To Reduce the Speed of Apparatus

To Reduce the Speed of Apparatus

At Rockford, Ill., a judgment of $500 was obtained for the death of a man accidently killed by being run over while Fire Marshal Frank E. Thomas was speeding to a fire. The judge ruled that fire department apparatus was subject to the same speed regulations as other motor vehicles governed by the state. Fire Marshal Thomas immediately conferred with members of the Fire and Police Commissioners of Rockford and then issued the following order on speed limits:

All officers and members of the Fire Department are ordered to so drive and operate the apparatus of the Fire Department when responding to an alarm of fire so as to comply with the statute regarding the speed limit on all motor vehicles, which is as follows:

Not to exceed 10 miles per hour in the business districts ;

Not to exceed 6 miles per hour when turning corners;

Not to exceed 15 miles per hour in the closely built up residence districts;

And not to exceed 20 miles per hour in the sparsely built up residence districts.

By the ruling of Judge Frost in the Circuit Court that it is prima facie evidence of negligence if you exceed the speed limits, you may be held personally liable.

Respectfully yours,


Fire Marshal.

The “Star” in commenting on the verdict says: “This action taken by the fire marshal to insure conformity with the laws is necessitated by the precedent established by the trial just concluded, but it produces conditions which are a serious menace to the welfare of the city of Rockford, and will also involve other principal cities of Illinois. The killing of a man in a deplorable accident which also put the life of the fire marshal in serious jeopardy resulted in a suit for damages which served to bring to public attention the broad workings of a statute which has been in force since 1911, but whose wisdom had not hitherto been questioned. Any damages resulting from an accident participated in by a piece of the motor apparatus of the Rockford department which exceeds the speed limits detailed in the general order of the chief are chargeable to the individual driving the machine and it is, consequently, unfair to ask or expect the firemen of the local department to attempt to reach fires promptly at a possible cost to themselves of large amount. The property loss likely to occur through the slow response of the department to alarms is not the only feature of the serious situation now presented. Human life is frequently at stake and swift measures for rescue of persons in burning structures are often imperative. The city of Rockford has expended large sums of money for apparatus of modern design and the organization of a department whose efficiency is a source of pride to every citizen and is recognized throughout the land. Most of the department’s effectiveness, whereby the annual fire loss of the city has been greatly reduced, with a corresponding reduction in rates of insurance, has been due to what is called the “squad wagon” which has carried a select body of men with an equipment calculated for quick service to the most remote sections of the city with a celerity which has made it possible for them to extinguish fires which threatened large property interests in their incipiency. This will no longer be possible.” These remarks will apply to any fire department in the United States and it is reasonable to expect that chiefs must be able to exercise their own judgment as to the speed to be used in going to fires. Certain it is that with the elimination of the horse better results are expected in reaching fires than could possibly be when that slow method of propulsion had to be used.

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