THE JULY FIRE LOSSES.

THE JULY FIRE LOSSES.

THE manner in which the fire losses in this country are increasing year by year and month by month is well calculated to startle even the most casual observer. The losses for July just passed are put down at $9,000,000, which is an increase of over $2,000,000 over the average losses of July during the preceding ten years. This is an astounding exhibit, but the worst of it is, it is kept up continuously, so that the yearly increase is proportionate to the monthly increase. We have repeatedly shown, by analyzing the causes of fires, that a very large majority of them are due to carelessness, or causes easily preventable by the exercise of ordinary prudence and foresight. It is an expensive luxury, this national carelessness, resulting in adding largely to the taxation or cost of living of every man, woman or child in the country. The Commercial Bulletin of this city, which makes a careful compilation of fires as they occur, says that during the past ten years, 1875-1884, inclusive, the fire losses in the United States and Canada in the month of July aggregated $67,574,540, as carefully computed by that standard authority, The Chronicle Fire Tables. This gives as the average fire waste of the month of July, $6,750,000—for that period of ten years. If we separate the ten years into two periods of five years each, it will be found that there has been a notable, not to say frightful, increase of fire losses during the latter five years, as compared with the earlier quinquennium. For example: the losses in July (in the United States and Canada) from 1875 to 1879, inclusive, were $29,534,700—average, $5,906,940 for each July of those years. But for the subsequent five years the July aggregates were as follows:

This gives us an average of $7,609,093 as the average of the July fire waste from 1880 to the end of 1884, as compared with only $5,906,940 for the same month in the preceding five years—1875-1879—or an increased average of about 22j per cent during the past five years. Taking all things into account, especially considering the depression of values during the past year and a half, it is idle to offset against this increase in fire losses any proposition of growing population or advance in valuations which will excuse or palliate such an increase in the fire waste. It is simply chargeable to increased popular carelessness, or rather recklessness. And the fact remains plainly proven that we are coolly looking on, while property is burning up at a constantly increasing rate, which not only depletes the national wealth, but, in fact, threatens to put propertyowners sooner or later beyond the reach of that indemnity which insurance was invented to furnish.

July is a month which has a record of sorrow for fire underwriters. On July 19, 1845, occured the fire which destroyed 302 buildings in the lower (and at that time business) part of the city, including New street, Broad street, Beaver street, Exchange place and lower Broadway down to the building now occupied by The Commercial Bulletin, by whose substantial walls the fire was checked. This fire destroyed $6,000,000 worth of property. It was in July, 1852, that Montreal suffered from a $5,000,000 fire by which 1108 houses were destroyed. In July, i86t, Boston had a $t,000,000 fire on Nickerson’s wharf. A notable July fire was the Portland, Me., fire of July 4, 1866, which sent mourners about the streets, not only there but in other cities, to the tune of $10,000,000. Chicago, also, owes to a July fire (in 1874), which annihilated $5,000,000 worth of property, the reorganization of her fire department on a basis which the underwriters demanded and enforced as the only alternative of insuring property in that city. There have been numerous other large July fires which have made the month a kind of bete noir to underwriters who cultivate the grace of memory. So that, on the whole, we may consider July, 1885, less harmful than certain other Julys, in the matter of millionaire fires.

According to the most reasonable estimate we can make of the fire waste in the United States and Canada, during the month of July, the aggregate is not less than $9,000,000. The record shows no fewer than 173 fires where the reported loss reached or exceeded $10,000 and aggregated $7,600,000. Adding $1,400,000 for the horde of smaller fires and for those that have had no record, we fix the July loss figures at $9,000,000. This has been, with the single exception of July, 1884, the most fiery July in ten years, and one-third more destructive than the average—which, as we showed at the outset, has been $6,750,000. There is very poor encouragement in such an exhibit of progress in the wrong direction; especially when we consider that thus far in 1885 (only seven months) $60,000,000 worth of property has been annihilated by fire.

There were 82 fires where the reported loss was between $10,000 and $20,000 ; 30 between $20,000 and $30,000; 21 between $30,000 and $50,000 ; 16 between $50,000 and $75,000; 6 between $75,000 and $100,000; 12 between $100,000 and $200,000; and 6 of $200,000 or upwards.

The large fires of July were 18 in number, and were as follows: Trenton, Mo., $150,000; Stoughton, Wis., $500,000; New York city, $100,000 and $173,000; Cleveland, O., $140,000; Great Barrington, Mass., $100,000; Manayunk, Pa., $250,000; New Jersey (forest fires), $500,000; Skidmore, Mo., $100,000; Philadelphia, Pa., $400,000 and $200,000; Chicago, $ 1 50,000 and $125,000; Washington, D. C., $150,000; New Brighton, S. I., $260,000; Pittston, Pa., $100,000; Montreal, $100,000; Memphis, Tenn., $130,000. These 18 fires caused an aggregate loss of over $3,600,000, or 40 per cent of the entire fire waste of the month.

It is wonderful the indifference the public shows regarding this immense destruction of wealth. No other country in the world sustains such losses by fire, or would submit to it. It is said of Nero, the fiddler, that when he was told that Rome was burning, he kept right on with his fiddling, merely remarking : “ Let her burn—my property is all under my hat.” It is with like indifference that the masses in this country witness the destruction of property at the rate of about $10,000,000 a month, and probably from the same cause—the masses do not own the property. It is astonishing, however, that those who do own the property do not take better measures to protect it.

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