TOPICS OF THE DAY.
IN consequence of the great increase in the number of chimney fires, the Paris Prefect of Police has issued fresh instructions to all the inspectors to report to him all such fires occurring in their districts. A special architect has also been appointed to examine every house where such fires occur, in order to see if the owners should not be obliged to make structural alterations. The police inspectors are also instructed to point out that chimneys (particularly where wood fires are burnt in the grate) should be swept at least once a month, and that fires occurring through foul chimneys involve fines ranging from 50 francs to 500 francs. The idea of holding individuals personally responsible for damage occasioned by their carelessness or negligence, is the proper one. If carried into effect in this country, what a big haul of fines there would be.
RECENTLY a very destructive fire occurred in an apartment house in Boston, and during the present week the Glendon Hotel was set on fire six times in the space of twenty-four hours. This is enterprising and persistent work on the part of the “fire bugs,” but the Firemen defeated them every time, extinguishing each fire with comparatively little damage. It remains to be seen, however, which will come out ahead, the incendiaries or the Firemen. It is reported that the incendiary in this instance was a girl about twelve years of age, who had seen some exhibitions of a fire escape, and wished to sec it tested in actual practice at a fire. No doubt she wished to be one of the imperiled victims, and make a heroic descent from the top story of the hotel on a cord and pulley.
CHIEF MICHAEL F. REEVES, of the Third Battalion, New York City, has a remarkably intelligent trick dog named “Ned.” Ned is a Yorkshire terrier and Chief Reeves knows of no dog like him in this country. His hair is long and silken, measuring fully nine inches. He is very much attached to his owner and readily obeys every command received from him. We recently had the pleasure of seeing Ned, at Chief Reeves’ behest, waltz on his hind feet with all the grace of Terpsichore, sit on his haunches, lie flat on his back with his eyes shut, to all appearances fast asleep, kneel down with his front paws on the back of a chair and his eyes closed in a most devout attitude, and doing a number of other tricks. The Chief was not long ago offered $200 for his treasure, but he feels that the friendship and attachment of Ned is worth more than that to him. Two or three days after he refused this offer Ned fell violently sick and his owner was in a paroxysm of despair for some time, thinking he was destined to lose both money and dog. The dog evinces a remarkable degree of comprehension in time of fire, though he is never allowed to leave the house. He can be seen any day capering about Chief Reeves’ office at the house of Engine Company No. 30.
THE most interesting, instructive and practical feature of the New York State Convention, at Rochester, last fall, was the competitive drill betweeen several companies belonging to different Departments. Thousands of interested spectators flocked to the scene to witness the display, and they were favored with an exhibition that was most gratifying. The several companies executed a great variety of marching evolutions with a precision that would have done credit to veteran soldiers, and it was admitted by all that this was the attraction of the gathering. Not only are competitive drills attractive and showy on parade, but they are of great benefit to the men, teaching them the importance of concerted action and the value of co-operating one with another in their work. One brave man is a power in himself, but when one is multiplied by twenty or fifty, each man thoroughly trained to assist his neighbor, that power is wonderfully increased. Another point in favor of competitive drills is that it furnishes a motive to keep companies together, stimulates them to attend company meetings, while the desire to excci excites their ambition and gives them an interest in their organizations that makes better Firemen of them. We know of nothing better calculated to keep up the interest in company organizations than competitive drills, for there is not only the good to be attained, but there is always lots of fun in it. We are glad to learn that Wallace H. Smith, Secretary of the State Association, is making arrangements for a competitive drill at the coming convention at Kingston in August. The details of the competition are not yet announced, but we have no doubt but the arrangements tvill be worthy of Mr. Smith and the Association. Hook and Ladder Company No. i of Auburn is also making arrangements for a competitive drill to take place in that city July 4. Several “ crack” companies are expected to participate, and the Auburn boys count upon having a lively time. The more of this kind of work we have the better for the Fire Service.
AT the last meeting of the Massachusetts State Firemen’s Association a committee was appointed to prepare a bill to present to the legislature providing for the adoption of a uniform coupling in every Department in that State. The bill was prepared, and on being introduced was referred to the Committee on Manufactures, whose chairman promised to give it his personal attention. This he failed to do, however, and consequently the bill was lost by a tie vote. The opposition to it arose from a misunderstanding, it being asserted that it was in the interests of a certain manufacturer, which was not the case. If a standard thread is required by law it can be applied to any coupling, and there was nothing in the bill to prevent any manufacturer from making couplings in accordance with its requirements. The principal thing to be gained by a standard coupling is uniformity in the cutting of the thread, so that when one Department is called upon to assist another there will be no difficulty in connecting hose. The National Association has recommended such a thread, and the action of the Massachusetts Association was in conformity with this recammendation. Well, we wish them better luck next time. There will be another session of the legislature next winter, and we have no doubt that the bill can then be passed.
