The Fire Loss of 1918

The Fire Loss of 1918

The record for the year past in fire losses is an appalling one. An increase of fifty million dollars over 1917, which in turn had a loss of over thirty millions more than 1916, shows how the figures for the past three years have steadily mounted. At first consideration, this would seem a very discouraging outlook for the cause of fire prevention. The agitation of this subject has never before been so persistent and wide-spread. Fire Prevention Days have been set aside and observed in nearly all of the states of the Union. Four minute speakers have devoted time to addresses on fire prevention. Parades with floats and signs on fire apparatus setting forth the importance of taking precautions against fire hazards, have been held. The daily and secular press have been filled with articles on the same subject. Chiefs and state fire marshals and their assistants have devoted much time to inspections and house to house visitations, pointing out the dangers that existed, ordering them remedied and in instances where such authority existed, enforcing obedience to their instructions. And so on, all along the line of fire prevention and fire protection. In spite of all this the total loss for the year 1918 is figured at the total of $317,014,385. On the face of it, it sounds discouraging. But, on closer examination, the outlook has a brightening tendency. In the first place, this large total is swelled by some very extensive single losses. Foremost among these are the forest conflagrations occurring in Minnesota and Wisconsin in October, 1918. These catastrophes alone are responsible for many millions of the total. Again the munition fires, several of which, with exceedingly heavy losses, occurred during 1918, and the origins of which in many instances were shrouded in mystery, will account for another large section of the increase in total of losses. These structures, which beside the extra hazardous nature of their contents, were of flimsy construction as a rule and thrown together carelessly and with little regard to fire resistive construction, were a distinct product of war conditions. The necessity for haste in building and for quick results in production precluded any very careful consideration being given to fire prevention in these institutions. So, while no doubt there has been an unusual and very unnecessarily large loss during last year, and that there is still very large room for improvement in this country in the matter of fire prevention, there is certainly no cause for discouragement. Rather, the heavy losses of the past must stimulate the advocates of fire prevention to even greater efforts, and a determination to make 1919 a banner year in the record of small fire loss.

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