THE PREVENTION OF FIRES.
It is encouraging to find an occasional journal of influence and importance discussing the question of fire prevention. As a rule they look on with indifference and see a hundred million of dollars’ worth of the nation’s property destroyed annually by fire without seeking to correct the evil by warning the people of the dangers by which they are surrounded. Every fire that occurs inflicts an injury upon every propertyholder and every taxpayer; the injury caused by a single fire is not appreciable, perhaps, but, in the aggregate, these fires inflict a burden upon every citizen. Every piece of property destroyed lessens by so much the tax-paying property of the country, and the deficiency disclosed by the taxgathers has to be made up by those other propertyoWners whose property has not been destroyed. The Scientific American, in a recent article with the above heading says that “there is nothing which can be said uuder this head which does not receive the close attention of all officers of fire insurance companies. They have the most direct and powerful motives to impel them to obtain and publish every scrap of information which will in any way tend to make fires less frequent, and will lessen their destructiveness when they do occur. The fire insurance companies now control such a vast amount of capital, and have such an army of experts in their employ, that there is very little which is presented in their line that does not meet with the most exhaustive examination, and the rates charged on risks are varied according to their judgment as formed on many and widely different grounds. The mutual system of insurance, started among the cotton goods manufacturers of the Eastern States in 1835, first gave the great impetus to this method of particular discrimination, as, where every one insured was thereby made to a proportionate extent his own insurer, and correspondingly interested in the safety of all other property in the same company, there was every motive to see that all possible provision should be made against loss by fire, and each risk should be closely valued.
” Among the subjects which have particularly engaged the attention of the mutual companies, and in regard to which all the other companies quickly followed their example, were the building, arrangement, and location of buildings to be used for factory purposes. A leading president of a mutual insurance company in Boston the other day remarked that every one now knew’ in what a model factory consisted, so far as the question of insurance was concerned; the floor beams must be far apart, instead of close together, and covered with threeinch plank for flooring ; where the beams were let into the wall they must be rounded on the top corner and the bricks laid on loose, so that in case of fire they would drop out without pulling the wall down ; the roof must be nearly flat, and everything else in the general plan after such a calculation as would give the Firemen ready access in case of fire, to every part of the structure. In addition to this, such parts of the work as are supposed to be especially dangerous are often placed in separate buildings ; the picker room in cotton factories is generally so provided for, and water pipes are so disposed as to make it comparatively easy to flood such apartments at an instant’s notice. In tanneries and leather factories the bark grinding is generally done at a distance from where the drying lofts are, as well as from where the stocks of bark are stored, and so, with every industry, care is taken, as far as possible, to isolate those parts of the business in which fire would most readily happen, or where it would be most destructive if it did occur.
“ Another matter which “has attracted considerable attention from the insurance companies has been the various kinds of hose in use for Fire Engines. Until a comparatively recent date nothing was considered quite as good as leather hose ; but it now be safely said, that while there is a great increase in the total amount of fire hose used in the country, there is no increase in the amount of such hose manufactured from leather. With good care leather hose will probably outwear any other variety, hut it requires avast amount of attention, and some little amount of experience for a proper understanding of how it should be treated, while that made of rubber, or linen, or cotton, rubber-lined, involves no such labor. Many varieties of the latter, also, will withstand a much higher pressure before bursting than leather can be successfully subjected to. At a trial which was made in December last, before some inspectors of a mutual fire insurance company, it was found that one sample of 6-ply cotton rubber-lined hose, weighing twenty ounces to the foot, withstood a pressure of over 1100 pounds to the square inch, while similar hose weighing eight to twelve ounces to the foot withstood a pressuie of from 300 to 500 pounds to the inch. The fact, however, that the officers of insurance companies, who are in a comparatively independent position, as related to the different manufacturers of hose, are taking the initiative in such trials, and have a strong interest in seeing that the best and most reliable article is everywhere employed, proves a great stimulus to the manufacturers, and has provoked a rivalry which cannot fail to be of benefit to the public generally.”
While the writer of the above erroneously assumes that insurance companies do not want fires to occur, an assumption directly at vari. ance with their business interests—and is a little wild on the hose question, we can readily lorgive his inaccuracies, because of the good intention that pervades his article. What is needed is a belter knowledge on the part of the public of the means of preventing fires, and stopping the enormous waste that is going on, and we are grateful to the writer of the above for his efforts in this direction. We wish more of our special and daily papers would discuss the subject.