TOPICS OF THE DAY.
YAZOO CITY, MISS., is evidently not a healthy place for incendiaries. Two of these were caught there the other day and brought to trial; then, after their guilt had been clearly shown, were taken away by the citizens and without more ado promptly hanged.
THE Wisconsin legislature has passed a bill providing that any architect who prepares plans for factories and public buildings and fails to design outward swinging doors and fire escapes, shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100. This is certainly a move in the right direction, and similar laws should be passed and enforced in every State in the Union.
TYUR correspondent, “V. C.,” who criticised the article in FIRE AND WATER of February 12 by Charles A. Hague, and who was replied to by another correspondent, “ Hydraulics,” says that he does not consider that the latter correspondent answered his questions, and awaits a reply from Mr. Hague. Such reply was given in our issue of last week by Mr. Hague over his own signature. Another communication from “ V. C.” is now in order.
FROM the report of Chief Engineer Burrus of the Columbus (Ga.) Fire Department, some system of filtration would appear to be badly needed in that city. The Columbus Water-works Company, he says, “continues to furnish an ample supply of mud and water for fire service from their four-inch mains. At the fire of March 23, engine No. 5 pumped mud for fully half an hour, and in consequence was sent to the shops for repairs; and again on December 26, the same engine pumped muddy water for twenty minutes, and the force of water from the hydrant was not sufficient to reacli the roof of Mr. Wilcox’s residence, hence its partial destruction. In my humble opinion, if the matter is not remedied, the result will be that you will have to purchase a new supply of steamers in a short time.”
IIAVERHILL, MASS., is reported as contemplating the placing of its fire alarm telegraph under the charge of a special committee, consisting of the Mayor, president of the common council, and of a superintendent under them. This is backward progress with a vengeance. The fruit of years of experience in our larger cities has been that the fire alarm system must be under the direct control of the head of the fire department to secure the best results, and this is now the general rule throughout the country. No other plan has ever been found to work propeily.
GRATES in second stories are usually less safe than those below, as the narrower joists give little room for the boxing of the hearth. Grates should be examined carefully to determine whether the back of the flue is simply a four-inch wall, which is always dangerous at the back of a grate in a frame house. This can be determined by measuring the distance the breast extends out from the wall; sometimes the breast runs through flush with face of wall in next room; if so, calculate accordingly. Proper attention paid to flues and all connections therewith would prevent many fires.
XAfHA’Y narrowly escaped being a repetition of the White River Junction disaster took place in New Jersey last Tuesday, and again the railroad stove made its fatal mark. A train on the Pemberton and Hightstown Railroad struck a broken rail on a bridge and was thrown down an embankment. One of the cars was then destroyed by fire, the mail agent burned to death, and the conductor rescued from beneath a burning stove barely in time to save his life, nine other persons sustaining painful injuries. Several legislatures now have before them bills prohibiting the use of stoves in railroad cars. Shall we ever see one of them become law?
IN line with our remarks of last week concerning the need of more fireboats in our larger seaboard cities, are the words of Chief Engineer Shay of New York to a reporter of one of the daily newspapers:
The city of New York is especially open to danger by a great fire. Its tremendous water front surrounding the whole city is made up of wooden piers often three blocks in length, and full of the most combustible material. To protect this adequately there should be at least three good boats, one on each river and one at the battery. In case of one of these boats being laid up for repairs, it would then be possible to cover the water front a little better than when only one boat is on duty, as on Monday.
THE president of a Western insurance company says that he has no patience with the men who claim that it is a waste of money to fit up factories and large buildings with appliances for extinguishing fires. Experience teaches us that fire losses can be materially reduced by making preparations to take care of a fire when one breaks out. It has become a custom with the owners of large mills in the New England States to ignore the regular companies and to insure themselves by a mutual agreement, the chief condition of which is that means for putting out fires shall be put in their factories. Statistics show that the losses are reduced onehalf. In the accomplishment of this singularly successful result there is no mystery. It centres mainly upon the self-protection by the propertyowners themselves, which these mutuals imperatively demand. They require certain appliances of approved character and quality, both for the prevention and the extinguishment of fire, and careful and constant adherence to certain well-defined safeguards. Owners of factories will spend money in a good cause if they spend it for good appliances for the extinguishment of fire. The best way to make the investment wisely is to solicit the cooperation and advice of the nearest fire department.
