Underwriter Engineers Criticise Atchison

Underwriter Engineers Criticise Atchison

Atchison, Kan., was recently visited by the engineers of the National Board of Fire Underwriters. who report that the gross fire loss for the past five years, as given in the fire department records, amounted to $256,942, varying from $6,419 in 1908 to $104-232 in 1910. The number ot fires in the past three years was respectively 75, 73 and 92, with an average loss per fire of $834, a very high figure. The average number of fires per 1,000 population was 4.9, a moderate figure, and the average yearly loss per capita was $4.06, a very high figure. Atchison, which has a population of 17,000, covers an area of two and one half square miles, about one-third of which is built upon. The water works are owned and operated by the Atchison Water Works Company, a Kansas corporation. John E. Davis is president, and J. M. Chisha is superintendent, a position he has held for the past seven years. The water supply is taken from the Missouri river at a point adjacent to the eastern part of the mercantile district, pumped to settling basins and repumped from the same station into the distribution syslem, with an elevated tank as an equalizer. The surface of the city is hilly, with elevations ranging from 780 to 965 feet above mean sea level. The intake is a 16-inch cast iron pipe, supported beyond the river bank by chains from timber cribbing, a flexible joint permitting it to be raised and lowered, depending on the stage of water in the river; the outer end terminates in a strainer of perforated boiler iron. This line is ordinarily about 75 feet long, but an additional length of pipe is sometimes added, at times of low water. There has been some trouble from anchor ice and it has been occasionally necessary to shut down the raw water pump for short periods while the suction line was being Mown out by back pressure.

Bumping Station.—The pumping station, built in 1880, 15 located on the west bank of the Missouri river, adjacent to the mercantile district. Operating floor at elevation 790. Fuel is natural gas in summer and bituminous coal in winter. Equipment consists of twoEpping-Carpenter, triple-expansion, duplex, double-acting 2,000,090gallon pumps, one installed in 1909 and one in 1910, and one Laidlaw-Dunn-Gordon, compound, duplex, differential plunger, 2,000,000-gallon pump, installed in 1895. Three 100-horscpower, return tubular boilers supply steam through a single line, with a branch to each pump; two boilers are ordinarily used. Under ordinary conditions of operation, one of the Epping-Carpenter units is used to pump to the settling basins, with a maximum suction lift of 20 feet and against a head of 100 pounds, hut may he used to pump elcar water. The other Epping-Carpenter is used to pump clear water into the distribution system, receiving its supply through a 12-inch line from the settling basis under a dynamic head of 50 pounds and discharging against a head of 130 pounds; this pump cannot he used to pump raw water because of excessive suction lift. The Laidlaw-Dunn-Gordon pump is in reserve and can only he used to pump front the river, normally discharging into the settling basin, but in case of emergency, this pump and one of the others can pump river water directly into the distribution system. During times of heavy consumption in the stammer months, two units are occasionally used for short periods to pump clear water.

From the station a 14-inch line extends southerly one mile through the distribution system tn the settling basins, which are located at Fifth and Spring Carden streets. Basins are rectangular in shape, in excavation and embankment. Nos 1 and 2 are of concrete construction, built in 1907. 16 feet deep, capacity, 1,750,000 gallons each, elevation of high water 965: No. 3 is of brick, built in 1880, 18 feet deep, capacity. 1,750,000 gallons, elevation of high water 965; No. 4 is of masonry, built in 1880, 25 feet deep, capacity, 1.500,000 gallons. elevation of high water 953. Water may be delivered or withdrawn from any basin, but ordinarilv it is delivered to No. 1 and withdrawn from No. 4. An elevated tank, of riveted steel on steel framework, built in 1909, capacity, 200,000 gallons, is located adjacent to the basins. Tank is 27 feet high, top at elevation 1,055, 102 feet above the ground. This tank acts as an equalizer and is connected to the distribution system by a 12-inch pipe. Prior to 1909, the city was supplied by gravity from the settling basins and the piping is so arranged that in case the tank is emptied the basins will supply the city through a check valve. Consumption is based on pump plunger displacement, with no allowance for slip. During 1911, the average consumption was 1,286,900 gallons per day; for the first seven months of 1912, it was 1,333,000, a rate per consumer of 121 gallons per day. The maximum day’s pumpage was 2,054,000 gallons, on June 26, 1911. During sprinkling hours in very hot weather the rate sometimes reaches 3,500,000 gallons per 24 hours. There arc about 2,300 services, 325 of which, including all large consumers, are metered. It is estimated that the company supplies about 65 per cent, of the total population. There are four sixinch connections for sprinkler equipments and three three-inch connections for hydraulic elevators, the latter metered. A recording gauge, located at fire headquarters, elevation 829, shows an average pressure of 100 pounds, with fluctuations of 10 pounds for short periods. Pressure readings were taken by a national board engineer in August, 1912, at 34 hydrants well distributed throughout the city; observations were made between the hours of 2 p. m. and 6.30 p. m. The average of all readings was 88 pounds, with a maximum of 126 and a minimum of 49; the average in the principal mercantile district was 116 pounds.


The fire department is composed of experienced firemen, commanded by a chief experienced in fire methods, but is very weak, not having enough men to handle the apparatus. The building law is deficient in many important features bearing on fire prevention ; it has not been enforced and the fire marshal has too many other duties to devote much time to inspections. The fire limits are fairly extensive, but do not include all of the warehause and manufacturing district. Construction from a fire prevention standpoint is very weak, and no effective results can be expected until a proper building code is enacted and enforced.

