THE FIRE SERVICE AT NEW BEDFORD
New Bedford, Mass., is an important manufacturing and distributing center with a population of about 110,300. The number of fires is low, the loss per fire moderate and the loss per capita low, says a report by the Committee on Fire Prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters on conditions in that city. The report gives the following information concerning the city’s fire-fighting facilities: The gross fire loss for the past five years, as given in the fire department records, amounted to $782,929, varying between $86,674 in 1911 and $278,972 in 1910, $203,300 of which was in two fires. The number of actual fires varied from 242 in 1910 to 307 in 1914, with an average loss per fire of $583, a moderate figure. Based on an average population of 102,400, the average annual number of fires per 1,000 population was 2.61, and the average annual loss per capita was $1.53, both low figures.
Water works owned and operated by the municipality supply water to all closely built up territory in the city limits. The first works were begun in 1866 and the present works were put in service in 1899. The clerk of the Water Board and superintendent, Robert C. P. Goggeshall, has held his position thirty-four years and is well fitted for his duties; he is a member of the American Water Works Association and a charter member, past president and honorary member of the New England Water Works Association. The organization and management are excellent; the water supply is ample; pumped to a distributing reservoir containing over six days’ maximum consumption. The pumping capacity is ample. Other data given concerning the water system are: Duplicate supply mains from distributing reservoir. Second pumped supply and distributing reservoir of good capacity in reserve. Consumption low. Pressures throughout the city, light to moderately heavy. Main arteries of ample size; distributing system good. Gate valves in good condition; spacing generally good. Hydrants well spaced; in good condition; a few of small size.
Fire Department Organization.
The fire department is about 58 per cent, full paid; remainder call. Supervision is under boad of engineers consisting of chief and three assistants, and a fire committee consisting of two aldermen and three councilmen. The city is divided into three inspection and service districts, each in charge of an assistant engineer. The chief engineer is Edward F. Dahill, who is 53 years old, has been 27 years in the service and was appointed to his present position in 1904. He is the executive head of the department, has control over men and apparatus, is chairman of the board of engineers, which controls, transfers and maintains discipline, is superintendent of the fire alarm system and is a competent and progressive official. The first assistant engineer is J. J. Donaghy, who has been 31 years in the service. William E. Watson, Jr., is second assistant engineer, and Frank R. Pease is third assistant engineer. The total full paid members of the department are 107. The fire force is 180, of whom 78 are call members. The department expenses in 1914 were: Salaries, $132,242; general expenses, $25,090; total maintenance, $157,332; new apparatus, $1,528. ‘The per capita expense in 1914 was $1.46, based on an estimated average population of 107,500. The chief is elected by the city council in convention for a five-year term. Appointments and promotion of members are governed by Civil Service rules. There is no pension fund. Pensions are paid as part of the regular departmental expenses. A relief fund is maintained for benefit of members in performance of duty by assessment on its members. If injured while fighting fire any firemen may benefit from a fund drawn from the State treasury for the Massachusetts State Firemen’s Association. Full paid members are allowed one day off in five and 15 days’ annual vacation.
