THE LONDON SALVAGE CORPS.
EVEN although it is under the exclusive control of fire insurance companies, the London Satvage corps is virtually a branch of the fire service of British metropolis. The corps had its origin in the transfer of the fire engine establishment of London from the insurance companies to the old Metropolitan Board of Works in 1866 The Fire Brigade act gave the companies power to form a small body of men under Superintendent Swanton. from which the present organization has been evolved. Superintendent Swanton, on his retirement in 1887, was followed by Mr. Brace Hall, who in turn gave place to the present chief officer, Captain C. J . Fox,in July of last year. The London Salvage corps, for the purposes of its needs,maps : ut the metropolis into five districts—A, comprising the West of London north of the Thames, II, the central portion of the city, C ,the eastern and north eastern portion of the metropolis, D, the area south of the Thames, and E, the parish of Islington. The stations are situate in Watling street, where is the official residence of Captaiu Fox,the chief officer; Southwark Bridge road; Shaftesbury avenue; and Upperstreet, Islington. The principle aimed at, therefore,is decentralization and rapid concentration. Taking Watling street for the the purpose of description, a London newspaper writes:
“The watch-room, where there are men on duty night and day, constitutes the pulse of the corps. It is the fountain head of all that t-.anspires. Telephones communicate with all the other stations and the Fire Brigade, and each station is similarly in touch with headquarters and with the superintendent o! the Fire Brigade of its particular district. On the receipt of a message announcing the outbreak of a fire, the superintendent of the district in which the fire takes place makes his own arrangements, while Captain Fox is informed of what has been done, and,if one district needs aid from another.it is dispatched by him. F’rom the message the chief officer is able to judge the probable extent of the conflagration, and the magnitude of the interests involved, and help is sent in proportion. Waterproof cloths form a large part of the equipment of a Salvage corps‘Trap.’ …. If the exigencies of the case demand it, goods are removed bodily from threatened buildings to a place of safety. The real work of the corps commences after a fire has been extinguished, and the firemen have departed. If the premises happen to be large and the contents of a perishable nature, there is an immense amount of work to be done where the property is insured. Damaged goods are removed to another warehouse, goods undamaged are placed in a position of safety, and precautions are taken against a fresh outbreak, while the men save everything that is worth salving, and what is called ‘work out’ tire ruins, a process which often occupies many days. But,whether burning premises are insured or not—and the knowledge cannot be gained until after the outbreak—the Salvage corps is always on the spot. The fact that both horses and men of all grades are kept busily employed may be imagined when it is known that not more than once a year is a blank report made made from the various stations. With respect to the personnel of the corps, the members are all reliable men, mostly drawn from the Navy, and of proved courage and physique. Captain Fox speaks in the highest terms of the men, whose ability and activity he is always pleased to encourage. The service is a popular one beyond doubt, and Jack Tar, when he was grown tired of a ’life in the ocean wave,’ finds life as a guardian of insured property ashore very comfortable.
“The horses, like the men, appear to enter very keenly into their work. Between the hours of 6 p m. and to o clock they stand in their stalls harnessed ready for anything and to go anywhere, the weight of the collars, traces, and sway-bars being counterbalanced by a long brass weight something like a deep-sea lead in shape, which by an ingenious automatic arrangement releases the harness in the space of a second, each portion thereof then falling upon the backs of the animals in its proper place. The coachman who drive them are are necessarily experienced and skilful men, in whom every confidence is placed. In the case of a horse lalling—a very rare occurence—a little piece of mechanism at the end of the pole releases the animal from the collar, while the men on the ‘ trap’ jump down instanter, and in less time than it takes to write it, the fallen r.orse is on his feet again and in the traces. Asphalt pavement will sometimes let the surest horse down; but even this possibility has been provided for by the adoption of a practical form of shoe, [which] extends only round the fore part of the hoofs.leaving the frog exposed, so that there is no fear of the horses slipping up—or dow’n either, for that matter—and in any case it steadies them to such an extent that they are always able to recover their feet.
“ Each station is made as comfortable as space and circumstances will permit. There are dormitories, mess-rooms, libraries—and smoke rooms—papers and periodicals being in the latter. The roll-call is made in each station every night at 9 o’clock, the correct time being sent from headquarters to the other stations, so that the clocks there can be adjusted, if they require it. A ’ turn-out’ once every twenty-four hours is also one of the standing regulations. In each station there is what is called a bandage ’ shoot.’ It is worked on the same principle as an automatic sweet machine the spaces between being filled with rolls of bandages, so that, when one is removed, another takes its place. Some sticking plaster, a pair of splints, and a bottle of Friars Balsam complete this useful little machine.
“Whenever a member of the corps meets with an accident, he is well cared for, and in case of death, if he is married.his wife and family are not neglected. The men realize this, and the esprit dr torps among them is very marked.”
It may be added that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the London Salvage Corps work most harmoniously together.