THEATRES AND FIRE REGULATIONS.
WHILE the Theatre Francais of Paris owes its destruction in great measure to the fact that the fire engines did not arrive upon the scene for quite twenty minutes, and were obliged to stand idle for nearly as long a time before they could get sufficient water, the Grand theatre at Islington, London, was suffered to burn for ten minutes before the call was sent in to the fire brigade. In any case, instead of using the American style of electric fire alarm telegraph, the telephone system is employed, which, of course, is by no means so expeditious as the other. At such a crisis, every second counts and until the British fire departments show that they recognize this fact by the general installation of electric tire alarm telegraph systems, fires which might have been crushed in their incipiency will continue to make destructive headway in theatres and other buildings. In the case of places of public amusement, at all events, an auxiliary fire alarm system of some sort should be of obligation. Another point which seems to have escaped the notice of the authorities should also be insisted upon under penalty of criminal prosecution—namely, that the law as to the equipment of such buildings should be strictly lived up to, and, if found defective in any particular, should be at once amended by the proper authorities. In the case of the Grand Theatre, Islington,this was certainly not done. Though nominally fireproof—i. e., built of brick, iron,and concrete —whatever fireproof or fire-resisting qualities it possessed were neutralized by the absence of an asbestos or fireproof curtain, whose presence would have
considerably reduced the damage the premises subsequently sustained. The stage was not built in accordance with the present regulations and the roof was formed of concrete The extreme desirability of the roof over the stage being of as light a construction as possible and readily consumable from within, and of a large skylight fitted with thin glass and suitable exhaust being provided, was fully demonstrated. The flies were of ordinary wooden construction, with only cat-ladders for purposes of escape.
The same faults are to be found in some of our American theatres—the Columbia theatre burned the other day, being a fair example of the deathtrap style too often met with over here—and it would seem as if on both sides of the Atlantic the only means of having these fatal defects remedied is by another holocaust of the Paris Charity bazaar type, whose horrors may possibly call the attention of the municipal authorities to the need of a reform in this line being more than merely inaugurated.