1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fire and Fire Extinction
FIRE AND FIRE EXTINCTION. Fire is considered in this article, primarily, from the point of view of the protection against fire that can be accorded by preventive measures and by the organization of fire extinguishing establishments.
History is full of accounts of devastation caused by fires in towns and cities of nearly every country in the civilized world. The following is a list of notable fires of early days:—
Great Britain and Ireland
|982.||London,„||greater part of the city burned.|
|1086.||London,„||all houses and churches from the east to the west gate burned.|
|1212.||London,„||greater part of the city burned.|
|1666.||London,„||“The Great Fire,” September 2–6.|
- It began in a wooden house in Pudding Lane, and burned for three days, consuming the buildings on 436 acres, 400 streets, lanes, &c., 13,200 houses, with St Paul's church, 86 parish churches, 6 chapels, the guild-hall, the royal exchange, the custom-house, many hospitals and libraries, 52 companies' halls, and a vast number of other stately edifices, together with three of the city gates, four stone bridges, and the prisons of Newgate, the Fleet, and the Poultry and Wood Street Compters. The fire swept from the Tower to Temple church, and from the N.E. gate to Holborn bridge. Six persons were killed. The total loss of property was estimated at the time to be £10,730,500.
|1794.||London,||630 houses destroyed at Wapping. Loss above £1,000,000.|
|1834.||London,„||Houses of Parliament burned.|
|1861.||London,„||Tooley Street wharves, &c., burned. Loss estimated at £2,000,000.|
|1873.||London,„||Alexandra palace destroyed.|
|1137.||York, totally destroyed.|
|1184.||Glastonbury, town and abbey burned.|
|1507.||Norwich, nearly destroyed; 718 houses burned.|
|1598.||Tiverton,||400 houses and a large number of horses burned; 33 persons killed. Loss, £150,000.|
|1612.||Tiverton,„||600 houses burned. Loss over £200,000.|
|1731.||Tiverton,„||300 houses burned.|
|1700.||Edinburgh, “the Great Fire.”|
|1612.||Cork, greater part burned, and again in 1622.|
|1613.||Dorchester, nearly destroyed. Loss, £200,000.|
|1644.||Beaminster, burned. Again in 1684 and 1781.|
|1675.||Northampton, almost totally destroyed.|
|1683.||Newmarket, large part of the town burned.|
|1694.||Warwick, more than half burned; rebuilt by national contribution.|
|1738.||Wellingborough, 800 houses burned.|
|1743.||Crediton, 450 houses destroyed.|
|1760.||Portsmouth, dockyard burned.||Loss, £400,000.|
|1770.||Portsmouth,„ dockyard„ burned.„||Loss, £100,000.|
|1802.||Liverpool, destructive fire. Loss, £1,000,000.|
|1827.||Sheerness, 50 houses and much property destroyed.|
|1854.||Gateshead, 50 persons killed. Loss, £1,000,000.|
|1875.||Glasgow. Great fire. Loss, £300,000|
|59.||Lyons, burned to ashes. Nero offers to rebuild it.|
|1118.||Nantes, greater part of the city destroyed.|
|1524.||Troyes, nearly destroyed.|
|1720.||Rennes, on lire from December 22 to 29. 850 houses burned.|
|1734.||Brest. Fire and explosion in dockyard. Loss, £1,000,000.|
|1862.||Marseilles, destructive fire.|
|1871.||Paris. Communist devastations. Property destroyed, £32,000,000.|
Central and Southern Europe
|64.||Rome burned during 8 days. 10 of the 14 wards of the city were destroyed.|
|1106.||Venice,||greater part of the city was burned.|
|1577.||Venice,„||fire at the arsenal, greater part of the city ruined by an explosion.|
|1299.||Weimar, destructive fire; also in 1424 and 1618.|
|1379.||Memel was in large part destroyed, and again in 1457, 1540, 1678, 1854.|
|1405.||Bern was destroyed.|
|1420.||Leipzig lost 400 houses.|
|1457.||Dort, cathedral and large part of the town burned.|
|1491.||Dresden was destroyed.|
|1521.||Oviedo, large part of the city destroyed.|
|1543.||Komorn was burned.|
|1634.||Fürth was burned by Austrian Croats.|
|1680.||Fürth was again destroyed.|
|1686.||Landau was almost destroyed.|
|1758.||Pirna was burned by Prussians. 260 houses destroyed.|
|1762.||Munich lost 200 houses.|
|1764.||Königsberg,||public buildings, &c., burned. Loss, £600,000.|
|1784.||Rokitzan (Bohemia) was totally destroyed. Loss, £300,000.|
|1801.||Brody, 1500 houses destroyed.|
|1859.||Brody,„ 1000 houses destroyed.|
|1803.||Posen, large part of older portion of city burned.|
|1811.||Forest fires in Tyrol destroyed 64 villages and hamlets.|
|1818.||Salzburg was partly destroyed.|
|1842.||Hamburg. A fire raged for 100 hours, May 5–7.|
- During the fire the city was in a state of anarchy. 4219 buildings, including 2000 dwellings, were destroyed. One-fifth of the population was made homeless, and 100 persons lost their lives. The total loss amounted to, £7,000,000. After the fire, contributions from all Germany came in to help to rebuild the city.
|1861.||Glarus (Switzerland), 500 houses burned.|
|1530.||Aalborg, almost entirely destroyed.|
|1541.||Aarhuus, almost entirely destroyed, and again in 1556.|
|1624.||Opslo, nearly destroyed. Christiania was built on the site.|
|1702.||Bergen, greater part of the town destroyed.|
|1728.||Copenhagen,||nearly destroyed. 1650 houses burned, 77 streets.|
|1794.||Copenhagen,„||royal palace with contents burned.|
|1795.||Copenhagen,„||50 streets, 1563 houses burned.|
|1751.||Stockholm,||1000 houses destroyed.|
|1759.||Stockholm,„||250 houses burned. Loss, 2,000,000 crowns.|
|1775.||Abo, 200 houses and 15 mills burned.|
|1827.||Abo,„ 780 houses burned, with the university.|
|1790.||Carlscrona,||1087 houses, churches, warehouses, &c., destroyed.|
|1802.||Gothenburg,||178 houses burned.|
|1858.||Christiania.||Loss estimated at £250,000.|
|1865.||Carlstadt||(Sweden), everything burned except the bishop's residence, hospital and jail. 10 lives lost.|
|1736.||St Petersburg,||2000 houses burned.|
|1862.||St Petersburg,„||great fire. Loss, £1,000,000.|
|1752.||Moscow,||18,000 houses burned.|
|1812.||Moscow,„||The Russians fired the city on September 14 to drive out the army of Napoleon. The fire continued five days. Nine-tenths of the city was destroyed. Number of houses burned, 30,800. Loss, £30,000,000.|
|1753.||Archangel,||900 houses burned.|
|1793.||Archangel,„||3000 buildings and the cathedral burned.|
|1786.||Tobolsk, nearly destroyed.|
|1788.||Mitau, nearly destroyed.|
|1812.||Riga, partly destroyed.|
|1834.||Tula, destructive fire.|
|1848.||Orel,||large part-of the town destroyed.|
|1850.||Cracow,||large part of the town burned.|
|1864.||Novgorod,||large amount of property destroyed.|
- The following fires have occurred at Constantinople:—
|1729.||A great fire destroyed 12,000 houses and 7000 people.|
|1745.||A fire lasted five days.|
|1750.||In January, 10,000 houses burned; in April, property destroyed estimated from £1,000,000 to £3,000,000. Later in the year 10,000 houses were destroyed.|
|1751.||4000 houses were burned.|
|1756.||15,000 houses and 100 people destroyed. During the years 1761, 1765 and 1767 great havoc was made by fire.|
|1769.||July 17. A fire raged for twelve hours, extending nearly 1 m. in length. Many of the palaces, some small mosques and nearly 650 houses were destroyed.|
|1771.||A fire lasting 15 hours consumed 2500 houses and shops.|
|1778.||2000 houses were burned.|
|1782.||August 12. A fire burned three days: 10,000 houses, 50 mosques and 100 corn mills destroyed; 100 lives lost. In February, 600 houses burned; in June, 7000 more.|
|1784.||August 5. A fire burned for 26 hours and destroyed 10,000 houses, most of which had been rebuilt since the fires of 1782. In the same year, March 13, a fire in the suburb of Pera destroyed two-thirds of that quarter. Loss estimated at 2,000,000 florins.|
|1791.||Between March and July 32,000 houses are said to have been burned, and as many in 1795.|
|1799.||In the suburb of Pera 13,000 houses were burned and many magnificent buildings.|
|1816.||August 16. 12,000 houses and 3000 shops in the finest quarter were destroyed.|
|1818.||August 13. A fire destroyed several thousand houses.|
|1826.||A fire destroyed 6000 houses.|
|1848.||500 houses and 2000 shops destroyed. Loss estimated at £3,000,000.|
|1865.||A great fire destroyed 2800 houses, public buildings, &c. Over 22,000 people were left homeless.|
|1870.||June 5. The suburb of Pera, occupied by the foreign population and native Christians, was swept by a fire which destroyed over 7000 buildings, many of them among the best in the city, including the residence of the foreign legations. Loss estimated at nearly £5,000,000.|
|1797.||Scutari,||the town of 3000 houses totally destroyed.|
|1763.||Smyrna,||2600 houses consumed. Loss, £200,000.|
|1772.||Smyrna,„||3000 dwellings burned. 3000 to 4000 shops, &c. consumed. Loss, £4,000,000.|
|1796.||Smyrna,„||4000 shops, mosques, magazines, &c., burned.|
|1841.||Smyrna,„||12,000 houses were burned.|
|1631.||Rajmahal.||Palace and great part of the town burned.|
|1799.||Manilla,||vast storehouses were burned.|
|1833.||Manilla,„||10,000 huts were burned, March 26. 30,000 people rendered homeless, and 50 lives lost.|
|1803.||Madras,||more than 1000 houses burned.|
|1803.||Bombay.||Loss by fire of £600,000.|
China and Japan
|1822.||Canton||was nearly destroyed by fire.|
|1866.||Yokohama,||two-thirds of the native town and one-sixth of the foreign settlement destroyed.|
|1872.||Yeddo.||A fire occurred in April during a gale of wind, destroying buildings covering a space of 6 sq. m. 20,000 persons were made homeless.|
|1873.||Yeddo,„||A fire destroyed 10,000 houses.|
|1679.||Boston.||All the warehouses, 80 dwellings, and the vessels in the dockyards were consumed. Loss, £200,000.|
|1760.||Boston,„||A fire caused a loss estimated at £100,000.|
|1787.||Boston,„||A fire consumed 100 buildings, February 20.|
|1794.||Boston,„||96 buildings were burned. Loss, £42,000.|
|1872.||Boston,„||Great fire, November 9–10. By this fire the richest quarter of Boston was destroyed.|
- The fire commenced at the corner of Summer and Kingston streets. The area burned over was 65 acres. 776 buildings, comprising the largest granite and brick warehouses of the city, filled with merchandise, were burned. The loss was about £15,000,000. Before the end of the year 1876 the burned district had been rebuilt more substantially than ever.
|1778.||Charleston||(S.C.). A fire caused the loss of £100,000.|
|1796.||Charleston„||300 houses were burned.|
|1838.||Charleston„||One-half the city was burned on April 27. 1158 buildings destroyed. Loss, £600,000.|
|1802.||Portsmouth (N.H.),||102 buildings destroyed.|
|1813.||Portsmouth (N.H.),„||397 buildings destroyed.|
|1820.||Savannah, 463 buildings were burned. Loss, £800,000.|
|1835.||New York.||The great fire of New York began in Merchant Street, December 16, and burned 530 buildings in the business part of the city. 1000 mercantile firms lost their places of business. The area burned over was 52 acres. The loss was £3, 000,000.|
|1845.||New York.„||A fire in the business part of the city, July 20, destroyed 300 buildings. The loss was £1,500,000. 35 persons were killed.|
|1845.||Pittsburg. A large part of the city burned, April 11. 20 squares, 1100 buildings destroyed. Loss, £2,000,000.|
|1846.||Nantucket was almost destroyed.|
|1848.||Albany. 600 houses burned, August 17. Area burned over 37 acres, one-third of the city. Loss, £600,000.|
|1849.||St Louis.||23 steamboats at the wharves, and the whole or part of 15 blocks of the city burned, May 17. Loss, £600,000.|
|1851.||St Louis.„||More than three-quarters of the city was burned, May 4. 2500 buildings. Loss, £2,200,000.|
|1851.||St Louis.„||500 buildings burned. Loss, £600,000|
|1850.||Philadelphia.||400 buildings burned, July 9. 30 lives lost. Loss, £200,000.|
|1865.||Philadelphia.„||50 buildings burned, February 8. 20 persons killed. Loss, £100,000.|
|1851.||Washington. Part of the Capitol and the whole of the Congressional Library were burned.|
|1851.||San Francisco. On May 4–5 a fire destroyed 2500 buildings. A number of lives lost. More than three-fourths of the city destroyed. Loss, upwards of £2,000,000. In June another fire burned 500 buildings. Loss estimated at £600,000.|
|1857.||Chicago.||A fire destroyed over £100,000. 14 lives lost.|
|1859.||Chicago.„||Property destroyed worth £100,000, Sept. 15.|
|1866.||Chicago.„||Two fires on August 10 and November 18. Loss, £100,000 each.|
|1871.||Chicago.„||The greatest fire of modern times.|
- It began in a barn on the night of the 8th of October and raged until the 10th. The area burned over was 2124 acres, or 3⅓ sq. m., of the very heart of the city. 250 lives were lost, 98,500 persons were made homeless, and 17,430 buildings were consumed. The buildings were one-third in number and one-half in value of the buildings of the city. Before the end of 1875 the whole burned district had been rebuilt. The loss was estimated at £39,000,000.
