THE RELATION OF STATE FIRE MARSHALS TO LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENTS

THE RELATION OF STATE FIRE MARSHALS TO LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENTS

Chief F. E. Henderson, St. Louis, Mo.Scene at Fire at Hollywood Inn, Yonkers, N. Y. Showing Firemen at Work.

The subject which has been assigned to me, is, I believe, one of vast importance, and as time goes on a closer relationship and cooperation between State Fire Marshals and Fire Chiefs must of necessity become a reality. In order that we might come to a closer understanding of the necessity and effect of co-operation, let me first define what I believe to be the functions of all first-class fire departments, viz., the inspection of buildings and fire hazards by the uniformed force— fire prevention, extinguishment and investigation. The duties coming under the heads enumerated should, in my opinion, be divided into two separate and distinct bureaus. First, the Bureau of Fire, and second, the Bureau of Inspection and Investigation. To obtain the best results from these bureaus, they should be under the direct head or supervision of the Chief of the Fire Department with the proper number of competent subordinates, clothed with ample authority vested in them by ordinance or an act of the State Legislature to carry out his plans of fire control by inspection, extinguishment and investigation.

Inspection of Buildings.

The inspection of buildings by the uniformed force of the Fire Department has been going on in this city for a period of more than twenty years, and we have on a number of occasions furnished Mayors, Fire Chiefs and other city officials of various cities copies of our blank forms for their information and guidance in preparing such forms for the Fire Prevention Bureaus they had in mind to install in their respective municipalities. 1 simply mention this fact for the purpose of putting you right, or rather enlightening you as to when the inspection of buildings by firemen in this city first began; true enough wc have not been able to advertise the results of our endeavor in this most important work, nor have we printed for distribution bulletins from time to time calling the attention of our people to the alarming conditions as to the enormous fire waste to which we are such generous contributors. To facilitate and simplify the work of inspection we have divided our city into 71 inspection districts, for company is assigned to each district and each member of that company that makes an inspection reports to his captain, who files a copy of the report in company quarters and forwards the original to fire headquarters through their District Chief. Sometimes we find it necessary to have our Chief Inspector make as high as three calls upon the offender before we can prevail upon him to make the necessary corrections as pointed out to him by the firemen who first made the inspection.

The Bureau of Fire.

The Bureau of Fire has to do entirely with fire extinguishment and oftentimes an alarm of fire is sounded for a building that has been prepared to burn. It then becomes our duty after the fire has been extinguished to make a thorough investigation as to the cause of the fire. Many times we have found rocks suspended from the side of walls hanging directly over five gallon demijohns that had been filled with gasoline. These rocks are heated until they are very hot, they are then tied about with a cotton string or a light cotton rope and usually suspended from a screw-eye that lias been screwed into the wall; the result is that the intense heat emitting from the rock soon chars the string, which lets go, drops on the demijohn, breaking it into smitherines and at the same time providing a spark by coming in contact with the glass. This will invariably cause a violent explosion to occur; we get a clew by investigating this plant and front a few hours to six months it has taken as to trace and run the cu’prit down and finally have him locked up with a charge of arson placed against him. No doubt in mind all fire chiefs who have to do with this kind of work, as well as all fire marshals, have experienced great difficulty in procuring convictions for this offense, although seeming’y they have welded a complete chain of circumstantial evidence that in most any other criminal case would warrant a conviction.

Duties of State Fire Marshals.

The work of the State Fire Marshals, as I the reason we have 71 fire companies one understand, has to do with the storage and handling of high explosive oils, the removal of old dilapidated buildings, the instruction of school children and factory employees in the “exit or fire drill,” the investigation of suspicious fires and to furnish information to the prosecuting attorneys against anyone he may suspect and believe to be guilty of the crime of incendiarism, and other duties too numerous to mention. If 1 have in the main properly enumerated your duties, then we can plainly see that the duties of the State Fire Marshal are not so much different than those of our up to date and progressive Fire Chiefs; if this is true, it seems to me there is a very close relation existing between State F’ire Marshals and local fire departments, then why not co-operate one with another to the end that both may obtain the results of their endeavor, to reduce the number of alarms of fire, to reduce the number of old dilapidated buildings, to reduce the number of fire hazards, to reduce the number of criminals who are bent on committing the crime of arson and finally to reduce the enormous fire waste that is gradually making us a nation of paupers.

Co-Operation.

Let the State Fire Marshals and the Fire Chiefs work for the great public betterment, let us endeavor to give more thought to fire prevention publicity, to the inspection of buildings, to fire escapes, to locked doors, to stairways, to vertical openings, and to our homes particularly; create enthusiasm among your people in some way, but do it! Start an endless chain of enthusiasm for fire prevention. Award prizes to the boy or girl in the public school for the best paper on fire prevention or some kindred subject, let the chief know what you are doing along this line and occasionally write him and inquire of him what he is doing along this line; let us get together all State Fire Marshals and all chiefs and use our best efforts and all the influence at our command to prevail upon our Congress and particularly our State Legislatures to give us the protection by law that we as freeborn American citizens are entitled to, and as is in force and practiced by the countries of continental Europe—a law that will protect our property from fire through the carelessness and negligence of our neighbor. All this can be done and should be accomplished through a closer relationship and a greater co-operation between State Fire Marshals and local fire departments, to the end that our enormous fire waste may be reduced to a minimum, and our people and our country may profit by our hating lived, and dared to do our duty.

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