Somerville, Mass., is a residential city of small area and closely built up. It has a population of about 88,750 and the number of fires is moderate and the loss per fire and per capita is low. An ample water supply is available from the Metropolitan system and the distribution is in two services owned by the city. This, and the following information, is contained in a report just issued by the Committee on Fire Prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters. The city is about four miles northwest of Boston and covers an area of 4.6 miles. Large packing house industries and railroad yards are in the southeastern portion. The total fire loss for the past 5 years, as given in the fire department records, amounted to $556,779. Based on an average population of 83,500, the average annual number of fires per 1,000 population was 3.4, a moderate number, and the average loss per capita was $1.34, a low figure.

Fire Department Organization. L

The fire department is part full paid and part call men. Supervision is under the control of the mayor and direct supervision under the chief, Sewell M. Rich, who was appointed chief in 1910. From 1891 till that time he was a member of the call department. The first assistant chief is Edward W. Ring who has been in the service since 1873 and the second assistant chief is Joseph H. Cribby, who has been in the department since 1892. The force consists of 78 full paid men and 17 call men. During the past five years $27,181 has been expended for new apparatus.


Four engine, four hose and three ladder companies are in service. Call men are specifically assigned to companies. Full paid members are allowed 3⅞ hours daily for meals, one day off in five and fourteen days annual vacation. Eight joisted brick fire stations are in use and are well kept.


There are four steam fire engines. One is 700gallon tractor drawn, one is 700-gallon horsedrawn and two are 600-gallon horse-drawn. Three are of the reciprocating, double piston pump type and one is a Silsby with rotary pump. The three ladder trucks are of service type. Truck 1 carries a 65-foot and a 50-foot extensions, and 15 other ladders, 12 having roof hooks. Truck 2 is a motor truck carrying a 55-foot and 6 other extension ladders and 7 straight ladders; 11 have roof hooks. Truck 3 is of the combination type, carrying two 50-foot and one 40-foot extension ladders and 13 other ladders, 7 with roof hooks, and two 35-gallon chemical tanks. A reserve ladder truck is kept with Ladder 1. Six of the 8 hose wagons in service are of the combination type; 4 are automobiles; all chemical tanks are provided with 2pS-inch connections. Three wagons have divided hose bodies but none is equipped with turret pipes. The chief and first assistant chief have automobiles, the second assistant chief has a buggy and there is a buggy in reserve. Hose is 2 1/2-inch, double-jacket cotton, rubber-lined. Of the 11,150 feet of hose on hand, 7,200 feet has been purchased during the past 5 years. About 1,450 feet is available for each hose or engine company. Drying facilities are provided in all stations. Hose couplings are of the usual screw type.

Minor Equipment.

Each hose wagon carries two or three shut off nozzles, with 1to 15/8-inch tips. Engine 1 has a deluRe set. Hose 5 has a small deluge set. Two engine companies have cellar pipes and three have distributing nozzles. All hose wagons carry axes, extra chemical charges, hydrant gates, lanterns and plaster hooks. Crowbars, ropes, door openers, Siamese connections, waterproof covers and life belts are carried on some wagons. The ladder trucks are well supplied with the usual appliances except smoke helmets and ladder pipe.

Fire Methods.

It is estimated the majority of fires are handled with chemicals and other small appliances. The first company responding lays a line of hose from the nearest hydrant; hose gates are used to prevent delay in connecting a second line. Oneinch to lj4-inch streams, from shut-off nozzles on single lines are generally used. Deluge sets are occasionally used for throwing larger streams. Engines stand attached to heaters and are automatically lighted on leaving; quarters. Hose is raised by ropes or carried into buildings or up ladders; it is placed back in wagons after fires and on return to quarters dry hose is substituted when available.


The city is divided into eight inspection districts, which are covered by the captains of the stations in these districts. An inspection is made of all buildings other than dwellings once in 2 months to secure the remedying of dangerous conditions. Detailed reports are filed with the chief. Reinspections are made and follow up notices served on inspections. By recent State law, the chief has authority to enforce all regulations established by the Fire Prevention Commissioner.


