. In this sense, therefore, it can be said that loss by fire is not a personal question, but the origin of fire is. We start fire in the United S’ates, taking decades of experience, at the rate per annum of about one fire per 1000 population, some special localities rise something above th s mean, others fall below it; and though more than one-half of the ignitions result in loss of less than a hundred dollars each, it appears by insurance experience that, measured by value, a larger proportion of combustible property is burned in the United States annually than in any civilized nation on the globe, allowing for such exceptions as Saxony, etc. This, however, very imperfectly measures the respective material burnings, as here prices and extent of insurance lines are controlling factors. Whether the people of the United States wittingly and unwittingly start more fires than other people of equal number is a matter about whfch less is knowm than differences in extent of burning. As a suggestion on this point we take data of city fires in 1879, and for the decade 1870-1879, published in the Wiener Assecuranz, and make comparisons with the fires which occurred in some of our cities, comparing on the basis of estimated population.
London had in 1879 about 3,700,000 inhabitants, and there were 4659 fires reported that year. In 1870 there were 4512 fires, and for the decade named the annual average was 4174. To form any comparison with the fires of the greatest city in the world, we must combine those of 1879 in the six largest cities of the United States, viz.:
As here shown, the number of fires to equal population is nearly similar, and it is possible that errors as to number of fires and number of population do not greatly vary the actual comparative position.
As the data which we have for Paris is for the year 1878, we compare with them the fires and populations of New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore for 1878, viz.
The number of persons to a fire, both in Paris and the three combined American cities, was almost equal, being for the former 765, and 756 for the latter. Though not part of the subject we are considering, we here show the difference in value of property destroyed with numerical similarity of fire outbreak. In Paris 1830 of the fires were only of chimneys, and the loss is stated at §922,958, while the losses of the other cities were, New York, $1,033,852 ; Philadelphia, $1,332,989 ; Baltimore, $i56,6o2=$3,322,643.
Comparing Vienna and Berlin with New York, we have the following :—
New York and Berlin approach nearly in number of persons to each fire, which is rather remarkable. The fires of Vienna are wondrously even in number—356 in 1870; 384 in 1879 ; average, 363 for the decade. Those of Berlin show a large increase. In 1870 there were in that city 777 fires ; 1875, 1047 fires ; 1879, 1472 fires ; average, 997 for the decade.
In the following, cities approaching each other in number of inhabitants, are contrasted :—
The population of a city in a given year is a very uncertain quantity. Two enumerations, one following another, in a year may show apparently contradictory results. We have adjusted the numbers of people in the foregoing with the data at hand. (The figures given of population of St. Louis, as per census of 1880, are 350,522.) We believe, in the case of Hamburg, fires and population apply to an area of 158 square miles. The total population of the European cities given is 4,845,000, with 3704 fires for the year, or one fire to each 1308 of population. The American cities aggregate 2,880,000 population, with 3155 fires—one to each 913 inhabitants.