|1862.||Troy (N.Y.) was nearly destroyed by fire.|
|1866.||Portland (Maine). Great fire on July 4. One-half of the city was burned; 200 acres were ravaged; 50 buildings were blown up to stop the progress of the fire. Loss, £2,000,000 to £2,250,000.|
|1871.||October. Forest and prairie fires in Wisconsin and Michigan. 15,000 persons were made homeless; 1000 lives lost. Loss estimated at £600,000.|
British North America
|1815.||Quebec||was injured to the extent of £260,000.|
|1845.||Quebec„||1650 houses were burned, May 28. One-third of the population made homeless. Loss from £400,000 to £750,000. Another fire, on June 28, consumed 1300 dwellings. 6000 persons were made homeless. 30 streets destroyed. Insurance losses, £60,770.|
|1866.||Quebec„||2500 houses and 17 churches in French quarter burned.|
|1825.||New Brunswick. A tract of 4,000,000 acres, more than 100 m. in length, was burned over; it included many towns. 160 persons killed, and 875 head of cattle. 590 buildings burned. Loss, about £60,000. Towns of Newcastle, ifhatham and Douglastown destroyed.|
|1837.||St John (New Brunswick). 115 houses burned, January 13, and nearly all the business part of the city. Loss, £1,000,000.|
|1877.||St. John. Great fire on June 21. The area burned over was 200 acres. 37 streets and squares totally or in part destroyed; 10 m. of streets; 1650 dwellings. 18 lives lost. Total loss, £2,500,000. Two-fifths of the city burned.|
|1846.||St John's (Newfoundland) was nearly destroyed, June 9. Two whole streets burned upwards of 1 m. long. Loss estimated at £1,000,000.|
|1850.||Montreal.||A fire destroyed the finest part of the city on June 7. 200 houses were burned.|
|1852.||Montreal.„||A fire on July 9 rendered 10,000 people destitute. The space burned was 1 m. in length by ½ m. in width, including 1200 houses. Loss, £1, 000,000.|
|1536.||Cuzco was nearly consumed.|
|1861.||Mendoza. A great fire followed an earthquake which had destroyed 10,000 people.|
|1862.||Valparaiso was devastated by fire.|
|1863.||Santiago. Fire in the Jesuit church; 2000 persons, mostly women and children, perished.|
|1752.||Pierre (Martinique) had 700 houses burned.|
|1782.||Kingston (Jamaica) had 80 houses burned. Loss, £500,000.|
|1795.||Montego Bay (Jamaica). Loss by fire of £400,000.|
|1805.||St Thomas. 900 warehouses consumed. Loss, £6,000,000.|
|1808.||Spanish Town (Trinidad) was totally destroyed. Loss estimated at £1,500,000.|
|1828.||Havana lost 350 houses; 2000 persons reduced to poverty.|
|1843.||Port Republicain (Haiti). Nearly one-third of the town was burned.|
Since this list was compiled, there have been further notable fires, more particularly in North America, the great conflagrations at Chicago, Baltimore and San Francisco being terrible examples. But speaking generally, these conflagrations, extensive as they were, only repeated the earlier lessons as to the necessity of combating the general negligence of the public by attaching far greater importance to the development of fire preventive measures even than to the better organization of the fire-fighting establishments.
It may be of interest to mention notable fires in the British empire, and London in particular, during the decade 1890 to 1899:—
|Port of Spain (Trinidad)||March||4, 1895|
|New Westminster (British Columbia)||Sept.||10, 1898|
|Toronto (Ontario)||Jan. 6,
|Windsor (Nova Scotia)||Oct.||17, 1897|
|St John's (Newfoundland)||July||8, 1892|
|London—Charterhouse Square||Dec.||25, 1889|
|London—„St Mary Axe||July||18, 1893|
|London—„Old Bailey and Fleet Street||Nov.||15, 1893|
|London—„Tabernacle Street, Finsbury||June||21 1894|
|London—„Bermondsey Leather Market||Sept.||13, 1894|
|London—„Bermondsey„ Leather„ Market„||May||17, 1895|
|London—„South-West India Docks||Feb.||8, 1895|
|London—„Charlotte and Leonard Streets, Finsbury||June||10, 1896|
|Glasgow—Anderston Quay||Jan.||16, 1897|
|Glasgow—„Dunlop Street||April||25, 1898|
As to fires in any one specific class of building, the extraordinary number of fires that occurred in theatres and similar places of public entertainment up to the close of the 19th century calls for mention. Since that time, however, there has been a considerable abatement in this respect, owing to the adoption of successful measures of fire prevention. A list of some 1100 fires was published by Edwin O. Sachs in 1897 (Fires at Public Entertainments), and the results of these fires analysed. They involved a recorded loss of life to the extent of 9350 souls. About half of them (584) occurred in Europe, and the remainder in other parts of the world. Since the publication of that list extraordinary efforts have been made in all countries to reduce the risk of fires in public entertainments. The only notable disaster that has occurred since was that at the Iroquois Theatre at Chicago.
The annual drain in loss of life and in property through fires is far greater than is generally realized, and although the loss of life and property is being materially reduced from year to year, mainly by the fire-preventive measures that are now making themselves felt, the annual fire wastage of the world still averages quite £50,000,000 sterling. It is extremely difficult to obtain precise data as to the fire loss, insured and uninsured, but it may be assumed that in Great Britain the annual average loss by fire, towards the end of the 19th century (say 1897), was about £17,000,000 sterling, and that this had been materially reduced by 1909 to probably somewhere about £12,000,000 sterling. This extraordinary diminution in the fire waste of Great Britain,—in spite of the daily increasing number of houses, and the increasing amount of property in buildings—is in the main owing to the fire-preventive measures, which have led to a better class of new building and a great improvement in existing structures, and further, to a greater display of intelligence and interest in general fire precautionary measures by the public.
Notable improvements in the fire service have been effected, more particularly in London and in the country towns of the south of England since 1903. The International Fire Exhibition held in 1903 at Earl's Court, and the Fire Prevention Congress of the same year, may be said to have revolutionized thought on the subject of fire brigade organization and equipment in the British empire; but, for all that, the advance made by the fire service has not been so rapid as the development of the fire preventive side of fire protection.
Fire Protection.—The term “Fire Protection” is often misunderstood. Fire-extinguishing—in other words, fire brigade work—is what the majority understand by it, and many towns consider themselves well protected if they can boast of an efficiently manned fire-engine establishment. The fire brigade as such, however, has but a minor role in a rational system of protection. Really well-protected towns owe their condition in the first place to properly applied preventive legislation, based on the practical experience and research of architects, engineers, fire experts and insurance and municipal officials. Fire protection is a combination of fire prevention, fire combating and fire research.
Under the heading of “Fire Prevention” should be classed all preventive measures, including the education of the public; and under the heading “Fire Combating” should be classed both self-help and outside help.
Preventive measures may be the result of private initiative, but as a rule they are defined by the local authority, and contained partly in Building Acts, and partly in separate codes of fire-survey regulations—supplemented, if necessary, by special rules as to the treatment of extraordinary risks, such as the storage of petroleum, the manufacture of explosives, and theatrical performances. The education of the public may be simply such as can be begun informally at school and continued by official or semi-official warnings, and a judicious arrangement with the newspapers as to the tendency of their fire reports.
Such forms of training have already been successfully introduced. There are English towns where the authorities have, for instance, had some of the meaningless fables of the old elementary school Standard Reader replaced by more instructive ones, which warn children not to play with matches, and teach them to run for help in case of an emergency. Instructive copy-book headings have been arranged in place of the meaningless sentences so often used in elementary schools. There are a number of municipalities where regular warnings are issued every December as to the dangerous Christmas-tree. In such places every inhabitant has at least an opportunity of learning how to throw a bucket of water properly, and how to trip up a burning woman and roll her up without fanning the flames. The householder is officially informed where the nearest fire-call point is, and how long he must expect to wait till the first engine can reach his house. If he is a newspaper reader, he will also have ample opportunity of knowing the resources of his town, and the local reporter's fire report will give him much useful information based on facts or hints supplied by the authorities.
Both self-help and outside help must be classed under the heading of “Fire Combating.” Self-help mainly deals with the protection of large risks, such as factories, stores and public places of amusement, which lend themselves to regulation. The requirements of the fire survey code may allow for hydrants or sprinklers in certain risks, and also for their regular inspection, and the means for self-help may thus be given. These means will, however, probably not be properly employed unless some of the employés engaged on the risk are instructed as to their purpose, and have confidence in the apparatus at their disposal. The possibility of proper self-help in dangerous risks may be encouraged by enforcing regular drills for the employés, and regular inspections to test their efficiency. There are towns where great reliance is placed on the efforts of such amateur firemen. In some cities they even receive extra pay and are formed into units, properly uniformed and equipped, and retained by the fire brigade as a reserve force for emergencies.
Self-help for the shopkeeper, the lodger or the householder can scarcely be regulated. The opportunities already mentioned for the education of the public, if properly utilized, would assure intelligent behaviour on the part of a large percentage of the community. There are places where, without any regulation being attempted, and thanks entirely to the influence referred to, most residences can boast of a hand-pump, a bucket, and a crowbar, the proper use of which is known to most of the household. Self-help in small risks may, however, be distinctly encouraged by the authorities, without any irksome interference with personal liberty, simply by the provision of street pillar-boxes, with the necessaries of first aid, including perhaps a couple of scaling ladders, and, further, by opportunities being given to householders to learn how to handle them. If a street pillar-box of this kind be put in a fire-station, and certain afternoons in the year be reserved on which this elementary instruction will be given, and the students afterwards shown over the fire-station or treated to a “turn-out,” a considerable number will be found to take advantage of the opportunity. No matter whether curiosity or real interest brings them, the object in view will be attained.
Under “outside” help should be understood what is organized, and not simply such as is tendered by the casual passer-by or by a neighbour. The link between self-help and outside help is the fire-call.
The Fire-Call.—The efficiency of the fire-call depends not only on the instrument employed and its position, but also on its conspicuous appearance, and the indications by which its situation may be discovered. These indications are quite as important as the instruments themselves. The conspicuousness of the instrument alone does not suffice. Of the official notifications given in the press, those in regard to the position of the call-points are among the most useful. An indication at every street corner as to the direction to take to reach the point—or perhaps better, the conspicuous advertisement of the nearest call-point over every post pillar-box and inside every front door—may enable the veriest stranger to call assistance, and minimize the chances of time being lost in search of the instrument. It is immaterial for the moment whether the helpers are called by bell outside a fire-station, by a messenger from some special messenger service, by a call through a telephone, or by an electric or automatic appliance. Any instrument will do that ensures the call being transmitted with maximum speed and certainty and in full accord with the requirements of the locality.
Outside Help.—Organized outside help may not be limited simply to the attendance of the fire brigade. Special arrangements can be made for the attendance of the local police force, a public or private salvage corps, an ambulance, or, in some cases, a military guard. Then in some instances arrangements are made for the attendance of the water and gas companies' servants, and even officials from the public works office, insurance surveyors, and the Press. There are places where the salvage corps arrives on the scene almost simultaneously with the fire brigade, and others where the police are generally on the spot in good force five minutes after the arrival of the first engines. There are several cities where the ambulance wagon and the steamers arrive together, and another city where the military authorities always send a fire piquet which can be turned out in a few minutes.
If all these helpers come together, no matter how high the rank of the individual commanders, the senior officer of the fire brigade, even if he holds only non-commissioned officer's rank, should have control, and his authority be fully recognized. Unfortunately, there are not many countries where this is the case. The efficiency of outside help depends in the first instance on the clear definition of the duties and powers of all concerned—on the legal foundation, in fact; then on the organization, the theoretically as well as practically correct executive; and, last, but by no means least, on the prestige, the social standing, the education of commanders and their ability to handle men. Among the rank and file of the brigade, clear-headedness, pluck, smartness and agility will be as invaluable as reckless daredevilry; showy acrobatism, or an unhealthy ambition for public applause, will be dangerous.
Research.—Under the heading “Fire Research” should be included theoretical and experimental investigation as to materials and construction, combined with the chronicling of practical experience in fires, then the careful investigation and chronicling of the causes of fires, assisted where necessary by a power for holding fire inquests in interesting, suspicious or fatal cases. Experimental investigation as to natural and accidental causes as distinct from criminal causes can be included. Research in criminal cases may be assisted not only by a fire inquest, but also by immediate formal inquiries held on the spot, by the senior fire brigade and police officers present, or by immediate government investigations held on the same lines as inquiries into explosions and railway accidents. As to general research work, there are several cities which contribute substantially towards the costs of fire tests at independent testing stations. Some towns also have special commissions of experts who visit all big fires occurring within easy travelling distance, take photographs and sketches, and issue reports as to how the materials were affected. Then there are the usual statistics as to outbreaks, their recurrence and causes, and in some places such tables are supplemented by reports on experiments with oil lamps, their burners and wicks, electric wiring, and the like.
The British Fire Prevention Committee.—The British Fire Prevention Committee is an organization founded a few days after the great Cripplegate (London) fire in 1897, and incorporated in February 1899. It comprises some 500 members and subscribers. The members include civil engineers, public officials holding government appointments, fire chiefs, insurance surveyors and architects, whilst the subscribers in the main include the great public departments, such as the admiralty and war office, and municipalities, such as the important corporations of Glasgow, Liverpool and the like. Colonial government departments and municipalities are also on the roll, together with a certain number of colonial members. New Zealand has formed a special section having its own local honorary secretary. The ordinary work of the committee is carried out by a council and an executive, and the necessary funds are provided by the subscription of members and subscribers. The services of the members of council and executive are given gratuitously, no out-of-pocket expenses of any kind being refunded. Whilst the routine work deals mainly with questions of regulations, rules and publications of general technical interest, the tests are probably what have brought the committee into prominence and given it an international reputation. They are not only the recognized fire tests of Great Britain, but they rank as universal standard tests for the whole of the civilized world, and Americans, just as much as Danes, Germans or Austrians, pride themselves when some product of their country has passed the official procedure of a test by the committee. The reports of the tests, which state facts only without giving criticisms or recommendations, are much appreciated by all who have the control of public works or the specification of appliances. The committee does not limit itself solely to testing proprietary forms of construction or appliances, but has a number of tests—quite equal to the proprietary tests—of articles in general use. The ordinary concrete floor or the ordinary wooden joist floor protected by asbestos boards or slag wool receives as much 'attention as a patent floor; and similarly the ordinary everyday hydrant receives equal attention with the patent hydrant, or ordinary bucket of water with the special fire extinguisher. The door tests of the committee, which cover some thirty different types of doors, deal with no less than twenty ordinary wooden doors that can be made by any ordinary builder or cabinet-maker. These so-called non-proprietary tests are made at the expense of the general funds of the committee, whilst for the proprietary tests the owners have to pay about two-thirds of the expenses incurred in the form of a testing fee. The expenses incurred in a test, of course, not only comprise the actual testing operation of testing, but also the expense of producing the report, which is always a very highly finished publication with excellent blocks. The expense incurred also includes the establishment expenses of the testing station at Regent's Park.
