THIS YEAR’S NEEDS OF THE FIRE SERVICE
Several Millions of Dollars to be Spent for New Equipment and Improvements in the Departments—General Move Toward Complete Motorization and Scientific Fire Fighting Methods
PROSPECTS for the year in the fire apparatus field are remarkably bright. Unmistakable indications point to intense activity in the near future in every line of fire apparatus and appliances. The extent of the developments already under way and the greater ones to follow can plainly be seen on careful analysis of conditions in the fire service since this country entered the war and by reviewing the facts and figures now available, though these are but a forerunner of what is to come. Fire department activities, particularly those tending toward fire department improvement in towns, in smaller cities and in the large cities were affected in different ways when this country began to assume its full share of the work abroad.
In the small town, protected by a volunteer fire company, money for new apparatus is almost invariably raised by public subscription, and by private enterprises arranged by the tire company, such as minstrel shows, fairs and dances. Nowhere did the co-operation in Liberty bond campaigns and war charities mean a more absolute abandonment of efforts to raise money for fire apparatus than there.
Medium-sized cities usually provide for new fire apparatus by bond issues, and there fire department improvements were checked by the patriotic sentiment which favored suspending all expenditures and concentrating in lines directly aiding in ending the war, as well as by the injunction of the Federal Government to restrict bond issues to matters of absolute necessity. For example, consider a city of 10,000 population. The question may have come up before the city council on calling a special election to vote bonds for new fire equipment. When it came to a vote the point was raised that divided effort could not be considered whole-souled support of the government in the emergency and the proposition was thereupon turned down. This is just what happened in one medium-sized western city which reported to this journal in answer to a query that “the matter of purchase of fire apparatus and alarm boxes has been tabled by the council,” and it is what happened in the majority of the smaller cities which had been figuring on new apparatus or other fire department improvements.
In big cities the question of patriotism did not enter so prominently into the purchase of new apparatus. There were, however, two other factors which proved just as efficacious in checking the expenditure of money for new equipment. First: The pronounced shortage of personnel in the departments, aggravated by increasing numbers of men entering the service, and the impossibility of securing substitutes for their places, made it useless to add to the number of pieces of apparatus where men were not available to man them. New York City alone lost over 430 men through enlistment in the army out of a round 5,000 in the department—nearly ten per cent, of the entire force: Boston had 155 in the service out of a total of but 1,300. Second: Following the first Liberty Bond issue in June, 1017, and the second of October, 1917, large cities were loth to intensify the selfimposed burden on patriotic taxpayers by requesting heavy budgets which would necessarily mean heavier taxes, and especially where the cost of ordinary necessities of life had reached such unprecedented figures. Retrenching was the general result.
This suspension of purchases for two years can have but one result—a demand for every type of fire apparatus and equipment nearly double that of normal peace times before the war, for it will include all suspended purchases as well as the normal demands for extension and improvement of two years’ growth. Increased activity is already noticeable. The movement to make up for lost time is alreadv under way in big cities as will be evident from the following:
CHICAGO, ILL., has made appropriation of $250,000 for the purchase of new fire apparatus and equipping seven stations.
PHILADELPHIA, PA., is planning on a number of new fire stations.
PITTSBURGH, PA. In this year’s budget $98,000 has been provided for new fire apparatus.
NEWARK, N. J. $100,000 of bonds will be issued for purchase of fire apparatus.
KANSAS CITY, MO. The city has already appropriated $200,000 for new fire apparatus.
ST. LOUIS, MO. An appropriation of $200,000 is being considered for new fire stations and equipment.
CLEVELAND, OHIO. A bond issue of $300,000 will he made to cover cost of new apparatus and other fire department improvements.
JERSEY CITY, N. J. Bonds totaling $3,985,000 are to be issued for public work, to include new fire stations, and equipment.
TROY, N. Y. The common council has recommended a $76,600 bond issue for fire department improvements.
SYRACUSE, N. Y. An appropriation of $45,000 is under consideration for the purchase of motor fire apparatus.
MUSKOGEE, OKLA. A bond issue of $75,000 for fire apparatus is proposed.
QUINCY, ILL. City is to vote shortly on issuing $500,000 of bonds for fire department and other improvements.
Activity .Pronounced and General
The activity is not confined to large cities alone. All over the countrv, in the villages, towns, and small cities, authorities are concentrating attention upon proposed improvements to the exclusion of other matters. In this connection the following comparison may prove interesting. In the month of January, 1918, this journal received woVd from sixty-five cities and towns to the effect that they were either planning or had decided to purchase motor fire trucks, as against 105 similar reports received in the first month of this year. During January, 1918, word was received from eighteen towns and cities that new fire stations were planned or had been provided for bv bond issues, while during the same month this year 41 such reports were received.
Needs of the Field for the Present Year
Motor Fire Apparatus: The demand for motor fire apparatus will probably he more urgent than for any other type of fire appliance. This will be due not only to suspended orders and orders which would have come in ordinary’ times, hut also to the number of small cities which have observed the government’s example in adopting motor apparatus for cantonments, docks, loading plants, etc., ami following suit. The large number of new fire stations to be built will represent at least as many new motor installations, and besides this there is the replacement of the old horse-drawn engines with modern motor propelled equipment and the purchase of new machines which cannot be overlooked.
Tires: Tire replacements that should have been made a year or more ago along with tires required for new apparatus will make 1919 a banner fire truck tire year. The development of the pneumatic tire of the cord type for carrying heavy loads at high speeds which has taken place in the past two years and the success it has met with in service are bound to result in the adoption of similar equipment for fire apparatus in the near future.
hire Hose: Every motor engine or motor hose and chemical engine installed means a thousand or more feet of new hose. Also, the percentage of hose in service which it is necessary to replace each year is quite constant, and with those orders that were held up during the war there should be a demand for hose second only to that for motor apparatus.
Fire Alarm Apparatus: Fire alarm apparatus installations can be expected to keep pace with the general activity in the fire apparatus field.
Chemical Engines and Equipment: Resumption of industrial plant construction and extensions, suspended during the war, and the great amount of waterfront construction promise a prosperous future for small chemical engine units and extinguishers. The greater demand for chemical equipment can, however, be met by the manufacturers who will no longer be limited or restrained by war time restrictions on copper.
Minor Equipment: The policy of most cities to purchase motor fire apparatus fully equipped insures a brisk demand for all forms of equipment which go to make complete the up-to-date fire truck outfit. Station equipment, too, must keep pace with the new stations being erected.
Fire Prevention: Huge as this country’s annual fire loss was in normal times, war time conditions made it even greater, and not the least of the lessons of the war was the imperative necessity of preventing fire quite as much as checking it once under way. The subject of fire prevention, however, is one that presents so many aspects that it will be treated at greater length in a future issue.