THE VICTORIA FIRE SERVICE
What Chief Davis Has Done to Improve Fire Department of That City.
From Victoria, B. C, comes a record of Fire Prevention efficiency that should be of interest to every chief, association, individual and concern, who has to cope with fire in any of its various aspects. Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is located on Vancouver Island. Its fire department is commanded by Chief Thomas Davis, well known throughout Canada and all along the Pacific Coast as a remarkably efficient chief. Chief Davis is a born fireman. He was born in Number One Fire Hall, of the City of Toronto, in 1872. His father was an assistant chief there; and his grandfather, as an engineer, lost his l.fe in the service of the same city. His son, Joe, now wears the badge of the Victoria force, and is driver of the chief’s car. F’our generations of fire fighters is a record in itself, but the doings of the third generation are now the ones that are being watched and approved throughout the West. Chief Davis entered the service of the Toronto Department at the age of seventeen, the youngest man ever accepted there. In 1909, while Captain of Numer Two, in Toronto, he had the opportunity to go to Victoria as chief and May 1st, of that year he was installed in full charge of the Victoria Department.
In 1910, the results of his reorganization began to show. The city backed him up in his endeavors by installing an auxiliary salt water pumping plant for the protection of the business district. Two Mather & Platt centrifugal pumps, each of 23,000 gallons capacity, are ready for emergencies, and this additional high pressure system, which gives 200 lbs. at the hydrant, was the means of securing the abolishment of a surcharge of 30 per cent, in insurance premiums, which up to this time had burdened the business men, because the Insurance Underwriters had heretofore considered the city’s system of protection inefficient. During 1910, 1911 and 1912, $80,000 worth of motor apparatus was purchased, and in 1913 and 1914, the fire alarm system was rebuilt underground. In 1915, the Gamewell manual office was installed in a fireproof building. These changes and further perfection in methods, under the direction of Chief Davis, were resultant in other reductions of insurance. In 1913, a reduction of 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, was made on preferred risks in the residential district, and in 1914, a sweeping general reduction of 12 per cent, to 15 per cent, was secured, dependent on the risk and the exposures. These reductions amounted to a total of 22 per cent, to 45 per cent., according as the location was residential or business. The increased efficiency of the department fully justified the action of the Underwriters, for every year the loss has been lessened, even though the population of the city has been increasing.
Stations and Apparatus.
Besides the downtown headquarters,Victoria lias eight fire halls, and sixteen pieces of apparatus which arc in readiness at all times to protect the citizens and their property. F’ive horse-drawn vehicles still remain in the service, but it will not be long before the chief’s method of accounting will prove to the City Fathers that a complete motor equipment is not only far more efficient, hut that the big saving in maintenance charges will justify the complete installation of motor apparatus. At the headquarters there are stationed a Seagrave service truck; a Seagrave eighty foot, quick hoist aerial; a Waterous engine with Seagrave tractor; the largest motor hose wagon in Canada; a Seagrave double 80 gallon chemical; the two cars of the chief and the deputy chief, and also a motorcycle equipped with two small soda and acid extinguishers. and the rider wearing a knapsack carrying four Pyrenes. The chief uses this as a scout machine to cover still alarms, and motor car fires. Among the eight stations three Waterous engines, six combinations (four Seagrave and two American-La France) and a hose wagon are apportioned. The chief is strict in discipline. A man off every piece of apparatus in the whole department must report at headquarters every day for a drill lasting an hour and a half. In addition to this there are company drills at every station for one hour twice a week, and once a week every engine has to pass a capacity test.
Chief Davis’ Personality.
The Provincial Government of British Columbia in the report of the Superintendent of Insurance drew attention to the City of Victoria, as a model of what efficient fire prevention ideas may accomplish. The chief is an independent enthusiast. He is a student of the methods of others, and originator of methods of his own. He says that the old spectacular fighting of a blaze is very much secondary to the elimination of the causes and conditions that are directly responsible for such blazes. He is a fire preventionist, and his record shows that he is a good one. He possesses the personality and driving logic that enables his to instill enthusiasm into others. He begins with the school children, whom he lectures and helps to drill regularly. He has fifteen troops of boy scouts, every member of which is one of his deputies. They receive badges as his assistants after they come to his office and pass correctly on fourteen questions regarding fires and their prevention. He reaches the Rotary Club, the Real Estate Exchange, and other industrial associations. They listen to him and are convinced, and by their individual efforts give the ever present crank a chance to utter the common wail of the vapid minded: “We arcspending too much money for fire protection, for we are having scarcely any fires.” The 1915 reported loss in British Columbia, as taken from the Provincial Superintendent’s of Insurance Report, was nearly a million and a quarter, and the fact that Victoria, which must be classed as a wooden city, had a loss of less than $29,000 for a year is pretty strong evidence of the success of Chief Davis’ methods.
The rigid system of inspection of Chief Davis is one of the biggest factors of his success. Not only are the basements of the merchants caused to be kept clear of inflammable rubbish, waste paper, empty boxes and the like, hut the inspectors may go about the store and tap the boxes on the shelves. If there should happen to be an accumulation of empties, the merchant is warned to remove them, and the insurance company agent is advised to investigate.
Victoria’s Clean-up Days.
The report of the Superintendent of Insurance said: “The importance of fire-prevention and the eliminat.on thereby of fire waste is beginning to be recognized. The City of Victoria had a “Clean-up Day” in 1915, and at the suggestion of the Publicity Commissioner has just had (June, 1916) a “Spring Clean-up Day,” which it is reported met with greater success than in 1915. The civic authorities assisted by making special arrangements with its garbage department for the removal of all rubbish and waste material collected by citizens from their premises, and outside the fire limits citizens were allowed by the fire department during a stated period to destroy rubbish by fire without formal permit. At the instance of the Chief of the Department the objects and advantages of the movement were explained to the school-children to enlist their co-operation and to interest them in fireprevention. The promoters hope that next year, with more systematic preparation, more may be accomplished from an educational standpoint and that there may be more widespread interest on the part of citizens. The example of the City of Victoria might well be followed in other municipalities, both in spring and fall. It cannot be calculated how much loss by fire is prevented by the removal of rubbish (combustible material) likely to breed and spread fires, but there is no doubt that it diminishes both the number of fires and the fire loss materially. The clean-up movement has been most successful where public-spirited citizens (sometimes organized as a Fire Prevention Association) and the authorities have co-operated so as to ensure a hearty response from the whole community.