Stringency in Enforcing Inspection Laws
Rigid and immediate inspection of all factory and commercial buildings in Philadelphia to force them comply with the fire laws in every respect will be the far-reaching results of the fire which exacted a at least six lives and caused serious injuries to eight others at the cabinet factory of Robert Tarlo & Son, in recent fire.
Both Mayor Moore and Director Cortelyou condemned the building in which the tragic blaze occurred a “fire trap” and were outspoken in their condemnation of conditions that existed in the yards of adjoining buildings.
“This investigation will not only fix responsibility the appalling loss of life, but will reach to the remotest corner of the city in its effect,” said Mr. Cortelyou. “Owners of property will be forced to clean up their premises and to comply with the letter of the fire regulations for the safety of their employes. If it develops that criminal negligence is responsible for the tragedy Tuesday night arrests will be promptly made.”
Mayor Moore, who visited the scene of the conflagration the day following, said he would support the director of public safety in any measures he may see fit to adopt to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.
“Some of our building inspection laws appear to have been ignored,” the Mayor said. “It is remarkable that a business of this character should be permitted to have existed in a building not properly equipped with fire escapes and amid conditions that are a menace to one of the most populous communities in the city. It is possible we may be compelled to resort to a zone system in order to bring about a proper condition. This neighborhood, because of the congestion to which it is subject, is one of the most fruitful fields for improvement in Philadelphia, but the changes that result from this investigation will clean up every quarter of the city.” The Mayor was accompanied on his inspection by Director Furbush and Chief Clark, of the Bureau of Building Inspection. “This place has been condemned as unsafe,” Mr. Clark said. “As recently as January 1, this year, the bureau notified Robert Tarlo that the floors were weak.” Arthur Sellers, deputy coroner, said his investigation indicated that the blaze had started from the lighting of a gas jet in the basement after the factory had closed for the day. “Although they have electric lights in the building,” he said, “a gas jet is always lighted in the engine room after closing time. I believe this flame came into contact with an oil-soaked belt, which on being burned through fell into a large container of oil. As the fire spread the flames leaped up the elevator shaft, to the top floor, where they spread. I think all the victims were suffocated by the deadly fumes generated from the burning oil and the hardwood floors.” Three of the victims, still untouched by the flames, were found on the roof of the building within a few feet from where they could have leaped to safety on adjoining structures.