The Williamsport Fire Service
The Williamsport, Pa., fire department, according to a recent report of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, protects a city of 33,000 population where the fire loss for the past five years amounted to $343,194, varying from $25,764 in 1909 to $171,167 in 1912. The number of fires per year varied from 85 in 1909, 1910 and 1912 to 104 in 1913, with an average loss per fire of $799, a very high figure. The average number of fires per year per 1,000 population was 2.79. a low figure, and the annual loss per capita was $2.12, a moderate figure. The department has been part paid and part call since 1874, and is under the supervision of a Superintendent of Public Safety. The chief has control at fires. There are no assistant chiefs. Chief John W. Miles, who is 64 years of age, was chief from 1886 to 1899, from 1902 to 1908 and again since April, 1914. There are 33 call and 27 full paid men, including the chief, in the service. The cost of maintenance last year was $42,196. Members are elected by the council for 2-year terms. There arc no rules governing appointments or promotions. There are no age, height or weight limits prescribed for candidates. All but one of the captains have had long service, and most of the men have served for some years. There arc I engine companies. 1 combined engine and ladder company and 1 hose company in service, in 6 stations; 3 engine companies have chemical apparatus. All members have 10 days’ annual vacation, and 1 day off in 10, and 3 hours daily for meals. Call men who wish to be absent outside of regular vacations must provide a substitute. There are two full paid relief men, who fill in during vacations and unusual absence of full paid men. The apparatus in service consists of five steam fire engines, three combination hose wagons and three hose reels and one ladder truck. Records show that about 65 per cent, of all fires in 1912-13 were extinguished with chemicals. Lines of hose always back up chemical streams. Single hose lines from hydrants with l 1/4-inch nozzles, with reducers to ⅝-inch are generally used at ordinary fires. Cellar pipes are used frequently. Hose is carried up stairways and ladders, roof lines are hoisted by ropes. Hose is rolled up and laid on wagons or replaced on reels before returning to quarters; wet hose is usually not changed until the call men come to the station at night. No salvage work is attempted. The department is under the command of an experienced chief The lack of proper requirements for appointment. and possibility of dismissal without cause and of a complete change every two years are conditions adversely affecting efficiency, but seldom occurs The underwriters’ recommmendataions are: That suitable civil service regulations be adopted, specifying weight, height and age limits for appointment, and that all members of the department, including chief officers, be appointed for indefinite terms and be removable only for cause after due trial. The examinations for the different grades to be separate and in case of engineers and assistant engineers of Steamers, and chauffeurs, to consist of a thorough examination of their ability in the maintenance and operation of their apparatus. The chief to be the judge of efficiency during a reasonable probationary period. That an assistant chief be appointed and a captain and a lieutenant be provided for each company. That additional full paid men be appointed to give 9 men to each steam engine company. 8 men to each automobile engine company and 14 men to the combined engine and ladder company. That the following changes and additions to apparatus be made: Rebuild Station 1. and install an automobile pumping engine in place of the present steam fire engine. Replace the present old truck with a modern automobile quick-raising aerial Enlarge Station 6 and install an automobile 30foot service truck. Replace present apparatus at Station 5 with an automobile pumping engine and an automobile combination chemical and hose wagon. Provide Engine Company 3 with an automobile combination chemical and hose wagon. Provide automobiles for the chief and assistant chief. Specifications for automobile pumping engines to require pumps to deliver 700 gallons per minute at 120 pounds net water pressure and at least 50 per cent, of the rated capacity at 200 pounds net pressure. Automobile combination wagons to have 40-gallon chemical tanks and divided hose bodies with a capacity of at least 1,000 feet of hose when carrying equal amounts of 2 1/2 and 3-inch hose. Motors to be capable of attaining a speed of 30 miles per hour and of covering 20 miles in an hour over paved or macadamized streets, having such grades as the apparatus is likely to encounter in service. That sufficient 3-inch hose be purchased to provide 200 feet for each hose wagon, and such additional amounts provided in future purchases that ultimately a reserve wagon will carry 1,000 feet and other wagons equal amounts of 2 1/2and 3-inch hose, with a total of at least 1,000 feet, and each company will have an extra shift of hose in quarters. All 3-inch hose to be fitted with 2 1/2-inch couplings properly beveled. That specifications of the National Board of Fire Underwriters for hose for city fire department use be adopted or used as a guide in framing specifications for new hose; all hose to be tested annually to 200 pounds water pressure. That the following equipment be furnished, where not already provided: To each hose wagon: Two shut-off nozzles with 1⅛and 1 1/4-inch smooth bore tips, an open nozzle with l 1/4-inch smooth bore tips, door opener, crowbar, plaster hook, an improved nozzle holder, a distributing nozzle and a waterproof cover. To each ladder truck; A burst-hose jacket, cellar pipe, deluge set, 2 portable extinguishers, door opener, hose hoist, life net. life belts, ropes, marine torch or other searchlight, tin roof cutters, smoke helmet, wrecking hook and chain, surgical kit, and salvage appliances, including 4 waterproof covers, and a ladder pipe on the aerial truck. To each engine: A compound suction gage and a reliable automatic relief valve. At headquarters: Five universal couplings for visiting engines. That engines be tested annually, and after any extensive repairs, following methods published by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Pumps showing more than 7 per cent, slip should be examined, and engines developing less than 90 per cent, of their reasonable capacity should be overhauled or their crews drilled. That a drill school be established where all members, especially new men, can be drilled under a competent officer, who shall have visited two or more cities where a drill school is maintained, to get experience; drills to include: The use of all ladders, tools and appliances. the quick handling and raising of hose, salvage work and life saving. That the fire alarm equipment be placed either in a fireproof addition to fire department headquarters, especially constructed to reduce as far as possible all liability to interruption of service; all apparatus to be placed on noncombustible mountings and no combustible material to be allowed in the fire alarm rooms; batteries to be in a separate, well ventilated room.