THE NATIONAL ASHHEAP.
DURING 1899 property in the United States valued at $150,000,000 was destroyed by fire; this year the loss promises to exceed that sum. The loss of life last year was considerably above the average; this year, what with the Hoboken holocaust and other wholesale slaughters, the butcher’s bill will be something terrific. A comparison of the fire loseesshows that, far from decreasing as years roll on, they aie absolutely increasing—and this, in the teeth of the fact that the means.of extinguishing fires are being rapidly multiplied and constantly bettered. It is not, therefore, so much the methods and implements of fire fighting which should be improved. They may not be perfect in every detail, but undoubtedly will every year approach nearer and nearer to perfection. What is really wanted is a change of heart on the part of those whose business it is to see to the protection of the lives and property of the people of this country from fire. The first and principal evil to be contended against is the injection of politics into our fire departments. Municipal administrations come and go, and with them too frequently come new officers, while the services of the old officials are dispensed with. The outcome is the appointment of chiefs solely because they have a pull, not on account of their ex; erience or their fit ness for the place. Old and trusted officers are passed over, and young men with a few years’ service behind them are pitchforked into the highest positions. Sometimes even au outsider, who has seen no service in a lire department, a man whose life-training has not been at all of a sort to fit him for such a post, but who has proved himself a “good party man,” is appointed to take charge of the most important of all the municipal departments, on whose good management depends the preservation of many lives and many thousands of dollars’ worth of property. Under such a head it is no wonder that the members become inefficient and the whole body demoralized. Another cause of this yearly firewaste is the flimsy or the unscientific construction of the modern building. Even in some which are considered as fireproof can be detected the most glaring structural errors or the utter neglect of all proper precautions against fire. In the average private house, apartment, flat, or tenement-house, in the factory or business establishment of the day, these evils are still more glaring, and so apparent even to the unprofessional eye as to point (1) to utter ignorance on the part of the building aud other inspectors charged with the duty of overseeing the erection of such structures; (2) to venality on the part of these inspectors; (3) to corrupt practices on that of the contractors ; (4) to badly drawn-up building ordinances—sometimes drawn up with a view to getting money out of the speculative builder or contractor; or(5) to all thesecausesput together. Again, we may advert to that spirit of false economy which starves the fire departments by cutting down the appropriations below the minimum required for efficiency, thereby necessitating reductions in the membership and rendering it impossible to man the apparatus properly or to purchase apparatus sufficient for local needs. Or this parsimonious spirit may crop outin the non-providing of a water supply ample enough for all the necessities of the fire department—an evil which is particularly conspicuous in New York, Philadelphia, and some other large cities today—and this in the face of the conflagrations which have so recently destroyed so much property in these places. Even fools, it is said, learn by experience. To what class of fools, then, must they belong, on whom the bitter experience of hist year seems to be altogether thrown away?