Telephone vs. Fire Alarm Telegraph
Twice within a very few days Yonge and Queen streets, two of the main arteries of traffic in Toronto, Ont., have been blocked and the whole neighborhood around each street thrown into a needless state of excitement and alarm by the appearance of hose reels, hook and ladder trucks , a chemical engine and a steamer, to fight in one case a fire in a burning automobile, in the other to extinguish some hot ashes which had been smouldering in a liarrel in the yard of a Yonge street house—said smouldering, by the way. having been done away with by the timely application of a bucket of water. Under the present system such blockades of the street and turnouts of a large portion of the downtown division of the fire brigade cannot be avoided when that particular box is pulled. It is claimed that such a senseless condition of affairs need not rule if those who are responsible for the arrangements would take the trouble to instruct those who live or do busmtss in the congested sections of the city that when the fire is of such a trifling nature as either of those above mentioned, to use the telephone and let the nearest fire station know exactly the conditions. The objections to that are that trie human factor in the case is not taken into consideration, and that what may seem to be merely a trifling fire may in reality be one which calls for Instant action on the part of the fire brigade. The telephone is a very useful institution if the message sent over its wire is accurately transmitted all will be well. But in case of any sudden emergency, such as is a fire, at least the possibilities are that the sender of the message is either too flurried or too ignorant to transmit the information so accurately anil distinctly as to obviate any chance of misleading the firemen as to the exact location of the fire, whereby delay occurs just when seconds count most. Or it may be—it often does happen that what seems to be a mere trifling fire calling, perhaps, at the outside for the services of a chemical engine, may be one of a very serious kind, owing to the immediate nearness of gasoline, celluloid or other explosive or inflammable materials, or the nature of the building and its surroundings—not infrequently all shacks. The exact conditions not being known to the firemen of the station, small detail of men and apparatus is dispatched to the scene, only to find that what they had believed to be only a small fire, was, in the beginning, serious enough to call for a fairly large force of men and equipment to fight, and by the time an alarm has been turned in over the regular fire alarm system and answered by a larger force of men and adequate apparatus, has grow n by delay to a blaze of such formidable proportions as to threaten, possibly has already caused, loss of life and great destruction of property. The telephone wire itself is a sufficiently reliable agent; those using it, however, are not. Hence, the danger of trusting too much to it in case of fire. The fire alarm system is independent of the human factor, and in 99 cases out of 100 (provided always it is not some patched up and antiquated system, such as rules in New York City), can always be trusted to do its work with efficiency and dispatch. If the fire department is sometimes called out unnecessarily, or for some trivial blaze, that is all in the day’s work. If also, its appearance on the scene causes congestion in the streets in the neighborhood, the blame lies with the traffic police, who do not know their business.