THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF FIRE EXTINCTION.

THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF FIRE EXTINCTION.

It is necessary to premise, at the outset of our remarks upon this very comprehensive subject, which includes, or may be made to include, everything vitally related to Fireman’s work, and, indeed, everything but casually so related, that what we here set down is intended for only a portion of our readers—namely, for amateurs in the art and practice of fire extinguishing—for those who have had no practical experience in the work; of whom there are many that will thank us for what we do. Here is no complacent attempt to instruct old veterans in the profession—the heroes of a hundred fights—who look, probably, upon all written instruction in fire-fighting as the old soldier who has been in the Peninsula and at Waterloo thinks and speaks of the studies at Sandhurst and the schools of military engineering. Our aim is humbler, but is far from being useless ; rudimentary information on the subject of the practice of fire extinction is always being sought after by some, and is therefore always useful. We, ourselves, often receive application for it, or for intelligence where it may be found, and to the last question have always to reply that the only work in our language containing such (one by the late Mr. Braidwood) is not now accessible. If, therefore, an excuse for supplying, or attempting to supply, such information in a connected form be wanted, we have it, in our opinion, in these facts.

A limitation must also be made as a caveat to any criticism that might be offered upon an assumed incomplete performance of a large design. An article upon the Theory and Practice of Fire Extinction might include dissertations upon water supply, fire-extinguishing machinery, fireproof buildings, and many other cognate subjects, which will be mentioned here but incidentally. Nor is it necessary to do otherwise, since much that could be said upon these matters would be repetitions of what has already appeared in The Fireman, and would, in fact, be generalities, where particulars have been already considered. For instance, we have already described the principal kinds of fire extinguishing machinery as it has been brought under our notice; moreover, to go fully into that subject would occupy so large a space as to dwarf into insignificance what we more particularly wish to say. And, in addition, there are several works easily available to all who want them, giving full accounts of fire engines and apparatus of all kinds. It may, perhaps, be as well to mention here what has been written in this country upon Fireman’s work, which we intend to speak of now, and Fireman’s working tools, which, as before indicated, we have not for present purposes, in mind.

The practical subject of ” How to proceed at a fire,” has received very little attention from writers in England, but works upon fire-extinguishing machinery are much more numerous and comprehensive. Possibly this may have arisen from a feeling that experience is the best teacher of how to put fires out, as well as of other matters. The late Mr. Braidwood, however, the first writer upon anything connected with fire extinction, gives in one of his papers excellent and explicit directions upon the subject. Mr. Braidwood’s writings entitle him to the gratitude of all Firemen who come after him. They comprise a work on ” Fire Engines and the Training of Firemen,” published in Edinburgh in 1830; two papers prepared for the Society of Arts, one in 1829, being an account of his chain ladder fire escape, the other in 1856 on ” Fires; the Best Means of Preventing and Arresting Them, with a Few Words on Fireproof Structures,” and two papers read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, “On the means of rendering large supplies of water available in case of fire,” and “On fireproof buildings.” These give information, valuable at that time, by the man at that time alone fully competent to furnish it, concerning the subjects treated of. It is almost unnecessary to say that the art of fire extinction was practised and taught by Braidwood under disadvantages with regard to means, which do not now exist. The improvements which have taken place in fire-extinguishing machinery of all kinds, the awakening of public authority to a comprehension of the fact that an efficient fire service must be maintained, even if it costs money, the introduction of the electric telegraph and many other ingenious inventions and appliances, give facilities now to Firemen which Braidwood never had, nor dreamed of possessing. Nevertheless, the means that he had Braidwood made do for him, and with them accomplished a very great deal. The reason of his success is apparent on a perusal of his writings. His knowledge was extensive and his principles were thoroughly sound; he was, therefore, able to do the best with his limited means, and succeeded to the utmost these means would allow him. Braidwood’s books may, therefore, even now, be read with advantage, and when everything which recent improvement has made inapt has been taken from them, much will be found which, being essentially true, can never, under any circumstances, or in any time, become false. The best and most explicit instruction might, therefore, if his books could be easily had, be obtained by those desirous of learning the art of fire extinction. For it is an art, and does not consist of drowning out of fire by excessive quantities of water; as we hope, ere long, to prove to any sceptical, if indeed there be any sceptical, on a point so obvious.

