TOPICS OF THE WEEK.

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.

TOPICS OF THE WEEK.

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TOPICS OF THE WEEK.

Contractors on public works in Newark, N. J. must pay rent for all the water they use. Till they do so, they will not receive any money from the city, nor will anything but payment in full for all water bills be accepted.

Chief Hale, of the Kansas City, Mo., fire depart ment, in comparing his city with Paterson, N. J. states that Kansas City, with nearly twice the population, has less than half as much firefighting apparatus, to say nothing of the former city having several cities within a few miles of it to call on for help Omaha and some other cities are nearly in the same position as Kansas City. They have not enough men or apparatus to handle a big fire.

The Hillsboro, N. Dak., Banner comments in the following facetious way about the Mayville water supply: “The waterworks emulates the unworthy example of our system here and causes trouble. The standpipe freezes up and bursts, and lets the water out of the tank. Mayville made a mistake in putting up a standpipe, for, according to a preponderance of evidence produced in court in the sewer case, the Goose river water at that place can stand alone and wouldn’t freeze unless confined in a standpipe.”

During the three months ending January io, 1902, a very large proportion of fires is traceable to violations of the electrical code. In some of these, however the conditions were not to be foreseen, while the contrary was the case in the majority of instances Of eighty-three fires reported as being caused bj defective electrical conditions, thirty-two sprang from the grounding of circuits; three from electric heat ing appliances; and twelve from overhead railway circuits. Quite a number, also, originated from defectively insulated wires in show windows.

Water Commissioner Dougherty, of New Yorkcity, is investigating the condition of the water meters, many of which have been found defective and registering much less water than was used by the consumer. Some had undoubtedly been deliberately operated upon in such a way that the cog wheels failed to act—while investigation showed that the official seals had been tampered with, and then resealed with false seals. In the case of one large hotel, however, which showed a great falling off in consumption, the discrepancy was accounted for by the fact that the laundry had been given up since the meter was last taken.

The United States Geological Survey Service finds that most of the rivers of Georgia, Alabama. Eastern Mississippi, Tennessee, and some in Florida, have their rise in the Allegheny mountain region, at ele vations of from 2,000 to 3.000 feet above sea level and form constant streams, with rapid fall, produc ing a large amount of power that can easily be de veloped. In Georgia and Alabama these powers oc cur in the heart of the cotton belt, and in many in stances near prosperous towns and cities. Some of the powers which will certainly be utilised in course of time will be applied to electric transmission for city light and power, while others will run cotton factories and grist mills direct. In the gold belt of Georgia and Alabama they are to be used for run ning stamp mills and other mining machinery.

Insurance agents, chiefly in the West and South expect every day to hear of an order from their companies to advance the rates on all kinds of in surance. This is only to be looked for on account of the extraordinary number and amount of fire* losses which have taken place during the winter The Paterson and Waterbury fires are the most re cent notable examples, and these, with those of the past week, will hit all the companies very hard. As an illustration of the terrible losses which have been inflicted upon the companies, it may be stated that the fires of over $100,000 each, which have occurred in this country since January 1, show that the total losses were $17,000,000. The agent mentioned fig ured that an aggregate of the smaller fires would be at least $3,500,000 more, making the grand total of $20,500,000. This amount of losses in a little over seven weeks shows the terrible strain to which the insurance companies have been put.

Late in December. 1901. it is charged that the city waterworks of Michigan City, Ind., turned water from lake Michigan harbor into the main which supplies the city with drinking water, when the intake of the new waterworks became clogged, probably with ice, and the supply of water from the lake was for a time cut off. In order to keep the water plant in operation, the superintendent is said to have con nected it with an emergency pipe, which extends to the lake harbor, at a point four blocks below where all the city sewage is emptied. It was not until two days later that the people learned what kind of water they had been getting. An epidemic of sickness at once set in, and from 1,500 to 2,000 persons were affected with intestinal trouble and typhoid fever some of which were fatal. This epidemic was attributed to the quality of the drinking water. The officials in charge of the water plant urge as an ex cuse that the water had to be pumped from tin harbor to provide against any sudden outbreak of fire, and that they had no way of warning the public in time!

Superintendent George E. Murray and Dr. S. Wesley Smith, of this city’s bureau of combustibles, have been indicted by the grand jury which investigated the recent disastrous subway explosion at Park avenue and Forty-first street, Manhattan. This, while not surprising, does not necessarily argue any culpability on their part. They claim that they did their full duty, but that the rapid transit commissioners had power to override the city ordinances and the clauses in the revised charter of Greater New York, with reference to the storage of such combustibles as dynamite and nitroglycerine. If so, and it can be shown that those who have been thus indicted had their powers nullified by an outside body, then the public will arrive at a clear understanding in the matter, and it will be for the municipal authorities to decide how they shall best meet the requirements of the case. At present there seems to be an imperium in imperio wielding absolute sway in matters which vitally concern the lives of our citizens and the safety of their property. Such a state of things, if it exists, should come to a very speedy end, and these indictments may serve to bring about this desirable consummation.

