Campaign to Prevent Serious Loss of Horses’ Lives by Better Fire Protection in Boston— Some Pertinent Editorials in Daily Press

THE protection of horses in stables is a subject that is attracting much attention throughout the country. While the automobile has largely superseded these useful and faithful animals, yet they will find wide employment for years to come. And with this in mind there has recently been in Boston a revival of agitation for better protection of horses in stables from the menace of fire. The newspapers of the city have taken the matter up and the following arc extracts from some of the editorials published on the subject, which contain some good suggestions for chiefs of other cities considering the subject:

On Saturday, December 2, the Boston Traveler printed a series of editorials on the subject, extracts from which follow:

How to Protect Horses from Deadly Stable Fires

The average stable housing horses and cattle is one of the most dangerous fire risks that threatens the community. Filled with hay, straw, chaff, waste, and highly inflammable materials, the stable, once afire, burns rapidly, defies extinction, threatens all adjacent property with disaster, and results too often in the cruel death of the animals housed there. It seems impossible to make stable owners of their own volition provide precautions against fire; they have fought fire preventive measures in the Legislature; and after every horror, while promising reform, greed and inhumanity sectn to triumph.

In one single fire in 1923 the toll paid to proprietary meanness and neglect was eighty-two horses and two human lives; in 1924, eighty-eight horses; and the future holds horror and calamity equally revolting, for stable owners will act only under the strongest compulsion. After the last stable horror public opinion demanded the only reliable remedy—the installation of a sprinkler system; yet when a law was made it was a sickening farce— a watchman, sand and water pails and unobstructed exits. Animals are tied in their stalls; horses are panic-stricken by fires and smothered by smoke; housed on a second story it is almost impossible to guide or drive them down a runway, and few watchmen will risk their skins to save a horse.

Will Massachusetts permit these abhorrent conditions to continue? Does the spirit of mercy still live? Can we permit the needless destruction of the lives of our useful dumb animal friends and look the world in the face?

Let the Legislature end these conditions at once. Let the commonwealth say emphatically that the voices of pity and mercy shall silence the demands of greed and cruelty for good and ever. The good name of the state is at stake.

If the call of humanity and mercy is of more importance than the cry of greed—and every humane person believes it is—a mandatory law compelling the installation of a sprinkler system in stables must be adopted; and every humane society, church body and organization devoted to the betterment of the race and its responsibilities, should be seen and heard by the Legislature in the matter.

Only One Sure Protection

Against fire in large stables, what are the present safeguards? Such things as sand-pails, a second runway, often found impassable; a night man, often a steady smoker. While better than nothing, these are not effective. The continued fires prove it. Is there any effective safeguard? Yes, proved effective again and again: the automatic sprinkler. To this the stablekeepers, organized and unorganized, make objections: expense, freezing, accidental wetdown. They say they would rather take a chance with fire. Yet each of these arguments has been answered by stablekeepers that in their own interests have already installed the sprinklers. And whatever right the owner has to take a chance for himself, he has no right to take a chance for horses and employees.

Working horses, as the law has long assumed, have a right to safe shelter. They seldom get it. The horses are tied by the head at the inner end of the stall. At a little smoke, a little crackling of fire, they take alarm; when the smoke rolls against them hot and the glare of flames strikes the timbering overhead, they grow too wild to manage.

One rainy Saturday afternoon, in a brick building which from the outside looked safe enough, eighty horses—eighty—perished in a few minutes by smoke and flame. Two stablemen died with them. Automatic sprinklers would have stopped that fire where it started.

Some So-Called Safeguards Are Useless

Almost every means suggested for protecting horses from fire in stables is open to some practical objection. For example, many persons believe that if a horse is released immediately upon the breaking out of a fire he will back out of his stall and save himself. But experience shows that he will not do this. His stall is his home, and, when he is alarmed, it is extremely difficult to drag him away from it. The numerous devices for unfastening the halter are of little or no use.