Another writer, who at great pains has given Firemen a work upon matters connected with their profession, is Mr. C. F. T. Young, C. E., who published his “.Fires, Fire Engines, and Fire Brigades ” in 1866. This book is a collection of all the information which at that time could possibly be obtained upon English fire engines and machinery, and the various brigades in this country. It also gives indisputable evidence of the author’s research, and is useful in many ways, especially to the writer upon fire subjects. Such a complete history of the invention and introduction of any special kind of machinery has never been written as Mr. Young gives of English steam fire engines in this book; he appears to have collected information about almost every individual machine which had been made in England, from Braithwaite’s first, in 1829, down to the last that had been constructed when his work appeared. At tests and trials of many of them he had himself been present, and he records the particulars with the most praise’ worthy minuteness and fidelity. But his “ Fires, Fire Engines, and Fire Brigades ’ is the work of an engineer, and not of a Fireman, and concerns itself chiefly with the means of fire extinction, not, as some of Mr. Braidwood’s.’with principles. It will have, therefore, a more transitory interest, because the means are constantly being improved upon, while the principles remain constantly fixed.

Captain Shaw, C. B., during his long connection with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, has given to the world several books upon subjects connected with fire extinction. Of these the principal is “ Fire Protection ; a Complete Manual of the Organization, Machinery, and General Working of the Fire Brigade of London.” This book is tolerably well known, though not so well known as, for many reasons, it deserves to be. There is contained in it most complete information respecting the constitution and management of the London Fire Brigade, and particulars also of the apparatus in use by it, minute almost to a fault, but which prove exceedingly uselul to many, especially to those who are making a first acquaintance with such matters. To these, the extended series of escape and engine drills, which forms a feature of ” Fire Protection,” are exceedingly helpful. Captain Shaw is highly to be commended for placing, in so simple and exhaustive a form, the results of his extended experience in London in the hands of those to whom such a manual is absolutely indispensable; no other where is such minute information to be obtained concerning Fireman’s gear and the formula of Fireman’s work. The same gentleman has also written upon special matters in connection with fire extinction. He has published “ Records of the late London Fire Engine Establishment,” ” Fire Surveys, or a Summary of the Principles to be Observed in Estimating the Risk of Buildings,” and “ Fire in Theatres,” all of which are useful works upon the subjects of which they treat.

None of them, however, contain any practical directions upon fire extinction. Whether Captain Shaw designs at any time to supplement his other works with one upon this subject we cannot say; the idea must often have occurred to him, and he certainly cannot have foreborne the carrying of it, out from an opinion that the matter is everywhere in this country sufficiently understood.

It may be mentioned here that although we consider fire extinction an art, and its] practice a profession, $it is not nearly so much an art as it might at some little pains be made. In one of his books, the late Mr. Braidwood gave a sketch of how he thought the work of fire extinction might be organized throughout the country, being careful, however, to observe he had little hope of any such plan being ever realized. Braidwood proposed that a central establishment should be formed in London, and Firemen enlisted for a term of years, as men arc now enlisted for the military and naval services. “ When enlisted they would be sent to the depot at Headquarters, drilled to the use 6f the engines, and carefully instructed in the separating and cleaning of the different parts; here also they could be practised in gymnastic exercises, and generally instructed in everything tending to promote their usefulness as Firemen. They could then be sent off to some large towns, and, after having seen a little active service, distributed over the country in such parties as might be deemed necessary for the places they were intended to protect.”

At this central establishment “a store of apparatus, constructed on one uniform plan, could be kept, to be forwarded to any other part of the kingdom where it might be required. This uniformity of the structure and design of the apparatus could extend to the most minute particulars; a screw or nut of any one engine would fit every other engine in the kingdom. A depot could also be kept at headquarters, where recruits could be regularly drilled and instructed in the business, and a regular system of communication kept up with all the provincial corps. Any particular circumstances occurring at a fire would thus be immediately reported, and the advantages of any knowledge or experience thus gained would be disseminated over the whole kingdom. As the matter at present stands, one town may have an excellent fire engine establishment, and another within a few miles a very indifferent one, and when the one is called to assist the other, they can neither act in concert, nor can the apparatus of the one, in case of accident, be of the smallest service in replacing that of the other. The best might (if a proper communication were kept up) be under frequent obligations to the worst, and here, as in other matters, it is chiefly by communication that knowledge is increased. If the whole experience of the country were brought together, and maturely considered and digested by persons competent to judge, I have no doubt that a system might.be introduced suitable to the nation and to the age in which we live. Instead of hearing of the dreadful losses by fire, and the great exertions made to extinguish it, all the notice would be: Such a place took fire, the engines arrived, and it was extinguished.

“A premium might be offered for the best engine of a size previously agreed upon, which, when finished, should be kept as a model. Specifications could then be made out and estimates advertised for, for all the different parts, such as wheels, axles, levers, cisterns, barrels, air-vessels, etc., separately.” (Steam fire engines were not in use when this was written). “ When any part of an engine was damaged it could be immediately replaced, and the engine again rendered fit for service; and upon emergency any number of engines could be set up, merely by putting the different parts together.”

