The Fire Department of the Future
(Perhaps the effect of Prohibition for all I know.)
(The game who wrote so much poetry.)
Since governmental administration of the departments has been a failure from the point of view of the various organizations which control our activities, why not change conditions. Let s put out fires by contract! Sell the entire equipment of the fire department to some “Combine” which, for a consideration, would agree to extinguish fires should they occur. We could still gamble with the insurance companies that we would not have fires and in addition we would gamble with the fire companies that we would.
Suppose, for instance, that the firm of birefine, Dousit & Overhaul bought the entire equipment of a city, and were paid in proportion to the property saved instead of lost.
Competition is the life of trade we are told, so why not have several companies in the field; one specializing in cellar fires; another in lace curtain fires; some in chimney and roof fires and still others to care for dump and grass fires.
The rates for the various types of fires could be graded according to the danger in extinguishing the fire, the chance of the fire spreading, all rates being based upon a “constant” which not even the perpetrators themselves would understand.
To accomplish the “specialist” type of extinguishment it might be well to sell to the men who now man the various companies the equipment they formerly operated for the city. For example: a certain ladder company would form a company to be known as the City Chimney Sweep & Fire Co.; (coat-of-arms, a Man Rampant on a Ladder). While they are resting they could be employed to clean chimneys and with a portable wireless telephone set could be in touch with their subscribers at all times. An engine company might be formed into the Upper Ten Back Yard Renovating & Street Flushing Co., with an appropriate motto such as “On ne passe pad” or “We .Drown to Save.” If the captains or some of the members did not care to engage in a strictly mercenary line of effort they could easily enter the Moving Picture field and play the leading role in such thrillers as the “Still Alarm” or “The Fireman’s Bride.”
Again let us suppose, at a port, that the fireboats were equipped with wireless phones as are the other companies, one boat might be used as an excursion boat plying about the harbor; another boat might be fitted out as a ferry boat, while still another could be used satisfactorily for the removal of the city garbage.
Should the passenger-fire-boats be away from their stations when needed at a fire they could be summoned by wireless, the passengers to understand that an extra fee would be charged for the ride to the fire, and an additional fee if the boat was actually in fire operation. Of course the women folks aboard would be expected to make and distribute coffee to the “laddies” while the men would be pressed into service to man the pumps. Details to be worked out later.
The fire alarm office without much change could be converted into some kind of a Notification Co., (Coatof-arms: everybody rampant about some small affair). They could run wires and men through the streets, act as an intermediary in rabbit catching, keep unimportant records and “listen in” to know what is going on. They could furnish messengers, information and scandal, but in no way should they be controlled by any of the fire companies doing business in the city. Alarms of fire could be transmitted by the above office or by mail. Another use to which it might be converted without much change would be a kindergarden for the blind, using the Braille and touch system, especially the latter.
The commercial idea could be extended to include fees from those who now enjoy the privileges of “side-walk engineering,” those “engineers” with chamois gloves and whiskers to pay an additional fee for the protection of those necessary appendages. In the event of a large fire the fire companies might furnish chewing tobacco, chewing gum and coffee for the spectators. Portable grandstands and printed programs (Yuh cant unnerstan’ de game widout one) would follow as a natural sequence. It might be necessary for to furnish the fire fighters with diamondminers mitts, and that detail can be worked out later.
As the fire departments have always been hampered by old men and traditions there would be nothing under this plan to prevent young blood and modern methods from revolutionizing fire fighting. It would not be such a wild idea, for instance, to fight fire by laying down a heavy stream barrage followed up by men with extinguishers and after them other men with mops and squeeges. Every fire alarm box or station could be in communication by wireless waves. We might even open sky-lights with grappling irons suspended from aeroplanes.
Such little details as what might happen should a cellar fire turn into a upper-floor fire, or a chimney fire into a ceiling fire remain to be seen. We shall have to experience such conditions first. And think of the chance of a building owner standing upon the steps of his building with chips of spalled granite dropping upon his head while he calls for bids from the representatives of the fire companies. And think too of the chance of sub-letting such contracts! And the wonderful opportunity of a bid of “Cost Plus 10%!”
And our friends with more insurance than stock could call in the business managers of the fire companies and say “Gentlemen, I will receive bids until 12 noon on the 31st. for putting out one fire, said fire will be started in the cellar of No. Wilson Ave. at 12.02 A. M. Sunday the 2nd. It is understood and agreed that the successful bidder will NOT appear upon the scene with his men and tools until 1.02 A. M. same and said date.”
Surely there are wonderful possibilities in the plan of “Combine” fire extinguishment! And think of the chance for over-time!
*The above idea is the parent of a new condition, not the offspring of an old one.
* Which parent is this parent and where’s the other one? Sides, how is the layman to tell an ancestor from an offspring?—Editor.