THE CAUSES OF FIRE.
Henry A. Fisk, manager of the special-risk department of the Phoenix Insurance company of Hartford and chairman of the committee on special hazards and fire records of the National hire-Prevention association, recently spoke on the “Causes of fire in manufacturing and other special risks.” He referred to the insufficient data as to the causes of fire—the offspring of a “general prejudice or over-familiarity with certain hazards.” “Rats and matches, spontaneous combustion and electricity are made to cover a multitude of sins.” As to fire-prevention, that is useless unless the causes of fire are known. Such information should be available always, and everyone, especially the successful manufacturer or merchant, is vitally interested in preventing fires. “He does not want theories—he wants facts,” and all the inspector’s “dissertations on what might have happened have little weight, when compared with figures in black and white, showing to the proprietor of a machine shop, for instance, that thirty per cent, of his fires were from oily waste. The fact that he had never happened to have a fire himself from that cause would lead him to doubt the inspector’s ideas on the subject, but he could hardly get back of the authentic data showing a large number of fires from that cause.” The insurance interests are, of course, vitally interested in fire-prevention and the causes of fire, (i) because they are supposed to assist the property owner in preventing fires— their own interests being in the same direction as the properly owner’s—and secondly, a knowledge of the causes of fire is necessary in the conducting of their business and selection of risks. ‘This requires knowledge as to details of causes and their relative importance—details so that each cause may be fully understood and its remedy applied—and relative importance, so that their energies may be expended in the proper direction. .o rules or regulations can be made for the prevention of fire, without a knowledge of the details, and without knowing their relation one to the other, none can determine what is reasonable to ask or require the property owner to do in the way of improvements. For instance, the National Electric code has been developed from a knowledge of fires caused by electricity, “so that today any one can install an electric light or power system, and, by following the rules be practically immune from fires due to that particular hazard.” A knowledge of causes and their relative import ance is essential for the proper comparison of fire-dangers in individual risks or classes. The features of construction and protection are important ; often undue prominence is given to them and too little stress on the danger of fire-starting. “It is evident that in two similar risks, the one which has the fewer fires will have the less loss on the average, and a risk of poor construction and inferior protection may be a better risk than one of good construction and good protection, because of the fact that in the former the danger of a fire starting has been practically eliminated, while in the latter numerous such dangers exist.” Many false comparisons are made through lack of a knowledge of the fire-dangers in the individual risk, and, also, because the average fire-dangers—that is. the relative importance of the various fire-causes in the. average risk The National Fire-Prevention association fire record does its best to give the relative importance in the average risk, so as to give the basis for comparisons between the individual risks or the individual risk with the average. Rating by schedules is of but little interest to firemen. Mr. Fisk took shoe-factories as an example of fireprevention and assumed that the data on which these percentages were based were large enough to give a good average. “From the standpoint of fire-prevention certain features are at once emphasised. For instance, one-fifth of the fires are caused by the cement hazard, showing at once that this hazard is of the greatest importance, and every possible precaution should be taken both as to the storage and handling of the naphtha cement, the use of open lights where cement is used, and many other features which are brought out by the detailed reports. We also at once see that another fifth of the fires are caused by rubbish and oily material, showing the necessi ty of guarding these hazards. Without going into further detail you can see that we are in a posi tion to show the shoe manufacturer just what causes the fires in such risks, and show’ him how important each cause is. If now we wish to compare an individual risk wit’h the average, we can take each hazard, and by a knowledge of whether the particular hazard in the individual risk is more or less dangerous, we can get a fair compromise of the risk as a whole.”