This scheme, in some respects similar to an arrangement which existed in ancient days at Rome, though propounded by a man essentially practical, it were superflous to observe is now Utopian in its character. It indicates, however, what may be done by those fortunate individuals who are alive at the coming of the Millennium. We have no doubt, could the scheme, if only partially, be carried into effect, together with the compulsory enforcement of making buildings ’reasonably fireproof, great losses by fire would be almost unknown. As soon as the regions of Probability are passed, speculation may indulge itself almost without limit in the neighboring country of the merely Possible. When Braidwood formed this idea of his, and promulgated it in his writings, he must have been thinking of a time when such things as war and political intrigue and unrest would become unknown, and legislators, unconcerned in such matters, were giving their attention to the mitigation of domestic troubles alone. In an altered state of society, such as would allow of this, Braidwood’s might become a realized idea; in the present state of society it is little more than visionary. Here is a grand work for the Fire Brigades Association ; to make some part of this idea possible; and then to make some sort of a fact out of it. Which, now the Fire Brigades Association seems to have made up its mind at last to do something worth doing, we may see accomplished before long.— London Fireman.

THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF FIRE EXTINCTION.

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THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF FIRE EXTINCTION.

Under this title our able contemporary, the London Fireman, is publishing a series of articles which contain matter of interest to persons connected with the Fire Service, or in any way dependent upon it, in this country as well as abroad. The establishment of a force for extinguishing fires, it is suggested, should be made compulsory upon the authorities of every city and town, the money necessary for the support thereof to be raised by taxation. The services of the members of the force might be rendered voluntarily or for pay, but a certain standard of efficiency should compulsorily be secured. The standard of efficiency should be decided upon by the general government, and government inspectors should be appointed to see that it is everywhere attained and continued. Each Department should be inspected at least twice a year, and its satisfactory condition certified. An identical drill for every Department in the country would, under this system, be established. Allowing, then, for slight local differences, any officer or Fireman could drill and work with any Department. Uniformity of apparatus could hardly, perhaps, be secured, but in the most important particular, that of the gauge of couplings, it might be insisted upon, Legislation will be necessary to accomplish much which remains un„ done in America, and in the matter of couplings a uniformity of gauge will doubtless be secured in the course of a few years. There is little chance, however, that State or government inspectors will ever be appointed in this country. The spirit of rivalry which pervades the various Fire Departments will suffice to make them what they should be. The only difficulty now is that a sufficient allowance for the maintenance of Fire Departments is seldom made. If some means could be discovered by which municipal authorities would be brought to entertain a proper appreciation of the Fire Departments, this country would more than ever before be held in distinction on account of its fire-extinguishing sendee.

From the theory to the practice of fire extinction our contemporary rapidly passes. It being obvious, it says, that before a fire can be attacked and defeated, a proper fighting party must be got together, drilled and equipped, our first consideration is, ” How to form an efficient Fire Brigade.” We will suppose a town in which, as we write, there is no fire protective service, or one quite worthless, and incapable of improvement. Disbandment, at the hands of whoever can effect that same, in the latter case, must be performed without mercy, or to that town our remarks have no further application. Public attention, we will also suppose, has been aroused to a full realization of the unprotected state of the town, and also to its consequences, visible in a long row of blackened ruins, or an empty space where once a fine old church, museum or cathedral stood ; brought home, too, to the townsfolk individually by insurance notices, the burden of which is increased insurance rates. A stir has been made in the matter by some locally influential, and the questions are, What sort of a Fire Brigade can we get together; how is it to be got together; and how are the indispensable funds to be secured ? First there is the Professional Brigade, composed of salaried officers and Paid Firemen. A Volunteer Fire Brigade may be said to consist of men who give their services for drill and practice without payment ; in some cases receiving it for work at fires, in others doing this also without fee. it may be supported out of the taxes or entirely by public subscription, or partially by means of both ; in some few instances the Brigade itself finds material and uniform and pays all expenses. Where this last is allowed to occur, morality in matters municipal is at a very low ebb. The means to be taken in raising a Volunteer Fire Brigade will largely differ, as the means by which it is to be supported vary. In every case, however, the first object of the promoters should be to secure public sympathy. The next thing to be done is to get money. There is no doubt the main portion of the funds necessary for a start and for future maintenance should come from the town ; properly, all should be so provided. A sum of $1250 to $1500 will be sufficient to purchase a manual fire engine with enough hose and gear for ordinary purposes, and to clothe and equip a Fire Brigade consisting of about twenty members; this amount, if it cannot be obtained from the taxes, must be solicited from private individuals, and if the matter be placed in a proper manner before moneyed people in the locality, it should be obtained without difficulty. Insurance companies, too, will sometimes assist, although they will probably point out that they are under no obligation, either legal or moral, to do so. It is always advisable to get funds enough in hand before starting ; if a Brigade makes a commencement before it is really ready to do so, it may perhaps be called out to work, and, with insufficient tools and training, make more or less of a failure. Then the numerous wischeads who prophesied that this would certainly happen will spread a knowledge of the circumstance pretty widely, through the papers and otherwise ; and the new Fire Brigade may find itself under a cloud for many years, the result of a too early start. If, after every exertion has been made to secure support, support cannot be obtained, it is undoubtedly best to abandon for a time the attempt; in a few years, when some great disaster has occurred in the town, the services of the men who tried to organize a Brigade, and were laughed at for their pains, may be eagerly sought after.

