TOPICS OF THE DAY
THAT ably edited and newsy journal, The Western Fireman of Chicago, began last week its ninth volume. Among our exchanges we know few which can be read with as great profit by those interested in fire protection and fire department matters. It gives us great pleasure to congratulate our contemporary, and to wish it a long continuation of its useful life.
THERE is one young woman in Spring Valley, N. Y., who will suffer from cold feet all her life rather than again take a hot brick to bed with her. She did it the other night, but before morning had a narrow escape from cremation, and only prompt and persevering efforts saved the house from being burned to the ground. It is cruel, though, in the newspapers, to make such a fuss about the occurrence, for who would care to marry a girl whose feet needed a burning house to warm them.
IF this state of things keeps up, the National Association of Fire Engineers will really have to send someone on a missionary tour through southern Europe. Last week it was an old Italian palace, with its priceless art treasures, which succumbed to the flames, and now the cable brings tidings of the total destruction by fire of the Alcazade Palace, a noble pile of masonry, which stood on an eminence overlooking the ancient city of Toledo, Spain, and which had but recently been restored, at a cost of a million dollars. It does not surprise us to hear that, for lack of proper appliances for fighting the fire, the most that the firemen could do was to keep the flames from spreading to the town—in which endeavor, by the way, a score of them were injured—and it does certainly seem time, if these Europeans are too apathetic or ignorant to properly protect their historic edifices against fire, that someone else should stir them up to a sense of their duty to civilization, and, if necessary, show them how to do it.
ONE night last week fire broke out m a nckety, brick faced tinder box known as the “ Brown Block,” at Corning, N. Y. A hydrant stood just before the door, and a hose company promptly ran up and attached to it. The flames could then have been easily quenched by a single stream, but the hydrant was frozen up, and before another could be reached and a line of hose laid, the fire was beyond control. Three buildings were burned with their contents, and the loss reached nearly $70,000—somewhat more, it will be granted, than would have been the cost of putting nonfreezable hydrants in the town.
IN a recent discussion before the Institution of Civil Engineers of England, a very peculiar fact relative to the flow of water through pipes was brought forward by John G. Mair. He stated that he had made a variety of experiments relative to the matter, and found that the resistance in the flow of water through pipes from friction is twenty-five per cent less when the water is at 160 degrees of temperature than when it is fifty-seven degrees. This being a fact, special care should be taken in cold climates to prevent the street mains being reached by frost, for the temperature of the pipes has much to do with the temperature of the water flowing through them.
THE Buffalo Courier tells a story of a newspaper man of that * city that illustrates his presence of mind. He was awakened in a hotel one night by the cry of “ Fire,” and in one spring was out of bed and in the hall, which was filled with smoke. Just ahead of him was a flying figure, clad in white like himself, and running at a 2.10 gait A turn in the long hall and two steps leading to a higher level brought the figure up or rather down, and the same cause precipitated the newspaper man against her. “ Let’s pray,” cried the affrighted woman, as she clasped him by the arm. “ No, let’s run,” was his reply, and putting her once more in the right direction, the lady was soon far ahead, though her rescuer got out in plenty of time. The two never saw each other again.
THE introduction of tiles for roofing purposes is regarded as a decided step in the direction of the best fireproof construction. They are easily applied and comparatively inexpensive. They can be laid on hoop or iron wire rods instead of pantile laths, and when so done are practically indestructible. Slate, under the action of fire (and particularly if water be thrown on it when hot), cracks and flies in all directions, and the draft occasioned through the apertures thus caused increases the flame. Tiles, even when red hot, will still preserve the roof entire. Tiles have another superiority over slate. They are far more picturesque, and when a roof is treated with ornamental and parti-colored tiles, as in Austria and Bavaria and parts of Holland, the effect produced is excellent. It would be well if they could be brought into more general use.
THE fire at Hartford, Conn., on Sunday last, at which Editor Laughton lost his life, was one of the most stubborn which that city has seen for many years, and the whole force of the fire department was required to control it. The burned block was occupied by several retail dealers in furnishing goods, carpets and crockery, and the property loss exceeds $100,000. Frozen hydrants caused a delay of ten minutes in getting water on the flames in the first place, and the streams were then found too weak to break the windows of the upper story, which had to be riddled with pistol balls. The heavy iron gratings on the windows also prevented the firemen from entering the rear of the building until one was finally removed by breaking in the brick walls around the sash. Three women who lived on one of the upper floors narrowly escaped death, being rescued in the nick of time by firemen with an extension ladder.
f’VUR readers of three or four years ago will remember that Cap^ tain George L. Crum, formerly of Engine Company No. 4 of this city, who held high rank among expert and efficient company commanders in this department, resigned his position to accept that of superintendent of the old Mutual Life building on Broadway. The Mutual Life Company having occupied its magnificent new building on Nassau street, and converted its old building into offices, Captain Crum was placed in charge of the whole edifice. So courteous has been his treatment of the tenants of the building and so able his administration of its affairs, that on New Year’s day the tenants united in presenting him with a handsome testimonial, signed by them all, and bound in Russia leather. The presentation was a surprise to Captain Crum and at the* same time one that he values most highly.