Distributing System.—Distribution is in one service, supplied by direct pumpage, with an elevated tank as an equalizer. In case of interruption to the water supply at the pumping station the system would be supplied from the settling basins at a pressure about 40 pounds lower than that ordinarily carried. The surface of the city is hilly, with elevations in the area supplied ranging from 780 to 950; the mercantile district is practically level at an elevation of 795. From the pumping station a 14-inch line extends west 1,500 feet into the eastern portion of the principal mercantile district, where it supplies a 12-inch and a 10-inch line, which continue south 4,500 feet, connecting with the tank and with the settling basins, the latter through a check valve; a 10inch line extends northerly and westerly from the tank 1¾ miles to the western limits of the mercantile district. The 14-inch force main and the 12-inch suction line, which connect the pumping station and the settling basins, are so connected with the distribution system that they can be used as main arteries in case of emergency when the supply is being taken from the basins. Minor distributors are generally well gridironed. with few dead ends; they are largely four and six-inch, with a fair amount of eight-inch. There were 233 gate valves on the system August 1, 1912. All are direct acting and, with the exception of 5, open to the right. The average length of main necessary to cut out in case of a single break in the principal mercantile district and adjoining residential district was found to be 1,300 feet. There were 177 hydrants in service August 1, 1912. Those installed in recent years, including about half of the total number, are of Ludlow make with one 4 1/2-inch and either one or two 2 1/2 outlets, six-inch barrel and branch connection and five-inch valve opening.

Fire Flow Tests.—Tests of 19 hydrants in eight well distributed groups were made by engineers of the national board in August, 1912, to determine the probable supply available for fire protection purposes. Tests were made between the hours of 7.30 a. m. and 9.30 a. m. Ordinary conditions of operation prevailed at the station, a single 2,000,000 gallon pump delivering into the distribution system and maintaining the usual pressure of 130 pounds. The tests showed that in the eastern portion of the mercantile district there is sufficient water at a pressure adequate for direct hydrant hose streams, but in the western part of the district and along Main street the quantity is inadequate, even for engine supply. In residential districts the supply was generally ample for fire engines, but only two to five direct hydrant hose streams would be available. However, the flow obtained is indicative only of the carrying capacity of the mains and not of the quantity available for a long continued fire; a considerable quantity was obtained from the tank, which is of small capacity and would be soon emptied, leaving dependence for fire flow on the pumps, the total capacity of which is inadequate to maintain maximum fire flow at pressure corresponding to the elevation of the tank. Under such conditions, flow would have to be obtained from the settling basins, which would give a pressure sufficient only for moderately effective direct hydrant streams in the principal mercantile district.

The Atchison Fire Department

The fire department of Atchison is composed of a chief, assistant chief, foreman and 11 firemen, all located at headquarters. Chief John Compton has held the position for 23 years. The expense of maintaining the fire department for the fiscal year 1911-12 was $17,158, or $1.03 per capita. This amount does not include $5,500 for an automobile combination chemical and hose wagon, nor $8,000 for a new fire station.

The equipment consists of a Webb automobile combination pumping engine and hose wagon, purchased in 1911 and carrying 800 feet of 2 1/2 hose, two 2 1/2-inch suctions, 100 feet of rope, two axes and six life belts; a Webb combination chemical and hose wagon, put in service in 1912, equipped with a 40-gallon chemical tank and carrying 1,500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, 200 feet of one-inch chemical hose, 200 feet of 1 1/2-inch cotton hose with two shutoff nozzles, one 12-foot and one 35-foot ladder, five nozzles one end 1 1/8 inches in diameter, one of the shut-off type, an Eastman nozzle holder. 150 feet of one-inch rope, two axes, crowbar, door opener, life belt, a cellar pipe and a portable searchlight; a plain hose wagon loaded with 1,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, 200 feet of 1 1/2inch cotton, rubber-lined hose, with Siamese for connection to 2 1/2-inch hose, and two 1/2-inch shut-off nozzles, a 12-foot and a 35-foot ladder, two portable extinguishers, axes, crowbar, two nozzles, 7/8 and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, plaster hooks and 150 feet of rope. At Station 2, apparatus consists of a Babcock, 65-foot, manuallyraised. aerial ladder truck, carrying 65 and 45foot extensions and five other ladders, four plaster hooks, a three-way deluge set with tips 1 3/8 to 2 inches in diameter, a Siamese connection, life net, crowbar, door opener, forks, life belts, roof cutter and 200 feet of one-inch hose. There is also in reserve at this station a third size Metropolitan steam fire engine, a fifth size Silsby steam fire engine and a two-wheeled hose reel with 500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. The Webb automobile pumping engine and the Metropolitan steam fire engine were tested by national board engineers in August, 1912. The automobile engine delivered 484 gallons. 69 per cent, of its rated capacity, at a net water pressure of 114 pounds. The Metropolitan delivered 442 gallons, 74 per cent, of its rated capacity, against a net water pressure of 80 pounds: steam average, 87 pounds. The crews operated well, but the pump of the steam fire engine showed a slip of 11 per cent. There is 4,000 feet of 2 1/2 cotton, rubber-lined hose; 1 000 feet is 13 years old, gum and wax-treated; 500 feet is new, labeled hose. Hose is said to be in fair to good condition, and is shifted on wagons and tested to 100 pounds hydrostatic pressure every three weeks. Horses are exercised daily, either with wagons or under saddle, and are hitched twdee daily and on all alarms. Modern swinging harness is used.

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