THE LONDON FIRE.
IN another column of this issue of FIRE AND WATER will be found some interesting information as to the fire service of London the perusal of which may, perhaps, modify the opinions of many of our readers,at least as to the personnel of the Metropolitan fire brigade, which has most unjustly come in for a large share of blame in the matter of the recent destructive fire. It must not be forgotten that the conditions in the British metropolis and those in America, so far as regards the firemen, are totally different. The London firemen are organized under semimilitary discipline, with a naval officer at their head, appointed, it is claimed, through Court influence, not on account of his having had any experience as a fire fighter (he has had none), but in order, apparently, to maintain that semimilitary discipline and manual drill, which, in reality, seem to supersede what we look upon as the practical work of a fireman. Nor must it be forgotten that the fires with which the fire brigade of London has to cope, generally break out in substantial, slow-burning buildings or in buildings whose height is far inferior to that of the skyscrapers in this and other large American cities. Hence, possibly,is engendered in the minds of the heads of the brigade, the idea that there is no need of being in such a hurry as there is over here— that seconds do not count for so much, and that an incipient fire does not necessarily call for instant extinguishment. Whether this is the case or not, there is no doubt that the weakest spot in the whole system of London fire service is its method of turning in an alarm—a system, or rather want of system, that would not be tolerated for one moment in New York, where, as in the larger cities and towns in this country, the perfection of the fire alarm telegraph forms one of the greatest safeguards in the way of fire protection—the alarm being given to every fire station, the moment a fire is discovered. Another weakness in the London fire service is the method of housing and hitching up the horses. In this city a very few seconds elapse between the turning in of the alarm and the turning out of the apparatus, fully manned, equipped, and ready for immediate action; in London as many minutes are not unfrequently lost before a similar result is obtained. This delay is still further added to by the fact thatat a number of the Metropolitan fire stations no horses are stabled; so that, when an alarm is turned in, the means of hauling the apparatus to the fire have to be sought for in the nearest livery stable or elsewhere—thus giving the fire every possible chance to gain headway, and to become a widespreading and destructive conflagration. In this country, however, there is hardly a town of 10,000 inhabitants that has not.its proper equipment of horses, fire alarm, and apparatus in every fire station. Commonsense shows that, unless such is the case, no system of fire protected ion can be looked upjn as either effective or perfect. A further source of weakness in the Metropolitan fire brigade is the lack of the most modern types of apparatus. Whether owing to a spirit of conservatism on the part of the London county council, or to the parsimony of those who control the expenditure, the American aerial truck has not been adopted—there is nothing approaching to it in all the apparatus used. Yet its effectiveness in getting at fires even in what are looked upon in London as high buildings is undeniable. A w’ater tower is something unknown —yet how effectual its services would have been during the recent conflagration, at least, to supplement those of the small engines working with a poor water pressure. The time will assuredly come, however, when the municipal authorities in the British metropolis will experience a change of heart in such matters, and, after a few more such fires as those which have happened within the last few years, will adopt, at all events, the best things in the American system of fire service. Sooner or later they will be rudely awakened to the consciousness of the fact that every fire in London is not of that small kind for which alone its apparatus is designed; anti that to confine a fierce fire to its place of origin—as should be the first aim of every fire chief—larger machines and quicker service must be adopted before many years are over. We have no word of dispraise—on the contrary, every highest word of praise for the firemen of London. They work under very different conditions from those on this side of the Atlantic. Their methods are altogether at variance with ours. Hitherto they have been content to suit their requirements to their methods, instead of suiting their methods to their requirements, as is done over here. How long the insurance men and the citizens of London will put up with such a policy is for themselves to decide. We would not pretend either to criticize or to find fault with that policy—but it would not suit Americans.