The Profitable Use of Hydrants at Fires.
In reviewing the recent convention of the American Waterworks Association, The London Fireman says:
At the convention of the American Water-works Association, held in May, Peter Milne read a a paper on “Water pressure and water distribution,” and subsequently made some remarks which are worth attention. The point they raise will be novel to some firemen; to others not so novel. “Not a great while ago, in a city not a hundred miles from New York,” he observed, “a fire took place on a Sunday, which is a day when pressures are supposed to be normal—a little more than norrnal — from the fact that all factories and mercantile establishments are shut down, and a marked restoration of pressure is apparent. Such is the experience of nearly all engineers. This fire occurred in a building early in the morning, and twenty-six hydrants were called into requisition, and the fire bid fair to be a conflagration of pretty wide extent. I happened to be familiar with the system of distribution, and was called upon by one of the executive officers to know why it was that an efficient fire service was not rendered on that occasion. I went to the scene of the fire. It was easy to ascertain that there was a defective pressure ; the question was how to overcome the difficulty. I do not know how many fire hydrants there were feeding, but there were twenty-six in operation. At all events, there were not over three or four effective streams emanating from the engines. I simply put my foot on one of the section lines, and said to the district engineer that engine is useless ; as nearly as I can recollect, you can profitably use sixteen fire hydrants instead of twenty* six. The result was that ten of the hydrants were shut down, and the sixteen remaining gave efficient fire service. The sixteen hydrants that I speak of did efficient service and extinguished the fire, which involved a loss of over $i,ocx),ooo, but which might have been $5,000,OCX) had not that suggestion been made. ‘The firemen fail to consider these relative questions involved in the quantity of water that can be delivered per minute or second through a fire hydrant over a certain length of pipe under a certain pressure. It is an easy matter for a superintendent of a water-works to take and sub-divide his district of distribution, and say to the fire department that is all the water you can get satisfactorily out of that number of tire hydrants under the present plan of distribution.”
” Do I understand Mr. Milne to say,” asked a member of the association, ** that there are circumstances under which three steamers will do more effective work than six?” Mr. Milne—” Yes, sir; that is just the point.”
The question involved in this statement is certainly worth consideration. Obviously if there is a certain quantity of water available which cannot be increased, and hydrant after hydrant is opened, there must come a time when the supply obtained from each will be less than the full quantity that a steam fire engine can utilize. The question is whether when this occurs it is more profitable to use a larger number of engines working at less than their full power, or a smaller number supplied with all the water they can usefully employ. The decision in each case, it seems to us, depends upon the number of points at the fire at which a stream of water will render efficient service. If there is a long line of low buildings alight for a considerable distance it might be more judicious to get as many engines to work as there are available, allowing them to make use of whatever water each could get hold of. The majority of large fires, however, are not of this character. In warehouse or shop fires where there is a great amount of heat present, and the area involved is not, in comparison, large, streams of a considerable size are a necessity, if they are to have any good effect upon the fire, or even, sometimes, to reach the scat of it at all. Now for a large serviceable stream quantity as well as pressure is requisite, or, to be more exact, one involves the other, and without quantity a high pressure on a large nozzle is impossible. In these cases the plan advocated by Mr. Milne can be carried out with good results ; hydrants must be shut down until from each of those left open there is sufficient water coming to keep a good steady inch and a quarter stream in motion.
Of course this is a temporary expedient. Whenever a fire brigade officer is reduced to the expedient of shutting down hydrants—whenever, that is, he has a large lire in a district insufficiently served by the water company or town water works —he should make it his business to agitate at once for larger mains.
The agitation should commence on the very next morning. Although a district may be fairly well supplied with water, yet it has not really got enough until as many inch and a quarter streams can be supplied as are necessary for the extinction of a fire thoroughly involving the whole of the biggest building in that district. This, it may he said, is a counsel of perfection. Well, it is j>erfection we ought to aim at. The virtues of good steamers and large hose are partly, at all events, thrown away if the water mains are not of sufficient capacity to furnish them with all the water they can profitably employ ; they are like the ” latest improved ” artillery without an adequate supply of ammunition. What there is they can make good use of ; hut they coultl do much better work with more.