Sprinklers by All Means, Say Chiefs
Effective Means of Catching Fire at Start—Sentiment Unanimously Favors Compulsory Installation in Commercial and Public Buildings—Interesting Replies to Questionnaire
JUST so long as there is anything burnable in existence, just so long will there be fires. And after all is said and done we know that if we are to see an end to big fires, the conflagrations that are wiping out thriving communities and destroying the business sections, the very hearts of some of our best cities—if we are to reduce property damage and loss of life to a minimum, it comes right down to the simple matter of catching fires in their incipient stage. The so-called fireproof building is by no means fool-proof and certainly not immune from the ravages of fire as we have so often seen.
“Little fires are quickly trodden out, but if suffered rivers cannot quench” is a truism that experienced fire fighters know only too well. And it is to catch the fire at the start in what they have learned from long experience to be the most effective and certain way that fire chiefs the country’ over are urging the installation of automatic sprinkler systems in commercial buildings, schools and wherever else dangerous hazards exist.
There is hardly any wonder that the chiefs in replying to a questionnaire recently sent out by FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING are almost unanimous in favoring sprinkler installation.
Here’s what several of the leading chiefs say:
Chief Myers, Dallas, Tex.—I am serving my forty-third year in the fire fighting game, and I say without hesitancy that the .sprinkler system is the greatest fireman on earth. I have seen it thoroughly demonstrated in Dallas and I know that there is no fire protection invention of the day that will rank with the sprinkler system in reducing the fire waste of the country. I strongly advocate sprinklers for all commercial establishments. public buildings, etc.
Chief O’Brien, Indianapolis, Ind.—Having been stationed in the wholesale district for the past twenty-four years and seeing the good results of sprinkling systems, I heartily indorse them in every sense of the word.
Chief Callahan, Detroit, Mich.—I am fully in accord with my brother chiefs that the merits of the automatic sprinkler call for no argument. Neither has the value of sprinkler systems been questioned by owners or tenants of commercial buildings, the main reason for their hesitancy in this installation being the financial investment connected therewith.
Detroit, perhaps, is far in advance of many cities in this compulsory installation, for instance. Article 25, Section 256 of the Building Code of the City of Detroit, provides as follows:
Sprinkler System—Special Cases—Section 256. In all buildings mentioned in Section 250 not equipped with an approved sprinkler heads are to be installed in all stock rooms located in basements and sub-basements, as directed by the Detroit Ji’ire Department. Sprinkler heads shall be so placed as to thoroughly protect all parts of the area In which they are installed. The pipes suppy’ing sprinkler heads shall be connected to the wet pipe system. Buildings mentioned in Section 250 are buildings in District No. 1 hereinafter erected over four stories or fifty-five feet in height.
District No. 1 comprises the bussiness district of our city and while I readily contend that It is just as essential to have a building of this class in the outskirts sprinkled, to my mind it would be a difficult piece of legislation to put over.
However will say that 1 strongly advocate the sprinkling of all buildings used for mercantile purposes, but believe other methods should be adopted to secure this compulsory installation, other than the municipality.
Chief Boughner, Grand Rapids, Mich.—I am a firm believer in sprinkler systems especially in this city where we have a pressure of from 65 to 100 lbs. in the congested district. But it is a hard proposition to create local ordinances covering same on account of the expense.
Chief Delfs, Lansing, Mich.—A good start to make would be the compulsory sprinkling of basements by ordinance in all buildings used for commercial purposes.
Chief Engineer Ringer, Minneapolis, Minn.—The matter of sprinkler equipment for all buildings in congested or factory districts is a long step, and it seems impossible to pass such a radical ordinance. I say radical, for the reason of the extreme change and the high cost. While such a condition would be ideal, it is one that we cannot hope for in the near future.
However, in liew of a general sprinkler ordinance, I am advocating that all basements In commercial buildings, especially where there are partitions, or basements of excessive area, be equipped with a dry pipe system with sprinkler heads of standard spacing and Siamese connections at the sill on the outside of the building.
It has been our experience that basement fires are the most impossible, and no fire department has yet been able to fight basement fires intelligently, especially where large quantities of inflammable material are stored, or where the basement Is separated by partitions.
Usually basement fires when we arrive on the scene are of an incipient nature, but owing to the smoke and gases they are inaccessible, and I am assuming that no one should have the right to place inflammable material In Inaccessible places and expect firemen to sacrifice their lives in protecting it.
With the dry pipe system which I have described, the water will find the fire, and I believe if this system could be adopted generally that our losses would be greatly decreased.
Chief Henderson, Kansas City, Mo.—All tenement houses should be sprinkled in the cellars as they all have storerooms and that is where we get most of our fires. I even believe in sprinkling every cellar in the city if it could be done. By sprinkling every lousiness house in the city and all the cellars our fire loss would be cut two-thirds.
