The Hamburg Fire Department.
While the Hamburg Fire Department is an admirably organized institution, one of the best, if not the best, in Europe, and well adapted to local requirements, it may be doubted whether in the organization of its personnel or in its equipment it is in advance of the fire department of American cities of first rank. The local engines and all mechanical devices seem small, the signal boxes far apart, and the speed maintained in traversing the city rather slow, but as there is an established building line in Hamburg, as in all European cities, which seldom exceeds six stories, the extremely difficult problems that present themselves daily to firemen in American cities are here entirely unknown. A Hamburg fireman of distinction, who had occasion to visit the United States some years ago, returned full of admiration for the splendid way in which American fire companies usually respond to alarms, and was of the opinion that the American companies were ready for action more promptly than those in Germany, because the individual units subordinated everything else to the point of leaving quarters at the earliest possible instant, to do which the American fireman at night would slide down the pole partially clad, and was indifferent as to his appearance in riding to the scene of the fire, so long as he was on the spot to meet the emergenccy. The European fireman, on the other hand, having had military training, would be inclined to avoid the pole, and would walk down the stairs, devoting a few seconds to the adjustment of his garments, and would be prepared to start only when ready to appear before the public in regulation costume. The city has over 700,000 population, and the fire department is under the general direction of a branddirector, who has under him two inspectors and nine brandmeisters, these latter being stationed in various city districts. There are 404 firemen and drivers, 114 inside men, and 6 office men. The brandmeisters are professional engineers who have passed examinations as such. The men composing the companies have had military training, necessarily, and must also have had some technical experience as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, and the like. It is the duty of the chief, or branddirector, not only to fight fires, but to enforce the city ordinances in regard to chimney cleaning, the handling of explosives and the manufacture thereof. The fire department renders aid in case of accidents and in removing interruptions to traffic. The director is also in possession of very elaborate data from the building department, which is distributed in all the local stations, showing the exact nature of all structures, this data being carefully studied and so prepared that upon reaching the scene of the fire the commander of the company is fully aware of the material situation. The average time required in Hamburg for a company to be ready to start to a fire is under 18 seconds in the daytime, and from 35 to 40 seconds at night. Alarms are sent in from boxes of the Siemens & Halske type combined with Morse telegraphic apparatus. There are in Hamburg 218 general alarm boxes, of which 16 are in the interior of buildings. Theoretically no box is more than 250 meters (820 feet) distant from any building. There are also 134 special alarm boxes in theaters, hospitals and factories. To facilitate finding an alarm box in time of danger, signs are painted upon or next to every city letter box. The equipment of the Hamburg department consists of 8 large and 14 small steam fire engines, 1 being a motor engine; 10 gas engines, 1 mounted on an electric motor; 11 hose carriages, 1 with an electric motor; 10 ladder carriages, 1 with an electric motor; 8 tool wagons; 1 tender; 25 ordinary hose reels; 15 hand-pressure fire engines; 3 tank wagons, and various service vehicles, including 49 bicycles. For service in the port, in addition to the shore equipment, there is 1 fire boat owned by the city, supplemented by 16 ferryboats, which are equipped with pumps and other apparatus. These ferryboats, though used constantly for the transportation of passengers within the harbor, are subject to instant call in case of danger, answering a large fire bell which can be heard throughout the port. The companies owning these ferryboats receive a certain compensation from the Government for thus aiding in the work of fighting fires. In addition to the public organization described above there is a salvage corps working in harmony with the fire department, but wholly under the control of the insurance companies doing business in the city. which support the institution entirely at their own expense. Detachments from this corps visit every fire and concentrate their efforts solely to saving property. The salvage corps owns 1 large motor wagon. 2 small motor wagons, a number of 8-wheel small motors, and a considerable number of motor cycles.