THE French law requiring compensation to be made to neighbors and others for consequential damage by fire is a fruitful source of litigation. One of the recent questions before the courts arose in the following manner: In order to extinguish a fire and prevent its spread to other property in the vicinity, a vineyard was entered by the firemen and considerable damage was done, for which the owner sought compensation. The company insuring the destroyed building repudiated this claim, and was held to be correct in so doing. It has been decided that in such circumstances claims for damages must be made upon the corporation or other body having control over the engines.
WHAT might have been a serious catastrophe was averted in Philadelphia last Saturday by the coolness of Wilson Barrett and Miss Eastlake, a member of his company. They were playing before a large audience in the Chestnut street Opera House, when a candle fell from one of the candelabra to the stage, and some idiot raised an alarm of fire. In a moment the whole house was on its feet, the women screaming, and a rush for the doors was beginning, when Miss Eastlake and Mr. Barrett stepped to the footlights, and by means of reassuring words and gestures succeeded in re-establishing order. The actor afterwards scolded his hearers roundly for their cowardice, and was heartily applauded. So much for presence of mind.
THE regular yearly inundation of the water-works at Cincinnati is in progress. For a month the Ohio river has been so high as to prevent access to the pumps ; as a consequence, several of them have become disabled, and at last accounts but 15,000,000 gallons of water were being pumped daily. Were the usual consumption of 25,000,000 gallons a day permitted, the reservoirs would be emptied in forty-eight hours, and all possible means are being resorted to to check waste, even the hydraulic elevators having been forced to stop running. The river is reported to be gradually falling, but every rain storm checks the decline, and the pumps cannot be repaired while the depth exceeds thirty-five feet. One serious fire would probably cause a water famine.
THE town of Milton, Mass., has a very inadequate fire department ; in fact, it has none at all worthy the name, a single chemical engine being depended upon for the protection of 8040 acres of land, 610 dwellings and other valuable buildings. “ But for the timely assistance of the Boston Department,” says The Standard, “ a fire that occurred there this week would have caused serious damage. Milton is one of the wealthiest and most intelligent suburbs of Boston ; but its defenseless condition would seem to indicate that prudence is not the ruling trait of its inhabitants.” The fact is, that some years ago the authorities of Boston warned Milton that it need expect no more aid from their fire department unless the town showed some disposition to help itself. The purchase of this one chemical engine was the sop which the Miltonians threw to Cerberus. This is not an isolated case. In hundreds of towns throughout the country the means of fire protection are ridiculously inadequate, and serve merely to lull the inhabitants into a state of fancied security. Immunity from the dangers of fire can only be purchased at the cost of plenty of water, plenty of apparatus and a properly organized fire department. It would be only just were Boston to refuse to let a man or engine again go to Milton until the town provided itself with a fire extinguishing equipment properly proportioned to its needs.
CONCERNING the prevention of cotton fires, of late so prevalent, Chief Shay also makes the following sensible suggestions :
The national government ought really to take the matter of fire prevention in hand. When $120,000,000 worth of property is destroy! d during a year, it is time something should be done. There should be some safer way of packing cotton than at present, and why could not the government insist on having every bale encased in fireproof “ jackets,” as has been suggested in some quarters? At present the cotton is loosely packed with a covering of bagging only, and in shipment by rail is constantly exposed to danger from the lodgment of sparks. These jackets would cost something at first, but could be used over and over again, and in the end would hardly cost as much as the fires which are now constantly occurring.
HAD success attended the efforts of the scoundrels who last week attempted the burning of a Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s ferryboat at Jersey City and a horse railroad office at Newark, we should probably have had to record the death of a number of innocent human beings. In the first instance, an infernal machine had been placed beneath a seat in the ladies’ cabin of the boat, and but for the timely discovery of the flames by a boat hand, the cabin would have been quickly filled by the large crowd of passengers then pressing on board—with what results can readily be imagined. In the other case, the building was a rickety tinder box, tenanted by a number of families, and surrounded by other inflammable structures. By great good fortune this fire, too, was discovered, and checked in its incipiency, and a disastrous and probably fatal conflagration avoided. It is asserted that a deeplaid plot to destroy railroad property exists in Jersey City, and that the authorities have already a searching investigation on foot. It is certainly to be hoped that before long they will succeed in catching and punishing some one of the criminals. These outrages are becoming too uncomfortably frequent.
