THE CONSTANTINOPLE FIRE BRIGADE.
It is a positive relief to pause for an instant in the easy but ungracious task of all-round censure and criticism, and to accord an unqualified meed of praise to an institution which stands out well-nigh perfect amidst the surrounding ferest of abuses. I refer to the excellent Fire Brigade of Constantinople. Count Sczhenyi, of the patrician Magyar House bearing that name, worked some time under Captain Shaw in London, and soon became a marked man for his skill and courage in battling with the devastating element. He then made the tour of the great cities of Europe, and crossed over to America—always with the same object in view, viz., of making himself a first-class “extinguisher,” and he has thoroughly succeeded, for it is owing to the Hungarian “Graf” that Stamboul—poor to beggary in most of the spoils of civilization—can boast a Pompier ” division second to none. No one who remembers Constantinople a decade ago will forget the horrible cry of “Yanghin Vir! by which 1 is nightly slumbers were so often shattered. “The Fire is coming, the fire is coming!”—the dread call was then of terrible import, for once started, a fire would often rage unhindered over a whole quarter of the city. Then would rise the hardly less ominous cry “Tulumbadji!” (the Firemen !) for these worthies, under pretence of trying to put out the flames, carrid on a shameless system of wholesale pillage. It was useless to bar one’s doors and windows against their advance ; they swept along in hordes, locust-like, and swarmed into one’s house, irresistible and rapacious. Crash went the windows, and out flew one’s “lares and penates” into the arms of the ” Fire Brigands’ below—colleagues of the wretches who were gutting one’s house even faster than the flames could have done. The doughty “tulumbadji” was even wont to help the flames, and thus enlarge the field of his operations. The noise and confusion, the glare, the yells, the blows, the smoke, and the surging crowd were simply indescribable. The most terrible cincepti ns of Dor;5 and ” Ilollcnbeughel,’’ to the accompaniment of some of Wagner’s most nerve-rending passages, the whole scene enacted in an a mosphere manufactured in a witch’s kettle, would be required to do justice to the subject.
But to-day how different is the course of a fire! So different indeed, that a Constantinople conflagration is now one of the best conducted and most orderly occurrences in this very turbulent city. No sooner is the alarm signalled from the Genoese or Seraskier’s towers (the number and position of lamps or flags displayed indicates the whereabouts of the fire), than the brigade and its head appear with magic quickness’on the scene. A “cordon” is quickly formed, and the struggle commences between the men and the flames. There is no shouting, no babel of tongues—all that can be heard is the directing bugle of the Count, the hiss of the water as it falls into the flames, and the rythmical click-clack of the pumps The brigade consists of soldiers—two regiments and four battalions—and the total number of men is 6,000. So highly skilled and trained are they that during the Turco-Russian war one of these regiments was detailed off for Instruction duty, every man acting as a Drill-Sergeant for ordinary soldiers. By this means 20,000 recruits were soon licked into shape, and the regiment itself went into action under Suleiman Pasha, and greatly distinguished itself. I have been so fortunate as to witness the efficiency of the Sczhenyi Brigade. A fire broke out in that most disreputable quarter of Galata called Kemer Alti, and, as the ” Graf” told me, in the worst part of the quarter. There were only two or three houses destroyed, unluckily, but they were the worst—a sort of seventh hill of harm, a Mecca of mischievousness. Rambling, rattletrap, wooden tenements, the one a gamblinghouse where ” roulette ’’ was conducted on more than doubtful principles, but where his life would not be worth a ” caimd ” were the foolish dupe to remonstrate at the unfair loss of his money; the other, one of those Greek ball-rooms which are so common here. ” Mcgas Koros! ” as the modern language has it, flares out on a dozen painted lamps, and when the “ green ” tourist marches in, with a notion that he is going to see a little of Constantinople manners and customs, it is very short odds that he will march out again uninjured. For public security is at a very low ebb here just now—the police is in a disgracefully corrupt condition, and any crime is hushed up and never comes to light, because baksheesh is omnipotent.— Globe.