THE KALAMAZOO FIRE SERVICE
The Board of Police and Fire Commissioners of Kalamazoo, Mich., in their annual report for the year ending March 31, 1916, say: We are glad to look forward to the coming of motor apparatus provided by the city for this department. As the city has grown and extended the need of equipment that could reach the fires quicker became apparent. More motor apparatus is needed and we are informed it will be the earnest endeavor of the city authorities to provide means to purchase more motor apparatus during the present year. It is our opinion that the fire department can be more economically managed and infinitely better service rendered by changing from horse-drawn apparatus. It is to be hoped that this can be effected as rapidly as funds can be provided therefor. The city is also in need of a considerable number of fire alarm boxes to be distributed about the city in order to insure quicker and more accurate information of the location of fires. While the use of the telephone for communicating to the department the location of fires is a fair means of informing the department of the location of fires, it cannot be considered anywhere near as good a source of information from the standpoint of accuracy and quick information as the fire alarm and the city of Kalamazoo is behind a great many other cities of its size in this branch of equipment. In his report Chief Charles H. Russell calls attenion to the fact that an examination of the fire statistics will show that during the last calender year the department has answered more alarms than in any of the last seven, except two, and the fire loss has been the lowest of any of the seven years; also the amount of value of the property involved was greater than in any of the years mentioned. The chief says: A comparison of the figures show that the average number of fire alarms was 208, while the number for the year 1915 was 214, the average amount of insurance loss paid was $135,943.90, compared with $53,528.58 paid during the last year; the average amount of value of property involved for the seven years was $1,888,335.72, while in 1915 the value was $3,365,607.74. While bare figures do not always indicate resu’ts, it is plain that the city has been fortunate, which may not continue indefinitely, and is not safe to count on. In this connection, I feel it my duty to add that a part of this favorable showing is due to the efficiency and care displayed by the members of the department, and the growing interest of the citizens to aid in preventing fires by not allowing the accumulation of rubbish, or violating the building code. The owners and those in charge of buildings, both public and private, have willingly and promptly complied with the requests of the Fire Marshal, which possibly has saved this community many lives and a large amount of value in property. For three or four years, we have advocated the purchase of motor fire apparatus, which has been getting perfected in every way more and more each year. Our city is to be congratulated in having the increased facilities of quick response to fire alarms and more service, when on the ground, by the addition of two pieces of motor fire apparatus, which was authorized by the last City Council, and while this addition to our forces will aid very much, yet it only about makes up for the former lack and does not provide fully for the increased demand of more such apparatus caused by the increase in population and widely spreading out residence and factory districts. We hope for and confidently expect that in the near future the entire department will be equipped with motor apparatus and would now recommend the purchase of two heavy tractors, suitable for hauling our heaviest steam pumpers, so they can be used for immediate service wherever needed, at a probable cost of about $10,000. Like all our horse-drawn equipment, the rig used by the Assistant Chief has about reached the end of its usefulness, the horse, buggy and harness arc practically used up and instead of buying new or trying to use it, I would recommend the purchase of a small sized automobile, which would answer to not only get the Assistant Chief and another man immediately to a fire, but would be suitable to carry a medium sized extinguisher equipment, which, especially in the places outside of the water mains, would be very valuable in stopping a fire and even in cases of bad fires, would retard their progress until the heavier apparatus could come and finish the work. The small auto-equipment would not exceed in cost another horse, suitable to run, with the new buggy and harness, and if in use, the Assistant Chief could have charge of a certain part of the city to look after, thus allowing the Chief to be ready for a fire in the other parts of the city, at the same time, an occurrence which very often happens and results in loss, under our present system. One of the growing penalties of a growing city is the need of added protection to its inhabitants, which involves some expenses more than for its immediate use, but which must be incurred at the time of installing the imperative wants and at this time several more fire alarm boxes should be installed without delay and many parts of the city, in fact most of it, has to depend upon other means of sending in a fire alarm, all of which are unreliable and the cause of mistakes and needless delays. Most of the people who call the fire department by telephone are so excited they cannot properly direct the department, either giving the wrong location, or forgetting to give any directions at all, leaving the department to find the right place by other means, thus losing time, and even if the proper directions are given to the Central station, they have to be repeated to the other stations, which would be avoided in the proper system of fire alarm boxes, as all systems would get the notice at the same time and the proper ones would be on their way to the fire before they would get word, under the present condition, where there are no fire alarm boxes. I would remind you of the fact that we have only 47 fire alarm boxes, (four of which are the property of citizens), as compared to other cities of this size, or even smaller, which have 200 or 300 of them. We should have at least ten installed at once and as many more in the near future, costing about $130 each, including wiring. The causes of alarms of fire during the year 1915 were: Ashes, 3; automobiles, 10; boilers, 2; chimneys, 42; defective wiring, 4; explosion of drugs, 1; false alarms, 17; fire crackers, 1; furnaces, 11; gasoline, 4; gas heater, 1; gas jet, 3; grass, 5; incendiary, 6; lamp, 3; live wires, 2; locomotives, 2; matches, 11; oil stoves, 12; rubbish, 3; spontaneous combustion, 7; stoves and pipes, 19; torches, 2; unknown, 37; cigars, 6; total, 214.