The London Fire Escape Men.
The following is an incident reported in the fire-escape service of London:
“A fire had broken out, at two o’clock in the morning, in a house inhabited by a family of eleven persons, all sleeping in one of the upper stories. The fire was not discovered until it had completely laid hold of the lower part of the house, and had cut off any chance of retreat for the inmates by the usual mode of egress. In a few minutes they were all roused, and then, two anxious groups—three persons in one room, and eight in another— were seen high above the street, calling piteously for help. Never was help more urgently required, for the flames had run up the staircase, and had imprisoned them in the already suffocatingrooms. They were told by the bystanders that the fire-escape was coming, and entreated not to throw themselves down. Providentially, the fire-escape—which had, ir. fact, been called to another fire—was very near at hand, or their chance of rescue would have been but a poor one. When the escape arrived, the conductor had at once to come to the decision to which room he would first pitch his ladder. He was guided by the direction in which the flames were driven by the wind, fandjjudged that in another minute or two he would be unable to reach the window at which the three persons were now hanging out ; he therefore lost no time in getting them down, passing them through the canvas shoot of the escape. Though this operation was most speedily, although coolly performed, the situation of the other eight persons (women and children being among them) was getting desperate in the extreme, as the flames were beginning to enter the room, and the smoke was stifling them. Moments seemed now like hours to them, and nothing but the cheery cry of the escape conductor that he would get them all down in time, and the sight of his energetic efforts in their behalf, gave them confidence to wait, and prevented them from leaping down on the pavement; it was with difficulty that a mother was restrained from throwing out her little child. The conductor was, of course, compelled to shift his escape to the other window; but when this was done, it was not many seconds before he had passed all the persons in the burning room down the canvas shoot, singly—the last was the master of the house. The flames followed them up close, and poured out of the window through which they had just made their exit, before the conductor could move his ladder away from it; indeed, the escape was partially burnt. The room from which he had first rescued the three persons was by this time full of fire ; and if the conductor had not shown such cool judgment in his selection of the group to be first assisted, loss of life would almost certainly have been the result. These few details will show that intelligence, no less than daring and activity, is a necessary clement in the character of a good fire-escape conductor.”