The British Fire Prevention Committee organized the great Fire Exhibition and International Fire Congress, of London in 1903, in both of which it enjoyed the support and assistance of the National Fire Brigades Union and the Association of Professional Fire Chiefs. It from time to time dispatches special commissions to the continent of Europe, and these visits are followed by the issue of official reports, well illustrated, presenting the appliances, rules and methods of the countries visited, and serving as most useful reference publications.
Taken generally, the whole of the work of the committee, both in respect of scientific investigations and propagandism, has been most beneficial. Fire waste has been materially reduced, regardless of the fact of the greater fire hazards and the ever-growing amount of property. In Great Britain alone the sum saved in fire wastage annually is about £5,000,000. This great annual saving has been obtained at an expenditure in research work, as far as the British Fire Prevention Committee is concerned, of about £23,000, of which more than half was provided by the membership in voluntary contributions or subscriptions.
There is no similar institution anywhere in the world, although several government laboratories occasionally undertake fire tests, notably the Gross Lichterfelde laboratory near Berlin, and several insurance corporations have testing plants, notably the American Underwriters at Chicago. The efforts at research work outside Great Britain have, however, been spasmodic and in no way compare with the systematic series of inquiries conducted without any substantial state aid in London.
Distribution of Losses.—Property destroyed by fire is practically an absolute loss. This loss may actually only affect the owner, or it may be distributed among a number of people, who are taxed for it in the form of a contribution to their national or local fire fund, a share in some mutual insurance “ring,” or the more usual insurance companies' premium. In the first two cases some expenses have also to be met in Connexion with the management of the fund, “tariff” organization, or “ring.” In the last case, not only the expenses of management have to be covered, but also the costs incurred in running the insurance enterprise as such, and then a further amount for division amongst those who share the risk of the venture—namely, the insurance company's shareholders.
It is well to distinguish between loss and mere expenditure. The sinking fund of the large property owner should cover a loss with a minimum extra expense; insurance in an extravagantly managed company paying large dividends will cover a loss, but with an unnecessarily large extra outlay. In every case the loss remains; and as property may always be considered part of the community, the province or nation, as the case may be, suffers. It is always in the interest of a nation to minimize its national losses, no matter whether they fall on one individual's shoulders or on many, and whether such losses are good for certain trades or not. With a suitable system of fire protection it is possible to bring these losses to a minimum, but this minimum would probably only be reached by an extra expense, which would fall heavier on the insurers' pockets in the form of municipal rates than the higher premium for the greater risk. A practical minimum is all that can be attempted, and that practical minimum varies according to circumstances.
Practical protection must mean smaller annual insurance dues, and the actual extra cost of this protection should be something less than the saving off these dues. Then not only has the nation a smaller dead loss, but the owner also has a smaller annual expenditure for his combined contributions toward the losses, the management of his insurance, and the protective measures. Where there is mutual insurance or municipal insurance in its best sense, the losses by fire and the costs of the protection are often booked in one account, and the better protection up to a certain point should mean a smaller individual annual share. Where there is company insurance the municipal rates are increased to cover the cost of extra protection, while a proportionate decrease is expected in the insurance premiums. Competition and public opinion generally impose this decrease of the insurance rates as soon as there is a greater immunity from fire. Where the insurance companies are well managed and the shareholders are satisfied with reasonable dividends, practical protection can be said to find favour with all concerned, but if the protection is arranged for and the companies do not moderate their charges accordingly, the reverse is the case.
The position of insurance companies subscribing towards the maintenance of a fire brigade should here be referred to, as there is considerable misunderstanding on the subject. The argument which municipalities or fire brigade organizations often use is to the effect that the insurance companies derive all the profit from a good fire service, and should contribute towards its cost. Where properly managed companies have the business, a better fire service, however, means a smaller premium to the ratepayer. If the ratepayer has to pay for extra protection in the form of an increased municipal rate, or in the form of an increased premium raised to meet the contribution levied, this is simply juggling with figures.
Cost.—As to the cost of a practical system of fire protection, better and safer building from the fire point of view means better and more valuable structures of longer life from the economic aspect. Such better and safer constructional work pays for itself and cannot be considered in the light of an extra tax on the building owner. The compilation and administration of the fire protective clauses in a Building Act would be attended to by the same executive authorities as would in any case superintend general structural matters, and the additional work would at the most require some increased clerical aid. If the execution of the fire survey regulations were delegated to the same authority there would again simply be some extra clerical aid to pay for, and the salaries of perhaps a few extra surveyors. To make the inspections thoroughly efficient, it has been found advisable in several instances to form parties of three for the rounds. The second man would, in this case, be a fire brigade officer, and the third probably a master chimney-sweep, who would have to receive a special retaining fee.
The cost of the public training referred to would be small, as the elementary part would simply be included in the schoolmaster's work, and the Press matters could be easily managed in the fire brigade office. Payments would have only to be made for advertisements, such as the official warnings, lists for firecall points, &c., and perhaps for the publication of semi-official hints. Self-help, as far as inspection and drills for amateurs are concerned would be under the control of the fire brigade. There would, however, be an extra expense for the purchase and maintenance of the street first-aid appliances referred to.
The most expensive items in the system of fire protection undoubtedly come under the headings “Fire-Call” and “Fire Brigade.” As to the former, there are a number of cities where the cost is modified by having the whole of the electrical service for the police force, the ambulance and fire brigade, managed by a separate department. The same wires call up each of these services, and, as the same staff attend to their maintenance, the fire protection of a city need only be debited with perhaps a third of the outlay it would occasion if managed independently. The combined system has also the great advantage of facilitating the mutual working of the different services in case of an emergency. The indicators which have been referred to involve an outlay; but here again, if the three services work together, the expenses on the count of fire protection can be lessened. The money rewards given in some cities to the individuals who first call the fire-engines may become a heavy item. Their utility is doubtful, and they have formed an inducement for arson.
As to the outlay on fire brigade establishment, a strong active force should be provided, supported by efficient reserves. The latter should be as inexpensive as possible, but should at least constitute a part-paid and disciplined body which could be easily called in for emergencies. Fire brigade budgets cannot allow for an active force being ready for such coincidences as an unusual number of large fires starting simultaneously, but they must allow for an ample strength always being forthcoming for the ordinary emergencies, and this with all due consideration for men's rest and possible sickness. An undermanned fire brigade is an anomaly which is generally fatal, not only to the property owner, but also to the whole efficiency and esprit of the force. The budget must also allow for an attractive rate of pay, as the profession is one which requires men who have a maximum of the sterling qualities which we look for in the pick of a nation. It must also not be forgotten that the fire service is one of the few where a system of pensions is the only fair way of recognizing the risks of limb and health, and at the same time securing that stability in which practical experience from long service is so essential a factor. The budget must allow for an ample reserve of appliances.
Whether or not a fire brigade should be so strong as to permit of its having a separate section for salvage corps purposes depends on circumstances. Economically a salvage corps is required, and should be part and parcel of the municipal brigade and organized on the same lines with a reserve, no matter whether the insurance of the locality be managed by the authorities or by companies. If a corps is necessary, it matters little whether it be paid for out of premiums or out of rates.
Of further expenses which have to be considered, there are items for fire research and fire inquest. If managed economically, due confidence being placed in the opinions of the fire officers and surveyors, there is no reason why the outlay should be great. The statistical work would only require some clerical aid. Where special coroners are retained for criminal cases some extra money will of course be required; but even here the costs need not be excessive, as there are many retired fire brigade officers and fire surveyors who are well suited for the work, and would be satisfied with a small emolument.
As to the cost of the water supply, there are but few places where special fire high-pressure mains are laid on in the interests of fire protection. As a rule the costs which are debited to the heading “Fire Protection” have simply to cover the maintenance of hydrants and tablets, or at the most the cost of the water actually used for fire-extinguishing purposes. Sometimes the cost of hydrants is shared with the scavenging department or the commission of sewers, which also have the use of them. Where the provision of water and hydrants falls to a private water company, the property owners will be paying their share for them, indirectly, in the form of water rates.
The protective measures referred to will serve both for life-saving and for the protection of property. It should be remembered that a good staircase and a ladder are often as useful for the manœuvring of the firemen as for life-saving purposes, and that they are practically as essential for the saving of property as for saving life. No distinction need be made between the two risks when speaking of fire protection in general; but as the safety of the most valueless life is generally classed higher than that of the most valuable property, it may be well to give life-saving the first place when alluding to the two separately.
Criminal fire-raising only prevails where the fire-protective system is defective. With good construction and a fire survey, the quick arrival of the firemen, and careful inquests, the risks of detection are as a rule far too great to encourage its growth.
Saving of Life.—Under “Fire Prevention” special requirements in the Building Act can greatly influence the safety of life by requiring practical exits and sufficient staircase accommodation. The risks in theatres and assembly halls require separate legislation. In ordinary structures no inmate of a building should be more than sixty feet away from a staircase, and preferably there should be two staircases at his disposal in the event of one being blocked. Generally, attention is only given to the construction of staircases; but it must be pointed out that their ventilation is equally important. Smoke is even a greater danger than fire, and may hamper the helpers terribly. The possibility of opening a window has saved many a life.
Safety of Property.—As far as the protection of property is concerned, the prevention of outbreaks can be influenced by the careful construction of flues, hearths, stoves, and in certain classes of buildings by the construction of floors and ceilings, the arrangement of skylights, shutters and lightning conductors. Then comes the prevention of the fire spreading, first, by the division of risks, and secondly, by the materials used in construction.
The legislator's first ambition must be to prevent a fire in one house from spreading to another, and a stranger's property, so to say, from being endangered. This is quite possible, given good party walls carried well over the roof to a height regulated by the nature of the risk, the provision of the shutters to windows where necessary, and the use of fire-resisting glass. Again, a thoroughly good roof—or still better, a fire-resisting attic floor—can do much. If the locality has a fire brigade and the force is efficiently handled, “spreads” from one house to another should never occur. Narrow thoroughfares and courts are, however, a source of danger which may baffle all efforts to localize a fire. This should be remembered by those responsible for street improvements.
The division of a building or large “risk” into a number of minor ones is only possible to a certain extent. There is no need to spend enormous sums to make each of the minor “risks” impregnable. The desire should be simply to try to retard the spread for a certain limited time after the flames have really taken hold of the contents. In those minutes most fires will have been discovered, and, where there is an efficient fire extinguishing establishment, a sufficient number of firemen can be on the spot to localize the outbreak and prevent the conflagration from becoming a big one. In the drawing-room of an ordinary well-built house, for example, if the joists are strong and the boards grooved, if some light pugging be used and the plastering properly done, if the doors are made well-fitting and fairly strong, a very considerable amount of furniture and fittings can remain well alight for half an hour before there is a spread. In a warehouse or factory “risk” the same holds good. With well-built wooden floors, thickly pugged, and the ceilings perhaps run on wire netting or on metal instead of on laths, with ordinary double ledged doors safely hung, at the most perhaps lined with sheet iron or asbestos cloth, a very stiff blaze can be imprisoned for a considerable time. Many of the recent forms of “patent” flooring are exceedingly useful for the division of “risks,” and with their aid a fire can be limited to an individual storey of a building, but it should not be forgotten that even the best of flooring is useless if carried by unprotected iron girders supported, say, by some light framing or weak partition. The general mistake made in using expensive iron and concrete construction is the tendency to allow some breach to be made (for lifts, shafting, &c.), through which the fire spreads, or to forget that the protection of the supports and girder-work requires most careful attention.
Of the various systems of “patent” flooring, as a rule the simpler forms are the more satisfactory. It should, however, always be remembered that any specific form of flooring alone does not prevent a fire breaking from one “risk” to another. They should go hand in hand with general good construction, and naked ironwork must be non-existent. Some of the modern fire-resisting floors are too expensive to permit their introduction for fire protection alone. In considering their introduction, the general advantages which they afford as to spans, thickness, general stability, &c., should be taken into account. A practical installation of floors, partitions, doors, &c., should, first, not increase the cost of a building more than 5%, and secondly should add to the general value of the structure by giving it a more substantial character.
The danger of lift wells, skylights and shaft openings should not be forgotten. The last should be as small as possible, well armed with shutters, the skylights should have fire-resisting glass, and the lifts not only vertical doors, but also horizontal flaps, cutting up the well into sections. The question of light partitions must also not be neglected.
Division of “risks,” common-sense construction, and proper staircase accommodation are really all that fire protection requires, and where the special Building Act clauses have been kept within the lines indicated, there has been little friction and discontent. It is only as a rule when the authorities are eccentric in their demands that the building owner considers himself harassed by protective measures.
