For Practical Discussion of Current Fire Department and Fire Management Problems


THE discussion in this round table is a continuation of that which appeared in the February issue of FIRE ENGINEERING on estimating losses to buildings and contents by fire.

The generous response from our readers made it necessary to carry the discussion over to this issue.

Readers are invited to send in their comments on this subject or on next month’s subject, which appears in the box on the following page. Address communications to Round Table Editor, FIRE ENGINEERING, 24 West 40th Street, New York 18, N. Y.

Discussion of the Topic

Waldo Merrill, Chief, Council Bluffs, Ia.: We do not make any estimates on fire losses on buildings or contents.

I use the figures given by the insurance adjusters, and some times feel that adjustments are out of line, when comparisons are made with similar losses. Just recently a company was called to a brick flat. There were eight apartments involved. The company located a gunny sack smouldering in front of the furnace in the middle apartment. The insurance adjuster allowed $135.00 to clean the smoke damage in the adjoining apartments.

Another fire occurred in a brick duplex where the occupant had to be taken from the porch roof because there was too much smoke on the stairway for him to safely leave. Smoke rolled out of the front door of the apartment next to the fired apartment, but the insurance adjusters allowed only $32.00 damage. I do not see bow estimates can be made on losses, unless a person knows the amount of material needed to replace the burned area, the price of labor to do the work, etc.

T. J. Kelly, Chief, Springfield, Ill.: Fire loss estimates are made by the assistant chiefs. There is always one who makes the run. By their knowledge and experience, they have been very accurate, on down through the years.

We use insurance adjustment figures when the property is insured.

Only on a very few fires have our boys missed in their estimates. Our

estimates have been eighty-eight per

cent in accordance with the insurance losses in the past year.

C. J. Henry, Chief, Lexington, Ky.: We use insurance adjusters’ figures and reports from the Office of Fire Prevention and Rates of the State of Kentucky on all insured property losses.

When property is uninsured, we estimate the fire loss to the best of our ability. I believe that on the smaller losses our estimates are fairly accurate.

G. W. Scott, Chief, Augusta, Ga.: We estimate fire losses, but they are not official. The Fire Department only estimates losses for a temporary record. We use the insurance adjusters figures in compiling our total losses for any given year. Where there is no insurance, we have to go by the Fire Department estimates. We find these fairly accurate.

Frank Bennett, Chief, Durham, N. C.: The Fire Department estimates losses on buildings and contents by fire, providing the fire is not considered of incendiary origin. In this event it would be estimated by the State Insurance Department, and their estimate would be accepted.

We try to keep in line with the insurance adjusters when adjustments are not too far out of line.

Our estimates have proved fairly accurate.

W. B. Sykes, Chief, Portsmouth, Va.: We estimate losses to buildings and contents only when no insurance is

involved. When property is insured, we have to use the insurance adjuster’s estimate, as we include in our records the amount of insurance paid on losses. We must have the estimate of losses and the amount of insurance paid so that we may determine the amount of loss after all insurance has been paid. The full amount of loss is not always paid by insurance companies.

I have found that the estimates made by this department are reasonably accurate.

We make estimates on losses and then check them against the estimates of the insurance adjuster.

Frank J. Callahan, Chief, Central Falls, R. I.: Nearly all cases are based on figures acquired from the owner, ococupant and final settlement of claims by insurance brokers.

I always figured that contents of buildings were very hard to estimate, and after realizing in a few instances how far off I was, I then decided the adjusters were far better to consult.

Joseph E. Scanlon, Chief, Lynn, Mass.: We do not estimate any losses of either building or contents, except uninsured losses.

All our losses are obtained from local agents after the settlement is made. We find this to be the only accurate method of obtaining correct losses. All our coverage and loss figures are obtained this way.

Many times in the past we have estimated losses from our own personal knowledge of values of like materials and from personal experience with home repairs, etc., only to find that the companies were very liberal when paying off.

James M. Duncan, Chief, Alexandria, Va.: The department established all fire losses with the exception of large mercantile establishments.

When property is insured we use the figures of the insurance adjusters for our loss total.

We have found fire department estimates are comparatively accurate in dwellings, but on mercantile establishments they have not been accurate especially in estimated losses in stock, fixtures and equipment.

Zephrin F. Drouin, Chief, Lewiston, Me.: We make an estimate of losses at the time of the fire. When property is insured, we use insurance adjustment figures.

We have found that our estimates are reasonable accurate on small fires.


Does your fire department estimate losses to buildings and contents by fire?

If not, how are loss figures secured?

Do you use insurance adjustment figures (when property is insured)?

Have you found that fire department estimates are reasonably accurate?


What have been the principal causes of accidents to personnel in your department during the past two years?

