Chief Louis Ahmgren Is Competent and Progressive Officer — Drills Good and Drill Tower Provided — Fire Methods Good and Building Inspections Regular and Effective

The fire department of San Diego, Cal., is commanded by Chief Louis Ahmgren, a well qualified and progresive officer, and the department is well organied except, says a report by the Prevention Committee of the National Board oof Fire Underwriters, for lack of sufficient number of company officers and deficiency in manual strength, the annual appropriations not providing for a sufficient number of men to adequately man the companies in service. Response to alarms is prompt, the nearest companies having short runs. Fire methods, it states, appear excellent and building inspections are frequent and of great value in reducing the fire hazard and in acquainting officers with the different buildings. Records are complete and in good form and Chief Ahmgren makes a comprehensive annual report. Many improvements made since a previous report have strengthened the department in a marked degree, the principal deficiency being in lack of men. The report recommends that increased manual strength be provided, so that minimum number of men responding to first alarms in high value district average six men in the day and eight men at night for each four engine companies and six men in the day and eight at night for the aerial ladder trucks, and to provide an adequate force for a second fire. This can be done by increasing the manual strength of the squad company; by providing a second squad company as contemplated, to answer first alarms in residential section and second alarms in high value districts; by increasing the number of engine companies responding in high value districts to four, in addition to the squad; by arranging meal period that all companies are not at a minimum at the same time, and by increasing the company membership. Also that in residential districts at least every third company be at all times provided with three men in hose and four in engine companies during the day, and five and six men respectively during the night; this to be in addition to the men available from squad companies. Chief Armgren was appointed to his present position in 1909 and has been thirteen years in service. He is fire marshal and superintendent of fire alarm and police telegraph. The assistant chief is J. E. Parrish. The total membership of the department is 126, including 107 full paid, 5 call men and 14 station watchmen. There are eight engine companies, one squad company, seven hose and two ladder companies in service in fifteen stations.


All apparatus used, the report states, is in excellent condition. Apparatus in service consists of one Metropolitan steam engine and eight motor pumping engines in service and one in reserve; eight motor combination hose wagons, one motor aerial ladder truck, one motor combination ladder truck, four chief’s and other motor cars, a fire alarm automobile and truck, and a shop automobile. The steam engine is drawn by a hose wagon and there are no horses in the department. The hose in service is: 2 1/2-inch, 26,950 feet; 1 1/2-inch, 300 feet; 1-inch for chemical, 2,600 feet. The total length of ladders is 1,268 feet. There are 51 portable extinguishers, four deluge sets, four Siamese connections, one turret nozzle, one ladder pipe and two cellar pipes. The motor pumping engines carry hose and three of them have chemical tanks. Four are of Seagrave make and four of Gorham make. The motor pumping engine in reserve is of Seagrave make. Minor equipment is uniform and includes practically all appliances usually found. The equipment on Truck 1 includes, in addition to appliances usually carried, an acetylene cutting torch, climbers, extra suctions, block and tackle, waterproof covers and sprinkler head tongs. Fire stations are one or two story frame or brick buildings well adapted for service and located on wide streets. All have concrete floors in the apparatus room. There is room in Stations 1, 3 and 5 for three additional pieces; in Stations 2, 7 and 11 for two pieces, and in Stations 12 and 14 for one piece of apparatus.

Drills, Training and Fire Methods.

Each company drills near quarters for one hour three days weekly. Drills consist of connecting to hydrant, making and breaking couplings, connecting engines to hydrant, throwing water, replacing a burst section, using a door opener as a shut-off, use of Siamese, etc. Ladder drills consist of aerial, ground, roof and pompier ladder work, use of smoke helmets, acetylene cutting torch and all other appliances. Members arc frequently shifted from hose or engine to ladder companies, or vice versa, so that each member gets experience in all branches. New men are usually assigned to headquarters and receive special instruction from the captain. A five-story wooden drill tower 61 feet high by 16 feet square is at the rear of Engine 7. It is provided with double windows on each floor on three sides, inside stairway, outside iron fire escape and vertical ladder, and outside standpipe with connection at each floor and on the roof; a life net, 54 and 45 foot extension ladders and pompier ladders are provided. A complete equipment consisting of hose, siatnese, deluge sets and other minor equipment is ordered. Drills were begun on June 1, 1917. Each member of the department, including chief and company officers, is required to take the tower drill once a month for seven months of the year. Probationers will be required to qualify at the drill tower before being permanently appointed. Records for 1916 show that 2 1/2-inch lines were used on less than 10 per cent, of the fires; others were extinguished by chemicals, water and chemicals, or miscellaneous means. Chimney fires are usually extinguished by chemicals; sometimes salt is used. Large hose is laid on arrival, but a shut-off nozzle is attached and hose is not carried into building unless the fire is apparently beyond chemical control. Care is taken to locate the fire before throwing water; the department works from inside if possible; when there is much smoke or heat the building is ventilated. Standpipe connections are used whenever available. Engines are always connected to hydrants if there is any evidence of fire; two lines are laid from each engine for serious fires. Hose is generally carried up stairways if any are available; fire escapes are also used. The department frees buildings of water and sometimes removes rubbish.


Engine 14 is to be removed to Hose 3 station, making this a double company, and Ladder 2 removed to Engine 5 station; Hose 3 is to be changed to a squad company and its present hose wagon also equipped with a pump, but the time for doing this is now somewhat indefinite. An additional engine company has been authorized for a new station, to go into service this year; the addition of a fire boat company and fire boat have also been authorized.

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