CROSSING and recrossing each other like cobwebs between windows and cornices, and stretched by the hundred between poles above the streets of our larger cities, the wires of the telegraph, telephone and electric light companies form one of the most troublesome obstacles with which the fireman has to contend, and a standing menace to life and property. Aside from the danger from the electric currents to the lives of the firemen themselves,, hardly a fire occurs on any of the principal streets at which the network of wires does not seriously delay the raising of ladders, or otherwise hinder the efforts of the fire department, thus indirectly aiding the flames in their work of destruction, and frequently preventing the rescue of the inmates of the burning buildings. No one who saw it will ever forget the destruction of the World building in New York, a few years ago, when the poor girls, who had been driven by flame and smoke to the upper windows, jumped, one by one, and were crushed on the pavement below, the firemen, meanwhile, striving in vain to elevate their ladders through the tangled skeins of wire which fenced in the walls. Later, at Buffalo, last December, these same wires were responsible for great loss in property; and, more recently, at the theatre fire in Philadelphia, they acted as a very wall and protection to the flames, harassing the firemen at every point. Already, at Chicago and New York.it has been found feasible to run them below the surface of the streets, and the work of burying them is in progress. What has been done in these cities can be done elsewhere. The wires must come down.
f”NE of the most frequent causes of fire is the defective flue, which is called into operation with the advent of winter, and is fruitful of disasters. An illustration of the carelessness of builders in this respect came to our knowledge a few days ago. A wealthy gentleman occupying a very elegant house in a neighboring city was awakened one night by the smell of smoke which pervaded his house. He soon ascertained that there was fire concealed somewhere between the ceiling and the floor, and, calling in his neighbors, they succeeded after two or three hours’ work in pulling up the floors and tearing down the ceilings, in locating the fire and extinguishing it. It was then discovered that the workmen who had put in the heating furnace had carried one of the hot air pipes out of the furnace laterally to connect with a vertical pipe running up through the ceiling of the house. With the natural stupidity for which some workmen are noted, he had failed to connect the vertical with the horizontal pipe by the required elbow, and, when the fire was started, the hot air from the furnace poured out between the ceiling and the floor above. This continued for some time, finally set fire to the woodwork, and the smoke was created, which, but for its timely discovery, would have caused a disastrous fire. Recently, an inspector of buildings in another city found a place in a large woodworking establishment where the steam pipes passed through several partitions in direct connection with the woodwork. The heat in these had been so great that the wood at each point of contact was charred to the depth of onehalf to three-quarters of an inch, and was ready to burst into a flame at any moment. The old evil of which we have complained so much, of builders permitting floor beams to project into chimnies, still continues, and almost every day fires are reported from these causes. Could the facts be known regarding the majority of fires that are attributed to “ causes unknown,” it would be found that the defects in heating arrangements and in smoke flues are chargeable with these disasters.
HTHE firemen of several cities have distinguished themselves during * the past fortnight by saving a considerable number of persons from death in burning buildings, a task rendered especially difficult and perilous by the extreme cold prevailing, but perhaps the most gallant and determined work of all was done by members of the Chicago Fire Department at the burning of a wooden hotel in that city, the following description of which is given by The Chicago Tribune:
The building filled with smoke so rapidly that many of the inmates were unable to escape. When Marshal Murphy, chief of the fifth battalion, and the district fire apparatus reached the scene there were people at several of the windows screaming for help. Murphy went inside and tried to reach the third floor, but was driven back. He lost the stairway when he got to the second floor and had to jump out of a window. He then went to the rear and with the assistance of Lieut. Quirk of Chemical Company No. 1 and Policeman Edward Cullen climbed on to a shed and shinned up a scantling to a third-story window where there were a man and a woman. He handed the woman down to Quirk and Cullen ; returned and got the man out, letting him slide down. Murphy then went to the adjoining building, crawled through a window, and found a woman in a semi-unconscious Condition. He got her out, but in sliding down the scantling fell, struck on the shed, and rolled to the ground. He was not hurt, and, luckily, served as a cushion for the woman, who also was uninjured. Murphy went into the building once more, and came across two women who were lost in the smoke, and rescued them also. While he was at work in the rear, Captain O’Malley of Truck Company No. 6 and his men rescued two people from the front, and the members of Truck Company No. 2 got out two more. Nobody was burned or suffocated, and Chief Swenie. congratulated the officers and companies named for their prompt work, as the fire was under good headway before they arrived.