Fire survey regulations should mainly aim at preventing the actual outbreak of fire. In certain classes of risks fire survey can also increase the personal safety of the inmates and lessen the possibility of a fire spreading. The provision of fire-escapes or ladders, and a regular inspection of their efficiency, will do much. The examination of a rusty door-catch may save a building. The actual preventive work of the surveyor will, however, mostly consist in warning property owners against temporary stoves standing on ordinary floor boards, sooty chimneys, badly hung lamps, dangerous burners and gas brackets fixed in risky positions. Self-help will be greatly facilitated by the judicious arrangement of fire-extinguishing gear, and a like inspection of its efficiency. Hydrants and cocks must not rust, nor must the hose get so stiff that the water cannot pass through it, or sprinklers choked. Hand pumps and pails must always stand ready filled. One of the greatest errors generally made in distributing such apparatus is disregard of the fact that the amateur likes to have an easy retreat if his efforts are unsuccessful, and if this is not the case, he may not, perhaps, use the gear at all.
With regard to regulations governing “special risks,” so far as the safety of the public in theatres and public assembly halls is concerned, attention should be chiefly given to the exits. Spread of fire, and even its outbreak, are secondary considerations. A panic caused by the suspicion of a fire can be quite as fatal as that caused by the actual start of a conflagration. In the storage of petroleum in shops, direct communication should be prevented between the shop or cellar and the main staircase or the living rooms. The sale of dangerous lamps and burners should be prohibited.
Fire-resisting Materials.—One of the greatest misnomers in connexion with fire prevention was originally the description of certain materials and systems of construction as being “fire-proof.” This has seriously affected the development of the movement towards fire prevention, for, having regard to the fact that nothing described as “fire-proof” could be fire-proof in the true sense, confidence was lost in everything so described, and in fact everything described as “fire-proof” came to be looked on with suspicion. In order to decrease this suspicion and obtain a better understanding on the subject, the International Fire Prevention Congress of London in 1903, at which some 800 representatives of government departments and municipalities were present, discussed this matter at considerable length, and they arrived at conclusions which, in consideration of their importance in affecting the whole development of fire-resisting construction, are published below. It is the classification of fire resistance adopted by this congress in 1903 that has been utilized by all concerned throughout the British empire, and in numerous other countries, since that date.
The resolutions adopted by the congress embodied the recommendations contained in the following statement issued by the British Fire Prevention Committee:—
The executive of the British Fire Prevention Committee having given their careful consideration to the common misuse of the term “fire-proof,” now indiscriminately and often most unsuitably applied to many building materials and systems of building construction in use in Great Britain, have come to the conclusion that the avoidance of this term in general business, technical, and legislative vocabulary is essential.
The executive consider the term “fire-resisting” more applicable for general use, and that it more correctly describes the varying qualities of different materials and systems of construction intended to resist the effect of fire for shorter or longer periods, at high or low temperatures, as the case may be, and they advocate the general adoption of this term in place of “fire-proof.”
Further, the executive, fully realizing the great variations in the fire-resisting qualities of materials and systems of construction, consider that the public, the professions concerned, and likewise the authorities controlling building operations, should clearly discriminate between the amount of protection obtainable or, in fact, requisite for different classes of property. For instance, the city warehouse filled with highly inflammable goods of great weight requires very different protection from the tenement house of the suburbs.
The executive are desirous of discriminating between fire-resisting materials and systems of construction affording temporary protection, partial protection, and full protection against fire, and to classify all building materials and systems of construction under these three headings. The exact and definite limit of these three classes is based on the experience obtained from numerous investigations and tests, combined with the experience obtained from actual fires, and after due consideration of the limitations of building practice and the question of cost.
The executive's minimum requirements of fire-resistance for building materials or systems of construction will be seen from the standard tables appended for—
- I. Fire-resisting floors and ceilings,
- II. Fire-resisting partitions,
- III. Fire-resisting doors,
but they could be popularly summarized as follows:—
- (a) That temporary protection implies resistance against fire for at least three-quarters of an hour.
- (b) That partial protection implies resistance against a fierce fire for at least one hour and a half.
- (c) That full protection implies resistance against a fierce fire for at least two hours and a half.
(per Sq. Metre).
|Temporary Protection.||Class A||45 mins||1500° F.
|Optional||100 sq. ft.
(9.290 sq. m.)
|Class B||60 mins.||1500° F.
|Optional||200 sq. ft.
(18.580 sq. m.)
|Partial Protection.||Class A||90 mins||1800° F.
|100 sq. ft.
(9.290 sq. m.)
|Class B||120 mins.||1800° F.
|200 sq. ft.
(18.580 sq. m.)
|Full Protection.||Class A||150 mins||1800° F.
|100 sq. ft.
(9.290 sq. m.)
|Class B||240 mins.||1800° F.
|200 sq. ft.
(18.580 sq. m.)
|Temporary Protection.||Class A||45 mins||1500° F.
|2 in. and under
|80 sq. ft.
(7.432 sq. m.)
|Class B||60 mins.||1500° F.
|Optional||80 sq. ft.
(7.432 sq. m.)
|Partial Protection.||Class A||90 mins||1800° F.
|2½ in. and under
|80 sq. ft.
(7.432 sq. m.)
|Class B||120 mins.||1800° F.
|Optional||80 sq. ft.
(7.432 sq. m.)
|Full Protection.||Class A||150 mins||1800° F.
|2½ in. and under
|80 sq. ft.
(7.432 sq. m.)
|Class B||240 mins.||1800° F.
|Optional||80 sq. ft.
(7.432 sq. m.)
|Temporary Protection.||Class A||45 mins||1500° F.
|2 in. and under
|20 sq. ft.
(1.858 sq. m.)
|Class B||60 mins.||1500° F.
|Optional||20 sq. ft.
(1.858 sq. m.)
|Partial Protection.||Class A||90 mins||1800° F.
|2½ in. and under
|20 sq. ft.
(1.858 sq. m.)
|Class B||120 mins.||1800° F.
|Optional||20 sq. ft.
(1.858 sq. m.)
|Full Protection.||Class A||150 mins||1800° F.
|½ in. and under
|25 sq. ft.
(2.322 sq. m.)
|Class B||240 mins.||1800° F.
|Optional||25 sq. ft.
(2.322 sq. m.)
The conditions under this resistance should be obtainable, the actual minimum temperatures, thickness, questions of load, and the application of water can be appreciated from the annexed tables by all technically interested, but for the popular discrimination—which the executive are desirous of encouraging—the time standard alone should suffice.
It is desirable that these standards become the universal standards in this country, on the continent and in the United States, so that the same standardization may in future be common to all countries, and the preliminary arrangements for this universal standardization are already in hand.
Fire Combatting.—As to self-help, complication must always be avoided. The amateur fireman must be drilled on the simplest lines. One thing which must be instilled into him is not to waste water—a sure sign of lack of training. Of course the drills must be on the same lines as those of the local brigade, and on no account should other gear be used for self-help than is generally customary in that force. When volunteers and regulars work together, the former should always remember that the paid force are experts, though the regulars must never have that contempt for volunteer work so often noticeable. Volunteers are often men who are probably experts in some other vocation outside fire-fighting, and have not had the opportunities which a professional fire-tighter has had.
Transmission of Fire-Calls.—There are several methods of transmitting the message of a fire-call. The simplest is, of course, to run direct to the nearest fire-station; but this is only possible where the distance is short. In one or two cities, however, the number of fire-stations is so great that they are very close to one another, and hence “direct” calls are generally recorded.
Then comes the system of special messengers. The fire is reported at some public office, police-station or guard-room, where there are always runners ready to start off to the nearest fire-station. The special runner is here practically a makeshift for the more modern telegraph or telephone line, and it is believed that the only city in which this system is employed is one where the unsettled political atmosphere has compelled the authorities to prohibit the construction of any telegraph lines other than those for the use of the general postal service. Similar messenger services have, however, also been introduced in connexion with the telegraphic signalling system. Private enterprises known as “general messenger” or “call-boy” services, which are organized for business purposes, have the advantage of including the fire-call and the polices-call. In the same way that a cab can be signalled, a call may come for a fire-engine, and the ever-ready runner makes off to the fire-station instead of to the cab rank. As a rule, these messenger offices are near the fire-station. The combination is rather a curious one, as it embraces the most advanced notions of giving every “risk” its own fire-call, and the somewhat ancient one of the special runner.
Another system for facilitating the fire-call relies entirely on the public telephone system, the terms of subscription to which may compel holders to forward fire messages if required to do so. This system allows for such development as the payment of retaining fees to porters in public and other buildings which have a night service, on condition that the fire-call shall be promptly dispatched. The telephones are, perhaps, even provided free, if they are not forthcoming; but it should be remembered that the service always goes through a general telephone exchange, which is, of course, open day and night.
In the special telephone line system special wires are laid from buildings which are practically open all the year round direct to their nearest fire-stations, and some payment is again made for prompt attention. Sometimes the telegraph takes the place of the telephone, but this requires the porter or attendant to be specially trained to the work. To simplify matters, the buildings are sometimes provided with automatic fire-calls instead of telephones; but the principle of the system remains the same. In districts where there are few public offices, the list of buildings at which messages can be handed in has been frequently augmented by a set of bakeries or apothecaries' shops, where night service is not unusual.
What may be termed semi-public street alarms come next. Automatic fire-calls are put up in the street, but their handles are under lock and key, and the keys are distributed only among policemen, watchmen or householders, and the messages can, therefore, only be given by persons known to the authorities.
The public automatic street-call is the simplest system next to the direct message. Private automatic fire-calls or telephones can be laid on from dangerous risks, and there has even been an instance where an attempt was made to give every householder a private fire-call. This system is, however, unfortunately too extreme for the municipal purse. If in connexion with some other paying enterprise, as in the case of the messenger services referred to, it would be a different matter, though it should also not be forgotten that too great a number of call points means a probable repetition of signals of the same fire, and a risk of too many sections of the fire brigade being on the road to it.
Besides these forms of “call,” there is also the private alarm. Dangerous buildings are frequently provided with telephones, alarm-posts, or even automatic temperature indicators, by which a call can be given direct from the “risk” involved.
Call points should be not only conspicuous, but also in most frequented positions. Possibly, in some towns, a point in front of a church would be the best; in others, the front of a public-house. It should always be remembered that every facility should be given to enable as many people as possible to know the whereabouts of the call points without any distinct effort on their part. Red paint may make a call pillar conspicuous by day, and a coloured lamp by night.
As to the indication of call points, a plate on every letter-box stating the position of the nearest call-point is perhaps one of the best methods. The letter-box is one of the instruments most in use in a modern city, and hence the plate is read by many. In an oriental town the public fountain would, however, take the place of the letter-box. Plates put up inside every front door are somewhat extreme measures. In one city red darts are painted on the glass of every street lamp, indicating the direction to be taken to find a street alarm. This sign, however, has the disadvantage of requiring a previous knowledge of its meaning, and is generally useless to a stranger in the town.
Rewards paid to messengers vary from one shilling to half a sovereign. In some places every call is rewarded—even those to chimney fires—and this often results in an abuse of the privilege. Rogues light fires on the top of a chimney and then run to call the engines. If a reward be given, a limitation should be made. In one town no relation or employé of the owner receives a reward. In other cities no rewards are given for calls to a fire in a dust-bin or a chimney.
No true fireman would be annoyed at a false alarm given by mistake. The possibility of a fire, or the suspicion of one, is a bona fide reason for a call which should not be discouraged. Malicious alarms should, however, be treated with the utmost rigour, as the absence of firemen from their stations always means an extra risk to life and property. Combined “lynch law” and imprisonment has generally been adopted with good effect. The rascal should first be put when caught over the pole of the engine and thrashed with a broad fireman's belt, and after that handed to the police.
The fire-call should, if possible, also be so constructed as to facilitate intercommunication between the scene of a fire and the headquarters of the fire brigade. Where the runner is employed or the telephone is used no special arrangements are required, but where the telegraph or automatic call point has been introduced, the apparatus rnust be adapted for this contingency. At some automatic fire-call points a few signals can be given, at others a telegraphic or telephonic transmitter can be applied. Much valuable time may be saved in this way when more assistance is required.
Fire Brigades.—The organization of fire brigades varies greatly. There are brigades where officers and men are practically constantly ready to attend a fire, and others where they are ready on alternate days, two days out of every three, or three days out of every four, and the off day is entirely their own, or at the most, only partially used by the authorities for some light work. The men off duty are only expected to attend a fire if there is a great emergency, the brigade being strong enough without them for ordinary eventualities. Both systems can be worked with or without part-paid or volunteer service, which would be only called out for great calamities. They could be organized as a practically independent reserve force, or the reserve men might be attached to sections of the regulars and mixed with them when the occasion arises. The reserves can consist either of retired firemen who have a few regular drills, or of amateurs who go through a special course of training, and have some series of drills at intervals, with preferably a short spell of service every year with the regulars. For the regulars, forty-eight hours on duty to every twenty-four off has given the most satisfactory results.
The division of the active force may be on a system of a number of small parties of twos and threes backed by one or more strong bodies. Another system allows for subdivision into sections of equal strength, ranging from parties of, say, five men with a non-commissioned officer to thirty non-commissioned officers and men with an officer. The force can, of course, also simply be divided up into parties or sections of different strengths not governed by a system of military units. The sections either can work independently, as units, simply governed by one central authority, or there can be a grouping of the units into minor or major bodies or districts, each duly officered, and as a whole individually responsible to headquarters.
The officers may be all taken from the ranks, or they may be “officers and gentlemen” in the military sense, or have only temporarily done work with the rank and file when in training. There could also be a combination of these two systems. Only the captain and deputy-captain might be officers in the military sense, the sections or divisions being officered by “non-coms.” Some cities have an officer to every thirty “non-coms” and men, whilst others put a division of as many as two hundred under a fireman who has risen from the ranks. Where protection is treated as a science, and where those in charge of a brigade have really to act as advisers to their employers, officers in the military sense have been found essential. They have also been found advantageous where their scope is limited to fire extinguishing. The prestige of the fire service has been raised everywhere where the officers, besides being fire experts, are educated men of social standing. There are cities where the officers of the fire brigade are in every way recognized as equal to army or navy men, their social position is the same, and their mess fulfils the same functions as a regimental mess. The fire brigade officer is recognized at court, and there is no ceremonial without him. On the other hand, there are also cities with brigades several hundred strong where the captain's social standing is beneath that of a petty officer or colour-sergeant. As to the primary training of a fire brigade officer, the best men have generally had some experience in another profession, such as the army, the navy, or the architectural and engineering professions, previous to their entering the fire service. Some brigades recruit from army officers only, and preferably from the engineers or artillery regiments; others recruit from among architects and engineers, subject to their having at least had some military experience in the reserve forces or the volunteers. Some cities only take engineers or architects, and make a point of it that they should have no previous military experience. Some previous experience in the handling of men is essential.
