STEAM AS AN EXTINGUISHER.
Joseph Bird’s dog story in THE JOURNAL of March 27 is exceedingly good, better indeed than his fish story about the extinction of fire at the kerosene(?) works of the Downer Company, near Boston, by means of steam. The many fires which occur at this port in the holds of vessels has made the matter of extinguishment one of great interest to us. We have had a large amount of actual experience and some of us have besides done a good deal in an experimental way. I have neither time nor desire to enter into a full disquisition on the subject for the information of either Joseph Bird or the many other theorists who write on the subject so learnedly, but will, with your permission, give them a few of the points which we have demonstrated to our entire satisfaction both practically and experimentally. These are as follows: First: The putting out of fire is best accomplished by excluding the oxygen of the atmosphere. Second: By absorption of heat. Third : Water serves the first of the above-named purposes well. Fourth : Water, if noi heated, is further an important factor, in that its heat-absorbing property comes into play more readily than any other attainable agent. Fifth, Steam is the least potent of all the proposed agents for the extinguishment of fire—utterly inutile in fact until it condenses, and then far inferior to cold water. How then, say you, is it that Joseph Bird and other well-meaning men have testified so freely as to the effectiveness of steam ? My answer is that they have simply observed an effect and jumped at conclusions as to the cause. The fire was extinguished by the exclusion of oxygen ; a result, not of the injection of steam into the room, but of closing it so as to be air tight or nearly so. We had fallen into this same error here at one time but are thoroughly cured of it now. In the case of the Mississippi steamer James Howard, her battery of ten boilers was turned loose into the hold, giving a product of steam that all of the Steam Fite Engines of New York could not have equalled. The fire was subsequently extinguished by scuttling the boat. Two or three other experiences of this sort settled the matter beyond all peradventure in this latitude. The tug owners in this harbor are intelligent men of large experience in this matter, and the tugs of necessity possessed of very large steam-generating facilities, yet these very men have recently provided themselves with two carbonic acid gas machines of very large capacity for use in ship fires. These are additional to one that has been in operation in this harbor for nearly five years, earning in that time $147,000 in the wav of salvage money for her owners and crew as a reward for having saved twelve cotton laden ships whose cargoes were on fire in the hold. J. B. MOORE.
NEW ORLEANS, April 22, 1880.