BOTH bills before the Legislature providing for an increased water supply for New York city are likely to pass the legislature. The one contemplating an extension of the Croton system, at an expense of from $20,000,000 to $50,000,000, is most favored by the politicians, who have made several attempts to tinker it and thereby extend the facilities it affords for jobbery and favoritism. The Ramapo plan, which proposes to add 50,000,000 gallons of water daily to our present supply within two years at a cost of $6,000,000, will, doubtless, be passed out of deference to the wishes of the merchants and underwriters who have endorsed it most emphatically, but the legislators who will vote for it have little idea that it will amount to anything. The bill, in our judgment, leaves too much to the discretion of city officials who are known to be promoters of the more extravagant Croton scheme; and they will have it in their power to kill all attempts to carry out the Ramapo plan. If this bill could have been substituted for the other, there would have been some hope of the scheme becoming a practical success, but with the passage of both bills, politicians, lobbyists, city officials and interested contractors will do all in their power to defeat it and to pfomote the Croton scheme that gives opportunity for a bigger steal. Had the Ramapo bill been more mandatory in its character, saying that certain officers of the city must do certain things instead of leaving them a loophole to crawl out of by intimating that they may do these things under certain contingencies, it might have been possible to compel them to take the required action. As it is, they seem to have the power to defeat the plan by simple inaction. If this is so, the Ramapo plan will get the cold shoulder, while the Croton scheme will be pushed with such energy as is consistent with getting the greatest amount of “ pickings ” out of it. With this bill as a basis to work on, the jobbers will have as good a thing as they did in the Court House job, and the taxpayers can make up their minds to pay at least $50,000,000 for the proposed increase to the water supply, and to wait six or eight years before getting the additional water. Still, the water must be had, and it is better to submit to the robbery contemplated, than to attempt to do without it much longer.
THE recent exhibition of the Life Saving Corps in this city attracted much attention, and has elicited more comment than is usually accorded to an event of this character. William Blaikie, a lawyer and a well-known writer on physical culture, whose connection with boat racing will be remembered, addressed a letter to one of the daily papers on the subject, from which we take the following extract:
“Of the eight hundred and forty or more men in the Fire Department the thirteen who recently did creditable work at the exhibition drill at French’s hotel are pronounced fit for the duties of the Life Saving Corps. But why not have the other 827 men fit as well ? Thirteen spread pretty thinly in a city of as many hundred thousand inhabitants, and must often have miles to go to get to a fire, perhaps to two or three at once. Of the two duties of the Firemen, saving life and saving property, the first is infinitely the more important, yet here seem to be only a baker’s dozen out of the whole force who are conceded to be equal to the demands of the chief branch of their work. We laugh at the Constantinople way of managing fires, but are we not in this most important particular as far behind what we should be ? Put in every engine house even fifty dollars’ worth of well chosen gymnastic apparatus, aimed especially to develop power of arm, shoulder and back, and require each man to drill out of their many idle hours even fifteen minutes each day, under a competent master, and the efficiency of the force in saving life would, in less than a year, be increased too per cent. Philip Kirchner did a brave act a few weeks ago when in the night he jumped from a burning roof across an alley four or five feet wide to a neighboring roof with a frightened woman in his arms. Can even one man in each company jump djat far, even right on the floor, with a t30-pound man in his arms ? A Fireman the other day clasped his arms around the one who was attached to the rope at the exhibition and the two slid safely to the street. But how many of those who would be rescued at a fire would have arms and nerve enough to hold up their own weight in such a position throughout such a ride ? The Fireman must practically have strength enough for both. Yet how many have > Men train and get it for equally difficult feats—for parade or money. Soldiers drill assiduously every day, often for hours together. In all other vocations men must be qualified for all the duties of their callings or give way to those who are. Why should not the same rule hold good in a department which practically holds our lives and property in its hands ?”
Mr. Blaikie makes the mistake of assuming that what has thus far been only an experiment is a perfected system. The Firemen cannot all be instructed in this peculiar life saving drill in a day or a month, and it is but a few weeks since Mr. Hoell, their instructor, arrived here and entered upon his duties. The Fire Commissioners have it in contemplation to build up from this small beginning a regular training school for Firemen, and require that evefy applicant for a position shall graduate therein before receiving an appointment to the regular force. The men already in the Department will have their share of training in due course of time, but they cannot all be taught at once without neglecting their other duties and jeopardizing the safety of the city. But Mr. Blaikie is unquestionably right in asserting that every engine house in this and every other city should be provided with gymnastic apparatus and the men required to exercise a small portion of every day. It need not cost $10 to provide the necessary appliances provided the men take sufficient interest in the matter to aid in doing the work. A little rope, iron and lumber will suffice, for in every company there are enough mechanics to do the work. In no line of business is there a greater necessity for steady nerve, strong muscles, and a cool head that will give one command of every fibre of his body in a moment of danger. These are necessary for self-preservation to say nothing of the advantage it gives in aiding others who are in peril. At every fire that occurs our Firemen encounter perils to life and limb, many of which cannot be anticipated, but must be met instantly as they present themselves. If they are trained to have complete control of their muscles, and their daily exercise tends to develop their strength, there is little danger of their being stampeded or demoralized, but may be trusted to look out for their own personal safety. We have heretofore recommended gymnasiums for every engine house, and we are glad to have our advice seconded by so able an authority as Mr. Blaikie.