THE DANGERS OF ELECTRIC LIGHTING.
A case in court in this city, wherein residents of a certain street claim that the electric light wires therein are a damage, a nuisance, and dangerous, has attracted much attention. The New York Times has printed many columns to show that these wires are extremely dangerous. We quote as follows:
Conflagration and death are threatened by every inch of the big arc light wires, of which hundreds of thousands of feet are strung up all over the city. They are a constant menace to the lives of those who walk beneath them, and to the permanency of the stately buildings whose architectural beauties they veil and mar. They are liable to kill, with the lightning’s suddenness and certainty, the Fireman who directs a stream of water across them; and, now that means have been found for doubling the time of exposure to their mischievous power by the use of ” storage batteries,” their facilities for slaughter are to be extended to the household, the theatre, the workshop, and the church. It is only a few days since that an electric arc light wire, dropping too near a lamp post on Broadway, produced a result that the policeman on post described as ” shoots of fire as long as me night Club leppin out of it,” and a number of cases have been reported by the police this season in which these wires have set fire to the foliage of trees in the public parks and squares. To this cause was attributed the burning of Martin Landenbcrger’s mill in September, 1881. In July, 1882, a fire was started in the show-window of John Wanamaker’s store, Thirteenth and Chestnut streets, Philadelphia, by an arc light wire, and in John Wyeth & Brother’s drug store, No. 1412 Walnut street, another conflagration was started by the burning of the supposably insulating covering on an electric wire. Possibly the most singular of all the many accidents reported as caused by the electric light wire was that which occurred to a gentleman at the Paris Electrical Exhibition. He was leaning over a railing, and his dangling gold watch chain made a connection between two conducting wires, with the result of heating it red hot and setting fire to his clothing. So well has the danger of fire from these wires been recognized, that last year the Boston fire insurance companies made it the subject of an exhaustive investigation, and adopted stringent regulations intended to control the employment of this mode of lighting so as to diminish its dangers.
But the hazard to life is even greater than that of fire, and the increasing number of fatal accidents caused by arc light wires, as their use is extended, demonstrates beyond question that public safety demands such measures of defense from them at have not yet lieen adopted. In February, 1882, Henry lialzcr, a workman in Carnegie & Co.’s iron mill, Pittsburgh, was instantly killed by simply allowing a lamp that he held to touch an arc light wire. I11 the succeeding month two such accidents occurred—one in the Cleveland Rolling Mill, by which William Karampe, who incautiously touched a dynamo, was killed and had his hands and arms hideously charred and distorted; the other of a gas-fitter in Birmingham, England, who, toppling upon a ladder whereon lie was standing, threw out his arm holding a pair of gas-pipe tongs to recover his balance, and, touching an arc light wire, fell a corpse at the foot of the ladder. In August last year to a soldier and a civilian, botlf young men, attending the Fete dc la Jcunesse in the garden of the Tuileries in Paris, occurred the bad idea of climbing over the wall in order to get out of the garden more quickly than by going to the gale. Arc light wires were strung along the top of the wall. The young men jumping up together caught the wires and fell dead at the foot of the wall. The incident is still fresh in the memory of New Yorkers in which a waiter, standing on the railing around the roof of the Metropolitan Concert Garden, clutched an arc light wire to save himself from falling, and Instantly killed by the shock, plunged headlong, a corpse, to the street below. Also, will be readily recalled the case of a workman of one of the arc light companies who, engaged in fixing the wires near Earle’s Hotel, was killed by the current. Even when accidents caused by contact with these electric wires have not fatal results they often have very serious con sequences. During the Paris Electrical Exhibition a gentleman was almost killed by stepping inadvertently upon a conducting wire and at the same time touching a lamp that formed part of the conducting system. In Brighton, England, the whole company manning a fire-escape machine were stunned, and one of them barely escaped with his life, in consequence of the escape, upon which they were mounted, coming in contact with an arc light wire that crossed the streej,
A little investigation of the subject will convince any disinterested person that the placing under ground of the arc light wires is a measure imperatively demanded by considerations of the public safety.
