TOPICS OF THE YEAR
WE give so much space this week to the annual report of Fire Marshal Swenie, of the Chicago Fire Department, that we are somewhat curtailed in our regular Departments. The report, however, will be found quite as interesting as anything we could print.
SOUTH CAROLINA recently passed a law making arson a capital offence. A few days since, a negro, named Amos Wooten, was hanged at Bennettsville, for setting fire to and robbing Breeden’s mill, in Marlboro County. This is a southern custom that we would be glad to see introduced north of Mason and Dixon’s line.
THE proprietors of a factory at Elizabeth, N. J. which was discovered to be on fire recently and was broken into by volunteer Firemen, have caused the arrest of several of the Firemen. It is claimed that they did unnecessary damage. We hope the prosecution of this case will throw some light on the question whether or not Firemen have a legal right to break into a building on fire in the interests of a community that is threatened with a dangerous conflagration. Strictly speaking, we presume Firemen are not entitled to enter any premises unless so authorized by law, but it is a question to what extent public necessity makes law.
THE people of Hawkinsville, Ga., are very much torn up in their minds on the question whether or not they shall have a steam fire engine, one portion of the citizens opposing it on account of the heavy expense involved and the other side arguing in favor of it thus, according to the Dispatch, the local paper: “They claim that the town is at the mercy of the flames, and that some efforts must be made to prevent and extinguish fires. The insurance companies are becoming frightened, and will not insure a house and stock of goods more than twenty-four hours at a time, and then only while a big rain is falling. And it is now being ” narrated around” that the chemical fire engine recently bought by the town council came very near being burnt up the other night of the fire, and that it would have been “ totally gone up” if it had not been for Dave McCormick’s hand pump.”
SUPERINTENDENT BULLWINKLE, of the Chicago Insurance Patrol, has been dangerously ill lor several weeks. He took cold while attending a fire, and was attacked with pneumonia. This was followed by a complication of disorders following each other in rapid succession, until his life was despaired of. The latest advices we have report that he is slowly recovering, with hopes of his soon being able to be about. He has had such a serious time, however, that it is doubtful if he returns to duty for some time. His many friends in the Fire Service will sympathize with him in his sickness, and rejoice at his speedy and permanent recovery.
THE telegraph reports the following peculiar case of spontaneous combustion : The handsome stone house of John R. Lydecker, exDeputy Collector of the Port of New York, was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning, in Englewood, N. J. The house was built seven years ago at a cost of over $25,000. S. L. Colgate, a neighbor, first discovered the fire at about 1 a. m.; and after various vain endeavors to arouse the inmates, succeeded in breaking down the front door and in informing the family of their danger. There being no engine company in the town no check was made to the rapid progress of the flames ; several neighbors, however, succeeded in removing most of the furniture on the first floor. The pictures in the house were valued at over $20,000, and some of them Vere saved, it is supposed that the fire or iginated from the spontaneous combustion of rags soaked with turpentine and various chemicals, which had been used the previous day for cleaning purposes, and had been left in the kitchen. The total loss is estimated at about $65,000.
CHIEF CRONIN, of Washington, writes that Congress will do nothing towards establishing a uniform standard for hose couplings, notwithstanding the request of the National Association of Chief Engineers. The reason given is that it would bean interference by Congress with a matter that belongs to State legislation. Congress is especially sensitive on the subject of State rights at present, but last winter, when it passed a bill giving railroad companies, created by State charters, the right to do a telegraphic business, for the purpose of injuring the Western Union Telegraph Company, it was not so great a stickler for State rights. Congress has repeatedly enacted laws upon subjects that clearly belonged to State Legislatures to regulate; but, just on the eve of a presidential election, it is mighty tender-footed as to what it will do. If the Constitution of the United States is so narrow and contracted that it will not permit Congress to legislate on a subject of great importance to the people, then we had better buy a new Constitution—or a whole box of ’em, if necessary.
NEW YORK has had scarcely a “ big fire” in a month or more. Something is wrong. Our Fire Department is too quick in putting out the little ones, and a conflagration has no chance. If this keeps on, propertyowners will begin to put their trust in the Fire Department instead of the insurance companies, and, with the loss of premiums, the companies must go he board. But a big fire is liable to come at any moment. So we would not advise owners of property to cancel their insurance just yet; when the flames do set in, there is no telling where they will strike. New York is not a particularly profitable place for insurance companies anyway, for the statistics show that, in 1879, the companies doing business in this State paid out some $5,000,000 more for losses than they received in premiums. But this was their own fault, for they have cut rates so badly that there is no margin for profits. While the amount of insurance written last year was about the same as in 1871, the amount received by the companies in premiums was some $15,000,000 less. So the “bad” business of the insurance companies is due more to the cut-throat policy they choose to pursue than to heavy fire losses. All right; the public gets the benefit of low rates, and they can stand it as long as the insurance companies can.