Toronto Fire Department Investigation
Toronto, Can., during the last few months has had a number of unusually large fires, with the criticism of the fire department such as usually follow a series of large fires anywhere. At the instigation of an alderman, who made specific charges against the efficiency of the department, Judge Denton was authorized to make a complete investigation of the management of the department at fires. This was completed last week, and in his report to the city council Judge Denton mentions the following deficiencies:
No correspondence filing system.
No maps of water mains ami hydrants at the fireballs for the guidance of the firemen.
No record of the fire-boxes that each firenall shall respond to.
Chief Thompson keeps no record of new buildings, or of buildings that are dangerous.
Only verbal reports on probationers are given.
District chiefs have never heard of section reports, al though they should report them every morning.
District chiefs telephone to headquarters details of fire, instead of sending in written reports.
Records of complaints against firemen are loosely kept.
The business of the xecretnry has increased sixfold since but only a stenographer has been added to the staff in 27 years.
Discipline and training of the men are lax.
The men pick up knowledge of hydrants and mains as best they can.
Insufficient instruction is given the men on how to send in a general alarm.
Swearing and foul language by firemen to civilians.
Slackness in the investigation of complaints and punishment of offenders.
No investigation to this day of failure of two firemen to send tn a general alarm.
System and business methods lacking.
Adequate maps of system not in possession of department.
Men should be prohibited holding offices in political organizations.
Age limit f**r the compulsory retirement of firemen should be fixed.
Kxecutive work of the force should be systematized.
Rights of men to obtain retiring allowance not affected by evidence.
The report says that there is a deplorable lack of general efficiency in the department and finds Capt. Joseph Goodwin (recently resigned), of the fire tug, blatnable in connection with the island lire and gives instances of inefficiency of the Bahnuto street lire. Referring to discipline and training, Judge Denton says: “Another matter which has impressed me is that the discipline and training of the men is not what it ought to be. The reins have not been tightly enough held, and the instruction of the men is capable of much improvement. There seems to be no definite instructions given to the men as to the location of the hydrants or how to open them, nor as to the location and size of the water mains. They pick up this knowledge in the course of their experience at fires and as best they can. No sufficient instruction is given to the men how to send in a general alarm. There is a slackness in the investigation of complaint and punishment of the offenders. The reason for this weakness may lie accounted for, in part at least, in the following way: Chief Thompson has been 37 years on the force and has grown up with the men. He is a large-hearted, good-natured man. He knows nearly every man on the force so well that he calls them by their Christian names. Obviously, it must be very difficult for him to exercise that strong discipline which must always be present in the most efficient fire brigade. The responsibility for any absence of system and business methods and slackness in discipline and insufficient training and instruction of the men must rest upon the shoulders of Chief Thompson. He quite frankly assumes all the responsibility. The city by-law and the rules issued thereunder give him Complete control. It is advisable that a by-law or rule should he passed prohibiting any member of the department from holding office in any political organization. In this Chief Thompson concurs. If a proper system and business methods were rightly applied, and the reins of discipline more tightly held and the instruction and training of men improved Toronto would have a very efficient fire department. The officers and the rank and file have shown much courage and endurance. Nothing has been proved in this investigation that should injuriously affect the right of any one of those men from the chief down to obtain his retiring allowance if he is otherwise entitled to it.
Mayor Hockon says of the report, so far as it refers to Chief Thompson: “I think Chief Thompson has assumed an attitude toward the men that would he highly commendable if he were conducting bis own business; but the head of the. fire department should address his men in a different manner in order that discipline is maintained. Chief Thompson is a man who has risen from the ranks and is well acquainted with the men under him. His attitude has been that of a father rather than a chief, and while no one can find fault with the head of the department for exhibiting those traits of kindness that all men should have, it is in the interests of the department that the position the chief holds should be recognized in a different manner to what it has been.”