Mr. Van Cott, President of the Board of Fire Commissioners, said :
I have always, from the very start of this arc-light system for street illumination, been conscious of the dangers it involved, and have been opposed to allowing the wires for it to be strung up as they are all over the city. When the electric light people asked permission to run their wires on the Fire Department’s poles from Fourteenth street to Thirty-third street on Broadway, I voted against it. but both my colleagues voted for it. Mr. Gorman was very much in favor of it until one night the electric light wire touched a fire service wire and burned up the instrument in his house, very nearly burning the house, too. After that his enthusiasm on the subject of the electric light seemed to abate. A man who was connected with the Brush Company when they asked that permission of which I spoke tried very hard to change my views on the subject, but unsuccessfully. After a time he went out of the electric light business, and then, meeting him one day, I asked him if he did not think I had done rightly in opposing that permission. He replied that unquestionably f had, for the wires were very dangerous, and their proximity to the fire telegraph wires would imperil the usefulness of that most important public service. Over and over again those electric wires have done serious damage to our telegraph and telephone system. They have dtstroyed some twelve or fourteen street boxes four telephone instruments, and at least one office relay, but the mere pecuniary damage done by them to our apparatus is nothing compared with the gravity of the consideration that they are liable at any moment to cut ofi our facilities for receiving information of a fire, and our power to call out engines tor subduing a conflagration. The principal cause for these disturbances is want of perfect insulation of the electric light wires or the destruction of insulation at the point of contact if one of them touches another wire. Then the dynamo current of electricity, or a portion of it, will be diverted from its own conductor to the other wire, and through the circuit thus invaded to the earth. The force of such diverted current would depend entirely upon the resistance offered at the points of poor insulation, so that whatever instruments intervened in that portion of the fire service wires—should they be the ones invaded—would be affected according to the force of the current. Under the same conditions of contact of the wires or diversion of the current, let a human being touch the wires and a portion of the current would be taken from the wires and passed through the person to the earth, and it might easily occur that that current would have sufficient strength to kill. Or should a person take up an end of an arc light wire which had been broken, the opposite end having fallen to wet ground, or a metal roof, or otherwise having made connection with the earth, he would receive a shock of more or less severity, subject to the force of the current and the condition cf his own insulation from the ground. It might not be strong enough to destroy life, but the chances for such a result would be far too great to encourage frequent experiments of that nature.
BETTER FIRE PREVENTION NEEDED.
Every one who has studied the important question of fire losses^knows that they could be greatly reduced if more attention were directed to fire department matters, fire inspection, building construction and over-insurance. Although the evils exist and are well known, comparatively little Improvement is made. In the new sections of Chicago, Boston and New York, the fire losses are much smaller than they were years ago considering the greater value of merchandise and real estate. With a more careful study of these leading subjects, the natural increase of wealth would no longer be burdened by a proportionately increasing fire loss. The fixing of rates by the local exchanges is doing much to place the companies on a stronger footing and enable them better to withstand the steady drain of millions of fire losses each month. But it 1s the root of the evil which should be sought and eradicated. The study of prevention of fires and the application of the principles thus found would go a great way to help the insurance business, and above all tend to prevent the enrfrmous destruction of wealth which annually takes place. Not least among these is incendiarism. If such laws as govern fire insurance matters in France were duplicated by the United States, and insurance companies refused to pay losses to the insured on whose premises the fire originated, incendiarism would suddenly become unpopular. The extension of the local Fire Department, greater efficiency in the Fire Patrol and the introduction of automatic fire alarms and sprinklers would tend to decrease the expensiveness of each fire. The moral influence of the insurance company is in the direction of cure rather than prevention of fires. With the fire losses climbing up to the hundred millions a year, it is time to call a halt and examine the real conditions of the question. Already this year the estimated losses in this country alone have amounted to $74,063,058, and will, if they continue at the same rate for the remainder of the year, reach the total of $80,621,750 for 1883.—Standard.
A DOG ON A LADDER.
A gentleman who resides in this city has a very intelligent hunting dog—a setter. This animal can do almost anything except talk, and in dog language he can do that most effectually. One day his master was doing a bit 6f work on the roof of his house when he accidentally dropped his hammer. The dog, who was on the ground watching his master, seized the hammer in his teeth and advanced to the foot of the ladder, wagging his tail and looking up as much as to say, “ Here it is ; come and get it.” The gentleman, noticing the brute’s movements, said: ” Come, Don, fetch it up.” He did not suppose the animal would attempt to obey him. and was surprised to see the faithful dog place one paw carefully on the lower round of the ladder, then the other, and then to see him reach cautiously for the second round, next to bring one of his hind feet up, then the other, and so, carefully, while trembling all over, he mac his way to the top of the ladder and thence to the roof, where he laid the hammer at the feet of his master and wagged his tail in triumph. It was his first’attempt to climb a ladder, and he seemed to glory in the achievement. How to get him down was a conundrum for his master, who thought^he good-sized animal would be an awkward thing to carry down the ladder in his arms. He finally concluded to lower Don in a basket, and went down to procure the tackle. When he reached the ground he was surprised to see Don preparing to come down the same way he went up. But it appeared to be a little more difficult task, the ladder being nearly perpendicular. But by pressing his body hard against the side of the ladder, he steadied himself so as to get his feet on, and thus he went down as safely as he went up. After this feat he had a passion for climbing ladders.—Hartford Times.