What methods do you suggest for preventing similar accidents in other departments?

What were the causes of accidents involving fire apparatus in recent years in your department?

What suggestions would you make for preventing accidents in other departments?

If you have had no accidents, or less than the average, to what do you give credit for this good performance?

Insurance companies are apt to be very lenient when adjusting small fire losses. This reflects mostly on the insurance agents who are authorized to adjust fires up to $100.00 and larger firms up to $500.00.

Marvin K. Evans. Chief, Lynchburg, Va.: In all cases in which the loss is covered by insurance, we use the insurance adjuster’s estimates, and when the loss is not covered by insurance, I estimate the loss.

J. H. O’Neill, Chief, Niagara Falls, N. Y.: Losses are estimated by the assistant chief in attendance. Fire insurance adjusters have said that the estimates are reasonably accurate.

Hugh F. Fisher, Chief. Lansing, Mich.: We estimate losses to buildings and contents at the time of fire. At the end of each month we get the final adjustment on all fires in insured property from insurance adjusters.

Our estimates are not always correct. R. A. Kelley, Chief, Davenport, Ia.: If property is not insured, the Fire Department makes an estimate of the loss.

On insured property we get the insurance adjustment figures after the claim has been paid.

Claude Osborne, Chief, Decatur, Ill.: We estimate losses to buildings and contents. We have found our estimates are reasonably correct although once in a while our estimates may run a little over or under on liquor stores or churches. But these are always corrected when we receive the insurance adjustment figures.

Frank D. Shaw, Chief, Greensboro, N. C.: We use the figures of the Fire Companies’ Adjustment Bureau and in cases where they do not make the adjustments, we make our own estimate of the damages.

Ambrose Saricks, Chief, Wilkes-Barre, Penna.: When property is insured we use the figures from the Fire Adjustment Bureau. Otherwise, we estimate losses.

Michael J. Shea, Chief, Fitchburg, Mass.: We estimate losses to buildings and contents by fire. The Insurance adjustment figures are used in the case of insured property. We find that in some cases these figures are too liberal.

A. J. Cote, Chief. Woonsocket, R. I.: The insurance company estimates losses in the case of insured property and the Fire Department when no insurance is carried.

W. J. Mohr, Chief, Santa Monica, Cal.: We estimate small property losses and double check with replacement cost or adjustment made.

We cooperate with the insurance company if their adjustment is not out of reason, and do not enter our loss until the final adjustment is made by them.

As Santa Monica is a residential city, property damage is mostly concerned. We are reasonably correct in our estimates of these losses. On business losses, we work with the company and use their figures, if they are reasonable

L. B. Canfield, Chief, Beverly Hills, Cal.: When property is uninsured we take the loss at the replacement or repair costs. We use insurance figures when the property is insured.

Henry L. Hilles, Chief, Tucson, Ariz.: We have found fire department estimates to be unreliable. We use insurance adjustment figures when property is insured.

L. A. Moore, Chief, Fresno, Cal.: We take the insurance adjuster’s figures, both on insured and uninsured property.

Thomas D. Blake. Chief, Rockford, Ill.: If no insurance is carried, the one having the loss gives us the amount; otherwise we take the adjustment figures given us by the insurance companies.

T. H. Gordon, Chief, Great Falls, Mont.: The Fire Department does not estimate fire losses. The losses are left to The Fire Adjustment Company. Where no insurance is carried, estimates are made by the department.

Our estimates were a little more conservative at times, so we gave it up and waited for the adjustment company figures.

H. P. Constantine, Chief, Bangor, Me.: We do not make a practice of estimating fire losses, not for our records anyway. We leave this to the insurance adjusters. We do it only in cases where there is no insurance, or where we are unable to get the insurance company’s loss figures

We furnish the Fire Companies Adjustment Bureau, and any local insurance companies with a return stamped postal card. They in turn furnish its with the losses. Me may add here, that our local fire adjustment bureau has been very good in this. There are cases in the run of the year where the property suffering the loss has not been insured, or where we are not able to get the insurance company figures on the loss. We then form an estimate for our records. These are practically all small losses.

Fire Department estimates are reasonably accurate on small losses, but fire officers should not, for the records anyway, estimate large losses. It is a study in itself for insurance company adjusters.

William Meinheit, Chief, Berkeley, Cal.: Me make estimates of losses before leaving the fire grounds, which are entered on our loss record card as tentative figures only. The loss is then followed up through insurance carrier and the adjuster and adjustment figures are then entered as permanent record. Losses on uninsured properties are taken from figures supplied by the contractor making repairs or persons making replacements. If the above noted sources of loss information are lacking, then we do use our own estimate which we have found to be reasonably accurate in comparison with like or comparable experiences.

