THE INCREASING FIRE LOSSES IN THE UNITED STATES.
MR. CHRISTOPHER CLARKE, of Northampton, Mass., in a paper read at the recent convention of the Massachusetts State Firemen’s association by way of comment upon that read before that meeting by Mr. Edward A tkinson, of Boston, on the subject of “The increasing fire losses in the United States—their causes and prevention,” claimed that the suggestions therein made were of no practical value, unless embodied in State laws that shall enforce better protection in the building conditions that are made in the policies he issues.
I wish to add (Mr. Clarke goes on to say) to the suggestions he makes that we should go still farther and not depend alone upon the special methods he has adopted, but add those that may be still better and safer which other experts can offer, and thus reduce the fire loss still more. There is no possible doubt that such building methods are now well known to exist, but cannot be used because there is little or no interest shown by those whose plain and manifest duty it into obtain the needed laws that would save millions of property and many valuable lives. The loss of life in 1899 and 1900 for fifteen months has been greater than ever before, and the loss of property destroyed, was over $200,000,000— an enormous tax on the country.
I appeal to the officers and members of the Massachusetts State Firemen’s association to take such action at this convention as will make a beginning of this good work. I have again and again urged you to begin, but with no result up to date. It is a very poor record for this association to have the direct vote of its members fail of results for three different years, and not a move made for the most important matter that can possibly be brought before it— namely, the better protection of the lives of firemen and others who are the victims of the terrible tiretraps now allowed to be built, and accepted by our State authorities under the present laws. There is no question that anv reasonable building and tireescape law, introduced by the officers of the Massachusetts Firemen’s associaion. would be successfully opposed in our legislature. Since the first time that I appeared before your association scores of your fellow firemen have been killed. Have you no interest in the preservation of the present force of brave men who must in added numbers be sacrificed in the sham dangerous buildings that are constantly being built under the present laws? You can be assured that you. and you only can start this reform, for, as long as the people will pay the enormously increased rates of insurance, the insurance companies and their agents are not (as has already been found true) going to make any effectual move for better laws The firemen have got to demand the protection they are entitled to have, or be sacrificed. When it is known that there is an hotel burned every day in the year in this country, and that there is not an hotel or dormitory in this State from which all the people could with any certainty escape alive, if the lower stories were suddenly enveloped in flames, that scores of buildings all over theState, where people workand sleep, are dangerous to the last degree, it would seem that it was high time that the building laws should be changed, so as to apply to both new builddings and old buildings that are to be altered or raised. I trust that before this convention adjourns action will be taken that will result in obtaining legislative action in the form of an effective general building law for the whole State.