As to the men, there are cities where only trained soldiers are taken as firemen; others where the engines are manned by sailors. In some towns the building trades supply the recruits; in others, all trades are either discriminately or indiscriminately represented. A combination from the army or navy on the one side and the building trades on the other is most satisfactory. The knowledge of building construction in the ranks stands the force in good stead, and has often saved both lives and property. Where a brigade can boast of a few men of each important trade, much money has been saved the ratepayers by the men doing their own repairs and refitting, but the number of men from sedentary trades should not be excessive. Where there are only men of one trade or calling, there is often too great a tendency to one-sidedness, and a great amount of prejudice.
Physical strength and perfect constitution are requisite for both officers and men. As to the height of the men, small, wiry men are very useful. First-class eyes, ears and nose are necessary, also a good memory. Fat men are entirely out of place in a brigade, and should be transferred to some other service if the fatness be developed during their engagement with a brigade. Many brigades take only single men, “non-coms” and officers only being allowed to marry. There are many brigades where twenty-two and forty are the limits of age for the privates, fifty for the “non-coms,” and sixty for the officers.
As to the equipment, there are brigades which have all their sections or units provided with practically the same gear; others where each unit has a double or treble set, one of which is used according to circumstances. The section may have a manual engine, a steamer and a ladder truck at its disposal, and may turn out with either. There are towns where the units are differently equipped, and steamer or manual sections called out, as the case may be. In a few extreme cases, where the sections are very strong, they may be equipped with a set of engines and trucks, and the unit, in every case, turns out complete with (say) a chemical engine, a steamer and a horsed escape. The contrast to this will be found in the small parties of twos or threes, whose turn-out would only consist of a small hose trolley or an escape. Of course, there are all kinds of combinations, the most important of which allows a section to have one or more independent subsections. Though practically belonging to the “unit,” the subsections work independently in charge of a certain gear. This may be a hose-reel, a long ladder, or a smoke helmet, according to circumstances. The subsections may act as outposts or simply as specialist parties, which are only called out for particular work.
As for the housing of the units or sections, simple street stations are provided for the small parties referred to. In a few cases two small parties are housed under the same roof. The large bodies that back them are generally quartered together in extensive barracks, from which any number of engines and men can be turned out according to the nature of the call. Then there are cities where every section has its own well-built station; others where one or two sections are housed together, according to circumstances, and perhaps as many as half a dozen located at headquarters. If groups are formed, the headquarters of the group or district has, perhaps, two sections, While each of the other stations has only one. The general headquarters may be the central station of a district at the same time. The actual working of the district headquarters would, however, then be kept separate from the working of the headquarters staff. The latter would, perhaps, have some sections ready to send anywhere besides the trucks, &c., necessary for the officers, the general extra gear, &c., that might be required. It is usual to combine workshops, stores, hose-drying towers, &c., with the headquarters station, and, in some cases, also with the district centres.
In the distribution of the stations, the formation of districts, &c., various systems have been adopted. The most satisfactory results have been obtained where a fully-equipped section (not simply a hose-car or escape-party) can reach any building in the city within six minutes from the time of the call reaching the station, the six minutes including both turn-out and run. Where there are exceptionally large or dangerous risks, this time has had to be shortened to four minutes, and the possibility of an attendance from a second station assured within six minutes. In dividing up districts, the most satisfactory results have been obtained where every house can be reached from the district centre within fifteen minutes from the call. Headquarters would naturally have a central position in the city. In one or two instances the headquarters offices are located in a separate building, which in no way serves as a fire-station, but simply as a centre through which all orders and business pass.
The different stations must be in connexion with each other. The special runner or rider is practically disappearing. The telegraph and telephone have taken his place. Some cities favour Morse telegraphy, which certainly had great advantages over the telephone at one time, as messages could be easily transmitted to several stations with the same effort, but telephone distributors have now been successfully introduced. Errors are less frequent by telegraph than by telephone, and there is always a record of every message. The most modern forms of telephone communication are, however, more suitable for the fire service than the telegraph. Headquarters should be in direct communication with every station, but every station should be able to communicate with its neighbour directly, as well as through the headquarters office, and there should be a direct wire to its district station if it has one. There should be three routes of communication, so that two should be always ready for use in case of one breaking down. Either headquarters or the district centres would be in touch with the various auxiliaries referred to, as well as the general telegraph office and the telephone exchange.
As to the attendance at fires, some cities turn out but one unit to answer the first call if they have no particulars, others always turn out two or three sections, and there are several cities where the district centre would at least send an officer and a few men as well. In one brigade, headquarters is always represented by either the chief or the second officer in the case of a call of this kind. The idea is that it is always better to have too strong a force quickly in attendance than too small a number of men, and that it is most important that the first arrival should be well handled. Further, if two sections answer a call and one breaks down on the road, there is no chance of there being too great a delay in the arrival of organized help. It should, however, not be forgotten that further calls in the same district to other fires are not unusual, and that the absence of too many engines, on account of a first call, is dangerous. In some cities, when a call reaches the firemen one or two of the nearest stations turn out, and if more help is required other sections will be called up individually. In others the reinforcements are not called up separately, but the fires are divided into three classes—small, medium and large; and on the message arriving of a more extensive conflagration at a certain point, the section already know beforehand whether they must attend or not. First calls to certain classes of risks, e.g. to theatres or public offices, may always be considered to be for medium or large fires; and the same message will then simultaneously turn out the stronger body without any further detailed instructions being necessary. In some towns the fire-call automata are so arranged that the messenger can at once call for the different classes of fire. This, however, is not to be recommended, as a messenger will probably consider the smallest fire to be a gigantic blaze, and will bring out too many engines.
Equipment.—The following are characteristic features in the equipment of brigades. First, where there is a high-pressure water supply, some brigades simply attend with hose-cars, life-saving gear and ladders; or, instead of the hose-cars, take their manuals, which they practically never use and which serve only as vehicles to carry men and hose. Others take, and make a point of using, the manuals, and have a barrel with them ready to supply the first gallons of water necessary. No time is thus lost in connecting with the nearest hydrant or plug; and in case of a hydrant being out of order, there is always sufficient water at hand until the second hydrant has been found. Many cities have introduced chemical engines to take the place of this combination of water barrel and manual engine. A supply of water is carried on the chemical engine. Some cities always have an attendance of steamers, which are, however, only used in urgent cases. In other instances the steamer is at once used in the same way as the manual, and this quite independently of the pressure there is in the water service. Where there is no good water service, manuals or steamers have, of course, to be sent out, and are supplied either from the low-pressure service or from the natural waterways or wells. There are still a large number of cities where the suburbs have no proper water service, and the water barrel is then very handy for water porterage. Attempts have also been made at the chemical treatment of water which is to be thrown on to a fire, with the view of increasing its effect, or at the use of chemicals instead of water. In certain localities fire appliances are still run out to fires by hand, especially where there is a high pressure water system and hose carts only are required. Generally the appliances are horsed. Motor traction is, however, now rapidly superseding horse traction for reasons of economy and the wider and more rapid range of efficiency.
As to life saving and manœuvring gear, some brigades rely almost entirely on hook ladders, others almost entirely depend on scaling ladders or telescopic escapes. In some great confidence is placed in the jumping-sheet; in another, chutes are much used; and there are a few where wonderful work is done with life-lines. To indicate the diversity with which any one appliance can be treated, made or handled, in the fire service, it may be mentioned that there are quite ten different ways in which a jumping-sheet can be held. Then there is the material of the jumping-sheet to be considered; the size and the shape—whether round, oblong, square or rectangular; then the means of holding it, the way to fold it, how and where to stow it, and at what distance from the endangered building the sheet is to be held. Last, but not least, come the words of command.
Working of Brigades.—In some forces all possible attention is given to the rapidity of the actual turn out, while in others the speed at which engines run to the fire is considered to be of primary importance. Other brigades, again, give equal attention to both. There are brigades which work entirely on military lines, each man having certain duties marked out for him beforehand for every possible occasion, and there are others where happy-go-lucky working is preferred. Of course there are combinations in the same way as regards command. Some chief officers arrive at a fire with a staff of adjutants and orderlies, and control the working of the brigade from a position of vantage at a distance. Other chiefs delight to be in the thick of a fire, perhaps at the branch itself, or on some gallant life-saving exploit where they no doubt do good work as a fireman, but in no way fulfil the office of commanders. Officers must remember that they are officers, and not rank and file; and this is generally very difficult to those who have advanced from the ranks. Superintendents, however smart, must leave acts of bravery to their men, and chief officers, without going to extremes, must always be in a good position where they can superintend everything pertaining to the outbreak in question. Some brigades seem to make a point of working quietly, and shouting is absolutely forbidden, all commands being given by shrill whistles. In some brigades all commands are given by word of mouth, and there is much bawling. In others commands, besides being bawled, are even repeated on horns, and the noise becomes trying. As a rule, quiet working is a sign of efficiency.
Some brigades work as close as possible to the fire, others are satisfied with putting water on or about the fire from a distance. Some attack the fire direct, others only try to protect what surrounds the seat of the flames. Several brigades are ordered always to try to attack by the natural routes of the front door and the staircases. In others, the men always have to attempt some more unnatural entrance, with the aid of ladders—through windows, for instance. Some brigades carefully extinguish a fire, some simply swamp it. Some brigades boast of never having damaged property unnecessarily. They have, for instance, had the patience to suffocate a cellar fire, instead of putting the whole cellar under water. In certain classes of property the bucket, the mop, and the hand-pump have been far more effective in minimizing actual destruction than the branch and hose. It is one of the easiest signs by which to judge the training and handling of a fire brigade—to see what damage they do. Even an inconsiderate smashing of doors and windows, when there is absolutely no need for it, can be avoided, where every man in the force feels that his first duty is to prevent damage and loss and his second to extinguish the fire.
Where the brigade includes a salvage division, it is generally stationed at headquarters; where this division is split up into sections, there would also be a distribution among the district centres; the salvage men are simply part of the force, told off on special duty. Where there are private salvage corps, their stations are generally near the headquarters or district centres of the brigade, from which they receive notice of the fire. In some cities the salvage corps work quite independently; in others, they work under the chief of the brigade directly they arrive at the fire.
As to the working of allied civilian forces in conjunction with the fire service, the advantages of firemen having plenty of room to work in is now fully recognized, and the police are at once called out and often brought on to the scene in an incredibly short time. The value of these measures should not be underrated, especially in cities where rowdyism exists. In many cities the ambulance service is also turned out to fires. Where no independent ambulance corps exists, some of the firemen should be trained to work as ambulance men. Turncocks and gasmen are also frequently brought to all fires. Lastly, in many garrison towns the military turn out to assist the fire brigade.
National Fire Brigades' Union.—The National Fire Brigades' Union, which is the representative Fire Service Society for Great Britain, originated in a national demonstration of volunteer fire brigades held at Oxford in celebration of Queen Victoria's jubilee on the 30th of May 1887, when 82 fire brigades with 916 firemen were present. Next day a meeting of the officers was held at the Guildhall, Oxford, and it was then resoived to form the National Fire Brigades Union. Alderman Green, the chief officer of the Oxford fire brigade, was appointed the first chairman. Sir Eyre Massey Shaw was appointed first president in 1888, and on his retirement in 1896 through ill-health he was succeeded by the duke of Marlborough. When the union offered to provide ambulance firemen and stretcher bearers for his regiment the duke accepted the offer, and two fully equipped corps were sent out to the Imperial Yeomanry hospital at Deelfontein, South Africa, under Colonel Sloggett, who specially mentioned the services rendered by the firemen in his dispatches.
The union is divided into seventeen districts, each having its own council, and sending one delegate for every ten brigades to the central council. The districts are:—Eastern, Midlands, South Coast, South-Eastern, West Midland, North-Eastern, North-Western, South-Western, Surrey, South Midlands, Southern, South Wales, North Wales, Cornish, Yorkshire, Central and South Africa (formed in 1902). There are also seventy-five foreign members and correspondents in America, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, India and the Federated Malay Straits. The total strength of the union is 667 fire brigades and members with nearly 12,000 firemen. Every member of the union gives his time and services for the benefit of the country; all appointments are honorary, with the exception that a small allowance is made for clerical assistance. A drill book is issued by the union, and the fourth edition was published in 1902. Over 60,000 of these books have been issued to brigades all over the world.
The ambulance department is under the charge of medical officers. All members have to come up for re-examination every three years, else they are not entitled to wear the red cross, and the examination is more stringent than that held by the St John Ambulance Association. This department has proved to be a great benefit to provincial fire brigades, who are often called upon to undertake ambulance work. A very useful and instructive manual has been issued by the union entitled First Aid in the Fire Service, by Chief Officer William Ettles, M.D.
The union organized and took part in the International Fire Exhibitions, at the Royal Agricultural Hall, London, in 1893 and 1896, and it was represented at the International Fire Congresses at Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Paris, Lyons, Havre and Berlin. It has also held a review before the German emperor at the Crystal Palace, and before Queen Victoria in Windsor Park.
Fire Brigade Organization.
Below are given examples of the organization of different fire brigades. The brigades so described have been selected not so much on account of their intrinsic importance, as because they represent classes or types of brigades and fire brigade organization which it may be useful to refer to. In respect of the London fire brigade, however, historical data are also presented, as it is only with the aid of these that the extraordinary development of that force can be properly realized.
