The Extinguishment of Incipient Fires.
A writer in L’Assureur Parisienne recently discussed at length the subject of interior fire extinguishing appliances and suggests a new method. In the course of his paper he says: “It must be acknowledged that all the endeavors to render textile goods and wood incombustible in theatrical scenery have almost always failed. This is because the phosphate of soda and the ammoniacs recommended by Gay-Lussac being very soluble, lose their defensive property by contact with damp air, so that it is needful to renew the coating every six months to preserve its original efficiency. Although the phosphate is very cheap the need of such frequent renewals makes the plan impracticable.”
In relation to sprinklers, which are mentioned with some respect, but considered disadvantageous from nof always working promptly and because of their flooding with water, often to an unnecessary degree, it is remarked: “The remedy against the rigors of winter, consisting of substituting the pressure of air in the pipes instead of water, is absolutely hybrid and out of use.” The author, after mentioning the great expense at which many factories, such as cotton and woolen, have introduced pipes and valves throughout for extinguishment by live steam, makes a statement of personal experience in this regard. He says:
“I was witness of a most unexpected phenomenon in the use of steam for extinguishment. Early in an autumn morning, while an employee was illuminating a cotton-spinning mill, ignition occurred in one of the rooms. The man, having been a short time previously instructed how to act in case of fire, quickly opened the emergency valve and allowed a full head of live steam to enter the room where the fire occurred. Scarcely had the first strong blast of steam rushed in than the panes of all the windows were violently broken and projected inward, and the fire then spreading with more intensity and rapidity, the factory was quickly destroyed. The explanation of this casualty is very simple; the walls and glass panes having become chilled during the night condensed the steam, thus making a momentary interior depression, destroying the atmospheric equilibrium with the exterior.”
The writer discusses chemical extinguishing liquids—carbonic acid, free and absorbed in water, etc., and is not entirely satisfied with any of them. He then says: “The most simple and efficient of all substances for fire extinguishment is sulphur. This, by heat, absorbs oxygen and forms sulphurous acid, the fumes of which are much heavier than air. The quantity required would be small, since 70 grammes of sulphur can make 100 cubic metres of air unsuited to aid combustion. Besides sulphur, which gives every satisfaction—both in its effects and from its low cost—we find a similar property in another active and cheap substance, ammonia.”
An automatic sulphur extinguishing apparatus can be made of various forms. One consists of a large sheet-iron box of moderate depth and open at top, hinged at one end or side to a protected ceiling and kept close up thereto by a cord or wire connected with a wire or strip, formed chiefly of cadmium, fusing at 144∘ F. Inside the box is to be placed a considerable quantity of cotton wadding containing much powdered sulphur. On the heat of an incipient fire melting the wire or strip, the box drops a short distance ; a simple device at the same moment ignites the cotton wadding and a strong cloud of sulphurous acid gas is instantly evolved, extinguishing the fire by rendering the air unfit lor combustion.
“Attractive as this idea may appear—chiefly because the extinguishment is by a dry process—we would hesitate,” remarks The American Exchange and Review, “to introduce such apparatus (and many might be needed) into an industrial establishment, especially a cotton or woolen mill, if for no other reason than that it might too easily be set in operation by accident or by mischievous or malicious action. In such case it might cause a serious fire. A large number of these fire extinguishers in a cotton mill would seem provocative of ignition.”
Modes are mentioned by the author of arranging in factories large glass vessels filled with water strongly impregnated with ammonia, and having an automatic device which would freak the glass and scatter the contents widely on rupture of a fusible metallic strip. Though, in this manner, a minimum of water would be used and no danger exist from the fire fighting fire, it would seem almost impossible, except with a large number and at great expense, to arrange such apparatus so as to be sure of extinguishing an ignition in any portion of an establishment.
The writer advocates the automatic emission of sulphurous acid gas and ammoniacal vapor in the holds of vessels, especially in view of the liability of bituminous coal to spontaneous ignition. The suggestion is good; but the apparatus for evolving gases should not be automatic, but actuated from the deck, under control of officers only, and supplemented by warning thermometers sounding a gong.
IN THE CORNER-STONE OF AN OLD FIRE.-HOUSE.—“The work of tearing down the old fire building on Jefferson street, near the jail,” says the Louisville (Ky.) Post, of June 12, “is almost completed, and the corner-stone was reached to-day. Its contents contained several things of interest, but no money, save an old check on the First National Bank for $10 in favor of J. J, Burge, signed by Win. Kaye, and indorsed by George Burge. There was also a paper, well preserved, which reads as follows: The Union Fire Company was organized in 1826, and was incorporated in 1834. The honorary members, Oct. 12, 1850, were Thomas Anderson, president; T. L. Caldwell, vice-president. T. McCarthy, D. Raymond, L. L. Shrear, J. P. Morton, J. S. Morris, A. Barker, F. A. Kaye, Wm. Kaye, John M. Vam, J. T. Smith, R. Ferguson, F. Smith, M. A. Smith, J. Metcalfe, S. Metcalfe, G. Mansfield, G. E. Green, A. Green, F. W. Prescott, Ed. N. Maxwell, W. Granger, A. Little, W. Barnes, Thos. Westboy, J. McManus, W. Ferguson. There were sixty-five active members, the president being W. A. Garvin; treasurer, E. N. Maxwell. Building committee— John McNain, chairman, and Joe Metcalfe. The cornerstone also contained a copy of the constitution and by-laws of the No. 2 Fire Company and a paper containing the names of the city officers: Mayor, J. S. Speed; treasurer, H. H. Bain; auditor, Jas. D. Pope; city marshal, L. B. White. The architect of the building was F. B. Rogers; stonemason, Mike Phelan; carpenter. H. Ziegler; brickmason, T. Weaver. There was also a paper containing the following: President of the United States, Gen. Franklin Pierce; Cabinet—Jas. Guthrie of Kentucky, treasurer; Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, secretary-of-war. Governor of Kentucky, L. W. Powell. There was also in the box a copy of the Louisville Daily Courier of Wednesday, March 30, 1853. The relics were disentombed by Mr. Terry, who has charge of the tearing down of the building. They will be turned over to Mr. McDonald, the architect of the new building, and will be placed in the new corner-stone.”