THE MOUNT VERNON FIRE DEPARTMENT
Mount Vernon, N. Y., has a combination volunteer and paid fire department which is notably well organized, equipped and operated and is probably as near a model department of that class as any in the country. It now consists of nine companies, three engine, four chemical and two ladder companies which occupy seven modern stations, five of them single and two double stations, with a force of 450 volunteer and 26 paid firemen. A fire commissioner has supreme administrative control of the department. A volunteer chief engineer is the executive officer with two volunteer assistants who have supreme command at fires. Clarence L. Howland, who has been an active volunteer member of Truck Company No. 1 for seventeen years, has been fire commissioner since April, 1912, and was acting commissioner from November, 1911, up to that time, during the sickness of his predecessor. The commissioner is appointed by the Mayor and devotes only a part of his time to the duties of that office. The chief engineer and two assistant chiefs are elected by members of the department at the annual election in May. Nicholas Ehrbar is chief, J. Frank Hand, first, and Louis Bossert, second assistant chiefs. All department orders to both volunteer and paid members are issued through the chief, who is in direct command of all members at all times. The chief and his assistants are elected in rotation and are only eligible after having served as a member of the department for five years. Mount Vernon, with a population of about 37,000, adjoins New York City and was incorporated a city in 1892. It covers about 4¾ square miles of territory and now contains 7,726 buildings of which 6,688 are of frame construction. It is largely a residential city.
Organization and Government.
The city is governed by a mayor and a board of ten aldermen. The mayor, who has held that position for a number of years, is Edwin W. Fiske, who has been a member of Engine Company No. 3 for many years and was the first chief of the department under the city charter in 1892. Until May, 1911, the fire department was governed by a board of three commissioners. At that time a single commissioner was substituted for a board and Charles C. Howard, one of the three commissioners, a volunteer fireman, who had been chief of the department, was made commissioner and served until sickness compelled him to retire in November of that year when he was succeeded by the present commissioner. The commissioner has general control of the management of the department, appoints all paid members who devote their entire time to the department, makes the rules governing both volunteer and paid members, contracts for all new apparatus, appropriations for which are made by the aldermen, procures all supplies, etc. Volunteer companies, which are limited to a membership of 60, select their own members and elect their own officers, also the chief and assistant chiefs, one of which is elected each year for a term of three years. Paid men are under civil service regulations. The 26 paid men consist of 13 drivers, 3 engineers of engines, 2 tillerinen, 2 relief men, 3 telephone transmitters, who also do inspection work and one of whom is the department clerk, a superintendent of the fire alarm system and one assistant and a mechanical engineer, G. S. DeCortin, who looks after all the apparatus and makes a monthly report of its condition. The telephone transmitter system was installed in 1906 in the fire alarm office at department headquarters and one man is constantly on duty and keeps a record of all messages received. The salaries of paid men commence at $900 per annum, engineers, $1,200, and mechanical engineer, $1,500. At end of three years’ service on October 1 they increase $60 per year until firemen receive $1,080, engineer $1,380 and mechanical engineer $1,680 per annum. The salary of superintendent of fire alarm is $1,800. The chief, assistant chiefs, officers and members are all volunteers.
Equipment and Companies.
There are twelve pieces of apparatus in service, six of them motor-propelled, three American-La France steam fire engines, three twohorse combination hose wagons with 35-gallon chemical tanks, four White motor hosechemical wagons with a 50-gallon compressed air chemical tank, an aerial and an ordinary ladder truck. The companies with their locations, apparatus and name of captain are as follows: Engine 1, Oak street, fourth size engine with a Knox tractor, combination hose wagon, Captain A. E. DeCortin; Engine 2, Sidney avenue, fourth size engine, combination hose wagon, Captain William Hussey; Engine 3, Fourth avenue, department headquarters, second size engine, combination hose wagon with a deck nozzle, Captain B. H. Brancard; Chemical 1, Sixth avenue, White motor installed December 9, 1911, Captain John H. Havey; Chemical 2, Fulton avenue, White motor installed November, 1912, Captain Edward Nuegent; Chemical 3, Fifth avenue, White motor installed September, 1914, Captain R. W. Redmond; Chemical 4, Third avenue, White motor installed May, 1913, Captain George Borgwald. It also carries six salvage covers to protect goods at fires which are provided and maintained by the department, fire line ropes, a four-inlet, two on each side, deck nozzle, a deluge set, cellar pipes, etc. This company performs both fire patrol and police duty at fires when necessary and is the only company in the department that responds to all first alarms; Ladder 1, Fourth avenue, a 65-foot Seagrave aerial truck with a water tower and a Knox tractor which was added May 16, 1913, Captain Arthur Woods; Ladder 2, Oak street, ordinary horse truck, Captain Vincent Mellon. Chemical companies 1 and 2 respond first to all telephone or minor alarms. Two engines respond to first alarms in the central district and one in the outlying sections. From five to ten pounds of steam is kept in engine boilers all the time and engines are used at most of the important fires. Volunteer members as a whole are more than ordinarily interested in the service and from 10 to 20 usually respond to alarms with each piece of apparatus, which makes it practically a paid force so far as fire duty is concerned. The department has been so efficient that there has never been any important demand for a change from a volunteer to a full paid system. The department is constantly being improved and in every way kept abreast or in advance of the times for such a department and only the very best types of apparatus and appliances are procured.
The department has a building and theatre inspection system which it is claimed is as near perfect as it is possible to make it. One of the telephone transmitter men makes all building inspections and with another telephone man inspects all theatres every afternoon and evening or whenever a performance is given. Records are kept by an index card system and all defects are followed up until made satisfactory. About 900 inspections are made every year. This system has accomplished excellent results. It has greatly decreased the annual fire loss and almost entirely eliminated cellar fires.