SAYS The Boston Globe: “ There is a certain period in the history of every fire department which gives it its best reputation both at home and abroad. In this city that period was from the close of the war up to the advent of fire commissioners; in Philadelphia it was just prior to and during the war, under Chiefs Downey and Davy Lyle; their volunteer ambulance service during the war gave them a world-wide reputation. New York’s bestknown fire department days were from 1850 to 1865, under Chiefs Carson, Harry Howard and John Decker, when the force of the city was volunteer and hand engines in their best days. The history of that department during this period is unequaled in the annals of the fire service of the world.” We fear that our contemporary has let its sympathies run away with its judgment. Good work as the old volunteer fire department of New York did in its day, we doubt if its greatest admirers would claim for it the efficiency possessed by the present paid force, thoroughly disciplined and supplied as it is with the newest and finest apparatus to be procured for money. The world does move, and the theory and practice of fire extinguishment move with it.
NEW ENGLAND has been sorely plagued by incendiaries during the past fortnight, Providence, R. I., Rockland, Me., and Malden and Brockton, Mass., having all been honored with their attentions. Brockton is getting a bad reputation for fires of incendiary or doubtful origin, and the officials should make a thorough investigation into the details of this last one. The water supply system of the city is also reported to be defective. The Western Fireman remarked last week that Brockton had a brand new Silsby steamer, and the fire fiend had “ slunk away in abject fear.” He seems to have recovered from his fright, and slunk back again with pretty considerable rapidity. Rockland, Me., has also suffered from one or two fires weekly ever since last July. Nothing will check incendiarism so surely as a course of systematic fire inquests.
THE, National Association of Fire Engineers is to hold its next convention at Atlanta, Ga., in September. The direct route to reach there is by the Western and Atlantic railroad, which is known as the Great Kennesaw. This line of road runs through ground rendered historic by numerous battles fought during the war. We have received from Secretary Hills a very elegant pamphlet entitled “ The Mountain Campaigns in Georgia,” with a beautiful decorated cover, and containing many artistic illustrations of battle scenes, showing how the various battles were fought in the mountains of Georgia. It will be a great treat to firemen, many of whom participated in those struggles, to revisit the scenes of those campaigns, and Secretary Hills proposes to make arrangements whereby they can reach Atlanta by this route. General Sherman says of the Western and Atlantic railroad that “the Atlanta campaign of 1864 would have been impossible without this road. All our battles were fought for its possession. * * * The scenery will fully repay every lover of nature’s beauty and sublimity, and every foot of it should be sacred ground, because it was once moistened by patriotic blood. Over 100 miles of it was fought a continuous battle of too days, during which was heard the incessant booming of the cannon and the sharp crack of the rifle.”
THE term of Fire Commissioner Smith expires on the 1st of May, and we are informed that a vigorous effort is being made by him to secure his reappointment. When Mr. Smith was appointed originally, it was supposed that he would look out for the interests of the fire underwriters as far as possible. The fact is, however, that his appointment was substantially secured by Commissioner Purroy, president of the board, and that Mr. Smith has been and is simply the shadow and echo of Mr. Purroy, both in the matters of detail regarding the department, and in furthering the political interests of Mr. Purroy. Neither Mr. Purroy nor Mr. Mr. Smith are practical firemen, and it is an outrage that they should have the sole direction of so important a branch of the city government. The combination between these two entirely overrides the influence of Commissioner Croker, who, while also a politician, has the advantage of a personal experience as a fireman, having been a member of the old volunteer department in its most active days. He is a mere cypher, however, in the board at the present time, owing to the combination between Smith, a Republican, and Purroy, a Democrat. Mr. Purroy is autocratic in his ideas, and would, at any time, sacrifice the interests of the department to promote his personal or political ends, and his administration has so demoralized the department that the force has come to be known as Purroy men and Purroy’s opponents, the places of the latter being wanted for Purroy’s political friends. While all this wire-pulling is going on for places in the department, Mr. Smith sits there like a bump on log, raising no protest, but aiding Mr. Purroy in his efforts to convert the fire department into a vast factional, political machine. While it is right and proper that the underwriters should have representation in the Board of Fire Commissioners, their representative should be a man who will take an active part in its administration, and not merely one who rattles around in a place that he is not comjjetent to filL We understand that some underwriters have signed a petition in favor of the reappointment of Mr. Smith. If this be true, they have done a most unwise and injudicious thing, and we trust that Mayor Hewitt will look into the matter himself, and make an appointment that will be creditable alike to his administration and to the interests of the city.
