Stationary Engines for Fighting Fire.
The topic—” In view of the great height and extensive area of large buildings now being erected, not only for offices but for general mercantile and manufacturing purposes, has not the time arrived when fire departments should be radically changed in their equipment by the abandoning of the portable steam fire engine, ami the substitution therefor, district stationary engines, giving a direct pressure, or by the aid of stand-pipes, a regular pressure which should be ready at all times to deliver water to the highest points, thus enabling fire departments to dispense with much of the cumbersome machinery now necessary, and enable them to reach points where it is now almost impossible so to do”—assigned to me is so replete with progressive ideas and suggestive thoughts I fear my inability to present the subject satisfactorily in this brief address upon it.
At the outset permit me to observe that in my judgment the time has not yet arrived when fire departments should be radically changed in their equipment for extinguishing fires by the abandonment of the portable steam fire engine, which at all times may be used as the aid and auxiliary to and in conjunction with district stationary engines or pumping stations, and that the true and only way for fire departments to keep pace with the height and area of buildings is to utilize the machinery and equipments of such buildings.
In view of the great height of buildings already erected and n process of construction, most, if not all, of them are supplied with powerful steam pumps for pumping water for elevator purposes, and these pumps and boilers could be readily utilized for extinguishing fires.
Every building hereafter erected, to be used for office, mercantile or manufacturing purposes, should be completely piped with independent water pipes throughout, and these pipes with connections for hose of regulation size on every floor. The supply of hose should be sufficient to reach every part of the floor, and the provision for water, except the storage on hand is exhausted or some emergency arises or accident occurs, should be independent of the ordinary municipal supply in the building. The sewer pipes ought to be so laid as to extend to and take the water from each floor and conduct it speedily to the public sewer in the street. In drawing plans for such buildings, architects should include therein their proper and adequate piping and sewering from the foundation to the topmost story. It is a well known fact to all the members of this convention that from each year’s fires hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property, which might nearly all be saved, is destroyed by accumulated waste water in basements, cellars and sub cellars because of the most primitive, imperfect or no sewer pipes there to carry it off. It is no uncommon thing for firemen to be up to their waists in such water vainly searching an outlet for it, and, finding none, finally break up the water closets to afford it a means of escape.
Connected with such water pipes there should be automatic water sprinklers and distributors for cellars, enclosed stairways, elevator shafts, dark rooms, store rooms, attics and out-of-theway places in such buildings, said sprinklers and distributors he so made as to open and discharge by heat, and also connect automatically with call bells or other devices to indicate plainly the location of the fire.
The steam pumps should have a capacity of 3000 gallons of water per minute and rapid steam making boilers to keep up that capacity. Those pumps should at all times show 150 pounds of pressure in the pipes. Auxiliary boilers, independent of the elevator boilers, could he putin if necessary to assist the pumps to keep up that pressure. Such auxiliary boilers ought to be distributed in the cellars or under sidewalks or streets, so as to not all be in or near one locality. In the cellars should be cisterns holding at least 2000 barrels of water, to be constantly kept filled and stored as a reserve for fire purposes to he used to assist the pumps in a crisis, without weakening the regular city supply. The pipes in the cellars should be furnished with outside connections to readily allow their attachment to the portable steam fire engine in the street. The whole plant inside such buildings to be subject to the monthly and thorough inspection of the district chief or the captain of company nearest such buildings, and a record of all these structures be kept for the use of the fire department. The portable fire engine cannot he abandoned. Although it may not be used at every fire in such buildings, still the presence and aid of the firemen are essential to properly handle and adjust the paraphernalia and equipments therein.
All buildings of great height and extensive area, used not only for offices but for general mercantile and manufacturing purposes, should he so constructed as to be quickly ventilated in case of fire. If ventilation is forced through the skylights then permanent and strong wire screens should be placed under them to catch the broken glass when falling, and thus protect the firemen from injury. If hatches are the only means of ventilation, they should he so made as to he readily removed from the outside of the building. It is to be regretted that our most modern structures are built largely upon the principle of the cook stove : direct flues and few dampers, but no chimney to carry off the smoke. Firemen frequently have to fight smoke harder than fire, l’ ire escapes should he put up and so arranged that firemen could approach and enter the building from every available point to the roof. The State legislatures should, by stringent and restrictive laws, compel the owners of hotels, hospitals, churches, theatres, tenement houses and other buildings where numbers of people gather, to he so piped, sewered and ventilated, and also to provide the people’s and occupants’ easy and perfect safety by escape in case of fire. It is possible to do so and it ought to he done. There is such a thing as an absolutely fire-proof building, but its contents on each floor may be of such a character when on fire as, by their intense heat, to negative and utterly destroy that feature of the building.
All cities that have fire boats, or movable water-works, have already realized the importance and efficiency of that arm of the fire service. Those boats are at all times available for service within 2500 feet of the water front by laying under* ground a strong six-inch cast iron pipe with intervening hydrants, and will be found cheaper and more reliable than the same length of first class 2^-inch hose. Such boats will deliver two two-inch streams, equal to thesiamesing of four steam fire engine streams to each two-inch stream, or equal to eight engines on a fire. This sytem of piping inland tor use of fire boats originated in Cleveland, O., and upon every occasion when used has demonstrated fully its reliability and practicability as a system. Notably at the Short & Forman printing house fire, where, besides the original buildings, there” were ten others ablaze and demanding the attention of every fire engine present. Across a twelve foot alley and adjoining Short & Forman’s stood the Perry-Payne block ; ten stories or 136 feet in height and too feet in width. In that narrow alley, at a ground rise of over eighty feet from the river and 1300 feet from the fire boat, with 220 pounds of pressure at the boat, its two-inch stream was thrown at least forty feet above that block, protecting it from fire and conclusively exhibiting the usefulness of the pipe system.
Again, at the fire in the wholesale dry goods house of the McGillen company, 2300 feet from the fire boat and using 3 inch hose from the pipes, a two-inch stream was thrown and thoroughly proved its usefulness as an invaluable aid in putting out fire. These two fires and the effectiveness of the fire boat streams at each were witnessed by thousands ol people.
At a meeting of the American Water-works Association, composed doubtless of intelligent and scientific men, held last May in the city of New York, the subject of the Cleveland fire boat and pipe system was brought up for discussion. The collective and almost unanimous opinion of those very learned men was that the system was impracticable and could not be efficiently operated. After no little ridicule the subject was relegated to the waste basket. Yet at the very hour of that discussion the system was again and again being severely tested and found in every way thoroughly practicable, expeditious and of the greatest value in fighting other fires. In the face of the good work accomplished by this system and with a full knowledge of the truths of the situation, the adverse remarks in that discussion displayed an ignorance of facts that was truly lamentable.
In conclusion permit me to add that the topography of Cleveland differs greatly from every city operating fire boats. On each side of the Cuyahoga river, on which the fire boat is located, steep hills rise to a height varying from seventy-five to 120 feet before the level roadways of the city are reached ; these elevations have been piped in the manner herein stated. Other cities with little or no rise from their water fronts would be rid of one of the great obstacles confronting the system, but overcome in Cleveland. Fire boats, equipped on land, as shown, are among the most efficient aids in putting out fires at long distances from such boats. In this paper I have purposely presented the excellent work of one to conclusively prove the practicability and importance of establishing district stationary engines and pumping stations for fire purposes.
*Paper read before the twentieth annual convention of the National Association of Fire Engineers.