THE RESPONSIBILITY WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS.
As at present the only way of determining whether or not a building is fireproof is to set it on fire and see if it will burn, the existing law which exempts so-called fireproof hotels from the authority of the fire department in the matter of compelling the management of such buildings to install life-saving appliances should be at once amended, so as to require that fire escapes should be erected or, at the very least, ropes should be kept in the bedrooms of hotels and boardinghouses so as to afford facilities for escape, and that in each sleeping room should be conspicuously posted a plainly printed and drawn diagram of the particular floor on which the room is situated, showing where are the stairways or other means of escape. The fire department does not decide whether or not a building is fireproof; that rests altogether with the department of buildings, and when once that bureau has pronounced a structure fireproof, the power of the fire department over it is very limited, and not unless the number of stories exceeds four can it order even the installation of an internal standpipe and the providing of hose on each floor. Of its own motion the fire department cannot even initiate summary action for the protection of life. That can only be done by the corporation counsel after he has been notified by the fire department that the law is being violated. The obvious remedy, therefore, is to pass a law requiring that every fireproof hotel, apartment house, factory, and the like, whatever its height,, or construction, shall be compelled to adopt such methods for the protection of life as the fire department shall approve.