Two Wisconsin Industrial Commission Circulars
The two circulars which follow have been issued by the Industrial Commission of Wisconsin, of which J. E. Florin is superintendent of Fire Prevention. They are addressed in both cases to the farmers of the State and contain some useful fire prevention precepts.
Personal Liability for Fire Damage
In Exodus XXII, 6, we read: “If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stalks of corn, or standing corn, or the field be consumed, therewith, he that kindleth the fire shall surely make restitution.” This is the law of Moses. A farmer setting a brush fire on his own land, who permits it to escape to his neighbor’s land, is liable for any damage done to the neighbor by such fire Railroad companies are liable for damages caused by locomotive sparks. Tenants have recovered damages from landlords, caused by fires originating from a chimney knows to be defective. This is the law of today. The Supreme Court of Michigan has decided that “One through whose negligence fire is caused in his building, which spreads to his neighbor’s building, is liable for damages.” A few more actions for damages due to fires caused by gross negligence or violations of local ordinance or state law would impress upon all the fact that “each one is his brother’s keeper.” If your careless neighbor knowingly harbors a defective chimney, a rubbish-filled basement, a trash-laden attic, defective electric wiring, stoves installed so as to endanger woodwork or is careless in the use of gasoline or the storage of other oils, oily waste and rags, then he is careless of the safety of his own property and family, and of your property and family, and the lives of firemen. It is therefore your duty to warm him and to notify the proper authorities. Such a man needs discipline, not sympathy in case he has a fire. He must be taught the lesson that since the days of Robinson Crusoe “No man liveth to himself alone,” and each owes a duty to the other. Hold him to strict account for the results of his carelessness. Further, each city should, by ordinance, require such a man to pay to the city the cost of putting out a fire, caused by clear carelessness or negligence. Strict enforcement of such laws and ordinances would eliminate the many careless fires.
Private Electric Light Plants
During a generation we have passed from the tallow dip to the Mazda lamp. Tallow dip, candle, kerosene lamp, gasoline and acetylene lights, and electric lights succeeded each other. The tall tallow dip standard sometimes tipped over; the neglected candle burned down and ran over, and carried into closets the candle set fire to clothing. The neglected lamp was prone to explode and cats or children pulling on the table cloth brought it to the floor. Gasoline and aceylene lights were never free from the explosion danger. So we welcomed electricity as a convenient, clean and safe light. It is safe only when properly installed. “Let there be light” is not enough now. We also want power to pump, grind, churn, wash and sweep and heat, to iron and cook on the many modern devices. The invisible “juice” which can do all this must be harnessed and controlled as is the tiny drop of gasoline which propels the heavy truck. Because of prohibitive expense only a few near-by farmers can connect with city plants; others must depend on private plants for electric light, heat and power. These systems are of low voltage, and the dangerous theory is quite common that therefore they are free from life and fire dangers. Neither of these dangers depend solely on voltage. A strong, well man may survive a severe electric shock; a slight shock may be fatal to one with a weak heart. Standing on a dry floor or a rubber mat, it may be safe to touch a knife switch or a brass socket; standing on a wet floor or in a bath, this is dangerous. In a building where there is nothing to burn, poor wiring may do no harm. Such is not the case in farm barns particularly. The dampness of the stockbarn is destructive to wire insulation, and a short circuit may at any time ignite the gathered cobwebs. In the hayloft hay, straw, cobwebs and dust are usually in contact with wires, fixtures and unenclosed switches and fuse blocks. Under these conditions the slightest electric trouble may cause a disastrous fire. Conduit wiring is advisable in barns. All work should be done in strict conformity with the National Electrical Code. This is the standard throughout the land, and the legal standard of this state. Farmers can do no better than to purchase these plants, installed, from some known, reputable dealer, under contract that all work comply with said code. A reputable dealer cannot afford to let either death or fire come hack to plague his conscience, because of incompetent work. Shun the man who tells you that these plants are free from danger and that expert knowledge is not needed to install them. Mr. Farmer, your buildings house ever-increasing values. You are not prepared to fight fire. Prevention is your only protection.