Again, many, probably most, fires in stables arc started by men smoking pipes or cigarettes, especially the latter. Therefore prohibit all smoking in stables, establish a severe penalty and there you are! But such a law would not be observed or enforced. It would do more harm than good, I believe, for grooms and others would be hasty and careless in “snapping” away their cigarettes or putting out their pipes, so as to avoid being caught in the unlawful act. Then there are the provisions of law requiring horses to be stabled on the first floor, in certain cases, requiring two exits by runways or otherwise, and requiring that all means of exit shall be used from time to time so that the horses will become accustomed to them. These are all good, but not sufficient. The only real safeguard is the sprinkler system. I have heard it objected that the pipes might leak or burst, and deluge the horses; but experience proves that this does not happen.

The Present Law a Poor Compromise

The fire department has not been motorized so long that the men have forgotten the horse. Every man in the department will fight just as hard and courageously to rescue a horse as he will a human being. They know a horse is man’s friend and deserves a lot of consideration in reference to its welfare. But one experience of hearing the blood-curdling and agonized screams of trapped and burning horses in a stable fire would arouse even the most phlegmatic citizen to demand complete protection for these helpless animals.

The best available protection for horses against deadly stable fires is the automatic sprinkler system. This should be made compulsory. The Boston fire department advocated compulsory installation when the present law was under consideration as a bill. A compromise was reached with the compulsory installation cut out.

It is much easier to remove the potential danger of stable fires than to attempt to remove horses from a blazing inferno. Full protection for the horses in stables will be realized when the public comes to understand that compulsory installation of automatic sprinklers is the only means to that end.

The following extract is from an editorial in the Boston Herald and is well worthy of reprinting as it reflects conditions existing throughout the entire country:

Consider These Horses

Gruesome business yesterday at 361 Warren street: crowds on the sidewalks and clogging the soggy driveway leading to the charred wreck of Marshall’s two-stQry stable. Along the curb, the Ward Company’s dead horse drays. Within the ruins, where the water still dripped, the owner, his men, and a score of drivers without horses, directing or watching the grim proceedings. Out through the mud and embers, half-burned excelsior, blistered wagons, a strong, excited horse was tugging from the debris, at a chain’s length, his dead stable-mates.

Two watchmen had been on duty. The fire alarms had been prompt; the apparatus had come without delay. Two patrolmen had risked their lives in cutting halter ropes. Of the fortyeight horses, all but six had been occupying stalls on the ground floor. There was no question of fifth-floor runways or of hampered fire-fighters. Yet the horses never had a chance. Flames go through a littered stable as through dry cane-brake. The only means of safety lies in the automatic sprinklers that drown fire out as it is starting.

One of our legislative committees gave a hearing a few weeks ago on a bill requiring such sprinklers in all large stables. The bill was urged by the mayor of Boston, the fire commissioner, the chief of the department. Not a voice was raised in opposition, though opponents were present. The advocates of the bill were later given “leave to withdraw.” No one has explained why. The committee knew that in a single fire last summer, in broad daylight, eighty-two horses perished with their hostlers.

How many more of these ghastly fires will be needed to convince the Legislature that it has an undone duty toward horses, hostlers and owners? Everybody must know that the roll of victims already reaches far toward a thousand. The present law has been proved inadequate.

Among those who are endeavoring to obtain proper measures of protection for the horses are Dr. Francis H. Rowley, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; George F. Stebbins, secretary of the Master Teamsters’ Association, Building Commissioner John H. Mahoney, and State Fire Marshal George C. Neal.

(Continued on page 1457)

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Several years ago a committee of citizens undertook the task of securing the desired legislation, but their efforts were thwarted and the present ineffective compromise law was enacted. Horses are still used in large numbers along the Boston waterfront for trucking and around the freight terminals in Charlestown and South Boston as well as at the steamship piers there and in East Boston. For short hauls horses have been found to be more economical than motor trucks and several of the large department stores use horse drawn wagons for delivery of parcels and packages in preference to automobiles.

Similar conditions prevail in other cities and there seems to be no immediate prospect for the elimination of the truck horse in commercial short haul transportation. The great need therefore is for stables built of fireproof construction and as adequately guarded against the fire menace as is the ordinary garage.

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