THE MODERN FIRE EXTINGUISHER.
President John R. Freeman, of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, looks upon as bestos curtains, dry-powder and other fire extinguishers and hand-grenades as very much overrated protectors against fire, when weighed against automatic sprinklers and fire shutters, fireproof curtains and fireproofed drapery. In a recent article on the subject, he refers to the drypowder fire-extinguishers in a long tube, as supplied to the ill-starred Iroquois theatre. They have been vigorously pushed into notice by enterprising salesmen during the last few years. When the fire broke out, we arc told, “one of the men Oil the stage promptly and courageously tried to extinguish the fire with this powder, and, of course, he accomplished nothing whatever.” The fact, however, remains that “such unreliable material was relied on there and is today hung up in public places where it gives a false sense of security. The chief reason (Mr. Freeman continues) why these long tin tubes of dry powder have become popular is that they can be manufactured for about ten cents each, and that they retail as high as $3 each. They are nearly all composed of common bicarbonate of soda, frequently disguised by the admixture of a little cheap coloring matter and starch.” An analysis of one of these so-called fire-extinguishers showed 99.5 per cent, of bicarbonate of soda and .5 per cent, of red ochre. Mention is made of one man, a chemist, who was so impressed with what one of these dry-powder extinguishers did at a public test -given for the sake of advertisement that he bought a tube. At a test the demonstrator “poured a thin stream of benzine on the floor, lighted it, and extinguished it with some of the powder.” The chemist friend was “impressed, but did some experimenting at home, and found that, after a little practice, he could do the same with either sand or salt.” Tests were made of two of them by expert inspectors a few years ago, and they were “found of doubtful value on the smallest fires and worthless for a fire in free ventilation.” Such extinguishers may be useful to put out a fire in an automobile, or to employ in a small and confined space, such as inside of a cotton picker or upon an article of clothing, and, except in the case of an automobile or a fuse blowing out in an electric trolley car, where water serves only to spread the flames, “pails of water are far more reliable.” As to hand-grenades: Analysis has shown that those of one particular brand—one much affected by the United States government for the protection of the ships of war —contained “simply water and common salt,” for which combination, however, the taxpayers have had to pay a very high price. The only advantage over plain water which they possessed is that they “do not freeze at ordinary winter temperatures.” Hand-grenades, when charged with a proper fireextinguishing compound, may, of course, be used with advantage: but, like the fire-extinguishing powders and solutions already referred to, their use is limited only to putting out incipient fires Or keeping them in check till the fire department arrives on the scene.