WISCONSIN STATE PAID FIREMEN IN CONVENTION
Ninth Annual Meeting Held at Racine—Prefer One Day Off in Three to the Two Platoon System—Address by President Edward Gillen—Election of Officers—Paper by Captain Charles Schunck of Milwaukee.
The ninth annual convention of the Wisconsin State Paid Firemen’s Association was held at Racine, Aug. 4-6. Its most important transaction of general interest was to favor one y off in three in preference to the twoplatoon system. President Edward Gillen, of Milwaukee, opened the convention Tuesday forenoon, and in responding to the address of welcome by Mayor Goodland, spoke of the good work done by the association since it was organized in 1905. He stated that up to that time firemen had received little consideration throughout the State. Since then the association has had laws enacted providing for a firemen’s pension fund, and other things ot benefit fo the firemen. “It would have been impossible to accomplish this without the help of the association, which has accomplished more in its nine years of existence than any other association. All the laws which they sought were passed. And the cost of all these benefits thus far has been only $5.50 per member. He also stated that the firemen of the State had been given an opportunity to learn considerable of value at the annual conventions through the reading and discussion of various papers dealing with the work which they were called upon to do. The reports of the officers showed the association to be in a most flourishing condition. The discussion of the inspection system in the State brought out the fact that some difficulty was being experienced by chiefs in enforcing the provisions of the law. The chiefs, as a rule, were averse to bringing merchants into court for violations and Chief James Cape, of Racine, proposed the revocation of the insurance policy on such property until such time as the law was lived up to. Other delegates favored that plan also but several other remedies were advanced as being better than the one proposed by Chief Cape. In some States, it was pointed out, the State Fire Marshal had the authority to have such places cleaned out, charging the expense to the owner of the building. In France, according to one of the delegates, the owner or occupant of a building in which a fire occurs, is made liable for the damage to adjoining property. The burden of the proof is placed on his shoulders and the result is that the greatest caution is exercised to prevent fires. John Beck, of the State Industrial Commission, spoke on the benefits of the law which required firemen to make regular annual inspections of all business buildings. He said gave the firemen something valuable to do, and therefore was a benefit. He said one of worst punishments that could be meted out to a man in prison was to compel him to remain idle, and he thought the same rule applied as regards a fireman. Chief Cape thought that if the law provided that insurance on a man’s building be revoked if he did not clean up and lessen the fire hazard when ordered, it would make the law more effective. Other remedies were offered by visiting firemen, such as holding a negligent building owner liable for damage done to other neighboring structures by his building if it caught fire.
One Day Off in Three.
The association will make a determined effort to secure the passage of laws in the legislature at its next session which will give the firemen additional time off duty. A committee will be sent to either oppose or assist in the passage of the laws, according to the case. This subject was discussed at the convention and so decided. For some time an effort has been made to put into effect the two-platoon system, but little progress has been made because a lack of funds was always the excuse brought forward by the city councils. The firemen cannot see the reason for their being compelled to work night and day while the police are forced to work either one or the other. This practice is deemed an injustice by the firemen. Some of the firemen expressed themselves in favor of securing one day off in three. At the present time they are entitled to one in seven. Chief Clancy, of Milwaukee, spoke of the many difficulties confronting the chiefs of the different departments who had tried to obtain additional men so as to give them more time off duty. Lack of funds was the invariable excuse of the city council. Industrial Commissioner Beck made a short address on the workings of the compensation act and how it affected the firemen. State Fire Marshal Host made an address, touching on ie inspection system and other matters pertaining to the departments of the State. A matter of considerable importance discussed was that of the two per cent, insurance tax paid by insurance companies into the pension funds. For some reason, it is claimed, the amount of the tax has been decreasing year after year when it should have been showing an increase. Superior was the only city in the State which was receiving an increased amount. Other cities have been showing yearly decreases and the v pinion seemed to be that insurance agents ate neglecting to pay the entire amount called for. It was voted to have an investigation made to arrive at a solution of the condition. The following officers were elected: President, George W. Batchelder, Marinetta; Vice-President, Captain Clarence Gillen, Racine; Secretary, Ole Norman, Superior; Treasurer. John Kratz, Manitowoc. The executive committee is composed of James G. Butler, Milwaukee; W. W. Davies, Milwaukee; John H. Kratz, Manitowoc. A memorial service was held Tuesday evening, the Rev. Father Naughton making the address and the Presbyterian Church choir providing the musical program. The convention next year will be held at Marinetta. There were baseball games, automobile rides, a banquet and other forms of entertainment. A distinguishing feature of the convention was the fact that the total expense was borne by the firemen themselves and not a dollar was donated.
Paper by Captain Charles Schnuck.