C’VERY winter brings us accounts of severe loss of life through railroad accidents, and in many instances, where the cars are wrecked, fire is communicated to them by the stoves used for heating purposes. Railroad managers have recently explained the obstacles in the way of providing proper heating arrangements for cars, which shall work effectually and, at the same time, be safe.. Inventors have been at work upon this problem for many years, and have been unable to find as yet anything more satisfactory than the ordinary stove that does not present complications that are insurmountable. This being the case, railroad managers should be required by law to provide means for extinguishing fires that may occur in this way, and have each car supplied with these necessary appliances. Chemical extinguishers could be utilized with good effect, and small hand pumps in portable tanks of water, or chemically prepared water, would also be effective. True, there would be danger of the destruction of these appliances by collision, but if every car of a train were equipped with them, it would scarcely be possible that they would all be destroyed and those left uninjured would render effective service in putting out the fire and saving the lives of the passengers. In the recent wreck that occurred in Ohio, some of the passengers were jammed in the debris of the cars and roasted to death in the sight of other passengers, whose efforts for their release were unavailing. Had some simple apparatus for playing water upon the fire and upon these imprisoned passengers, been available, these lives would undoubtedly have been saved. Congress has passed a law requiring all steam vessels to carry certain fire extinguishing apparatus, and the effort was made at one time to have a similar law passed requiring the railroad companies to make similar provision. We believe it failed, however, in becoming a law, and the consequence is that these railroad trains, freighted with human lives, are exposed to these disasters daily and no provision made to protect the lives of the passengers. Both fire extinguishers and hand pumps are recognized as valuable means of fire extinguishment, and they are so simple in construction and manipulation that any one can use them.
A/E have more than once referred to the fact that the cheapness * * of insurance makes many propertyowners more indifferent than they would otherwise be to the need of adequate fire protection. As an illustration of this, The Cincinnati Price Current cites the case of Secretary Hills of the National Association of Fire Engineers, who has for years resided in Maplewood, a suburb of Cincinnati. Seeing the defenceless condition of his property and that of his neighbors, against the dangers of fire, Mr. Hills at once organized a department and was made chief. Anxious to have a good equipment—better than could be had by voluntary contribution— he made a move for a tax to furnish the necessary outfit, not dreaming for a moment but it would receive the unanimous support of the citizens. Upon appealing to a large propertyholder to aid him in the movement, he was told by the aforesaid large propertyholder that he was opposed to a fire department, and especially to a tax to furnish one. He insured all his property up to its full value, and did not care if it did burn. There may be others in that and other suburbs holding like views, and that may be the reason why so few of them are supplied with fire apparatus. If companies would require policyholders to bear one-fourth of the loss by any fire in the suburbs, the suburbs generally would soon be equipped with proper fire defenses.
IN another column will be found a description of a fatal and * destructive fire, caused at Youngstown, Ohio, some days ago, by an explosion of natural gas. Owing to the force with which this gas issues from the earth, the danger of leakage from the mains and connections is particularly great, and can be guarded against only by exercise of the greatest skill and care in the laying of pipe and the setting of fixtures. According to a Western exchange, however, an invention has just been introduced in Pittsburgh, Pa., which promises to prove of great value in lessening the danger of explosions and fires, caused by leakage or by the overheating of registers or chimneys. The description given says that it is an automatic arrangement for detecting waste and stoppage of natural gas. It is a combination of three devices, which will act separately or together. One completely shuts off the gas, by closing a valve in the main service pipe, in case the gas should give out or the pressure decrease. The second regulates the pressure in the pipes to the stoves or grates, if it should suddenly or gradually increase in the street main, and the third part sets a magnetic bell in motion in case of a fire or accident, and the gas is shut off by the first-mentioned device. This bell can be located at any distance from the building where the regulator is used. Some device of this character should certainly be adopted wherever natural gas is relied upon for heat or light. Those using the gas can afford to go to some expense to prevent fires, and should be compelled to do so. Since this paragraph was put in type, the telegraph reports anorher explosion of natural gas, at Pittsburgh, Pa., by which Chief Engineer Evans and several other members of the fire department were more or less severely injured.
A [E have seldom been called upon to record a sadder case than * * the death of Thomas R. Laughton, who was suffocated in a burning house, at Hartford, Conn., last Sunday. Laughton was a man but thirty-four years of age. As a boy he took the greatest interest in fire department matters, and afterward served for several years as a member of Stillman Hose Company and Steamer Company No. 4 of Hartford. Developing considerable talent as a writer for the press, he left the fire department to become city editor of the ‘Hartford Times, occupying this position, as well as that of clerk of the Board of Fire Commissioners, at the time of his death. On Sunday afternoon, during a heavy snowstorm, a fire broke out in a brick block on Main street. Among the first persons to arrive at the scene was Mr. Laughton. Owing to frozen hydrants, the fire department was delayed about ten minutes in getting to work, and meanwhile Laughton, unobserved, entered the building, presumably to find out the cause of the fire. Suddenly an explosion took place, the store window was blown into the street, the flames burst out behind him, and, unable to return as he had come, he rushed to the back of the store, only to find the windows heavily barred with iron. Here, fifteen minutes later, he was found, lying on his face, stone dead, having been suffocated by the dense smoke which filled the room. Mr. Laughton was very highly esteemed in journalistic and fire circles in Hartford, and was wellknown to leading firemen throughout the country. He leaves three children and a wife, who is the daughter of Chief Engineer Eaton of the fire department.