WHY SUCH A SMALL MEMBERSHIP?
The reason for the existence of such an organisation as the International Association of Fire Engineers is acknowledged on all sides, and not least by the great majority of the fire chiefs in the United States and Canada. Of these there are upwards of 4,000, to say nothing of deputy and assistant chiefs, fire commissioners, members of council committees on fire, and the like, each one of whom is directly interested in the question of fire protection. Of these the chiefs and assistant chiefs, are, of course, the most intimately concerned, and there is not one of them who is such an expert fireman or so deeply versed in fire lore as not to be able to pick up some items of information and instruction at the yearly conventions of the association, whether the knowledge thus acquired is gained from the papers read, the discussions arising therefrom, or the talks on fire service which the chiefs have one with another. The fruits of such meetings and interchange of ideas, as well as those resulting from the after study of the proceedings, whether in such full reports as have appeared in these columns, or in the annual report of the convention as published officially by the association, cannot but be profitable as well to the chiefs themselves as to those whose interests they protect. It follows, therefore, that, instead of a small membership of a very few hundred, the roster should show the names of as many thousand —a consummation, however, which at present seems a something only to he desired, not achieved. The reason for this is not hard to find. It is not that the chiefs themselves, as a body, are apathetic in the matter that can he said only of a few, but that a very large number of them, being afraid to come to the conventions, do not care to join an association from which they will derive the minimum of profit— such as can be gathered only from the prestige belonging to the organsation and the perusal of its proceedings. That such a fear possesses the souls of men who fear no physical danger is only too true —as true as that its underlying cause is politics. In hundreds of cases the chief of a fire department knows that he is an object of envy to some of his fellow citizens, each one of whom is anxious to step into his shoes, and, as the henchman of the mayor or of some influential member of, or party in the council or town board is possessed of pull enough to cause the deposition of the chief, if only the chance is afforded. That opportunity they may embrace when his hack is turned, and by a well arranged system of conspiracy may so bring it about that, on his return from the convention, lie may find himself either reduced in rank or ousted altogether from his office—so great is the power of polities and pull in too many of eur municipalities today. Till that vicious and mischievous principle of associating politics with the fire department is utterly rooted out, till it is put out of the range of possibility of any one in the department being liable to dismissal or supersession on account of his political or religious creed, till municipal authorities see that it is for the advantage of the community that the fire chief should attend the conventions of the association, and till they do not make a political matter out of granting him a sum sufficient to cover his expenses (not forcing him to pay his own out of his too often small salary), iust so long will the membership of the association be kept down, and iust so long will its influence for the general good of the People be hindered, if not altogether counterbalanced.