Changes made since a National Board report in 1906, include: The addition of 41 full paid men, the reduction of the call force by 63 men; increase in number of days off allowed, the purchase of automobiles for the chief and first assistant chief; four motor combined chemical and hose wagons, one motor ladder truck, one tractordrawn steam engine, one horse-drawn steam fire engine, two horse-drawn combined hose wagons, and the placing in service of a horsedrawn plain hose wagon at Engine 2 station and removing the hose from the ladder truck at that station. Improvements authorized include the purchase of an Ahrens-Fox 800-gallon motor combined pump and hose wagon. This will replace the apparatus at Engine a and the present engine at this station will be placed in reserve. The department contemplates purchasing 1,000 feet of 2^-inch hose before January, 1917.

Fire Alarm System.

The fire alarm system is under the supervision of the Commissioner of Electric Lines and Lights, Walter I. Fuller. He is assisted by one operator and four linemen. The apparatus at headquarters is of automatic type and Gamewell make, installed in 1895 and 1897. It includes an 18-circuit slate protector board mounted on a hinged wooden frame, equipped with double pole knife switches and enclosed fuses, sneak oil fuses and carbon air gap lightning arresters on each side of each circuit; a twelve-circuit slate charging and controlling board mounted in wooden partition; a wooden testing panel and an eight-circuit non-interfering repeater, with contacts for two closed alarm circuits. Each fire station is served by two box circuits, on which are one or more gongs, a punch register and house lighting switches; three stations have automatic horse releases. The tower bell at headquarters is on a local circuit from the repeater; the seven other tower bells are on box circuits. Tappers in call men’s houses are actuated from finger springs on tower bell strikers. Headquarters has a tapper from Boston, Cambridge and Medford; Engine 2 has a tapper from Boston; Hose 3, Engine 4 and Hose 5 have tappers from Cambridge; Engine 6 has a tapper front Arlington, and Hose 8 a tapper from Medford. These tappers operate on alarms from these cities and on ajarms from the Somerville system on closed circuits. Headquarters and Engine 4 receive alarms from the A. D. T. system. The total number of fire alarm boxes is 128, all of Gamewell make. A two-story fire-proof fire alarm building is under construction, replacing a portion of the present fire department headquarters, upon completion of which a manual fire alarm system will be installed. The new equipment to include: two 6-circuit operating boards; one 5-circuit tapper board; one 5-circuit gong board; two 16-circuit storage battery controlling switchboards; one 32-circuit protector board; one 12-circuit automatic repeater; one 1-dial, 4-number manual transmitter; 13 punch registers, one on each box circuit and one in common to all circuits in superintendent’s office; two 5-circuit punch registers on outgoing alarms; two automatic time and dating stamps, one on incoming and one on outgoing alarms; one master clock; metal battery racks and new cells; boards to be of slate and mounted in metal cabinets. The present system will be cut over onto 12 box circuits and there will be 2 alarm circuits to each fire station. A telephone switchboard with 4 trunk lines from the public telephone exchange will be installed; there will be a direct line from this switchboard to each fire station, chief’s and superintendent of wires’s residence.


The recommendations contained in the report include that sufficient full paid men be assigned to companies so that the least number present at all times shall be: 7 men to each of Engine Companies 1 and 4 and to the recommended Engine Company 7, the automobile hose wagon with this company to respond to all alarms during meal hours of other companies with at least 5 men. Six men to Ladder 1 and recommended Engine Companies 2 and 3. Three men to each of 2 and 6, when authorized and recommended automobile apparatus is installed. Until that time, 5 men. Five men to each of Ladder Companies2 and 3. Three men to each of Hose Companies 5 and 8. That the following changes and additions to apparatus be made: Change Hose 3 to an engine company with an automobile combined pump, chemical and hose wagon with Engine 4 with a motor com75-foot quick-raising aerial ladder truck. Replace Engine 6 with a motor combined pump, chemical and hose wagon. Provide a tractor for Ladder 3 or purchase a new motor service truck. Change Hose 7 to an engine company with a motor pumping engine. Replace hose wagon with Engen 4 with a motor combination hose wagon equipped with a turret pipe. Place Engine 6 in reserve and equip it with a short bar for towing by automobile apparatus. Upon the complete manning and motorizing of the department, Hose Company 5 may be abandoned; the motor wagon to be transferred to Hose Company 7 to replace the present wagon, which can be kept in reserve. Place in reserve at Headquarters a hose wagon equipped with a turret pipe and 1,000 feet of 3-inch hose, provided with a short bar for towing by automobile apparatus. That at least 2,500 feet of hose be purchased at once to provide a complete extra shift for each company. That a suitable drill tower and necessary equipment be provided, and all members drilled in the use of all appliances, quick handling of hose, salvage work and life saving.

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