THE FIRE HAZARD OF SKYSCRAPERS
The difficulty experienced in attacking a fire in one of the tall buildings, with which nearly every city now is becoming noted, is weighing heavily on the minds of some fire department heads. Cities that have the high pressure water system do not present so puzzling a problem, but where there is not a high pressure service, buildings more than seven stories in height are looked upon as a menace when a fire breaks out in one of the upper stories. A paper on this subject was read at the recent convention of the Pacific Coast Association of Fire Chiefs, held in Tacoma. The author, Harry W. Bringhurst, Fire Marshal of Seattle, deprecated the fact that the hazard of neither heights or areas had attracted the attention from the fire prevention standpoint that they should, as in every large city are buildings which prove that advanced ideas of construction had not been observed. Very little consideration has been given to the conservative advice of those who view these subjects in the light of experience. Marshal Bringhurst declares that tall buildings are regarded as such valuable advertisements that any city will welcome and encourage the man who desires to erect one, and the public need not be surprised if some cities even change the building ordinances to suit the pleasure of the property owner. He thinks it fortunate that excessively tall buildings are as yet used only for office purposes, and are therefore cut up into small rooms, and their contents, while combustible, are well distributed and do not make fires that get beyond the control of the firemen. Some cities have enacted ordinances limiting the height of buildings to two hundred feet, and even to a lesser height. Marshal Bringhurst recommends the use of basement pipes for extinguishing fires in the first floors, as they are very effective in killing a basement blaze when a start might mean the shooting of flames up an elevator shaft or stairway to other floors. The equipment of New York’s tall structures with standpipes reduces the fire hazard to a minimum, which, together with the high pressure, leaves the fire department master of the most serious fire in one of them.