The Cost of Fire Protection in the United States

The Cost of Fire Protection in the United States

My topic—”The Cost of Fire Protection in United States.” I hardly know where to commence on this subject, for while those eight words may not seem like they carry a great amount of trouble, worry or cost with them to one who just read “The Cost of Fire Protection in United States,” and then give it no more thought, but pass it by. They may have no meaning, but I believe they do carry a great amount of trouble, worry and cost to every one of us. And why? Because each year we allow over $500,000,000 to be consumed in smoke. We (people) of the United States are high smokers, compared with the countries of Europe. But then Chief John Kenlon, of New York, said “I can tell you why they have a loss per capita of 33 cents in Germany, while we have $2.54. It is because they haven’t got it to burn. I’ve lived among them, and I know. The poor people have fireproof floors in their homes, but what are they? Beaten clay! And they have no lace curtains, no fine furniture, no pianos, nothing in the way of luxuries and little in the way of necessities. That is the principal reason their losses are so much smaller than ours.” Now Brothers, I guess you think I have changed my topic to “Fire Prevention,” but far be it. I only used that part of it so you could follow me in my meaning. From the latest statistics of municipalities I could obtain I find in the year 1912 that 195 American cities that have a population of over 30,000 spent a total of $48,000,000 on their fire departments. For what? Brothers! Fire Protection—and nothing else. You may say that is nothing, these same 195 cities spent $60,000,000 for police protection. and right you are, for police protection of the country costs far more to maintain than fire protection, and there is never the fight or hard work to receive funds for police protection that there is for fire protection. Then that $48,000,000 only covers the amount expended on fire departments for one year. It does not give the amount expended by every policy holder of fire insurance or the amount the underwriters receive or spend on work at the testing laboratories, insurance patrols and salvage corps, or what is spent on waterworks or systems. In fact, at this time it is impossible for me to make even an estimate of what the cost of fire protection in the United States costs. For example, we will take New York City, and in all her grandeur, what do you suppose she spends for fire protection? She has one of the greatest fire departments in the United States. Could you right now in your mind give an estimate what it costs for her fire protection? Chief Kenlon has over 258 fire houses; manned by 4,898 firemen; 180 pieces of motor fire apparatus; 576 pieces of horse-drawn apparatus; 12 fire boats; a high pressure system, a training school for firemen and a fire college. And in 1912 she spent $8,-772,457 on her fire department for its fire protection to her. Then take Newport, Kentucky. This city has a population of about 31,350 and she has 3 fire houses; manned by 16 firemen: 2 pieces of motor fire apparatus; 2 pieces of horse-drawn apparatus, and in 1912 she spent $13,832 on her fire department, for what? Protection. As each municipality is a law unto itself, it follows that differences in municipal activities are bound to exist.


• Paper read at National Firemen’s Association Convention, Chicago, Dec. 1-3, 1914.

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