THE fire losses for February amounted to $7,500,000, or about $500,000 more than the average February loss for the past thirteen years. There were sixty-seven fires during the month whose reported destructiveness was between $ro,ooo and $20,000; twenty-two between $20,000 and $30,000; eighteen between $30,000 and $50,000; eleven between $50,000 and $75,000; five between $75,000 and $100,000; seven between $100,000 and $200,000, and seven ranging between $200,000 and $850,000. With a fair allowance for smaller fires and those unrecorded, the reasonable estimate is that $7,500,000 worth of property went into the ash heap last month. Quite exceptionally, New York city and vicinity contributed to the February losses by reason of three large fires—on Broadway, Staten Island and the Morgan steamship pier. Taking January and February together, fire losses throughout the country have been unusually heavy. The insurance companies know this to their cost. It is time for property-owners to wake up to the fact that, for their own protection, they should carefully look after their own interests and exercise that vigilance over their own property and its surroundings which will prevent their being suddenly called upon to face the disagreeable and costly hazard of being burned out of house and home. The large fires in February, where the reported losses were $100,000 or more, were as follows: Yale, B. C., $100,000; Rochester, N. Y., $roo,ooo; St. Louis, Mo., $250,000; Middletown, Conn., $too,ooo; Paterson, N. J., $250,000; Augusta, Ga., $185,000; Petersburg!), Va., $250,000; Haverhill, Mass., $100,000; Tompkinsvilte, S. I., $850,000; Nebraska City, Neb., $175,000; Baltimore, Md., $250,000; Hannibal, Mo., $200,000; New York city, $150,000 and $580,000. These fourteen fires swept away $3,340,000 worth of property, which is more than forty per cent of the entire fire waste chargeable to February, 1887.
TJOR several years this paper has persistently advocated the introduction of a system of salt water supply for this city, especially for fire, sanitary and mechanical uses. The Holly Manufacturing Company, that introduced the system of direct pumping some time ago, offered for a very moderate sum to erect pumping stations at various [joints along the river fronts, to lay street mains and put in hydrants at frequent intervals, and to provide by this system an unlimited supply of salt water to be used for any purposes for which it is suitable. The Rose street fire, last week, demonstrated the necessity that exists for a better water supply in this city. There are large districts densely populated or filled with manufacturing industries where the street mains are inadequate and the water pressure insufficient to deliver a stream at the hydrants. Repeated inspections have shown that many hydrants, on being opened, were absolutely dry, flowing only at night, when the manufacturing industries are closed and the demand upon the street mains lessened thereby. Several years ago we printed a diagram showing how the Holly Company proposed to protect the central business part of the city by this salt water system, showing that hydrants were interspersed so thickly, that fifty or sixty streams could be concentrated on any given point with sufficient pressure to make a satisfactory fire stream of each. With such a salt water system to supply fire protection, for washing the streets, for manufacturing purposes, for use in closets and the waste of livery stables, hotels, etc., there would be no necessity for extending a Croton system for many years to come. The Croton supply is amply adequate for all domestic purposes, and if the system was once relieved from the demands of the manufacturing industries and from the waste that prevails, there would be an abundance of pure Croton available in every building in the city, whereas at present it is the exception when it flows in any building in the business part of the city above the first floor. But the politicians had made up their minds that the Croton system must be enlarged and extended, and secured legislation to this end, whereby the city will be compelled to expend anywhere from $30,000,000 to $60,coo,000 to secure an additional supply of water, that might have been supplied by the salt water system for one-tenth the amount. Other cities, however, located where the water supply is inexhaustible, might take warning by the wasteful extravagance of New York, and, by availing themselves of the direct pumping system, secure an auxiliary supply of either salt or fresh water at a very low cost, that would serve all purposes except those merely of a domestic nature.