TOPICS OF THE DAY

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.”

TOPICS OF THE DAY.

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TOPICS OF THE DAY.

The Supreme court of Mississippi has recently decided that the owner of the soil has an absolute right to all underground waters where no well-defined flow through underlying channels can be established.

In virtue of the fire marshal clause in the new Mississippi insurance law, the marshal of every incorporated city or town which has no fire department, and the fire chief of every such place where there is a fire department but no fire marshal, are now fire marshals under the law.

While Tenement House Commissioner De Forrest has been obliged to compromise in some very important respects over the question of the so-called amendments to the tenement house bill of last year, he has carried his point as to the non-reduction of the light and airshaft. To reduce these to the oldstyle four-foot width would have been to invite fire and disease.

Among the members of the New York fire department who have been placed on the roll of honor for rescues made at the risk of their own lives during the fire in the Park Avenue hotel are Chaplains Walkley (Episcopal) and Smith (Roman Catholic), both of whom distinguished themselves on that, as on former occasions by their work of life-saving.

The underwriters of Nashville, Tenn., recently objected to the attachment of meters to the sprinkler supply pipes in the city’s manufacturing establishments, giving as a reason that they would obstruct the flow of water. In order to prove the falsity of this theory the local board of public works made a test of the flow through a four-inch meter. The result showed the truth of the board’s contention that the obstructions which were liable to occur, such as mud, for instance, would not hinder the flow of water in case of fire.

The oxygen regenerator for purifying vitiated air is being adopted by the fire department of Paris, France, it weighs only five pounds and is based on the principle that sodium bioxide in continual reaction with water will render respirable an atmosphere which it would be impossible otherwise for any living being to breathe. A clockwork apparatus drops at regular intervals pieces of sodium bioxide into a water section of an aluminum ventilator. The firemen intending to enter poisonous air put on divers’ dress and carry an oxygen respirator connected with a helmet by two rubber tubes. The apparatus contains 150 grams of sodium bioxide, which insures an adequate supply of oxygen for respiration during one hour.

Apparently forgetful of the fact that it is always the unexpected and impossible which does happen, and that even although it has been declared impossible that any danger can ensue to the distant city, the underwriters of Galveston, Tex., would seem to be taking big chances in permitting (as report says they have permitted) the -erection of an oil tank of large capacity on one of the piers. It is true that this pier is built at a great distance from any other property. But there still remains the risk of the tank exploding and scattering the burning oil upon the waves, which, if the wind or the tide so set. would be carried to the other piers and cause a conflagration among the shipping, etc.

At a recent meeting of the Massachusetts Fire Chiefs’ club at Boston, Uberto C. Crosby, president of the New Hampshire Fire Insurance company, wound up an interesting address on “Private fire protection and automatic sprinklers” by pointing out that the fire chiefs of the United States “stand as the protectors of our business interests, the guardians of our homes and our dear ones. A successful chief (he said) must be clear-headed, alert, quick to act. with those qualities that take men unflinchingly over ramparts up to the cannon’s mouth, and with that rare ability to command men and to plan a campaign, and place his forces to best advantage when in the very thick of the battle.”

The Colby bill passed during the session of the State legislature which has just come to an end at Albany provides that the New York fire department shall have control of all agencies used to extinguish conflagrations along the water front. Mr. Colby, its sponsor, contended that tugboats frequently Hampered the efforts of the fire department in order unit they might have claims for salvage. Others in the legislature claimed that the bill would prevent tugboats rendering good service, such, for instance, as they did at the late fire at Hoboken, when these tugs did so much in the way of hauling burning vessels and lighters out into the stream, in keeping the fire under in others, and in saving some from being at all damaged.

Oil risks are being seriously contemplated by the majority of the underwriters in Texas—the motif being the number of oil mill fares in recent years. Most of these took place in the seed-houses, which are not protected by sprinklers because their owners object to such a means of protection, on the ground that greater loss follows through the leakage of the sprinklers on the seed than from tire, if one breaks out. Granting, however, for argument’s sake, that sprinklers are as effective as they are claimed to be for fire protection, it must not be forgotten that as these sprinkler-protected mills seldom oppose solid fire walls to the seed-houses, a sprinkler system is of little or no use in checking the course of a fire which starts in the seed-houses. In these cotton seed warehouses, also, originate nearly all the fires that take place in roundbale gins.

The officials of Jersey City, N. J., have allowed Patrick J. Flynn, contractor for that city’s new water system, and the East Jersey Water company, an extension of lime for the completion of the contract. No penalty will be exacted for non-com pletion of the work between February 28, 1902, and December 25, 1903. But the full penalty of $500 a day will be exacted for every day after the latter date on which the contract remains unfulfilled. The city allows till October 1, 1905, for testing the work, without the payment of the additional sum of $400, coo provided for in the original contract, if the works were not purchased immediately after their completion. The temporary supply contract by the East Jersey Water company at $35 a million gallons will be extended from October next until the works are completed, provided they are finished by March 1, 1907. Mayor Fagan has approved the contract.