A recent dispatch from East St. Louis, I11., is as follows; “The East St. Louis Water company is at work on a plan to place a meter on the water pipe connection of every residence which it supplies. Several hundred meters have already been installed. The plan necessitates a big outlay of money, but it is expected that the company will save in the end the price of the water which would not be wasted as it is now if the consumer was compelled to pay meter rates. It is believed that East St. Louis is the only city in the country where meters will be universally used and owned by the water company. The only objection to the installation of water meters generally is their unavoidable cost. Many persons in East St. Louis have at various times installed water meters at their own expense, rather than pay the water rates called for by the water company for the size of their buildings. It is said that in all of these cases the meter has paid for itself in a short time. The charge for water by the new meter rate wull be thirty cents a thousand gallons. This charge, it is expected, will be favorably met with by the citizens of the city. Thus far, the meters which have been installed have given satisfaction.”

Professor James E. Denton, of Stevens Institute Hoboken, N. J., has been making some severe scientific tests on the use of crude oil from Beaumont, Tex. The conclusions he has arrived at are interesting. In the first test eighty-five pounds of steam was raised in fifty-nine minutes, while in a test made later, with a heavy coal fire, one hour and seventeen minutes were required to raise the same weight of steam. After this experiment, a careful examination of the boiler was made and no in jurious results were found. Several tests were subsequently made wfith similar results. On the side of economy it was shown that it will require one fireman to attend to thirty oil-burners of 1,000 horse power each, and no ash-handling will be needed. As to danger in its use: Experiments with samples of the oil used for evaporative tests showed that a pool of oil spilled on a board cannot be ignited by a match, which, on trial, extinguished itself before it was half burned. As soon as the match came in contact with the oil, air is excluded from its lower surface, so that the flame is above the oil, and, therefore, it can not vaporise enough of the latter to bring vapor into contact with the flame of the match and ignite. Aftet keeping some glass fruit-jars partly filled with oil for ten davs and more, lighted matches dropped into them through a half-inch-hole in the cover neither ignited the contents nor was flame caused by holding the lighted match just outside the cover, nor, when the cover was removed so as to expose an opening of some three inches in diameter, were the contents of the jar above the oil ignited by the flame of a match. The same results were obtained with the oil at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and no vapor could be seen escaping from the jar.

A correspondent writes to FIRE AND WATER that “even the enforced resignation of Chief Dodge has not brought about peace in the fire department W hat with anonymous letters to the authorities, and what with those and the comments that appear in Freedom—the local newspaper, there is kept up a constant fire of accusations, unaccompanied, however, by any proofs. It is suggested that fire and police commissioners be appointed to investigate and re port upon these accusations and to keep the au thorities posted as to what is really going on, and how far the two departments are dissatisfied, and to see if the complaints are groundless or not and to find a remedy for them. The best plan would be to import a firstclass American fireman to fill the office of chief and to give him absolute power. This would solve the difficulty and the disgruntled ones could either be appeased or sent about their business. How trivial are some of the grounds of complaint will be seen when I tell you that the acting chief has be come an object of suspicion and rendered himself disliked by wearing on his collar the insignia of a chief engineer—a pardonable piece of vanity which need not hurt even a man’s feelings.

A recent writer in one of the daily papers of New York city ridicules the assertion that about seventyfive per cent, of the Croton supply of water “enters the foundation walls of the buildings along the many miles of mains.” 11c shows that “seventy live per cent, of the daily delivery of New York’s water sup ply escaping into the ground, as they would have us believe, would play havoc with the streets by washing out the earth and causing the streets to cave in when heavy teams passed over these places.” There is waste, of course, but the greatest amount (he insists) is in the older parts of the city. Yet it is these that “the heaviest trucks traverse, and a washout from a large leak would let a truck down.” He would not be surprised to learn, however, “after an investigation, that, when the service pipe is abandoned, the entire line from the buildings to the main, ferrule, or cock, is not removed, but only cut off at the curb line and the pipe hammered together -a custom by no means uncommon with contractors and plumbers—in which case there must be much and constant waste from these abandoned service pipes.” The writer proceeds; “I believe the water department had such experience only recently in Hanover square. As an illustration, take the site of the new Custom House at Bowling Green. There once stood forty or fifty separate buildings, with as many service pipes. Have they all been removed all the way out to the street mains, and the taps in the mains plugged? Of course, the new Custom House is not going to use all of those little fellows, but no doubt will make one, or several, new and larger connections.”

In a letter to a daily paper of New York city VV. Volkhardt, an hydraulic engineer, advocates the compulsory use of water meters in the city. At the same time he points out that the metered water is charged for at too high a rate—the “highest rate of any city in the United States in proportion to the population and miles of mains maintained. The meter rate is $1 per t.ooo cubic feet, which is equal to 13,4 cents per 1,000 gallons. If the water supply of this city were owned by a private corporation and they made such a charge, it would be considered robbery of the highest order, but it is our city and we must sumbit. The city of Wilmington, Del., with a population of 76,508, sells water at five cents per 1,000 gallons, and the city of Chester, Pa., with a population of 33.988. sells water at eight cents per 1,000 gallons. Both of these cities pump their water— no gravity system.and, surely, the city of New York can sell as cheaply as they.” He adds that the “present water supply of this city can be made to last at the very least twenty-five years longer without purchasing one acre more of land, by extend ing the use of meters. Of course, there is a preju dice against meters, but there need be none.” With respect to the statement that consumers tamper with the meters, the writer says: “No doubt this is true and, when this abuse is safely checked, much waste will be muzzled. * * * We think it would -be much better for the service if the city would purchase, own, and repair its meters; we know then they would be in good condition as far as it is pos sible in such a large city as ours. As it is now-, it encourages wrongdoing, or the evil might be gotten rid of by placing the meters in the sidewalk, in an iron box, so that all repairs, etc., would be subject to the public eye.”