W. J. Taylor, Chief, Burbank, Cal.: This department estimates fire losses to buildings and contents. We use insurance adjustment figures on insured property. On the uninsured property our captain of the Fire Prevention Bureau, who has had considerable experience along this line, makes an estimate of loss. We find that most uninsured prope.rty is confined to residences and household furnishings which can be readily estimated by the layman with a little experience, and be reasonably accurate.

Tanks Saved as Fire Sweeps Oil Terminal These three huge storage tanks were saved from flames by fire companies as the Standard Oil Company terminal in Richmond, Va., was swept by fire that destroyed more than 35,000 gallons of fuel oil.

(Continued on page 182)

(Continued from page 153)

George Knol, Chief, Cicero, Ill.: We estimate losses to buildings and contents by fire by checking with the owner and the adjuster. Our estimates are reasonably correct.

W. J. Sudeith, Chief. St. Paul, Minn.: We only estimate fire losses where no insurance exists. Most of the estimates of the district chiefs are about fifty per cent short.

J. C. Fitzgerald, Chief, Asheville, N. C.: On all property where insurance is carried, the adjuster’s losses are recorded. Where no insurance is carried, contractors’ figures are used.

Sol T. Green, Chief, Gadsden, Ala.: We estimate fire losses and find they are reasonably accurate. We use insurance adjustment figures when we can get them.

G. A. Goodin, Chief, Muskogee, Okla.: We do not estimate losses to buildings and contents by fire. Loss figures are secured from insurance adjusters.

S. J. Flores, Chief, Shreveport, La.; L. B. Barnum, Chief, Phoenix, Ariz.; F. L. Campion, Chief, Fargo, N. D.; Earl A. Traeger, Chief, Minneapolis, Minn.; L. L. Petrey, Chief, Mobile, Ala. and Leo J. Urbanski, Chief, Saint Joseph, Mo., report that their departments estimate losses to buildings and contents by fire, that they use insurance adjustment figures when the property is insured and that they have found fire department estimates reasonably accurate.

C. A. Delaney, Chief, Lakewood, Ohio: Lakewood’s fire losses to buildings and contents are estimated by the Fire Department.

Insurance adjustment figures are used only on rare occasions where the loss is such that a special study of the building or contents would be required to make a fair estimate of the loss.

We have found our estimates of fire losses to be reasonably accurate.

A. H. Lankford, Chief, Glendale, Cal.: It is the responsibility of the officer who makes out the fire report on the fire to estimate the loss to building and contents. This applies to all fires.

We have practiced this method for a number of years, regardless of whether the property is insured or not, and I would say this procedure has proved to be very accurate and satisfactory.

Joe Carmichael, Chief, Little Rock, Ark.: We experience the same difficulty as other departments in securing actual fire loss in every instance. We have on numerous occasions found that the fire loss estimated by the department is practically the same loss estimated by insurance companies.

With several adjustment bureaus located in this city, is is very little trouble to ascertain losses by fires.

We compile the building and content losses separately in the fire record book, but the annual report carries both together.

With a large number of fires uninsured, there is considerable trouble in locating property owners for a true valuation and fire loss sustained by them.

John F. Moroney, Chief, Meriden, Conn.: The fire department does not estimate the loss to buildings and contents by fire.

Loss figures, if building and contents are uninsured, are arrived at by the fire marshal, who is also building inspector. If buildings and contents are insured, we then secure the figures on the loss from agents.

In many cases where losses are estimated by fire departments, the figure on such has been much higher than the adjustments made by insurance companies. Therefore these losses arc not accurately estimated.

Frank Pulaski. Chief, Boise, Ida.: We always estimate losses at large fires. If property is insured, these are changed when the estimates are received front the adjusters.

James J. Higgins, Chief, Schenectady, N. Y.: Estimates of fire damage on uninsured buildings are made by a deputy chief. We have found these to be fairly accurate. On insured property, we use the estimates furnished by the insurance adjusters.

J. J. Fitzpatrick, Chief, Pueblo, Colo.: We secure loss figures from the actual loss after it is settled. We use insurance adjustment figures when the property is insured. Our estimates are reasonably accurate.

Charles Plummer, Chief, San Jose, Cal.: We do not estimate losses to buildings and contents by fire. Loss figures are secured from the building permits where buildings are repaired. If not repaired, the figures are taken from the assessment roll. Where property is insured, insurance adjustment figures are used.

M. J. Brun, Chief, Fort Smith, Ark.: Loss figures are secured from the building inspector or fire adjuster. Insurance adjustment figures are used when property is insured.

Michael J. Martin, Acting Chief, Concord, N. H.: Insurance company figures are used to estimate losses to insured property by fire. When there is no insurance we secure the loss from property owners.

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