TOPICS OF THE DAY
THE German insurance companies were concerned in 1883 in 24,238 fires. The number of incendiary fires was not so large, but the number of suspected cases and of carelessness showed no lessening. No fewer than 1176 cases were caused by lightning; matches were credited with 717; defective construction, 916; spontaneous combustion, 183.
A WESTERN paper remarks that if underwriters, insurance superintendents and legislators would devote some of the attention, time and talent to devising means for the prevention of fires that they are now wasting on schemes to prevent the citizen of his natural and inherent right to insure with whom he pleases, they would be rendering a far greater public service and placing themselves in a position to be looked upon as having enlightened and businesslike views instead of narrow-minded prejudices.
SOME days ago our New Orleans correspondent, W. E. Dodsworth, was presented with a handsome testimonial by prominent firemen in New Orleans as a mark of appreciation for the good work done by THE JOURNAL and as a recognition of personal esteem. The gift was a handsome gold badge of most artistic and appropriate design. It is described at length in our New Orleans letter. Hon. I.. N. Marks, president of the Firemen’s Charitable Association, sprang the surprise on Mr. Dodsworth, who was much* taken aback, but responded modestly and gracefully we are sure.
A FIRE and great loss of life was happily averted by ready presence of mind in Vienna, Austria. An immense, concert saloon was crowded with people listening to the songs of the performers, without knowing that a terrible catastrophe was being averted by the personnel of the establishment. In consequence of overheating, the wooden partition wall of a room in the basement became ignited ” and suddenly threatened to envelop the building in flames. Some of the waiters quickly armed themselves with fifty siphons, others brought a quantity of bottles of soda water, of which a large supply was on hand, and the incipient flames were happily quickly subdued thereby. When the fire company arrived the fire was about quenched.
THE following occurrence forcibly reminds one of the. doings of the mediaeval ages: A fire broke out lately in tiie little community of Carpana, near Chiaravalle, Italy, and the neighbors conld have easily quenched it. Butthe venerable curate of the parish appeared at the place of disaster, dressed in surplice and stole, and sought to as suage the flames with holy water and the recital of the litany, driving back the awestruck villagers. Only when the latter perceived that hydrant water would in this instance be more efficacious than holy water, did they step in and turn on the hose and check the progress of the flames. The loss, which originally would have amounted, to a few hundred lires, was finally taxed at the sum of 19,000 lires. Comment is unnecessary.
UNDER the new insurance tax law in Minnesota, it is estimated that the firemen will receive at least $20,000 from the insurance companies, St. Paul and Minneapolis firemen reaping, of course, the lions’ share of this amount. The law provides for appropriating, for the support of the fire department of each city, town, village or other municipal corporation in the State, a part of the tax paid by fire insurance companies upon the premiums received by them in any such city, town or village. Reports from each city or town must be made to the State Insurance Commissioner on or before October 1 of each year to secure the benefits specified, and the Commissioner is required to make annual reports in regard to the condition of the companies and the amount of premiums received by said companies in each of said towns, cities or villages. The State Auditor, at the end of the fiscal year, shall draw his warrant in favor of such cities, towns and villages for an amount equal to one-half of the tax paid by the fire insurance companies upon the premiums by them received in the various cities and towns. The moneys so received by the several cities, towns and villages shall be set apart as a special fund, to be disbursed in the same manner as other funds, for the support and relief of firemen injured or disabled while in the discharge of their duties, and also for the equipment and maintenance of the fire departments. A fire department in any city or town must be organized at least one year before the filing of the certificate required by law in order to be entitled to any proportion of the fund specified. Departments—to come under the provisions of the act—must have at least one steam, hand or other fire engine, or hook and ladder truck or hose cart.
An. inhabitable buildings should have scuttle-holes or some means of exit to the roof. According to the last census made by the uniformed force of the New York Fire Department, there are 101,73; buildings in the city requiring either scuttles or bulkheads. “ The other day,” said the inspector, 1 visited a certain hotel, and after examining it I asked how the servant girls could escape in case of a fire cutting them off from exit by the lower floors. ‘ Oh, by the roof,’ was the answer. ‘Well,’ said 1, ‘we’ll go up and look at the roof.’ When we reached it I found the door leading through the bulkhead to the roof nailed up, and ordered it opened.” A section of the building act provides that all buildings shall have scuttle frames or bulkhead doors, either fireproof or covered with fireproof material, and they shall have stationary iron ladders, which shall be kept so as to be ready for use at all times.
THE Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, having made inquiries among city insurance officers respecting the losses by natural gas explosions, reports them as follows: A gentleman in the office of the Citizens Fire Insurance Company said: “Fires have resulted in several instances from explosions, and in every instance the company will deny any liability, holding that gas companies are liable for any and all damages that may occur.” An official of the Pennsylvania Insurance Company said : “ There is no use talking about the safety of the subterranean conduits for natural gas. It is all nonsense. The volatility of this gas is such as to defy confinement, and as soon as it leaves the pipes it permeates the earth, radiating in all directions. Cellars form a semi-reservoir for it, but, of course, it is dissipated through the house through the air in an odorless state, and any exposure to fire causes instantaneous igniition and immediate explosion. In my opinion, no pipe within a pipe or pipes within pipes will be adequate to their requisitions. The only method that can at present be resorted to to safely conduct this gas is a surface pipe. This pipe differs in no particular from the underground pipe, and may be extended on the surface to all parts of the city and vicinity. Gas escaping from it is dissipated through the air and is harmless. This scheme has been tried very successfully in Oil City and throughout the oil country, and not an accident has happened in my recollection. As to the insurance men’s remedy in the matter of natural gas explosions, I have only this to say, that we shall have to charge gun-powder-mill rates if we insure at all. These rates are about fifty per cent.” A representative of another insurance company said : “ We don’t admit of any liability on account of explosions or fires resulting therefrom.”