WATER AND FIRE SERVICE OF FREEPORT

WATER AND FIRE SERVICE OF FREEPORT

The report of the committee on fire prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters on the water supply and fire protection of Freeport, Ill., has just been issued. Like other reports compiled by this committee it contains very careful details of all subjects connected with the fire and water services of the city and recommendations for needed improvements. The city has a population of 20,000 and it is growing steadily as a manufacturing centre. Its improved streets are in good condition, but many others are not, which cause delay of lire apparatus when answering alarms. Overhead wires, too, are complained of in numerous alleys in the business district. The waterworks, which are owned and operated by the Freeport Water Company, were constructed in 1882. The franchise under which the company operates was granted for a term of 30 years, consequently it expires in 1912, and the company expects a renewal. The city pays an annual rental of $50 per hydrant and requires the company to furnish power and pressure to throw 6 streams 100 feet through 50 feet of 2L>-inch hose through 1-inch nozzles at one time. The franchise specifies that 10 hydrants shall be installed for every mile of pipe 4 inches in diameter and over. The plant is in charge of Owen T. Smith, well known to a great many waterworks men as a very competent superintendent. He has charge of all designing, construction and maintenance work, lie is a member of the American Water Works Association and a member of the Western Society of Engineers, and has been superintendent since 1892. All box alarms sound at the pumping station, but telephone alarms are not alwrvs received; no alarms sound at the office, but the superintendent is generally notified by telephone. Telephones of both exchanges are located in the office and the house of the superintendent, and of one exchange at the pumping station; several employes have telephones, so that a repair gang can be readily summoned. The supply is taken from 21 driven wells; the 20 ordinarily used are 3 or 5 inches in diameter and 40 feet deep; the one in reserve is 200 feet deep and 0 inches in diameter. The shallow wells obtain their supply from a coarse gravel stratum about 6 feet thick, resting upon a clay formation, and the deep well from a water-bearing sandstone. The shallow wells are connected to a suction line consisting of 196 feet of 16-inch and 80 feet of 12-inch castiron pipe, the deep well to an independent 8-inch suction line, 90 feet long. It is estimated that the minimum supply available from the shallow wells is 2,000,000 gallons and from the deep well 500,000 gallons per day. For short periods water has heen drawn from the shallow wells at the rate of 2,500.000 gallons per day; at this rate the suction lift is about 26 feet, while ordinarily, pumping at a 1,500,000 gallon rate, the suction lift is about 16 feet. The filter plant was built in 1903 to remove the iron from the water and thus prevent vegetable growth, which had caused considerable trouble. It is located in an addition to the pumping station, and consistof mixing tanks, settling tanks, mechanical filters and clear water reservoir. Water is received from the low-lift pump and flows by gravity through the plant to the clear water reservoir. The two wooden settling tanks have a capacity of 30,000 gallons each: with an elevation of bottom of 70.

The filters are four mechanical filter unit-, with a total nominal capacity of 2,000.000 gal Ions per 24 hours. They are in use and cleaned daily.

The clear water reservoir is located under the filterhouse. of plain concrete construction, net capacity 190,000 gallons.

The pumping station was built in 1882. and located about one-half mile northwest of the centre of the city. It contains a 2.000,000-gallon low-lift pump in the filterhouse and two high-lift in the main station, capacity 3.000.000 and 1.750,000 gallons per day. respectively. The low lift pump takewater directly from the shallow wells and delivers to settling tanks, or to the clear water reservoir if desired: maximum suction lift. 26 feet: ordinary lift. 16 feet; head pumped against, 21 feet. An air compressor. also located in the filterhouse. provides for raising water from the deep well to the clear water basin only. The high-lift pumps take suction from the clear water reservoir through a 16-inch pipe, with a branch to each pump, and they can be operated either singly or together; lift mat’ be as great as 12 feet, and elevation of pump cylinders, 72. In emergency, water may be taken through a 16inch suction from a brick well fed by an 18-inch gravity line of terra-cotta pipe, from the river 200 feet distant; or it may be taken directly from the shallow wells, though the excessive lift limits the amount available in this manner to little more than the ordinary domestic consumption. The pump works against a domestic pressure of about 80 pounds; at time of fire the pressure may be increased to 100 pounds; when the new boilers are installed a fire-pressure of .120 pounds can be carried.

The standpipe was constructed in 1882. It is wrought iron, 15 feet in diameter and 88 feet high, with a capacity of 115,000 gallons and an elevation to overflow of 262. The average daily per capita consumption for the past five years is about 77 gallons and for last year 69 gallons. The greatest pumpage in one day, 2,039,000 gallons, was in August, 1909, and on this same day a maximum hourly rate of 3,000,000 gallons per 24 hours was reached for a short period. Of the 3,030 services in use August 1, 1909, 1,520 were metered; this number includes practically all large consumers which obtain their supply from the company’s mains. Most of the large manufacturing plants have their own supply, which, together with the good percentage of meters and a general use of private cisterns for wash water, accounts for the small per-capita consumption, lie cording gtiagcs show an average of 75 pounds at night and 65 to 70 pounds during the day. About 89 per cent, of .all mains supplying hydrants are 4 to 6 inches in diameter and there are 26.77 miles of all sizes, up to 16 inch, in the service. There are 177 gate valves of standard makes and 185 hydrants mostly of Mathews brand in use. The average space between hydrants is 410 feet. Tests of 2! by drants in 8 well scattered groups were made by engineers of the National Board in August, 1909: since no engines are in service, tests were conducted with the idea of determining the probable supply at pressures sufficient for hydrant streams for fire protection purposes, fine test was taken in the principal merean tile, two in manufacturing and the remainder in residential districts. In the selection of the groups the carrying capacity of the mains and the value of the buildings in the districts were considered.

