Thenter-Fire Prevention in Germany and France
(From Consul General A. M. Thackara, Berlin.)
The police regulations of the city of Berlin regarding the fire-prevention measures to be taken in theaters and other places where moving pictures are exhibited are exceedingly strict and carefully enforced. According to the police regulations of September 30, 1907, the booth in which the projector is installed must be made of either sheet iron or sheet steel and the sides and floor lined with asbestos at least one-third of a centimeter (0.13 inch) thick. New police regulations are in course of preparation. I am informed unofficially that under the new provisions the booth must be constructed with double sheet iron or sheet steel walls, with an intervening air space. In no case would booths constructed of angle iron and covered with asbestos boards be permitted in this district. A translation of the more important paragraphs of the 1907 Berlin police regulations for moving picture theaters follows:
Section 1. Whenever moving pictures arc exhibited in theaters, assembly rooms, stores, tents, or other public places, and inflammable films are used, electric or calcium light must be employed for purposes of illumination. Gas for the production of a calcium light must either be taken from the city gas mains or made in a safe generating apparatus which complies with the law.
Sec. 2. The electric or calcium lamp must be placed in a sheet-iron or sheet-steel booth, of which the bottom and sides are lined with asbestos. So far as will not interfere with the operation of the apparatus, the air holes in the booth must be covered on the inside with wire gauze or similar material, so that lamp sparks may not escape.
Sec. 9. All electrical apparatus must be mounted on tables of uninflammable material, and must be provided with safety hoods of fireproof insulating material.
Sec. 4. When a limelight is used, only the socalled safety lamps, in which the gas mixture is effected just before ignition, or a mixture burner, in which the gas mixture is effected inside the burner, may be employed. With mixture burners a safety device of ware gauze or some similar contrivance must be so arranged as to prevent a hack draft of the flame into the mixture chamber. There must also be metallic attachments on the saturator and on the mixture chamber, to which the safety device is fastened and to which the pipes (india-rubber hose) must be firmly attached. Oxygen may be stored only in steel cylinders or other metal containers. The use of rubber sacks is prohibited.
Sec. 5. When ether-benzine or gasoline limelight is used (for plants in places which cannot obtain illuminating gas), the ether-benzine or gasoline fluid serving to feed the flame must be kept outside the lamp booth in a receptacle which complies with the law. This receptacle (saturator) must be connected with the oxygen cylinder by good and well-attached rubber hose The satura tor must contain porous substances to absorb the volatile ether or gasoline. The saturator may be filled only in a room separate from that in which the production of the moving picture is to take place, and only by daylight or by the light of a nonexplosive artificial fight Ether-benzine or gasoline calcium lights may never be used in which the saturator is united with the burner or is attached to the inside of the lamp booth. The supply of ether, benzine, or gasoline must not be stored within the theater. The quantity kept within the theater may not exceed 2 kilos (4.4 pounds). It must be kept in a metal receptacle made safe against rust and the openings in which are provided with safety devices to prevent back drafts.
Sec. 6. The intense heat and light rays which pass through the lens must be shut out or weakened by safety shutters as soon as the film stops unwinding.
Sec. 7. The portion of the film which is at any moment between the light and the lens must be so isolated from the remainder of the film that should it ignite by reason of the intense light rays passing through it, the fire will not extend to those portions of the film which have already passed by the film or are yet to pass.
Sec. 8 The film must be unrolled from a metal drum which is completely closed except for the exit opening for the film, and this opening must be so narrow that the entry of a flame is impossible.
Sec. 9. The apparatus, the lamp booth, and the lamps may not be used until they are tested under the inspection of a representative of the fire department or other competent judge, and are declared to be free from objection.
Sec. 10. The apparatus must be so set that no inflammable or flimsy stuff (paper and the like) is immediately over it. A noninflammable cover must be kept beside the apparatus to throw over it in case of fire; also a basin of water and a fire extinguisher.
Sec. 11. The supply of films not actually in use must be kept in closed metal receptacles.
Sec. 12. Smoking is prohibited in the apparatus booth and in the vicinity of the films. If the apparatus booth is hung with curtains, these must be of a material not easily set on fire.
Sec. 13. The apparatus may be operated only by one who, after proving himself competent, has been licensed by the police. When electric or calcium light is used he must be well-informed as to the handling of the same.
Sec. 14. In the case of productions in theaters or halls which hold more than 500 persons, if the operation of the apparatus and the lighting of the theater are not done by the same man, a signal device must be placed beside the apparatus in order that the man in charge of the house lighting may be apprised of an existing fire or other trouble and turn on the lights in the theater.
Sec. 15. The apparatus must be so set up that the public cannot come within reach of it. A safe exit must be provided for the operator of the apparatus; for the spectators there must be a sufficiently broad exit on the opposite side of the house from the apparatus.
Sec. 10. Exceptions to the above regulations may be made in cases in which other examined and approved special provisions are taken for safety. Special instructions given to owners of moving-picture shows must he observed in like manner as the contents of this order.
So far as 1 have been able to ascertain, there is no truly noninflammable film manufactured in flerlin. There is, however, a film of acetyccliulose whose makers (name obtainable from the Bureau of Manufactures) claim that it is waterproof like nitrocellulose films and otherwise similar to them, except that it is rather difficult of ignition and slow-burning when ignited. It is on this latter ground that the term “noninflammable” is applied to it.
Consul General Frank Mason writes from Paris as follows concerning the safety secured by construction of apparatus: “Safety from fire at cinematograph or moving-picture exhibitions in Paris is secured not by inclosing the apparatus in a fireproof booth or cell but by the construction of the apparatus itself. In the case of large cinematograph theaters, the apparatus is generally placed outside the auditorium; but the chief security is in the construction of the machine, which may be briefly described as follows: The film is wound in a metallic cylinder called a ‘choker.’ When in use the film passes downward in front of the lens and is automatically coiled in another metallic, fireproof ‘choker.’ Only a small section of the film about 6 inches in length is exposed to the rays from the lens, and should this section take fire it could not possibly ignite the portions of the film inside the ‘chokers’ or cause a conflagration; but to avoid even this danger there is placed between the lamp and the lens a crystal vase or tank filled with water, which effectually prevents overheating the film by rays from the light. To further secure this result a flap or movable diaphragm of metal is placed close to and in front of the film, and this is opened only when the apparatus is put in motion and closes automatically when it stops, shutting off the light from contact with the film the moment the projection is finished or suspended. This device and the existing police regulations appear to be quite effective, and there is, so far as appears, no demand that the apparatus shall be further inclosed in a fireproof booth.” (A copy, in French, of the official police ordinance which is required to be kept posted in all theaters, concert halls, and other places of public amusement, and which includes all the regulations relating to the subject now in force in Paris and the Department of the Seine, also an illustration of the machine described in the foregoing report, will be loaned by the Bureau of Manufactures.)
Peoria, Ill., had 104 alarms of fire during the past year. The property endangered was valued at $429,040, insured for $262,875; fire losses paid. $32,870.57, of which $30,120.54 was for 10 fires.