Pecuniary matters being now supposed adjusted, the next most important matter is tha personnel of the Brigade. Who is to appoint the members, must depend largely upon who is going to pay the bill, and in ever)’ particular case will be apparent, so that, too, we may leave. In most towns candidates for membership will be numerous. As unsuitable men when once enrolled are difficult to get rid of without acrimonious disputations a.nd all manner of unpleasantness, great care should be exercised in making a selection. One of the points to be noted is, that the new Brigade should, if possible, consist of men of one social rank; this is really more important than it looks, although the matter if neglected at first will always right itself in time. For the rest the chief matters to be regarded will occur to all ; the selections must be men of good physique, not afraid of workjnor indisposed to obey orders; a moderate allowance of brain to each is also indispensable; good moral conduct, too, if the Brigade is to be a respectable and respected local institution, is a necessity, and good temper not undesirable. To secure all this in every Fireman is doubtless impossible, notwithstanding, it need not be entirely lost sight of. A most important part of the organization of the new Fire Brigade is the appointment of its officers. “ Putting a number of men in Firemen’s coats,” says a friend of ours, whose “ common sense ” on the subject is of the strongest and really most wicommon character, “and dubbing some empty fool ‘ Captain,’ will give them no experience in fire fighting, to say nothing of making them crack shots; only good drilling and schooling by a man who knows his business, and is possessed of the happy knack of imparting it to others, will do that, or ever make respectable Firemen of them.” The man who undertakes the direction of any Fire Brigade should first make himself in every respect thoroughly qualified ; as he may, without difficulty, do. We have said that experience in this, as in all other things, is the best tutor ; if oui new superintendent cannot purchase its teachings in, perhaps, their best form, we mean by a residence for a time in a town where there is a good professional Brigade, and an attendance with it at fire duty, the funds from which the Brigade is started should be available for the purpose. We believe the heads of our best Brigades would never object to afford such a man the opportunity of acquiring some knowledge of fire extinguishing in this way, or indeed to furnish him with assistance in some others. What assistance an amateur can obtain from books written in this language we have already indicated. The other qualifications necessary for a Fire Brigade Superintendent are those also necessary for a leader of men in any capacity; there Is no occasion, therefore, to enlarge upon them here.

With respect to other officers of the Fire Brigade, they will be such as are suited to its individual needs, and should be, we think, appointed by its Chief. To Fire Brigade nomenclature, as to some other things in connection with Fire Brigades which attract a great deal of attention, we attach but little importance; still, may observe in passing that we consider it advisable, as far as possible, to eschew military terms. As the quietest and least pretentious, and therefore most satisfactory designations, we recommend Superintendent, Assistant or Deputy Superintendent, Foreman and Engineer; with Second Foreman and Second Engineer, if required. On the whole, however, it may be said that the difference between Captain and Superintendent, Lieutenant and Foreman, is very similar to that celebrated distinction between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. In devising the situation of fire stations, and the disposition of the engines and apparatus, it is always well to remember that a town is much better protected by a number of small stations with light and handy appliances than by one very large station containing a number of powerful engines. The stations should be placed upon the highest available ground, and as equally divided as possible in proportion to the risk. All the stations should be linked together by telephone, or electric communication of some sort. A quick attendance at fires in any part of the town will be in this way secured, and with ordinary good fortune the larger engines would rarely be wanted, especially if there be a good water pressure in the place. As a rule, a couple cf men, with a hose truck, two or three lengths of hose, a branch, jets and wrenches, will stop a fire before fifty dollars’ worth of damage has been done if an early intimation be obtained; whereas, if the alarm has to travel a long way, the engine to be got out and manned before anything can be done, it is usually a case of saving adjoining property. The frequent and systematic drilling of a Brigade by a man who himself knows what to do and what not to do is another point which cannot be too much insisted upon. Of course the details relating to hose coupling and getting the engine ready for work under ordinary circumstances will easily b£ mastered. But the Brigade should be instructed as well as practised, and that upon everything connected with their work ; neither should it be omitted to meiition and commend any noticeable good judgment displayed at fires; nor to point out how mistakes have arisen and how they might have been avoided or rectified. II any of our friends object to thi£, that few’ men who undertake the duties of Volunteer Firemen have time or inclination for such discipline, we say without hesitation that such men are unsuitable as Firemen ; that in point of fact they are not Firemen, but only pseudo-firemen, or perhaps worse, shams and delusions.