With regard to modern views as to the functions of the fire brigade, the resolutions of the Fire Prevention Congress of 1903 are reprinted below. As they indicate, the general feeling amongst all interested in fire protection from an economic point of view is that fire brigades should not be merely fire extinguishing organizations but should utilize their influence in a much wider sense.
The Congress considered:—
1. That public authorities should encourage fire brigade officers to take an active interest in the preventive aspect of fire protection, inasmuch as the result of the fire brigade officers' experience in actual fire practice, if suitably applied in conjunction with the work of architects, engineers and public officials, would be most useful for the organization and development of precautionary measures.,
2. That fire brigade societies, associations and unions should encourage amongst the brigades affiliated to these bodies the study of questions of fire prevention.
3. That fire brigades should be placed on a sound legal basis, and that it is advisable that their efficiency be supervised by government department.
4. That an official investigation should be made of all fires. That on the occurrence of every fire an investigation should be immediately made by an official, duly qualified and empowered to ascertain the cause and circumstances connected therewith, reporting the result of such investigation to at public department for tabulation and publication.
5. That the whole or part of the cost of such inquiry should be charged to the occupier of the premises where the fire occurred, as may appear desirable in the circumstances of each case.
6. That the press should from time to time publish technical reports on fires so that the public may benefit from the knowledge and experience gained.
London.—In the early part of the 19th century the methods in vogue for the suppression of outbreaks of fire in the metropolis were of the most crude and disjointed character, in striking contrast with the highly elaborated system now put into practice by the London County Council through its fire brigade; and it was not until the second half of the 19th century was well advanced that anything approaching an adequate and satisfactory organization was brought into existence. Until the passing of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act 1865, the only acts relating to the suppression of outbreaks of fire in London were the Lighting and Watching Act (3 & 4 William IV., c. 90), and “an act (14 Geo. III., c. 78) for the further and better Regulation of Buildings and Party Walls, and for the more effectually preventing Mischiefs by Fire within the Cities of London and Westminster, and the Liberties thereof, and other the Parishes, Precincts and Places within the Weekly Bills of Mortality, the Parishes of Marylebone, Paddington, St Pancras, and St Luke's at Chelsea, in the County of Middlesex.” The clauses in the latter act relating to protection against fire remained in force till the passing of the act of 1865. They provided that every parish should keep “one large engine and one small, called a hand engine, a leathern pipe, and a certain number of ladders.” The Lighting and Watching Act contained a clause which extended to England and Wales and so covered the area “without the bills of mortality,” enabling the inspectors appointed under that act to provide and keep up two fire-engines; and certain of the parishes in the metropolitan district, without the bills of mortality, availed themselves of this provision.
The select committee of fires in the metropolis, which sat in 1862, reported that it was difficult to ascertain how far the act of George III. was attended to, or when it ceased to be considered practically of importance, but that, at the time of the report, the arrangements generally made by the parishes under the act were not only entirely useless, but in many cases produced injurious results, as the system under the act frequently conferred a reward for the first useless parochial engine, whereas the efficient engine which might be on the spot a few minutes later derived no pecuniary advantages. There were, however, exceptions to the general rule. At Hackney, for example, a “very efficient” fire brigade was maintained at an expense of about £500 a year, or about one halfpenny in the pound on the rating of the parish. The select committee were unable to ascertain with any accuracy the total amount paid by the metropolitan parishes for the maintenance, “however inefficient,” of, their fire-engines, but it was estimated to be about £10,000.
For many years previous to 1832, the principal fire insurance offices in London kept fire brigades at their individual expense; to these brigades were attached a considerable number of men usually occupied as Thames watermen, retained in the service of the different Fire Offices, who received payment only on the occurrence of fires, and who wore the livery and badge of the respective companies. These fire brigades were, to quote the report of the select committee of 1862, considered as giving notoriety to the different insurance companies, and a considerable rivalry was maintained, which was productive naturally of good as well as of some considerable evil on occasions of fires.
The large expenses thus incurred by the companies induced an attempt to be made, which was effectually carried out in the year 1832, by R. Bell Forde, a leading director of the Sun Fire Office, to form one brigade for the purpose of promoting economy as well as greater efficiency. Thus the first organized fire brigade for London began its operations under the united sanction of, and from funds contributed by, most of the leading insurance offices in London. The force thus formed was known as the London Fire Engine Establishment. The annual expense was at first £8000, the number of stations 19, the number of men employed 80. By 1862 the annual cost had grown to £25,000, the number of stations had become 20, and the number of men 127.
It is interesting to note that the chief station of the Fire Engine Establishment was the Watling-Street station, in substitution for which ther new Cannon-Street station has been built. The following is a list of the other stations of the establishment:—
- School House-lane, Shadwell
- Wellclose Square
- Jeffrey's Square
- Whitecross Street
- Farringdon Street
- Chandos Street
- Tooley Street
- Lucas Street, Rotherhithe
- Crown Street, Soho
- Wells Street
- Baker Street
- King Street, Golden Square
- Horseferry Road
- Waterloo Road
- Southwark Bridge Road
- Southwark Bridge (floating)
- Rotherhithe (floating)
The work of this force was carried out in an efficient manner as far as its limited equipment and strength would permit, but it was universally admitted that the staff, engines and stations were totally inadequate for the general protection of London from fire. The directors of the insurance offices themselves admitted this, but they considered their brigade sufficient for the protection of that part of London in which the largest amount of insured property was located, and contended that it was not their business to provide fire stations in the more outlying districts where, if a fire occurred, it was not likely to involve their offices in serious loss.
From 1836 the work of the brigade maintained by the fire offices was supplemented by the “Society for the Protection of Life from Fire.” This society was managed by a committee of which the lord mayor was president. It was supported entirely by voluntary contributions, and, at a cost of about £7000 a year, maintained fire-escapes at from 80 to 90 stations in different parts of the most central districts in London. Its most outlying station was only 4 m. from the Royal Exchange, and it maintained no stations in such localities as Greenwich, Peckham, Deptford and New Cross. It did much useful work, though its equipment was quite inadequate to cope with the needs of the metropolis.
In 1834, two years after the institution of the London Fire Engine Establishment, the Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire, and the attention of the government was consequently directed to the inadequacy of the existing conditions for fire extinction. It was suggested, at the time, that the parochial engines should be placed under the inspection of the commissioners of police, but this proposal was not adopted, and the existing state of matters was allowed to continue for another thirty years. The select committee of 1862 recommended that a fire brigade should be created under the superintendence of the commissioners of police, and should form part of the general establishment of the metropolitan police. In 1865, however, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed, under which the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of an efficient fire brigade was laid upon the Metropolitan Board of Works. Under the provisions of the act, the board took over the staff, stations and equipment of the Fire Engine Establishment; the engines maintained by the various parochial authorities, and the men in charge of them were also absorbed by the new organization, as were the fire-escapes and staff of the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire.
The funds provided by the Fire Brigade Act for the maintenance of the brigade were: (1) the produce of a halfpenny rate on all the rateable property in London; (2) contributions by the fire insurance companies at the rate of £35 per million of the gross amount insured by them in respect of property in London; and (3) a contribution of £10,000 a year by the government. Although the revenue allotted increased year by year, its increase was far from keeping pace with the constant calls from all parts of London for protection from fire. Some temporary financial relief was afforded by the Metropolitan Board of Works (Loans) Act 1869, which (1) authorized the interest on borrowed money to be paid, and the principal to be redeemed out of the proceeds of the Metropolitan Consolidated rate, apart from the halfpenny allocated for fire brigade purposes; and (2) provided that the amount to be raised for the annual working expenditure on the brigade should be equal to what would be produced by a halfpenny in the pound on the gross annual value of property, instead of, as before, on the rateable value. One result of the passing of the Local Government Act 1888 (by which the London County Council was constituted), under which a county rate for all purposes is levied, was virtually to repeal the limitation of the amount which might be raised from the ratepayers for fire brigade purposes. Since that time the expenditure on the brigade has therefore, like that of other departments of the council's service, been determined solely by what the council has judged to be the requirements of the case.
When the council came into existence early in 1889 the fire brigade was admittedly not large enough properly to protect the whole of London, the provision in various suburban districts being notoriously inadequate to the requirements. A plan for enlarging and improving old stations, and for carrying out a scheme of additional protection laid down after careful consideration of the needs of London as a whole, was approved on the 8th of February 1898 (and somewhat enlarged in 1901); it provided for the placing of horsed escapes at existing fire stations, for the establishment of some 22 additional stations provided with horsed escapes, and for the discontinuance of nearly all the fire-escape and hose-cart stations in the public thoroughfares.
Since it came into existence the London County Council has established additional fire stations at Dulwich, New Cross, Kingsland, Whitefriars, Lewisham, Shepherd's Bush, West Hampstead, East Greenwich, Perivale, Homerton, Highbury, Vauxhall, Pageant's Wharf (Rotherhithe), Streatham, Kilburn, Bayswater, Eltham, Burdett Road (Mile End), Wapping, Northcote Road (Battersea), Herne Hill, Lee Green and North End (Fulham). Of these, Vauxhall, Kilburn, Bayswater, Eitham, Burdett Road, Herne Hill and North End stations are sub-stations. New stations have been erected, in substitution for small and inconvenient buildings, at Wandsworth, Shoreditch, Fulham, Brompton, Islington, Paddington, Redcross Street (City), Euston Road, Clapham, Mile End, Deptford, Old Kent Road, Millwall, Kensington, Westminster, Brixton and Cannon Street (City), and the existing stations at Kennington, Rotherhithe, Clerkenwell, Hampstead, Battersea, Whitechapel, Greenwich and Stoke Newington have been considerably enlarged. Two small stations without horses have been established in Battersea Park Road and North Woolwich respectively. A building has been erected at Rotherhithe for the accommodation of the staff of the Cherry-garden river station; and another building has been erected at Battersea for the accommodation of the staff of a river station which has been established there.
In 1909 new stations in substitution for existing stations were in course of erection at Knightsbridge and Tooting, and additional sub-stations were being erected at Plumstead and Hornsey Rise. The Bethnal Green station was being considerably altered and enlarged. The council had also determined to erect new stations in substitution for existing inconvenient buildings at Holloway, Waterloo Road, Shooter's Hill and North End, Fulham; and to build additional sub-stations at Charlton, Caledonian Road, Brixton Hill, Camberwell New Road, Roehampton, Balham, Brockley and Earlsfield.
Budapest.—There is a combination of a professional force and a volunteer force at Budapest, and in addition an auxiliary service of factory fire brigades. The professional fire brigade possesses a central station and eight sub-stations, two minor stations, and permanent theatre-watchrooms at the royal theatres. The staff (in 1901) of the professional brigade consisted of a chief officer, an inspector, a senior adjutant and two junior adjutants, a clerk, and further 23 warrant officers, 3 engineers, 15 foremen, 154 firemen and 130 coachmen with 62 horses. There have been some slight increases since. The apparatus, at their disposal consists of 6 steam fire-engines, 22 manual engines, 27 small manual engines, 11 water carts, 13 traps, 4 tenders, 26 hose reels, and hose carts, 5 long ladders, 9 ordinary extension ladders, 34 hook ladders, 22 smoke helmets and 22,000 metres of hose. The various stations are connected with the central station by private telephone lines. There are 149 telephonic fire alarms distributed throughout the city. They are on radial lines connected up with their respective nearest stations, and on a single radial line there are from three to seventeen call-points.
The volunteer brigade has an independent constitution and comprises some eighty members. Its equipment is housed with that of the professional brigade, and is bought and maintained by the municipality. This volunteer brigade is a comparatively wealthy institution, having a capital of 100,000 crowns, whilst receiving a special subsidy annually from the municipality. Though legally an entirely independent institution, the brigade voluntarily puts itself under the command of the chief officer of the professional brigade. It further puts daily at the disposal of the professional fire chief ten men who do duty every night and “turn out” when called upon to render service. This volunteer brigade stands as a kind of model to the other volunteer brigades, and it is in connexion with this volunteer brigade that the educational classes referred to above are held and facilities accorded to the officers undergoing instruction to gain experience at the Budapest fires.
The Budapest professional fire brigade, even if assisted by the volunteer force, would scarcely be of adequate strength to deal with the great factory risks of that city were it not that the Budapest factories and mills have a splendidly organized service of factory fire brigades. These brigades—forty-four in number—are essentially private institutions, intended to render self-help in the factories to which they belong, but they are well organized, and have a mutual understanding whereby the neighbouring brigades of any one factory immediately turn out and assist in case of need. These factory brigades have a total staff of 1600 men. They are equipped with 1 steam fire-engine, 57 large manuals, 136 small manuals, and have a very considerable amount of small gear, including 15 smoke helmets.
Cologne.—The Cologne professional fire brigade is 153 strong (1906), with a chief officer, a second officer, and two divisional officers, a warrant officer, a telegraph superintendent and 16 foremen. The brigade has 26 horses, of which 2, however, are used for ambulance purposes. The brigade has three large stations and a minor station, and has a permanent fire-watch at the two municipal theatres. Men are told off for duty as coachmen among the firemen. The staff do forty-eight hours of duty to twenty-four hours of rest.
A peculiarity of the Cologne organization is its auxiliary retained fire brigade in two sections, comprising a superintendent, 2 deputy superintendents, 5 foremen, and 51 men, with 2 horses, who are retained men housed in municipal buildings (tenements), and available as an immediate reserve force. The first section of the reserve force are housed centrally.
There is a further system of suburban volunteer fire brigades manned by volunteers but equipped by the municipality, and horsed from the municipal stables or municipal tramways. Three of these volunteer brigades, which have large suburban districts, comprise each a superintendent, 2 senior foremen and 3 junior foremen, with 50 firemen and 3 coachmen. The minor outlying suburbs have several such brigades, each having one senior foreman, 3 junior foremen, 20 firemen and 2 coachmen. The combined force of the suburban volunteer brigades is 295, all ranks.