The Gamewell automatic fire alarm system was installed in 1888. It has been twice rebuilt and now consists of a four-circuit repeater, 49 street boxes, three tower bells, a compressed air whistle, 28 miles of overhead and 36,000 feet of underground wires in the conduits of the telephone company. There are four box and one gong circuits. A storage battery was installed in 1900. The compressed air whistle on department headquarters building in Fourth avenue was placed in service in 1902 and it is said to be the first successful automatic compressed air fire alarm whistle in existence. It can be heard in all sections of the city and beyond its limits. If the entire alarm system should become disabled alarms could be sounded by hand on this whistle and heard throughout the city. Large gongs at the two principal street crossings in the business section warn the public of approaching apparatus responding to alarms. There is also a system of imaginary street boxes which was inaugurated in 1905 and has been eminently successful. It is operated as follows: For a telephone call the transmitter man sounds 12, 13, 14 or 15, according to the location of the fire, which calls the nearest chemical company to the telephone to be informed by the man at headquarters of the exact location of the fire. The companies which follow on a regular or imaginary box alarm go to where the chemical company was sent by telephone. The imaginary box number near regular box 28 and to the north of it is 281, to the east 282, to the south 283 and to the west 284. All boxes with numbers commencing with 2 are in the northeast section, commencinging with 3 in the southeast, 4 in southwest and 5 in northwest sections. Imaginary boxes are replaced by real boxes of same number whenever necessary. When the telephone transmitter was installed at alarm headquarters in 1906 the three operators, who are also fire alarm operators, placed one man on duty there at all times. Walter H. Flandreau, who has been superintendent of the alarm system for nineteen years, is president of the International Association of Municipal Electricians and a former president of the Hudson Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association of New York. The telephone transmitter men are John A. Hunt, who is also clerk of the department, Edward Marz, who is also inspector of buildings, and George Heitzman, who is also assistant to the superintendent of the alarm system.
The water supply of Mount Vernon is furnished by the New York Inter-Urban Water Company, which also by the same system supplies water to Pelham Heights, a part of Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Harrison and Rye Beach with pumpng stations at Pelham and Mamaroneck. Water is pumped into a standpipe in Mount Vernon and from there distributed throughout the city in iron mains from 4 to 16 inches in diameter; those in the central section are 6, 8 and 12 inches. _ The water pressure is from 20 to 110 pounds; in the central or business sections it is about 50 pounds. These are 700 four and six-inch hydrants, mostly six-inch, with three outlets which are 300 feet apart in the _ central section and not over 500 feet apart in other sections. The supply is sufficient.
The department year ends October 1 and the fiscal year May 1. During the year ending October 1, 1914, there were 163 alarms of which 48 were box, 62 telephone, 53 still and 6 false. Three were for fires outside of city and two for no fire. There were 120 working fires and 32 were extinguished before the arrival of the department, a total of 152 fires, of which 137 were confined to the floor or place of origination, 13 to the building and two extended to adjoining buildings. The total loss was $22,051.95 in property valued at $1,630,144 and insured for $1,284,070, with an nsurance loss of $18,250.95. The loss on buildings was $15,805.15, and on contents $6,246.80. Engines were used 15 times, hose lines 57 times, chemical lines 37 times and chemical extinguishers 24 times. About 51 per cent, of the fires were extinguished by chemicals. The cost of the department maintenance was $45,925.72. The per capita cost of the department in 1912, according to the UAited States Census Bureau, was $1.60; its total cost was $52,797, which places the city in 75th position in a list of 195 cities with a population of 30,000 and over. The per capita loss in 1913, according to the National Board of Fire Underwriters, was $1.29 with 159 fires and an insurance loss of $47,219 in property valued at $1,656,520, which places the city in the 199th position in a list of 298 cities with a population of 20,000 and over. The appropriation for the year ending May 1, 1915, is $39,000.
Clinton Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 of Eastchester, of which Mount Vernon was originally a part, was organized February 12, 1856. Neptune Engine Company No. 1 was organized in June, 1860. Its name was subsequently changed to Washington, and it is now Chemical No. 1. Protection Engine Company No. 2, now Engine 1, was organized in June, 1874. Patrol No. 1, now Chemical 4, was organized in November, 1886. Niagara Hose No. 1, now Chemical 2, was organized in 1888. Engine No. 3 was organized in February, 1889. Independent Hose No. 2, now Chemical 3, was organized in October, 1889. Central Hose No. 3, now Engine 2, was organized in May, 1891, and Columbia Hose 4, now Ladder 2, was organized in February, 1894. The chief engineers since Mount Vernon became a city in 1892, in the order in which they served, have been: Edwin W. Fiske, William Jewell, G. H. Heinsohn, G. J. Angevine, C. C. Howard and Nicholas Ehrbar. Messrs. Jewell, Heinsohn and Howard have also been fire commissioners. Chief Nicholas Ehrbar has been a mmber of the department twenty years and was captain of Engine 1 when elected second assistant chief in 1906. He was elected first assistant chief in 1908 and chief of department in May, 1911. First Assistant Chief J. Frank Hand has been a member of the department fifteen years and was captain of Engine 3 from 1906 to May, 1910, when he was elected second assistant chief. He was elected. first assistant chief in May, 1911. Second Assistant Chief Louis Bossert has been in the department ten years and was captain of Chemical 1 for three years when elected second assistant chief in May, 1914. The chiefs and captains organized in 1905 and meet monthly to consider department matters. They have a relief fund which pays one dollar a day to members who arc injured in the service. There is also a department benevolent association which pays death and accident benefits. The paid men also have a benefit organization. There is also a pension fund for paid members.