The Peril of Overhead Wires.

The Peril of Overhead Wires.

“Wind and electricity,” says The Somerville (Mass.) Journal, “played sad havoc in this city Saturday night. Wind blew over the pole at the corner of Belmont street and Highland avenue, and the electric wire located thereon came in contact with the fire alarm telegraph wire, when the mischief began. In a twinkle the current ran into the steamer house, at the corner of Highland avenue and Walnut street, and soon the flames encompassed the fire alarm arrangements in the second story. The closets were all on fire, and the flames coursed their way upward on the outside. The lightning and electric arrester on the long table were at once burned out, and in a few minutes nearly $2000 damage was done. Nor did it stop here. The current ran to the house of Chief Engineer Hopkins, Engineer Byrns, H. L. White, and the fire alarm box in the American Tube Works. The damage done was nothing compared to the liability to have more follow. The city’s whole fire alarm system was thrown out,and Sunday was a serious day for this city. Chief Hopkins and the committee on fire department of the city council labored all day to devise means of safety. Ropes were attached to all the bells in the city not so provided, and the firemen called to the several houses to do patrol duty through the day and night. Fortunately, there were no alarms until Monday morning about seven o’clock, and then the old fashioned bell ringing began, and hundreds flocked in the direction of the ringing. The fire was on Brastow avenue, but was not serious, except that no water could be had to throw into the burning closet. Since Sunday workmen have been engaged in straightening matters out ; but the constant strike upon the alarm denotes that the system is still unrepaired. One circuit is now running, and every means will be used to have the repairs speedily made.

—The citizens of Wyandotte, Mich., will vote on the question of erecting water-works April r.

THE PERIL OF OVERHEAD WIRES.

THE PERIL OF OVERHEAD WIRES.

SEVERAL fatal acccidents—if accidents they can be called— that have occurred lately have added force to previous demonstrations, that overhead electric light wires are a constant menace to the lives of citizens. In this city two persons were killed instantly by coming in contact with the ends of electric light wires that had been severed; one person was killed in Canada from a similar cause, and other fatal accidents have occurred this year in consequence of the person coming in contact with these wires. In one or two instances the wires were not those of the electric light companies, but were other wires, carried on the same poles, that had become charged with the powerful electric current of the electric light wires. The companies interested have sought to make a point in their favor by claiming that the wires left dangling, that wrought these sudden deaths, were not electric light wires, but we presume it made little difference to the unfortunate victims whether they were killed by a strong current of electricity taken directly from the electric light wires, or whether some unoffending telegraph or telephone wire was made the medium of communicating the current to them. The fact remains that the electric light current is powerful enough to instantly kill the unsuspecting person who may accidentally come in contact with it, no matter by what means it may be transmitted to his person. Thje remedy, and the only practical one for removing this danger from our midst, is the placing of all electrical wires, of whatever nature, underground So long ago as 1885, Ralph V. Pope, an experienced electrician of this city, in a paper read before the National Electric Light Association used the following language :

There is no more important question before the electrical community of this city to-day than the underground line problem. Every branch of business requiring the use of pole lines must shortly be brought face to face with its actual solution. While there may be a difference of opinion as to the authority of the State to compel the abandonment and practical destruction of the overhead plants which actually exist, and which have been constructed in accordance with the requirements of the proper authority, there cm be little doubt that the building of new aerial street lines in the future may, and probably will, be absolutely prohibited in the ci:ies of New York and Brooklyn.

A law has been enacted requiring all wires to be put underground in this city; an expensive board of commissioners exists, whose duty it is to prepare suitable subways for carrying these wires; these members have been tinkering with the matter in an impracticable sort of a way for two or three years, and conduits have actually been laid in certain portions of the city, but still the overhead wires remain, and their number is continually increasing. Mayor Hewitt, a few days since, asked the corporation counsel if there was any way of forcing the owners of these wires to use the underground conduits already prepared. The counsel replies that he will endeavor to have this done, but anticipates being met with the objection that the conduits are not properly constructed, and then will probably follow a long legal contest to determine the question as to whether or not the companies owning the wires can be compelled to use conduits that they do not approve of. The fact that overhead wires have proved to be a dangerous nuisance is so well established that it cannot be denied; that electric wires can be successfully operated underground has been equally satisfactorily demonstrated, for such buried wires are in use in various sections of the country. Hew, then, can these companies owning overhead wires be compelled to adopt the underground system ? The objection to the underground system is simply one of cost; the overhead plant has cost much money and is exceedingly valuable; to remove these wires and place them underground will involve much additional cost. So long as the companies owning the wires can maintain them overhead, riding over the rights of the public and of individuals in placing them there, they will not willingly incur the expense of making the change. But this is what they will all have to come to in the end. Their money and their influence may defeat the will of the people for a time, but in the end public safety and convenience will have to be recognized and will dominate. It would be the part of wisdom on the part of the companies to accept the inevitable with good grace, and to co-operate with the authorities in removing a menace and a nuisance from our streets; it would also be economy for them to do so, for it costs far less to maintain the wires underground than overhead; for when they are once placed they cannot be broken or disarranged by storms or the ordinary accidents to which they are now subjected. One of the most serious objections to overhead wires is found in the fact that they interfere with the work of the firemen, who find it almost impossible at times to break through the thick net-work of wires in front of buildings in which fire is making progress in its work of destruction. The fire losses are greatly increased from this cause, and the dangers of a conflagration largely added to. It is greatly to be hoped that some means will be discovered at an early day of harmonizing conflicting interests, and securing the removal of the obnoxious overhead wires.

—Owing 10 limited space. The Globe is unable to publish all the engineers appointed and company officers elected, and it requests friends not to send such for publication. The elections of chiefs, however, is of more than local interest, and the editor of this column requests the names ol all chiefs recently elected or reelected.—Boston Globe. The above is coramendei to the attention of many of our valued subscribers and friends. It is simpiy impossible for us to publish the many items of purely local interest and the lists of new company officers which are sent us, much as we should like to do so were space available.