The average discharge from individual hydrants was 430 gallons per minute, and the average pressure with hydrant closed was 90.6 pounds and with hydrant open 64. With the renewal of franchise the company proposeto install a 5,000.000-gallon engine to replace the 1,750,000 high-lift engine and a new 2,000,000 low-lift pump, new boilers and more 8-inch mains. The conclusions of the engineers are that the plant is efficiently handled, the quantity of water available to the present sufficient for all needs; pumping equipment in fair con dition. but inadequate for proper fire protection. Standpipe in good condition, but capa city is too small: consumption low. because manufacturing plants use private supplies, and good ‘percentage of metered services and pres surcs fair to good throughout the city. As to the fire department the report say-: It is full paid since 1883, under the control of the fire committee of 3 members of the city council. Fire Marshal John F. Rodemeyer was appointed to this position when the paid department was established. In addition to his duties as ehief and fire marshal he is superintendent of fire alarm and electrical inspector. Assistant Fire Marshal Henry T. Lawson en tered the paid department in 1883 and was appointed to his present position in May. 1909. He acts as captain of hose No. 2. Total mem bership, 13. The appropriation for the maintenance of the fire department and fire alarm system for the current fiscal year amounts to $12,247. or about 61 cents per capita, based on the estimated population of 20.000 There is also an appropriation of $9,700 for hydrant rentals. The expenses for the past five years have averaged about 75 cents per capita. Appointments and promotions are made for indefinite periods by the mayor with the approval of the city council. It is customary for each administration to make extensive changes in the personnel: at the incoming of the present administration 5 men were supplanted by inexperienced men. There are no provisions tor retirement and no pension or benefit funds. Except the two chief officers, no members are over 50 years of age. Men receive full pay when disabled by sickness or injury. Members are allowed 15 days’ annual vacation, one day off in 8 and three hours daily for meals, in three shifts. Vacancies caused by vacations or unusual absence, but not sickness, are filled by substitutes. The minimum number of men on duty is 5 at headquarters, to man 3 pieces of apparatus, and 2 at hose No. 2. Men have sometimes been given time off, by the mayor or fire committee, to attend ball games or theatre. Men must attend fires during meal hours and large fires on days off. No night watch is maintained. There are one ladder and two hose companies in service, at two houses. The headquarters company, composed of a ladder truck and two hose carriages and with 9 members, including the marshal and a captain, is stationed at the edge of the principal mercantile district: the other hose company, manned by 4 men, including the assistant marshal, is about one-half mile from the opposite side of that district. To residential districts the ladder company has runs of tip to 1 1/2 miles and the hose companies tip to 1 1/4 miles. An important western residential section is from seven-eighths to 1 ¾ miles from ladder or hose protection and a manufacturing dis trirt in the southeastern part of the citv is 1 1-3 miles from the ladder company. There is no large chemical apparatus, although there is special need of it.

To summarize : There is only one hose wagon, one truck and 2 reels to furnish protection to a city’ of 20,009 population; 4.575 feet of hose: total length of ladders, 123 feet: 4 portable ex tinguishers, l cellar pipe and 2 Siamese con nections. The truck has been in service 25 years and is too small to carry a full equipment of tools. It will be seen that there are only

2 fire houses and 3 pieces of apparatus. The city has outgrown its fire department, which has been stunted in every way. the financial support being about two thirds that in several other cities of like character. The marshal’s excellent recommendations for improvements have been disregarded notwithstanding their great need.

The fire department is a fairlv efficient force for its size, but is under unsatisfactory supervision. undermanned, poorly paid and poorly equipped. Although the city ordinances place the control of the department and the enforcement of discipline in the hands of the matshal. who, b>’ long experience, is best fitted to perform such duties, yet in practice various city officials have usurped his functions, leaving him little authority except at fires. The extensive changes in personnel at the beginning of each citv administration, together with the lack of drills, causes the department to be com posed largely of untrained and inexperienced men.

The Gamewell electric fire alarm consists of 24 boxes and modern headquarterequipment. Complaint is made that the system is peg lected, many of the boxes being found dusty inside and one so out of order that it nulled in a false alarm. This is not a very satisfactory showing for the fire department of such a citv as Freeport. The wonder is that it has been -o lucky in the matter of fires, as a good blaze once started might result in wiping out the business part of the place before proper apparatus could be summond from neighboring cities. It is certainly an example of what poli tics will do to nearly demoralize so important a service.

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