Seven engine, five hose and three ladder companies are in service; five steam engines are in reserve. There are three steam engines of reciprocating double piston pump type, two motor engines with rotary pumps and two motor engines with piston pumps in service. Five steamers of similar type are in reserve. Steamers arc equipped with hand and automatic relief valves, but none has a compound gage. Each carries about 20 feet of 4- to 4 1/2 inch hard rubber suction hose, in two lengths, and two have also about 10 feet 4 1/2-inch soft suction hose, all with proper connections for drafting or use on post and flush hydrants; none has rubber tires. Motor engines have automatic and hand relief valves, compound gage, and 4 1/2-inch suctions, including one length of soft suction, all equipped with proper connections; one has Sewell cushion wheels and tires, dual on rear, two have cushion tires, dual on rear and one has single pneumatic tires. At headquarters, within the principal mercantile district, are located an aerial ladder and two hose companies, one of the latter having an automobile wagon; within ½ mile of its centre are two additional engine companies, and within about one mile are, in addition, one hose, one aerial ladder and two engine companies. The northern manufacturing and mercantile districts have one hose, one aerial ladder and three engine companies within about ¾ mile; similar southern districts have one engine, one aerial ladder and two hose companies within about ¾ mile. The extreme northern section, having detached frame residences of low to moderate values, is now protected by an automobile engine company. No point within the closely built area of the city is more than 1 1/2 miles from an engine company. The three trucks in service are of the Hayes aerial type, each equipped with a Dahill quick-raising device; one carries a 75-foot aerial, equipped with a ladder pipe, also a 50-foot extension and 11 other ladders; the other two trucks carry 70or 65-foot aerials and 10 and 11 other ladders respectively, the longest being a 50-foot extension; all are in good condition; none has rubber tires. The Perkins combination truck is being rebuilt with a tractor, to give service at Station 8, or for drilling; it has a hose basket to carry 800 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and carries a few small tools. An old Ryan truck, stripped, is also in reserve. In addition to four automobile pumping engines carrying hose, there are four plain, one combination and three automobile combination hose wagons in service; one plain hose wagon is in reserve. Combination wagons have 2 1/2-inch connections to chemical tanks; all but one have rubber tires; single pneumatic tires are used on the automobiles; none has a divided hose body; all are in good condition. The chief and the third assistant engineer each provide an automobile for their own use. A 40-horsepower Locomobile, with platform body, is provided for general utility and repair work. Seven exercise and fuel wagons, one buggy and one fire alarm repair wagon are also provided.
Hose is 2 1/2-inch, double-jacketed, cotton, rubber-lined. It is purchased under specifications requiring a manufacturer’s test of 300 pounds after couplings are attached and a test of 400 pounds on’ one length in every five, under three years’ guarantee, with department tests allowed after delivery. Tests of hose in service are made only on doubtful sections. Of the 17,400 feet on hand, 12,450 feet was purchased since June, 1910; 250 feet is over seven years in service. About 1,450 feet is available for each hose and engine company; the supply is insufficient to provide a complete shift for each company. Couplings of this and neighboring cities are of the usual screw type.
Two long metal play pipes, with 1to 1 5/8 inch open tips, are carried on each steamer. Each automobile engine and each hose wagon has one to three play pipes with 1to 1 1/4-inch shut-off nozzles and carries an axe, plaster hook, gated 2-way connection to fit large hydrant outlet, connection for flush hydrants, reducers and enlargers, rope, hose straps, lanterns and three to five waterproof covers; five to eight carry a cellar pipe, door opener and crowbar; one to four carry wire cutters, nozzle holder, life net, pompier belt, hose shutoff and smoke masks. Engine 1 and Hose 3 have each a 2-inlet turret pipe with 1 1/2 to 2inch tips. All trucks carry axes, plaster hooks, crowbar, sledge, shovels, brooms, forks, bale hooks, picks, wire cutters, roof cutters, rope, hose straps, lanterns, life net, waterproof covers, squeegees, wrecking hook, surgical kit and hose shut-off; two have Siamese couplings, burst hose jacket, deluge set, door opener and cellar pipe; one has a ladder pipe, nozzle holder, pompier belt and hose hoist. Appliances for handling heavy streams include one ladder pipe, two turret pipes, three deluge sets and seven cellar pipes.
All but one of the eleven fire stations are of brick. All are heated by steam and lighted by electricity; gas is also available in most stations.
Discipline and Training.
Revised printed rules made by the board of engineers are soon to be issued. Rules are well enforced and discipline appears to be well maintained. Each call company has its own rules in addition to those of the department. Weekly drills, including the coupling of hose, use of minor equipment and ladders, are held by each company. New members are drilled in this manner and also receive training in regular company work.
Chemical streams are said to be used effectively in extinguishing small fires. Fires under engine boilers are lighted automatically on leaving quarters. Safety valves are set to blow at 100 pounds and water pressure is limited to 120 pounds, unless orders are received from an officer. Engine streams with 1 1/8inch ring shut-off nozzles are generally used, except where pressures are good, when hydrant streams are used. Chucks, are carried on wagons and elbows on engines for connecting to flush hydrants. When long lines are necessary, they are siamesed to decrease the friction. The three deluge sets are used when powerful streams are required; the ladder pipe is sometimes used, with 1 1/4-inch tip. Some of the men carry respirators for use in dense smoke. Waterproof covers carried on hose wagons and ladder trucks are used by the Protective Company.
