TOPICS OF THE WEEK.
Senator Audett has introduced a bill at Albany, N. Y., providing that every hotel containing more than twenty rooms shall be equipped with a standpipe or pipes for water at least four inches in diameter, which shall be erected from the cellar to the roof and be connected with a steam, electric, or other motive pump arranged in such manner that the motive power can be set in motion automatically on any floor of the building. The standpipe is to be equipped with hose arranged to be easily uncoiled, and erected under the supervision of the chief of the fire department of the city or town in which the hotel is situated.
Fire Commissioner Sturgis is determined that the lives and limbs of theatre-goers in New York city shall no longer be imperiled, in order that the receipts of the various mangers may be swelled. He has, therefore, set to work to abolish the illegal practice of allowing a portion of the audience to block up the aisles of the house by sitting or standing in them while plays are being performed. Hencefor ward there is to be no standing room admission, and those concerned in the order just issued will either have to obey or stand their chances for being prosecuted. The law which Commissioner Sturgis is endeavoring to have enforced is not a new one, and is as necessary today as when it was first enacted.
One of the gang of Chicago firebugs under indictment in that city, who turned State’s evidence, has made revelations which tend to show that the Windy City’s insurance agents have not always been as particular as they might have been over granting policies, and that in the matter of procuring easy adjusters it is equally easy to find accommodation. It came out in evidence that the knot of incendiaries in question devoted themselves especially to setting fires in cigar stores, where on a stock that might, perhaps be worth $150 at the outside an “adjustment” could so bring it about that after one of these fires several thousand dollars could be secured on the burned property.
The Fairmount dam at Philadelphia was the objective point for sightseers during last week’s freshet in the Schuylkill river. The waters poured over it in an immense volume, and the pumping chambers of the Fairmount waterworks were flooded and the pumping engines put out of business. When the waters went down two feet of slimy, evil-smelling mud was left on the floors. To clear this away and cleanse the whole building, galleries, floors, etc., thoroughly, and make the necessary repairs will entail an expense of several thousand dollars. As is always the case when the Schuylkill is in flood, the number of typhoid cases in the city increases. This should spur on the authorities to hurry the filtration works as much as is possible.
Under the present system the boroughs of Richmond and Queens, New York, have only volunteer fire departments. In the latter borough fifteen towns are crying out for paid departments, yet in its length and breadth (according to Fire Commissioner Sturgis) there is not an engine house “strong enough to support the weight of a complete fire equipment. To supply a single one of these towns with engine, hook and ladder, hose carts, horses, and men to run them for one year would cost the department $50,000.” The Staten Islanders, also, as taxpayers of the city of New York, are demanding a paid fire department, and Commissioner Sturgis has just sent a battalion chief over there to confer with the president of the borough and investigate the requirements and the cost.
On the Sunday on which the Paterson conflagration took place there were no less than six big fires. Besides that blaze, there were the great factory fire in Brooklyn, New York, the loss at which was $400,000; a dock fire in Jersey City, N. J., with a loss of $300,000; and those at St. Louis, Scottsville, Ky., and Wapella, Ill., involving another $400,000. During February bad fires on Saturday and Sunday were the rule. Waterbury, Conn. (Sunday), and the Park Avenue armory and hotel stand out as further witnesses as to the fact. It may be noticed here that the fire losses for the last week in February were the smallest for any week so far this year. They amounted to $2,194,200. In these were included the Park Avenue hotel and armory fires.
$591,000; the fire in a varnish works in Astoria, Queens borough, New York, $225,000; and another in a factory 111 Elizabeth street, Manhattan, New York, $110,000, giving this city a bad pre-eminence in the line of fire waste.
The city engineer of Toronto, Ont., holds that the enormous waste of water in that city was responsible for last year’s deficit of $94,000 in the waterworks system. The committee of the board of works has, therefore, set apart the sum of $2,500 (one-fourth of the amount City Engineer Rust considered necessary) for the inspection of water taps, many of which are of a very inferior description and promotors of leakage. One member of the committee considered that recourse should be had to legislation requiring all taps to be tested and stamped, as at present plumbers could palm off inferior taps on water consumers, through which thousands of dollars worth of water was annually lost to the city, to say nothing of the pressure on the fire hydrants being so materially reduced as to increase the fire hazard. In the opinion of several aldermen the only proper way to stop the waste was by adopting the meter system—a proposition with which City Engineer Rust “felt disposed to agree.
Secretary Alfred Stillman, of the Pacific board of underwriters, in reports on the water system and fire protection of Salt Lake City, Utah, says that what the city needs for “adequate protection against fire is another storage reservoir, twelve inch water mains in the business district, hydrants in the middle of the large blocks, standpipes and reservoirs on the tops of the higher buildings, and four good fire engines. The wide streets furnish an excellent preventive against a general conflagration; but a fire in any of the large blocks would prove exceed ingly disastrous. There is not pressure enough in the mains to be effective, and the engines are too old and antiquated to do much service. Suppose a fire should break out in the Commercial block or the Auerbach block. How could the firemen get at it? How could they get any water up to the top floors? There isn’t pressure enough in the mains, and the fire engines are not powerful enough to force the stream so high.”
During 1901, according to the report of the fire insurance patrol of Philadelphia, the fire losses in that city were less than in 1900 or 1899, and in its congested business section less by $1,000,000 than in the preceding year. The report says: “The loss in the congested district lying between Delaware avenue and Broad street and Race and Walnut streets during 1901 amounts to about $800,000, the result of 172 fires, as against 192 fires and loss of about $2,000,000 in iqoo; that is a very heavy reduction, but there is still a loss to the underwriter, ?s the expenses and losses together probably exceed premiums collected.” As to fires caused by electricity Inspector William McDevitt. of the fire patrol’s electrical department, reports that during 1901 there were eighty-nine fires due to that cause. Of these “eighty-four occurred on the streets from crosses and burn-outs on trolley, telegraph, and telephone conductors. Of the 14,000 buildings using electricity seventy were visited by fire; of this number tinorigin in fifteen instances was either known to be from, or attributed to other causes than that of electricity.”
Half of the rapid transit tunnel for Manhattan and the Bronx, New York, has been cut at a cost of $13,750,000, and the engineers expect to finish the remainder in thirteen months. The original computation showed that the tunnel contract involved the removal of 1,750,000 cubic yards of earth and 1,125,000 cubic yards of rock. The figures in Assistant Chief Engineer Rice’s department show that sixtythree per cent, of the earth and forty per cent, of the rock excavating have been done. The progress of the work is dependent largely on the rock cutting, and if there is any considerable delay in completing the subway, it will be on account of not “chewing out” the rock fast enough. There are remaining to be removed 647,000 cubic yards of earth and 675,000 cubic yards of stone. Sixty-five thousand tons of steel were contracted for, and 32,500 tons have been delivered. Of the 500,000 yards of concrete contracted for, 125,000 yards have been furnished. More than $2,250,000 has been spent in removing, changing, and repairing sewers, and changing sewer pipes. So far, seventy per cent, of this k:nd of work has been done.