The Cologne fire service thus comprises a combination of professional brigade with a retained auxiliary brigade and a system of suburban volunteer brigades. Of the three stations, the central one is still an old building, and the other two are in modern buildings; the extra sub-station (near the river stores) is also a modern building. The brigade has about 150 fires to attend per annum. Its printed matter, in the form of an annual detailed report, is exceptionally well prepared. The brigade does permanent “fire-watch” duty at the municipal theatres which are strengthened of an evening. It provides additional watches during performances at all other theatres and public entertainments. Such duties are provided in part by an auxiliary brigade and partly by the professional brigade. A number of the professional brigade are always utilized for doing general work in the workshops of the brigade. The first or central section of the auxiliary brigade drills eleven times per annum, and is additionally turned out eleven times per annum (without drill). Men newly attached to the auxiliary force have to go through a four weeks' recruit drill.
Nuremberg.—The Nuremberg fire service stands as the most economically organized efficient fire service in Central Europe, and its form of organisation is peculiar and exceptional. In 1902 the entire fire service cost the city 126,000 marks (£6300). The total of inhabitants in 1900 was 261,000. For this small amount of money the city gets a highly-trained retained fire brigade of 156 men (1907), and two volunteer fire brigades of 130 and 224 men respectively. Further, it has an auxiliary of eighteen suburban volunteer fire brigades (1080 men) and two private factory fire brigades (71 men). The whole service stands under a professional chief officer and professional second officer. There are 8 telegraph clerks, 6 watchmen and 17 coachmen attached to the retained brigade. The service has been in existence for fifty years. It has gradually developed and has worked remarkably well, and may, in fact, be taken as a model institution for municipal economy, with due regard to up-to-dateness and efficiency. The retained fire brigade comprises entirely municipal employés, regularly engaged in the municipal workshops, scavenging and works department. The municipal workshops are located alongside the fire-brigade stations. There is a headquarters station for the retained brigade and volunteer brigade in the centre of the town, a modern district station in the western district, and a third district station is in course of erection for the eastern district, which is at present only served by a small branch station.
At headquarters station there are on immediate duty by day 14 firemen (chiefly smiths and carpenters) of the retained brigade. Nine men of the retained brigade are on duty at headquarters at night, together with 8 men of the volunteer fire brigade. At the west district station, 14 men of the retained brigade are on duty by day, and the same number at night.
The headquarters can turn out in succession four complete units of the following strength, namely:—
First unit, a large chemical engine, and a mechanical long ladder.
Second unit, a trap with hose reel, a special gear-cart and a long ladder.
Third unit, a trap with hose-cart and manual, and a long ladder.
Fourth unit, a steam fire-engine, and hose-and coal-tender trap.
From the west district station three units can be turned out in rotation, namely:—
First unit, large chemical engine, large trap and a long ladder.
Second unit, a trap with hose-reel and manual engine.
Third unit, a steam fire-engine and a hose-tender and coal-tender trap.
The equipment of the eastern sub-station at present comprises a turn-out of a trap and a long ladder.
The brigade can thus turn out immediately, in rapid succession, these horsed appliances, well organized and fully manned. It further has a reserve of 4 manual engines and 2 long ladders.
The suburban volunteer brigades have besides at their disposal 25 manual engines, 9 fire-escapes and 18 hose-reels. The whole of the hose for all brigades is of uniform pattern and make, with bayonet pattern standard couplings. The brigade posts an evening “fire watch” at the theatres. The men of the retained brigade get modest extra pay for fire brigade duty, but this pay is intended rather to cover disbursements or expenses than to be considered as wages. The brigade uses the municipal horses, all of which are stabled in proximity to the fire stations, and a number of which are kept on duty for fire brigade purposes in the actual stations. For all practical purposes the retained brigade is the professional brigade in which the men do municipal work in the municipal workshops, and elsewhere, i.e. in training, drill and general efficiency they are quite up to the best professional standard. The volunteer brigade is well drilled and includes the best of the younger townsmen, who do duty at night by rotation. The brigades responsibilities are clearly defined, and the position of the professional chief and second officer clearly laid down by by-laws. There are 129 fire-call points. During the fifty years' existence of the service, 85 firemen received the twenty-five years' long-service medal, of whom 32 belonged to the suburban volunteer brigades.
Venice.—The Venice fire brigade is a section of the force of “Vigili” or municipal watchmen, which body does general duty in preserving order and rendering assistance to the community. In other words, this force performs the duties of the civil police (rather than governmental or criminal police), fire, patrol watch service, and public control in a general sense. The force, which in all its sections made a most excellent impression, has a commandant, under whom the two primary sections work, namely (a) the civil police section and the (b) fire brigade section; each section in turn having its own principal officers. The police section comprises some 108 of all ranks, and the fire brigade section some 73 of all ranks (1908). The commandant of the whole force is a retired military officer, and the chief of the fire service section is a civil engineer, and these two officers, together with the chief of the civil police section, are the three superior officers of the force. The police section serve as auxiliaries to the fire brigade section in case of any great fire, and, of course, generally work very much hand in hand on all occasions. The fire brigade section has 3 superintendents, 6 foremen, 6 sub-forernen, 6 corporals and 40 file. The section is well equipped with appliances, both hand and steam, having a large modern petrol-propelled float, constructed in London, a large old type steam-float, two 35-ft. old steam-floats, and several small petrol motor-floats or first turnout appliances. The manual-engines, ladders, &c., which are in considerable number, are carried in a large fleet of swift gondolas. Fire-escape work is done with Roman ladders, which are usually planted on two gondolas flung together barge-form, or, if the depth of the canal permits, the lower length is buried in the canal bottom. Hook ladders are also used.
Men are distributed in six companies of varying strength, the headquarters company being stationed at the town hall, with a strength of 22, and most of the steam and petrol floats lie opposite the station. The fire brigade does theatre watch duty. As a fire station of considerable interest, should be mentioned the one at the Doge's palace; the large vaults occupying a portion of the ground floor facing St Mark's Square have been adapted for fire station purposes in a very simple yet artistic manner, and the old gear of the brigade has been used to form emblems, &c.
Vienna.—In 1892 the Vienna fire service was reconstituted on modern lines owing to the area of the Vienna municipality having been greatly extended. The professional brigade was somewhat strengthened and entirely re-equipped, and the various existing volunteer brigades of the outlying districts were transformed into suburban volunteer fire brigades, equipped and controlled by the municipality and standing under the general command of the fire brigade headquarters. The principle involved was the utilization of the splendid volunteer force around Vienna for the purpose of strengthening the municipal brigade, a principle of great economic advantage, as the professional brigade would otherwise have had to be materially strengthened, probably trebled. These suburban volunteer fire brigades number no fewer than 34, and have 1200 firemen of all ranks. They are practically independent institutions as far as the election of officers and administration is concerned, but their equipment and uniforms and their fire stations are provided by the municipality, and in certain districts a staff of professional firemen detached from headquarters are attached to their stations as telegraph clerks and drill-instructors.
The suburban volunteer brigades turn out to fires in their own districts, and further, assist in other districts when so ordered by headquarters. They form a strong reserve for great fires in the city proper. Headquarters, of course, renders assistance at large suburban fires. These suburban volunteer fire brigades are very perfectly equipped with appliances, generally of the same type as those used in the central professional brigade. Some of these brigades are equipped with combined chemical engines with 15-metres long ladders attached. They have smoke helmets, and everything that may be termed modern. The men are volunteers in the truest sense of the word, i.e. do not take pay of any description or make any charges for attendance at fires or refreshments at fires.
The Vienna “professional brigade,” as it is generally called, has a personnel (1906) consisting of 8 officers, 5 officials and 475 men. Of stations there is the headquarters, a district station, 4 branch stations with steam fire engines, 9 small branch stations, and 2 “watches” in public buildings. The officers of the brigade consist of the commandant, chief inspector and six inspectors. The officers, of whom four are on duty daily, are all quartered at headquarters. There are three telegraph superintendents. The rank and file is composed of 8 drill-sergeants, 40 telegraph clerks (three classes), 53 foremen (two classes), 22 engineers and stokers, 248 men (three classes). Twenty-four telegraph clerks and engineers are detailed for duty with the suburban volunteer brigades. There are 78 coachmen.
The following are the fire-extinguishing and life-saving apparatus and service vehicles of all kinds standing ready to “turn out”:— 2 open and 2 officers' service carriages (at headquarters), 6 “traps” for the first “turn-out” (5 at headquarters and 1 at the district fire station), each manned by one officer in charge and nine men, and equipped with 3 hook-ladders, a portable extension ladder and jumping sheet, a life-saving chute, an ambulance chest, 3 toolboxes, a jack, tools, torches, 2 smoke-helmets, with hand-pump and a hose-reel attached; five special gear-carts (4 at headquarters and 1 at the district station), each manned by seven firemen and equipped like the “traps” with the exception that, instead of the life-saving chute, the carts carry with them a sliding-sheet, two petroleum torches each, an extension ladder (15 metres long) and some spare coal for the steam fire-engines; 4 pneumatic extension ladders each 25 metres long, and 3 extension turn-table ladders each 25 metres long (at headquarters and at two of the substations); each of the pneumatic ladders has three men, and each turn-table ladder five men; 18 chemical engines (3 at headquarters and 1 each in the other stations), each having five men with 3 hook-ladders, a jointed ladder (in four sections), a hose-reel, a hand-engine, a smoke helmet, a jumping sheet, an ambulance chest, a tool box, torches, &c.; 8 steam fire-engines (3 at headquarters and one each in the district fire station and the 4 steam-engine stations), each with an engineer and stoker.
The reserve of appliances includes 12 manual engines, 15 large chemical engines, 17 steel water-carts (with 1000 litre reservoirs). The total number of oxygen smoke helmets in the brigade is 68, and there are 15 ordinary smoke helmets with hand-pumps. The total number of horses is 132. One electrically-driven trap and two electrically-driven chemical engines are being tried. The fire telegraphic and telephonic installation, including the lines in the volunteer brigades' districts kept up by the professional brigade, comprises 47 telegraph stations, 249 telephone stations, with altogether 161 Morse instruments and 536 semi-public fire-call points.
Zürich.—Zürich covers about 12,000 English acres, 1500 of which are built over with some 15,000 houses, the whole of the buildings being subject to the local building regulations and the State Insurance Association's rules, in which they are compulsorily insured. The brigade is a compulsory militia brigade, placed under the control of the head of the department of police under a law of 1898. The same municipal officer is head of a special municipal committee of nine, entrusted with the safety of the town from fire. The executive officer of the committee is known as the inspector, and acts as captain of the fire brigade. His office is at the fire-brigade headquarters, where he has a small permanent staff both for brigade work and correspondence. Every male inhabitant of Zürich is compelled to do some service for the prevention of, or protection against, fire, from the age of twenty to fifty years. The duty may be fulfilled (1) by active service, or (2) in the case of an able-bodied citizen, who for some reason is not found suited to be a member of the brigade, or has been dismissed from the brigade, by the payment of a tax, which tax is fixed on the basis of his income. Certain citizens, however, are ipso facto exempt from active service, namely members of parliament, members of council of the Polytechnic school, of the Cantonal government, of the High Court of justice, and of the Town Council; also clergymen and schoolmasters, the officials of railways, tramway and steamboat companies, of the post-office and telephone department, students of the Polytechnic school and other educational institutions and municipal officials, with whose duties fire brigade service is incompatible. Exemption from active service can also be accorded on a testimonial of a medical board. Exemption from active service, however, in no case exempts from the tax, the total of which amounts to between £4000 and £5000. In making the selection of men for active service only, men particularly fitted for the work are taken, namely, men who are personally keen, who have a good physique, and who are preferably of the building or allied trades. The officers of the brigade are appointed by the municipal committee. The men's drills are by the chief officer, and the men are liable to fines and to imprisonment (up to four days) for not attending their drills. The whole of the brigade is insured against accidents and illness with the Swiss Fire Brigade Union at the expense of the city, and the city in addition provides a fund for families in cases of death of firemen on duty. There is also a sick fund provided for the brigade by the municipality, which also accords a scale of compensation.
The fire brigade comprises the very large complement of fifteen companies with 120 men each. Each company has three sections, namely, a fire service section, a life-saving section, and a police section, the last being utilized for keeping the ground and attending to salvage. Each company is supposed to be able, as a rule, to deal with the fire in its own district without calling upon the company of an adjoining district, and it is only in the case of a very serious fire that additional companies are turned out. There is thus a system of decentralization and independence of companies in this brigade not often met with elsewhere. Firemen are paid one franc for each drill of two hours. For fires, two francs for two hours, and fifty centimes per hour afterwards. Refreshments are provided. Any telephone can be used free by law for an alarm. The brigade has at its disposal an extension telephone service, but the men are not all connected up with the telephone of their respective districts, and thus the alarm is given mainly with horns sounded by men who are on the telephone. No section of the brigade has less than ten men on the telephone.
The water-supply is of a most excellent character. The appliances in the main comprise hydrants and hose-reels with ladder trucks, and each section has not less than 3000 ft. of hose. They are mainly housed in small temporary corrugated iron sheds with roller shutter doors, to which all the firemen have keys. There are some sixty of these hydrant houses distributed round the city, the larger appliances being at headquarters and at some depots.
Apart from the fact of there being the inspector or chief officer for the whole district, with a certain permanent staff, each company might be considered as a separate brigade, having its own chief officer and staff, and independent organization, the organization of the companies, however, being identical. A company comprises 1 chief officer, 1 second officer, 1 doctor, 2 ambulance men and 6 orderlies, a staff in charge, and the three sections have respectively 1 lieutenant, 1 deputy-lieutenant and 40 men for the fire service section; 1 lieutenant, 1 deputy-lieutenant and 40 men for the life-saving section, and 1 lieutenant, 1 deputy-lieutenant and 20 men for the police section. Only in the case of sections 1 and 2 is there some slight variation in the organization, namely, 1 and 2 sections have been combined as a joint section, with an additional senior officer. At Zürich, as in all Swiss fire brigades, there is an extraordinary uniformity of drills, rules, regulations and instructions in all its sections. In 1908 the brigade comprised 2268 in all ranks. There were about 70 fires in that year.
