TACOMA FIRE DEPARTMENT.
(Specially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.)
The Pacific coast fire departments are rapidly coming to the front as firstclass organisations, and every year are being improved, as the cities themselves grow in commercial importance and population. Among these departments that of Tacoma, Wash., holds a very high place, and in its chief, Jesse C. Poyns, justly boasts one of the most efficient firefighters to be found. Under his fostering care, ably seconded by that of his assistant chief, Emil J. Bruemmer the department has reached a very high degree of excellence, and bears a reputation for organisation, discipline, and equipment, which has rendered it famous throughout the country. While the foundation of this record was laid years ago, with every year it has “grown with its growth and strengthened with its strengthand on it has been reared a noble superstructure, which daily witnesses not only to general skill in firefighting, but also to the untiring fidelity of the officers and men to the onerous duties required of them.
Jesse C. Poyns, chief engineer of the department, was born in Iowa thirty-seven years ago, twenty of which he has spent at Tacoma. His experience in firefighting is not a thing of yesterday; it dates back to May, 1886, when he joined the Tacoma volunteer fire department, in which he was holding the rank of foreman when the paid department was organised. He joined it as hoseman in October, 1890, and in six months was promoted to captain. In July, 1894, he was appointed assistant chief, and in April, 1898, chief of the department. One of his conspicuous characteristics is his anxiety to know everything possible about the science of fire protection, and as there is no better way of learning than by mixing with his fellow chief engineers and listening to their experiences, he has enrolled himself in the ranks of the International Association of Fire Engineers, the Pacific Coast Chiefs’ association (of which he is a past president), and the National Firemen’s association, the annual conventions of which organisations he attended last year.
The knowledge thus acquired he has imparted objectively and subjectively to others, with the result that his department is well officered and is made up of skilled and expert firemen, whose work has at all times shown an intelligence that has asserted itself at critical moments, and has saved much valuable property—not infrequently has averted what at first threatened to be a destructive conflagration. This was especially the case during the past year, when the department answered 279 alarms—the highest in its history—1901, with its 229 alarms falling short of 1902 by fifty-nine. Yet, although the department turned out so often, the number of really destructive fires was small. With the exception of five, the loss at none exceeded $2,500, and one at which the loss was over that sum took place in a shingle factory outside of the jurisdiction of Chief Poyns. The total loss for the year amounted to $128,230.80—an average of a fraction more than $5,459 for each fire. The insurance involved was $1,446,830, and the insurance paid was $102,132.90. These figures speak for themselves, and show that the department is worth all the money that is spent upon it—$56,385.11 in 1902, of which $44,086.83 was spent in salaries. The membership is as follows: Chief; assistant chief; night clerk captains, eight; lieutenants, nine; engineers, four; stokers, four; drivers, thirteen; tillerman; laddermen, four; hosemen, seven; supply driver—fifty-four in all, who during 1902 traveled to fires an aggregate distance of 1,363 miles, laid 102,620 feet of hose, and raised 718 feet of ladders. The equipment, including 16.300 feet of hose (2,500 purchased last year), is as follows: One Silsby engine, second-class; one Clapp & Jones engine, second-class; one Ahrens engine, third-class; one Amoskeag engine, third-class; six hose wagons, capacity 1,000 feet; one Hayes sixty-five-foot, aerial extension truck; one two-wheel, and one onehorse hose cart; two chief’s buggies; one supply wagon; three hand hose carts in outlying districts; five hand hose carts along the waterfront; and one Holloway chemical engine with double fifty-gallon tank. In reserve the department has two Silsby engines, fourth-class, one hose wagon, and one village truck. The chemical company was put into commission during the year and has done excellent service since last February, its work being effective and economical. It is stationed at headquarters, Six horses have been added to those owned by the department during the year, making thirty-five in all, some of which have been in the service from nine to twelve years. There are 401 hydrants in service, ten hydrants having been added during 1902.
Chief Poyns recommends the purchase of a modern firstclass steamer, with a capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute, with four streams; the establishment of a hose company in a new firehouse just built, provided the water pressure can be increased; if not, a full engine company: a fireboat, to protect the rapidly increasing industries along the water front; a combination chemical and hose wagon, with a fifty-gallon TANK and 1,000 feet of hose He is also impressed with the necessity of a more strict inspection and regulation of the ordinance regarding fire escapes and standpipes.
There are eight fire houses in the city, the headquarters building of which a view is given, being a handsome structure, well fitted up internally, and the home of engine company No. 6 and the chemical engine. Chief Poyns would like to see it somewhat remodeled, so as to have five, instead of two entrances, which would allow of all the apparatus standing abreast. The Gamewell fire alarm system is installed throughout.
The causes of fire in Tacoma are much the same as elsewhere; the citizens being equally careless as to leaving matches about for children to play with and rats and mice to gnaw; defective flues and wiring, cigar stubs, gasolene, burning rubbish, clearing land, etc., all contributing their quotas. Unknown causes started twenty-four fires, and known incendiarism, four. The boys had their firecrackers, and the department their consequent runs. In other respects the small boy’s mischievous propensities seem beyond the average, as the youngsters are credited with setting twenty-seven fires, besides those which originated from firecrackers, which looks as if the paternal right hand had lost its cunning in well doing the slipper.