Water and Conflagrations.
Great conflagrations are usually attributable to a deficient water supply. In this country this fact has been especially noticeable. With the full equipment of the Fire Departments in our large cities with the most approved fire apparatus, it has become almost impossible for a fire to extend to the dimensions of a serious calamity unless the supply of water is inadequate. The great fires in Chicago and Boston, and the destruction of several small towns within the past few years, were rendered possible because the supply of water either gave out or was not sufficient for fire purposes. At the Hale piano warehouse fire in this city, the lack of water on the west side of the city was made manifest, and the fire in Twentythird street two weeks ago, served further to illustrate the lamentable fact that in many parts of the city the water mains are wholly inadequate to a fire emergency. At the Twenty-third street fire, steamers coupled on to the mains without being able to get any water at all, or at best but a weak and inefficient stream. Other steamers were at work and “ had got the water,” and the supply in the mains was insufficient to furnish them all with the quantity they could handle with effect. Had the mains been larger, a greater number of hydrants could have been used with great effect. Owing to the distance apart of the hydrants, some of the steamers had to play through lines of hose 1,000 and 1,200 feet long, taxing the steamers to their utmost capacity, and subjecting them to severe strains.
The water problem is fast becoming a very serious one in New York, as it already is in many other cities. The Croton supply has served a good purpose thus far, but it is found already insufficient to provide satisfactorily for our present population ; and if the city is to continue growing, the Croton system must be furnished with an auxiliary of some kind. In London they are suffering from an insufficient water supply, and arrangements are now being carried into effect, at an immense cost, to remedy the evil. As a part of the system to be introduced, it is proposed to place a large number of hydrants in the streets for fire purposes, and that the water shall be sent through the mains under sufficient pressure to give good, effective fire streams from each hydrant. By this means steam fire engines will be dispensed with in the city, and remanded to the suburban districts. But the Fire Brigade will be by no means dispensed with. On the contrary, the number of Hose and Hook and Ladder Companies will require to be largely increased, in order to secure the increased efficiency that is desired. This idea of obtaining a direct fire supply of water from street hydrants is borrowed from the Holly system, so well and favorably known in this country, where some sixty or seventy cities depend exclusively upon this system for both their domestic and fire supply. Captain Shaw, Chief of the London Fire Brigade, reports that in fifty-one cases last year the Department was seriously embarrassed by an insufficient supply of water, and several fires became serious ones for this reason. New York has had a similar experience. Our Fire Service is now so nearly perfect that, with plenty of water easily obtainable, a great fire is almost an impossibility. But it is unquestionably true that if every hydrant furnished an adequate stream of water for fire purposes, the effectiveness of the Department would be greatly increased. This could be obtained from the Croton by the erection of stand-pipes and pumping machinery. But it would be still better, so long as an additional water supply must be provided before long, to introduce a system of water supply for fire and manufacturing purposes, which should be entirely independent of the Croton. This can be obtained from our rivers, on either side of the city, without a greater cost than it will quire to duplicate the Croton system, as is proposed. But, whether our rivers are ever utilized in this way or not, certain it is that the city is exposed constantly to the peril of great conflagrations, because of an insufficient supply of water and means for distributing it freely in all directions.