New Jersey is moving in the direction of legislation for the prevention of forest fires, particularly in Atlantic, Camden, Burlington, and Cape May counties. The yearly loss from this cause now amounts to upwards of $1,000,000, and the fires are of such frequent occurrence that they hinder the material development of the State, whose total forest area is 2,069,819 acres, of which 1,797,000 acres is in the South Jersey pine belt—a district which is continuously subjected to wastage by fire. John Gifford, the State forester, states that a few years ago there were forty small forest fares which covered 60,000 acres, and the loss was $600,000, standing for a loss of only $10 an acre. Nowadays, however, it is not unusual for forest fires to burn 100,000 acres in a single season, so that, unless there is some State assistance in the line of legislation to correct the trouble, in twenty-five years there will be no forest land.

The number of free ice fountains is to be increased this year in the poorer parts of Manhattan, New York, especially in the tenement house districts and along the river fronts, where hundreds of men are employed in warehouses and on the wharves. These fountains will be modeled after those already installed by the Episcopal Church Temperance society.

1 he plan followed in these is to keep coils of pipe supplied with Croton water and cooled by being placed in a chest which is daily filled with ice. These fountains give directly on the sidewalk, and are usually placed in the wall of some permanent structure such as a church or school. In the whole of Manhattan there are at present only twenty-one of such fountains for the benefit of a tenement population of over 2,000,000. The cost of installing such a fountain is about $125; the ice from May to October costs about $100.

Up to the latest accounts Water Commissioner Dougherty refused either to confirm or deny the report that J. R. Freeman, of Providence, R. I., had been offered the position of chief engineer by the water department of New York city. All he would say on the subject was that Mr. Freeman had important business connections at Providence, and might not care to come to New York. Others, who profess to know Mr. Freeman, claim that he might like to accept the position because of the opportunity that will be offered him to work out certain of his ideas with regard to securing a permanent supply of water for New York. It will be remembered that two years ago Mr. Freeman published for former Comptroler Coler an exhaustive report on that subject, and that he is a strong advocate for obtaining that supply from the Housatonic river in Connecticut, in spite of the idea commonly entertained that the project could not be carried out without interstate complications arising. Mr. Freeman is identi tied in an engineering capacity with the board of tire underwriters. It is said that Chief Birdsall will make a fight to retain his position.

President Wagner, of the fire patrol of Philadelphia, points out that, while in 1901 the tire loss in the congested part of the city was about $800,000, as against $2,000,000 in 1900, there was still a loss to the fire underwriters. He would reduce losses by having careful investigations made of all fires of unknown origin, about which, all the same, there may be hints of design or carelessness. He adds that many of the so-called electrical fires are due rather to redhot stoves than electric wires, and calls attention to the increasing number of petroleum tires in the city. Fie likewise adverts to the defective building laws of the city, and in so doing declares that one need only to pass into some of the busier sections to see for himself that there are practically no building laws in Philadelphia, since there may be seen in its streets “structures rising 100 feet or more in the air, and covering practically unlimited ground area—a menace to neighborhoods, perhaps, to the whole district surrounding them. I have one building in mind (he says) which would destroy the whole of its surroundings, if it got fairly on fire, and involve the destruction of many millions of property.”

During the progress of the fire which recently destroyed Denbigh hall, one of the dormitories of Bryn Mawr college, near Philadelphia, it was noticeable that none of the young women who roomed in the building either exhibited hysterical weakness or showed any lack of practical commonsensc. They neither screamed nor fainted, but promptly took their places in the fire brigade, which is one of the regular college organisations, and set to work to fight the flames with the utmost coolness and courage. The result was that the fire was put out with no loss of life and, all things considered, with no excessive damage to the property. It is also worthy of remark, that while many of the students lost all their clothes, except what they had on them, fifteen candidates for the degree of doctor of Philosophy managed to save their theses which they must read before being admitted to the doctorate.

A committee of the Massachusetts State senate on water supply has reported a bill to establish a fire district in Colerain, Franklin county, with power to take a water supply from Mountain brook and its tributaries, subject to the approval of the State board of health. The district may issue $10,000 bonds for this purpose, if found necessary. Three commissioners are to serve, under the bill, with terms of three years each. The act is to take effect on passage, but no expense shall be incurred under it until it has been accepted by a vote of two-thirds of the voters of the district, within three years of the passage of this act. but not more than two meetings shall be called in any one year. At a preliminary hearing it was stated that the water was to be used for either fire or domestic purposes, and it was proposed that the district was to be authorised* to issue $5,000 in thirty-year six per cent, bonds, with a sinking fund to be increased by $200 a year. One representative, in speaking for the bill, explained the circumstances and said that the cause of the petition was the burning of the hotel in February. Owing to the short distance the water must be brought, and the fall, the cost would be small. Another representative said that the water would be brought only about 125 rods, and that the pressure would be sufficient for fire purposes. A third thought they ought to ask for more than $5,000. and finally it was agreed that the sum should be made $10,000. The committee also reported the rate of interest at four per cent, instead of six, as proposed. A good story is told of the cold water habits of the committee. When it took its Springfield trip a short time ago, the members were invited to stand up at the bar somewhere, and, to the dismay of the proprietor, every man of them asked for ginger ale, at a total of fifty-five cents for the eleven in the party. On another occasion a similar incident occurred, and the committee thinks that it can stand criticism about its temperance practices.