THE PHILADELPHIA DEPARTMENT.
IT has been sometimes said that THE JOURNAL was too severe upon the Philadelphia Department when it claimed that it was undisciplined, badly equipped, and controlled by a gang of political strikers, as corrupt as it is unscrupulous; that several of the Commissioners were proprietors of disreputable gin mills, who expected the Firemen to spend their pay at their counters. All this THE JOUNRAL has reiterated during the past two years, and it has been intimated that we were prejudiced. But at last the Philadelphia people have discovered the incompetency of their Fire Department, and propose to have it re-organized. The daily papers now teem with articles denouncing the men who control it, and the methods that prevail in its management. Day after day the papers harp upon this subject, and will not let it drop until a thorough re-organization of the Department has been made. Insurance companies join in the hue and cry, and declare that the great destruction of property by fire in that city is due to the corruption and inefficiency of the Fire Department. The following article from the Philadelphia Inquirer is flattering to us as indicating that in opening the crusade on the Philadelphia Department we were doing a public service, and are sustained by the daily press, whose eyes were closed until we opened them :
“ The old Volunteer Fire Department was abolished because it had outlived its usefulness, it had ceased, long before it was superseded, to offer any adequate excuse for its existence, and, if it was not often the cause of destructive conflagrations, it, at least, frequently did little to stay their progress. After the fashion of new brooms the present Department at first did admirable service at fires ; it was prompt, well-organized and efficient. It was composed of the best material which the old one could supply; and those connected with it, from the Commissioners to the Stokers, labored diligently and intelligently to prove its superiority to the one the place of which it had taken. But, still after the fashion of brooms, when brooms grow old, it gradually ceased to do its work efficiently, and, at the present time, although the broom is not such a very old broom, it is doubtful if it is any better than the Volunteer Department so far as it offers protection to property.
“ The Commissioners have made of it a mere political machine, and our Firemen are no longer experienced, skilled, conscientious Firemen, with their hearts in their work, but politicians, unskilled, inexperienced, without conscience or hearts in anything but that of carrying primaries. They are not required to be skillful or exper’enced. They are required simply to be politicians, and it is not so important that they do good service at fires as that they can be relied upon to do effective work in their precincts. To retain their places they must muster votes, not extinguish conflagrations.
“ The result of this condition of affairs was demonstrated at the destructive fire in the northeastern part of the city on Wednesday morning, when, it is freely charged by many reliable witnesses, that the immense loss then sustained was largely due to the indifference, tardiness and unskillfulness of the Firemen and to weak hose. These serious charges were brought against the Firemen, not only at the up town fire, but at several other recent fires, notably at that at Sixth and Minor, where it was publicly alleged by prominent citizens that a number of the force were too intoxicated to attend to their duty.
“As for the defective hose, which, unlike anything that hose should be, does not hold or carry water, there can be no possible excuse offered for its use. The Commissioners have from the first opposed the purchase or use of any other hose than that for which they pay the very highest price, and which is distinguishable from others only by its capacity to burst upon the application of the least pressure. Other makers of hose have offered to supply (he Department at a much lower price with hose which would not burst, but they were not in favor at court, and their offers were refused.
“The Fire Department is now in that demoralized condition that the public no longer has any confidence in it, and the City Council cannot too soon supplant it with one in which the public can have confidence. Unquestionably the Underwriters who are most benefited by an efficient Department, and ‘who are the greatest losers by an inefficient one should be largely represented in its control, in which case they would no doubt be willing to bear a large part of the expense of maintaining it. If they could control it they would do so with the same businesslike energy, intelligence and economy as they display in underwriting, and the results would be few destructive fires, security to life and property, a vast saving of money, and riddance of a disgraceful and costly political machine, which is worse than useless, for it is supported by the taxpayers to serve political ends under the pretense of serving honest ends.”