Chief Salter, Omaha, Neb-Regarding sprinkler systems in large buildings and manufacturing establishments, I will say that there is no better watchman invented and if properly looked after can always be depended upon and will certainly do its work. Omaha has some buildings that are sprinkled and this protection has prevented many large fires. Every building that is not used for dwelling should be sprinklered; and if they were, our fire losses would be greatly reduced.
Laws should compel all buildings sprinkled If not used as dwellings. I am told that sprinklers will pay for themselves inside of a few years on account of insurance. If this is so I do not see why more are not installed. A sprinkler system in a building is worth its weight in gold in case of fire.
Chief Gilday, Hoboken, N. J.—I would favor sprinklers in all stores and basements occupied for storage or manufacturing purposes.
Chief Bridgeford, Albany, N. Y.—I believe that all stores and business houses should be compelled to have their cellars sprinkled, even if the other parts are not. In school houses I am very much in favor of a good sprinkler system throughout the entire building, except in a modern fire-proof structure; there is not much danger of fire except where the heating system is out of order. In a school house built at the present time even if fire-proof the cellar should be sprinkled as it is necessary to keep a certain amount of kindling wood on hand which, if it should ignite from any cause would create a panic.
Chief Wallace, Cleveland, Ohio—I would recommend that all boats used for passenger service on the ocean, lakes and rivers should be sprinklered.
Chief Daniels, Columbus, Ohio—In my opinion universal sprinkling is the only way to reduce the fire losses of this country.
Chief Boyd, Knoxville, Tenn.—Schools, hospitals, apartments, hotels and theatres should be protected by sprinklers.
If men protect stocks of goods and the building, they, above all, should be required by law to safeguard the lives of the people they house. I would favor a law passed by Congress prohibiting shingle roof to be put on any building. A parent should not subject his family to the dangers of sleeping under such a roof. I am for anything that will reduce the fire waste of this country.
People have to be made to do that which they know is for their own good. There are not 10 per cent, of the men that carry life insurance that bought it themselves. The agents made them take it. So with protection against fire.
Chief Weaver, Nashville, Tenn.—The installation of sprinklers around the tops of tanks containing fuels of an inflammable or explosive nature, would greatly reduce the loss by fire, and would also greatly lessen the spread of fire to adjoining tanks or other property.
The release of water on the tanks would help control the fire, and at the same time would keep the tanks cool, eliminating the possibility of fuel generating gas and exploding.
The writer has been successful in fighting tank fires in this manner; with a sprinkler system, it would have released the streams used to keep the tanks cool, for fire fighting purposes.
Chief Johnson, Bridgeport, Conn.—All school buildings should have sprinkler systems, especially buildings of mill construction. Stairs and stairways in school buildings should have sprinklers installed under stairways and other dangerous points.
Chief Engineer Luts, Wilmington, Del.—While on the subject of sprinklers, would suggest that you make a strong campaign to have sprinklers installed in the basement of five and ten cent stores throughout the country. In some of the cities where no laws compel their installation, as In our city, the five and ten cent stores’ cellars are chopped up Into hundreds of compartments, the partitions being of woodwork, small aisles throughout, each compartment filled with Inflammable materials. When a fire occurs, the dense smoke makes It almost impossible to get into the cellar, and you cannot use cellar pipes on account of not knowing Just what compartment is afire, and if you do, just what place on the floor to place the pipe to get into that compartment. A sprinkler should be installed in each compartment. This also applies to all cellars that are partitioned off in any manner.
Chief Casey, Cambridge, Mass.—I believe that sprinklers should be installed in all commercial buildings, factories and all apartment houses of more than three families. There should be sprinklers installed In the basement and also In the rear hallways.
Chief Harley, Holyoke, Mass.—I believe that all manufacturing plants, and all mercantile buildings In the congested district should be sprinklered, also the basement of the schools, churches, hospitals and theatres.
Chief E. E. Chase, Lynn, Mass.—All basements; also apartment houses or lodging houses and factory buildings in whatever location;—also some kind of an alarm valve on all sprinkled risks to the nearest engine house and also a thermostat fire alarm if possible.
Chief Bywater, Salt Lake City, Utah—There has been too much passing the buck upon this question, and until the proper organization goes Into this matter and takes a firm stand. Are losses will continue to go up. We can not expect to get any assistance from the local agent, as all the majority of them are Interested in Is their premium; of course you And some exceptions to this rule. And until the large companies join with the men of the National Board and go after this question in a practical way nothing can be expected. You can write all the articles you have space for and it will have no effect until some plan is devised to make men who sell Are insurance to pass an examination in every state before some competent authority as to their fitness to sell Are insurance. Until they cut out playing favorites and call a spade a spade and not write policies to irresponsible parties, then and not until then will we see a decline in Are loss. Yours for hewing to the line and let the chips fall where they may.
Chief Weeks, Spokane, Wash.—Faulty construction or structural conditions is a main factor in causing large fire losses. Buildings of ordinary post joint construction with large areas all subject to a fire that may originate in any part of such structure, would cease to be the targets they now are if properly sprlnklered.