THOSE RECENT HOLOCAUSTS.
CHICAGO, Butte, Mont., and the borough of Manhattan, New York, during the past fortnight, and Charleston four weeks ago, added to the recent Boston, Pittsburgh, and Kalamazoo horrors, to say nothing of isolated cases of deaths by burning elsewhere since the beginning of the year, show a slaughter-list that should appal the reader. Over fifty killed, and at least as many more or less seriously injured, tell their own tale, not of remissness or inefficiency on the part of the various fire departments, but of a negligence and carelessness on that of the municipal authorities, whose fruits are now being reaped—are still to be reaped, unless some mate: ial and unlooked for change is made in their administration — by their victims of to-day. It matters not how efficient fire departments may be, how thorough their discipline,or how perfect their apparatus, the firemen cannot be expected to work miracles in the way of saving life unless (i) the fire alarm system is in perfect order; (2) the alarm is turned in at once; (3) the building is not of the firetrap order; (4) or is provided with sufficient means of exit, by fire escapes, elevators, by properly constructed staircases, or by the roofs of adjacent houses. In everyone of these particulars the buildings recently burned were defective. In the lodging house in the Bowery and the so-called hotel at Butte, the same conditions of over-crowding prevailed, the same lack of knowledge of the locality of the exits,and the same lack of exits. In Chicago the building was simply a deathtrap, with its wide floor space, its broad front of plate glass and iron, its inflammable partitions and furniture—the latter evils common to it with the New York and Butte lodging houses—its open stairways, and its utter lack of facilities for escape. Its elevator accommodation was deficient—there were but two for the four hundred persons who used the building; so that, after they had made two trips,others were impossible, owing to the swift progress of the flames, which in less than twenty minutes reduced the whole structure to a pile of ruins. The fire-escape consisted of a straight up-anddown Jacob’s ladder, not more than eighteen inches wide, in the rear, through whose rungs poured the fire and smoke within the first five minutes after the blaze started. There are far too many like it in that city. Escape by the roof was cut off; there remained,therefore, to the unfortunate victims a choice of evils—either to die where they stood or to leap from the windows to an almost certain death. And what was true of the Chicago building, was true also of nearly all the others Is it, therefore, to be wondered at that in each case a holocaust was the outcome ? Will it be the last? We fear not, although possibly after a few more of such “accidents”—and the year is young enough yet for many more to happen—the municipal authorities throughout the country may wake up to a sense of their duties and insist upon at least a rigid supervision of all such buildings. Is it too much to hope for the elimination of politics in the appointment of the officers charged with such supervision or the rigid insistence on the part of the authorities that they shall live up to their duties, and look, each one, upon a public office as a public trust, on the conscientious fulfilment of which depend the lives of their fellow creatures.