THE MEMBERSHIP PROBLEM SOLVED.
Secretary Hills Gives the Reason Why the Membership of the International Association of Fire Engineers is Not Larger.
In reply to a communication addressed by FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING to Secretary Henry H. Hills, of the International Association of Fire Engineers, with respect to the solution of the problem of the small membership of that association and the small attendance at its conventions, Chief Hills writes as follows:
“WYOMING, Ohio, January 12. 1903.
“You have, in my opinion, given the correct solution to the small membership problem—the great
distances between points where the conventions are held and the political changes are the principal reasons. Then, again, chiefs of smaller or volunteer departments are obliged to pay their own expenses, if they attend—a majority receiving no compensation for their services. Firemen are not numbered among the millionaires, and cannot afford to spend from $100 to $150 for a three or four days’ trip to the conventions.
“There has been a suggestion made, that the conventions be held each year in Washington, D. C., or one year in the East—say, at New York or Boston; the next in Washington, D. C. This plan has some good features; but it would be opposed by Southern and Western delegates, although it has always been the fact that Eastern and Western cities (east of the Mississippi river) show a larger attendance than those from the South or West of that river, including the Ohio river.
“Railroad fare has a great deal to do with the attendance. Chiefs from a number of the large cities formerly secured free transportation, while for those from smaller places, a one-and-one-third of the regular fare for round trip was the lowest rate. I have received letters from chiefs, in answer to my notice that their dues were unpaid, saying that their city fathers would not pay their expenses, and they did not feel as though they wanted to pay dues and expenses for their city’s benefit, although they would like to continue their membership. These, I think, are the explanations of small membership.
“I hardly know what to suggest to make our conventions more interesting. Topics for the information of small departments, volunteer especially, is one. Many chiefs of fire departments in places where departments are new have been elected from the fact that they are good talkers and workers, though without experience in fire matters. These can learn much, if topics applicable to their places
are discussed. It might be asked, What do they want to know? Well, they would like to be informed regarding how to fight a fire in frame dwellings and stables, for instance, should a fire occur in the cellar or attic, fire in the walls or ceiling; let some of the experienced chiefs give their views in general as to attacking the same. As no two fires ..are alike, let some of the younger members, many of whom have excellent ideas regarding the management of fires, be assigned topics on these subjects, thus getting them interested, and they will work. I have had chiefs tell me, after a healthy discussion on some topic at our conventions, that they would have liked to have given their experience on the subject, but they said they were young in the business, and did not want to get up before these “big chiefs” and say anything. I told them that was just what they ought to have done; they might spring something that would lead to a very interesting and profitable discussion, and that in the future they must not let another chance go by, but speak out. I think, if this were done, chiefs of small places would become interested and would attend the conventions. More discussion on matters pertaining to small or volunteer departments, is, in my opinion what is needed.
“I have endeavored to answer your query, rather disjointedly. it is true, but the ideas may be what you want.
“HENRY H. HILLS,