“Let the Insurance Companies Do It”

THAT is a very familiar cry sent up by opponents of Fire Departments doing salvage work.

Another is “Who are you working for, the insurance companies or the city ?”

Well, I worked for the insurance companies once (them was the days!) but I don’t now and this fever that has spurred me on these many years I caught before I worked for insurance interests and so it has nothing to do with that period of my life spent as a “surveyor” (inspector to you) in the city of New York.

One thing I learned about insurance companies that theirs is strictly a business, just like selling potatoes or ice cream or what have you, and they are darned well determined to get theirs, legitimately. So if you think that any city which enjoys the services of an insurance salvage corps isn’t paying for it—well, I don’t.

But I promised you a story about an upState Chief and his job of uninsured property saving. So without further preliminaries, here it is:

On Sunday March 13, 1938, fire broke out in a frame building, on the second floor, directly over the offices of the WPA, in the city of Kingston, N. Y„ early in the morning. Upon arrival, and after seeing that the necessary lines were in position (mind you. after extinguishment operations are in proper order). Chief Joseph L. Murphy directed such men as he could spare (from a total of six) to spreading salvage covers in the WPA offices on the ground floor. The fire was put out in good time and here’s what the local director of WPA wrote to the Chief:

“The fact that the fire was confined to a small area is a tribute to the effectiveness of the methods and personnel of your department. However, what amazes me is that the WPA offices were in no disorder and suffered no damage from water. The records and furnishings were completely protected by your department in covering the entire office space of 2,400 square feet before starting to fight the fire. Our office was able to function as usual Monday morning.”

The condition was reported to headquarters in Albany and the State Director commented similarly.

Any officer should feel proud to receive such letters. But do you get it all? Here was property in which every man Jack of us had a vested interest—and how! If WPA is expensive, why make it more so by having to duplicate all the accounts and other papers of this office? Public records as a rule are not insured, and yet they are extremely valuable, sometimes irreplaceable. So Chief Murphy was not working for “the insurance company,” but he was working for his own city and many other cities throughout these “Benighted” States, and he did us all a good turn, not through luck, but through good fire engineering, by being prepared to prevent damage to everybody’s property.

But if those papers had been insured and Chief Murphy had not protected them, their loss would have stood against him and his outfit, and losses, you know, are reckoned to some extent when your city is surveyed for rating. And who keeps those “insurance companies” going? You and I who pay their rates. So after all, we only protect our own interests when we keep losses down, and can you prove that most fire damage is not due to water?

I had some very interesting correspondence with Chief Frank C. McAuliffe, of the Chicago Fire Patrols, who accepts my challenge to the “14×18 footers” to prove their position.

As should be the case when two honest and earnest men debate an issue, we both gave a little ground.

I’ll give you his side next month, and herewith wish to thank him for being big enough to bend down and lend a hand to us small fry of the volunteer element.

I don’t know it all yet, and we all can learn much from men who have been doing things in a big way.

If there are any other “14×18 ers” I’d like to use their comments along with Chief “Mack’s,” so please let me hear from you before firecracker day.

P.S. Ye ole Compositor pulled one on me last month. Guess he don’t git to read tlie Scripture overmuch. I sez “vErily,” and he makes it “vArily” which might mean somet’n else again.

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