The chief and assistant chiefs inspect buildings for accumulation of rubbish and other combustible materials. Occupants are requested to remove rubbish, etc., and if request is not complied with the chief has it removed at occupant’s expense.
Recent Improvements, Etc.
The major improvements made since the National Board report of 1908 include: Increase of the full paid force by 58 men; decrease of the call force by 108 men; assistant engineers made full paid; addition of one company; erection of two new fire stations; purchase of four automobile pumping engines, three automobile combination chemical and hose wagons, one service automobile, two new engine boilers, miscellaneous minor equipment and 21,150 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Improvements contemplated are to remove headquarters to a new central station and to complete the motorization of the department. Authorized improvements are the purchase of 1,000 feet of 2 ½-inch hose and the motorization of the reserve ladder truck. A bond issue for $150,000 has been authorized by the legislature for a new central station and a new fire alarm system; plans and specifications for these are now being made and will be submitted to the city council for action.
Fire Alarm System.
The fire alarm system is under the supervision of Chief Dahill and is maintained by Assistant Superintendent of Fire Alarm Robert E. Allen. The apparatus at fire alarm headquarters is of automatic type and Gamewell make, originally installed in 1900 and removed to present location in 1908. It includes a ten-circuit slate protector board, a ten-circuit slate charging and controlling switchboard, a ten-circuit non-interfering automatic repeater, having contacts on drum for operating three open alarm circuits, one of which connects with the central office of the Automatic Telephone Co.; a wooden circuit-testing board with old style galvanometer and testing switches; a Morse key for manual transmission and a gang switch for cutting all circuits off of the repeater and throwing them in series. On the protector board are switches for cutting out choke coils and 1/2-ampcre fuses on any circuit. At fire headquarters a telephone switchboard is located in the chief’s office on the second floor of fire headquarters. Telephones on direct lines to the two public exchanges are adjacent to the telephone switchboard. A punch register, without take-up reel or time stamp, is on a box circuit to deceive all box alarms. Alarms are also received by a gong on a box circuit. There is also a 20-circuit annunciator with vibrating bell, which is connected to 12 automatic alarm systems. At each fire station is a gong, an automatic release for horses in the stations which have them and a house lighting switch, all connected to some box circuit. Four stations have punch registers, five have numerical indicators and six have tower bells, connected to the same box circuit that operates the gong. A telephone is directly connected to the switchboard at fire headquarters; there is also a telephone connecting by direct line to the exchange of the Automatic Telephone Company. The total number of boxes is 172. All are of Gamewell make, of non-interfering, springactuated, trigger-pull type; 71 are succession. One public and four private boxes are auxiliarized and have one to five auxiliary stations at distributed plant locations.
The following are among the recommendations included in the report: That chief officers be appointed for indefinite terms with removal only for cause after public trial. That the department be put on a full paid basis. That sufficient full paid men be assigned to companies so that the least number present at all times, including meal hours, shall be as follows: In hose companies, 3; in steam engine companies, 5; in motor engine companies, 4; in aerial ladder companies, 5; in the proposed ladder company, 4. Provide automobiles for the chief engineer and each assistant engineer; replace Engine 1 with an automobile combined pump and hose wagon; replace Truck 1 with an automobile aerial truck or equip present Truck 1 with a motor tractor; place in service, with Hose 2 (at Station 8), the tractor-drawn combination ladder truck now being assembled by the department; place the turret hose wagon now used as Hose 3 in reserve at the proposed new central station, loaded with 1,000 feet of hose; transfer the members of Hose Company 3 to the proposed new ladder company with Hose 2 (at Station 8); provide automobile combination hose wagons for Hose Company 6 and Engine Company 1; place in reserve, with Hose 6, the turret hose wagon now with Engine 1, loaded with 1,000 feet of hose. That additional hose be purchased at once to provide a complete extra shift for each company. That sufficient 3-inch hose be purchased to provide 200 feet for each hose wagon and such additional amounts provided in future purchases that ultimately hose wagons will carry equal amounts of 2 ½and 3-inch, with a total of at least 1,000 feet; all 3-inch hose to be fitted with 2 1/2-inch couplings properly beveled. All couplings to have National Standard dimensions as given under Recommendation 10. That a suitable pompier tower and other necessary equipment be provided for drilling men in the use of all tools and appliances, including scaling ladders, in salvage work and in life saving.