A paper written by Captain Charles Schunk, of the Milwaukee Fire Department, was read. It was on topic No. 3, “What is the Best Method of Installing and Organizing a Fire Prevention and Inspection Bureau in Cities where there is no such bureau, nor a Separate Fund Set Aside for Such Work? Vv hat Ordinances Should be Enacted to Enable Inspectors to do Efficient Work and Have Their Orders Carried Out?” and was as follows:
The past year has witnessed a great many improvements in the line of fire fighting apparatus. It has brought us to the beginning of a new period in the progress and development of machinery and apparatus with which to fight fires. Great, high powered automobiles have been replacing horse-drawn apparatus. The fire chief no longer makes the fire run behind a high-strung, fiery horse; lie is whizzed through the streets in a modern racing automobile, and it is a rare occasion when any other apparatus gets to the fire before a district chief. We have new high-efficient automatic sprinklers, new types of chemicals, patent extension ladders that can be lifted to the top of a ten-story building in a jiffy, and many other wonderful new inventions with which to fight fires. However, there is another phase of the advance in the progress of modern fire departments that has not kept pace with the development of apparatus, and this is the inspection and prevention work. Perhaps it is wrong to say that it has not “kept pace” with other phases of the work, for this very important department is still only in its beginning. During the year of 1913 the State of Wisconsin suffered thousands of fires, causing the loss of a score or more of lives, great suffering to hundreds of people, and the loss of millions of dollars worth of property. There is no question in my mind that had there been adequate inspection work done by experienced men tile s;a;e at large would have been tar wealthier at the end of the year. There is no question but that the year 1913 saw greater activity in the work of inspection and prevention of fires than any preceeding year and the falling off in the number of fires and loss of life and property bear this out. Yet. there is great opportunity still remaining for improvement. Without doubt, the very best results can be obtained only bv perfecting a system that is perfectly organized, and this brings us to the question of how shall a fire prevention and inspection bureau be organized and installed in cities where there is no such bureau nor separate fund set aside for such work. Inspection bureaus are fast being installed in all of our cities, but. like all new ideas, it takes time to reach that stage of development at which the greatest good can be accomplished. A bureau of this kind is most certainly of such great importance that it should be maintained as a separate department, under the supervision of the chief engineer, which would eliminate the necessity of drawing on men from the various companies; and as soon as our councils recognize how important it is to maintain these bureaus there will always be a separate fund set aside ‘for this purpose. At present, however, we are confronted with a proposition such that there is no separate fund, and the next best thing to do is to make the best of existing conditions. The questions that now present themselves, are: 1. How shall the men be selected? 2. How many men should there be on the bureau? 3. How proceed to get the best results? The men should be selected from the oldest men in the department, that is. men who have had years of experience in every phase of fire fighting. Such men can tell at a glance what suggestions to offer to get the best results. The men will be chosen from various outlying companies, but since efficient inspection removes the possibility of numerous fires, the department as a whole will have less work to do, and by careful study the men can be chosen without causing any serious handicap to any company. In my opinion, based on several years’ service doing inspection work, there should be at least five men on the bureau for every 100,000 inhabitants in a city. This is a question which time and experience alone will be able to answer, but from observations that I have made during the time that I have been engaged in inspection work I believe five men per 100,000 inhabitants will give good results. No department in any line of business is able to attain the highest possible efficiency without systematic work, and this holds quite true with inspection work. The men should work in a systematic manner under the direction of the chief inspector and every possible effort should be made to get good results. Co-operation is essential, and it is urged that the men on the bureau co-operate with insurance people. Occasionally when it is next to impossible to get property owners or occupants of buildings to follow instructions of the bureau, co-operation with the insurance inspectors proves of great advantage. When it is threatened to cancel fire insurance it is often possible to get prompt results where other attempts have failed. Another very important feature that I desire to mention in connection with the work of the bureau is the matter of educating the people. I have found that, as a rule, the people with whom the men come in contact are eager to learn of ways and devices in which it is possible to remove the danger of fire. Quite often men who are engaged in various kinds of business are either too busy to notice defective conditions arising in their establishments or do not understand or realize that conditions of danger exist, are only too glad when the men from the bureau show them wherein they could remove the condition that is obnox-. ious. Educating the people in this manner produces results that are of far-reaching importance, and I consider this to be one of the most important features in connection with the work of the bureau. It will not be attempted here to outline the details of inspection as it should be carried out, as this was covered fully in the paper that I submitted at the last convention. It is sufficient to leave the matter to the judgment of the chief inspector or his superior officers, for each city has problems that must be worked out individually. The best and only way to get results is to invest the inspectors with power that will enable the inspectors to have their orders carried out. Quite often it is found that certain people refuse flatly to follow instructions issued by inspectors, and in quite a number of cases the inspectors are even denied the right to enter premises for the purpose of making inspection. A peculiar coincidence in this connection is that those who offer the greatest objection to the inspectors are in fact the ones who are usually in the greates; need of such work. Besides keeping their premises in a filthy and unsanitary condition they allow them to grow into such a dangerous condition, with regard to fire, thai they are a menace to the entire vicinity. The question that now arises is, what ordinance should he enacted to enable the inspection bureau to do efficient work and have its orders carried out? To provide the men with necessary power it is suggested that a suitable bill be drawn up by the chief engineer of the fire department and endeavor to have it enacted into a city law. Inspection work, as far as it has proceeded, has shown such gratifying results that no council will refuse to grant the bureau the power necessary to do its work.