(E. O. S.)
Fire service in the United States has developed on so large a scale that in 1902 it was estimated by P. G. Hubert (“Fire Fighting To-Day and To-Morrow,” Scribner's Magazine, 1902, 32, pp 448 sqq.) that in proportion to population the fire force of America was nearly four times that of Germany or France and about three times that of England. The many fires consequent on wooden construction even in the large cities; the bad effect of sudden climatic changes—drying, parching heat being followed by weather so cold as to require artificial heating; the less safe character of heating appliances; and, especially in tenements, the more inflammable character of furniture, are some of the reasons assigned for greater fire frequency in America. Fire-fighting service in the United States is in no way connected with the military as it is on the continent of Europe; the association of volunteer with paid firemen is uncommon except in the suburban parts of the large cities, and in the smaller cities and towns, where volunteers serving for a certain term are, during that term and thereafter, exempt from jury duty.
New York.—The fire department of New York City is the result of gradual development. The first record of municipal action in regard to fire prevention dates from 1659, when 250 leather buckets and a supply of fire-ladders and hooks were purchased, and a tax of one guilder for fire apparatus was imposed on every chimney; in 1676 fire-wells were ordered to be dug; in 1686 every dwelling-house with two chimneys was required to provide one bucket (if with more than two hearths, two), and bakers and brewers had to provide three, and six buckets respectively; in 1689 “brent-masters” or fire-marshals were appointed; in 1695 every dwelling-house had to provide one fire-bucket at least; in 1730 two Richard Newsham hand-engines were ordered from England, and soon afterwards a superintendent of fire-engines was appointed on a small salary; in 1736 an engine-house was built near the watch-house in Broad Street, and an act of the provincial legislature authorized the appointment of twenty-four firemen exempt from constable or militia duty. Early in the 19th century volunteer fire companies increased rapidly in numbers and in importance, especially political; and success in a fire company was a sure path to success in politics, the best-known case being that of Richard Croker, a member of “Americus 6,” commonly called “Big Six,” of which William M. Tweed was organizer and foreman. Parades of fire companies, chowder parties and picnics (predecessors of the present “ward leader's outing”) under the auspices of the volunteer organizations, annual balls after 1829, water-throwing contests, often over liberty poles, and bitter fights between different companies (sometimes settled by fist duels between selected champions), improved the organization of these companies as political factors if not as fire-fighters. So devoted were the volunteers to their leaders that in 1836, when James Gulick, chief engineer since 1831, was removed from office for political reasons, the news of his removal coming when the volunteers were fighting a fire caused them all to stop their work, and they began again only when Gulick assured them that the news was false; almost all the firemen resigned until Gulick was reinstated. The type of the noisy, rowdy New York volunteer fire hero was made famous in 1848–1849 by Frank S. Chanfrau's playing of the part Mose in Benjamin Baker's play, A Glance at New York. The Ellsworth Zouaves of New York were raised entirely from volunteer firemen of the city.
In 1865, when the volunteer service was abolished, it consisted of 163 companies (52 engines, 54 hose; 57 hook and ladder) manned by 3521 men (engines averaging 40 to 60 men, hose-carts about 25, and hook and ladder companies about 40); the chief engineer, elected with assistants for terms of live or three years by ballots of the firemen, received a salary of $3000 a year; and three bell-ringers in each of eight district watch-towers, who watched for smoke and gave alarms, received $600 a year. The legislature in March 1865 created a Metropolitan Fire District and established therein a Fire Department, headed by four commissioners, who with the mayor and comptroller constituted a board of estimate.
This organization was practically unchanged until 1898, when the Greater New York was chartered and the present system was introduced. At its head is a commissioner who receives $7500 a year. The more immediate head of the firemen is a chief (annual salary $10,000), the only member of the force not appointed on the basis of a civil service examination; the chief has a deputy in Manhattan (for Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond boroughs) and another for Brooklyn and Queens, each receiving an annual salary of $5000.
In December 1908 there were: 14 deputy chiefs (eight in Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond, and six in Brooklyn and Queens); 59 chiefs of battalion (31 in Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond, and 28 in Brooklyn and Queens); 248 foremen or captains (137 in Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond, and 111 in Brooklyn and Queens), 365 assistant foremen (221 in Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond; and 144 in Brooklyn and Queens); 431 engineers of steamers (247 in Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond, and 184 in Brooklyn and Queens) and 2933 firemen (1772 in Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond, and 1161 in Brooklyn and Queens); and the total uniformed force was 4107. At the close of 1908 there were 88 engine companies in Manhattan and the Bronx, including 6 fire-boat companies—at East 99th St., Battery Park, Grand St. (East River), West 35th St., Gansevoort St. and West 132nd St.; and in Manhattan and the Bronx there were 38 hook and ladder companies; in Brooklyn and Queens there were 70 engine companies, including two fire-boat companies—at 42nd St. and at North 8th St. The appropriations for the year 1906 were $4,777,687 for Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond, and $3,147,033 for Brooklyn and Queens; and the department expenses were $3,980,535 for Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond, and $2,565,849 for Brooklyn and Queens.
The first high-pressure main system in the city was installed at Coney Island in 1905, gas-engines working the pumps. Electrically driven centrifugal pumps are used in Brooklyn (protected area, 1360 acres) and in Manhattan, where the system was introduced in 1908, and where the protected district (1454 acres) reaches from the City Hall to 25th St. and from the Hudson east to Second Avenue and East Broadway, being the “Dry Goods District”; water is pumped either from city mains or from the river, and the change may be made instantaneously. The fire watch-tower system was abolished in 1869; the present system is that of red box electric telegraph alarms, which register at headquarters (East 67th St.), where an operator sends out the alarm to that engine-house nearest to the fire which is ready to respond, and a chart informing him of the absence from the engine-house of apparatus. There are volunteer forces (about 2700 men) in Queens and Richmond boroughs and in other outlying districts.
Boston.—The Boston fire department (reorganized after the great fire of 1872) is officered by a commissioner (annual salary, $5000), a chief (annual salary, $4000), a senior deputy ($2400), and a junior deputy ($2200), twelve district chiefs ($2000 each), a superintendent and an assistant superintendent of fire-alarms, and a superintendent and an assistant superintendent of the repair shop. In 1909 the force numbered 877 regulars and 8 call men. There were 53 steam fire-engines, 14 chemical engines, 3 water-towers, 3 combination chemical engines and hose-wagons (one being motor-driven), 3 fire-boats (built in 1889, 1895 and 1909 respectively), 29 ladder-trucks and 49 hose-wagons. The auxiliary salt-water main service was established in 1893. The earliest suggestion of the application of the electric telegraph to a fire-alarm system was made in Boston in 1845 by Dr Wm. F. Channing; in 1847–1848 Moses G. Farmer, then a telegraph operator at Framingham, made a practicable electric telegraph alarm; and in 1851–1855 Farmer became superintendent of the Boston fire-alarm system, a plant being installed in 1852.
Chicago.—The Chicago organization practically dates from the fire of 1871, though there was a paid department as early as 1858. Its principal officers are a fire-marshal and chief of brigade (salary $8000), four assistant fire-marshals, a department inspector, eighteen battalion chiefs, a superintendent of machinery, a veterinary and assistant, and about one hundred each of captains, lieutenants, engineers and assistant engineers; the total regular force in 1908 was 1799 men with an auxiliary volunteer force of 71 in Riverdale, Norwood Park, Hansen Park and Ashburn Park. In the business part of the city there is a patrol of seven companies employed by the Board of Fire Underwriters. Since 1895 all men in the uniformed force (except the chief of brigade) are under civil service rules. In 1908 the equipment included 117 engine companies, 34 hook and ladder companies, including one water-tower, 15 chemical engines and one hose company; and there were 5 fire-boats (4 active and 1 reserve). The first fire-boat was built in 1883. The initial installation of high-pressure mains was completed in 1902, and was greatly enlarged in 1908.
Fire-Alarms.—Most large cities possess a system of electrical fire-alarms, consisting of call boxes placed at frequent intervals along the streets. Any one wishing to give notice of a fire either opens the door of one of these boxes or breaks the glass window with which it is fitted, and then pulls the handle inside, thus causing the particular number allocated to the box, which of course indicates its position, to be electrically telegraphed to the nearest fire station, or elsewhere as thought advisable. Sometimes a telephone is fixed in each call-box. Automatic fire-alarms consist of arrangements whereby an electric circuit is closed when the surrounding air reaches a certain temperature. The electric circuit may be used to start an alarm bell or to give warning to a watchman or central office, and the devices for closing it are of the most varied kinds—the expansion of mercury in a thermometer tube, the sagging of a long wire suspended between horizontal supports, the unequal expansion of the brass in a curved strip of brass and steel welded together, &c.
Fire-Engines.—The earliest method of applying water to the extinction of fires was by means of buckets, and these long remained the chief instruments employed for the purpose, though Hero of Alexandria about 150 B.C. described a fire-engine with two cylinders and pistons worked by a reciprocating lever, and Pliny refers to the use of fire-engines in Rome. In the 16th century (as at Augsburg in 1518) we hear of fire squirts or syringes worked by hand, and towards the end of the same century Cyprien Lucar described a very large one operated by a screw handle. The fire squirts used in London about the time of the Great Fire were 3 or 4 ft. long by 2½ or 3 in. in diameter, and three men were required to manipulate them. The next stage of development was to mount a cistern or reservoir on wheels so that it was portable, and to provide it with pumps which forced out the water contained in it through a fixed delivery pipe in the middle of the machine. An important advance was made in 1672 when two Dutchmen, Jan van der Heyde, senior and junior, made flexible hose by sewing together the edges of a strip of leather, and applied it for both suction and delivery, so that the engines could be continuously supplied with water and the stream could be more readily directed on the seat of the fire. For many years manual engines were the only ones employed, and they came to be made of great size, requiring as many as 40 or 50 men to work them; but now they are superseded by power-driven engines, at least for all important services. The first practical steam fire-engine was made by John Braithwaite about 1829, but though it proved useful in various fires in London for several years after that date, it was objected to by the men of the fire brigade and its use was abandoned. A generation later, however, steam fire-engines began to come into vogue. At first they were usually drawn by horses to the scene of the fire, though exceptionally their engines could be geared to the wheels so that they became self-propelled; and it was not till the beginning of the 20th century that motor fire-engines were employed to any extent. Steam, petrol and electricity have all been used. Such engines have the advantage that they can reach a fire much more rapidly than a horse-drawn vehicle, especially in hilly districts, and they can if necessary be made of greater power, since their size need not be limited by considerations of the weight that can be drawn by horses. Petrol-propelled engines can be started off from a station within a few seconds of the receipt of an alarm, and their pumps are ready to work immediately the fire is reached; steam-propelled engines possess the same advantage, if they are kept always standing under steam, though this involves expense that is avoided with petrol engines, which cost nothing for maintenance except while they are actually working. Motor engines are made with a capacity to deliver 1000 gallons of water a minute or even more, but the sizes than can deal with 400 or 500 gallons a minute are probably those most commonly used.
In towns standing on a navigable water-way fire-boats are often provided for extinguishing fires in buildings, in docks and along the waterside. The capacity of these may rise to 6000 gallons a minute. Steam is the power most commonly used in them, both for propulsion and for pumping, but in one built for Spezia by Messrs Merryweather & Sons of London in 1909, an 80 H. P. petrol engine was fitted for propulsion, while a steam engine was employed for pumping. The boiler was fired with oil-fuel, and steam could be raised in a few minutes while the boat was on its way to a fire. The pumps could throw a 1½-in. jet to a height of nearly 200 ft. In some places, as at Boston, Mass., the fire-boats are utilized for service at some distance from the water. Fire-mains laid through the streets terminate in deep water at points accessible to the boats, the pumps of which can be connected to them and made to fill them with water at high pressure. In cities where a high-pressure hydraulic supply system is available, a relatively small quantity of the pressure water can be used, by means of Greathead hydrants or similar devices, to draw a much larger quantity from the ordinary mains and force it in jets to considerable heights and distances, without the intervention of any engine.
The water is conducted from the engines or hydrants in hosepipes, which are made either of leather fastened with brass or copper rivets, or of canvas (woven from flax) which has the merit of lightness but is liable to rot, or of rubber jacketed with canvas (or in America with cotton). For directing the water on the fire, nozzles of various, forms are employed, some throwing a plain solid jet, others producing spray, and others again combining jet and spray, the spray being useful to drive away smoke and protect the firemen. Various devices are employed to enable the upper storeys of buildings to be effectively reached. A line of hose may be attached to a telescopic ladder, the extensions of which are pulled out by a wire rope until the top rests on the wall of the building at the required height. Water-towers enable the jet to be delivered at a considerable height independently of any support from the building. A light, stiff, lattice steel frame is mounted on a truck, on which it lies horizontally while being drawn to a fire, but when it has to be used it is turned to an upright position, often by the aid of compressed gas, and then an extensible tube is drawn out to a still greater height. The direction of the stream delivered at the top may be controlled from below by means of gearing which enables the nozzle to be moved both horizontally and vertically. The pipe up the tower may be of large diameter, so that it can carry a huge volume of water, and at the bottom it may terminate in a reservoir into which several fire-engines may pump simultaneously.
Another class of fire-engines, known in the smaller portable sizes as fire-extinguishers or “extincteurs,” and in the larger ones as “chemical engines,” throw a jet of water charged with gas, commonly carbon dioxide, which does not support combustion. Essentially they consist of a closed metal tank, filled with a solution of some carbonate and also containing a small vessel of sulphuric acid. Under normal conditions the acid is kept separate from the solution, but when the machine has to be used they are mixed together; in some cases there is a plunger projecting externally, which when struck a sharp blow breaks the bottle of acid, while in others the act of inverting the apparatus breaks the bottle or causes it to fall against a sharp pricker which pierces the metallic capsule that closes it. As soon as the acid comes into contact with the carbonate solution carbon dioxide is formed, and a stream of gas and liquid mixed issues under considerable pressure from the attached nozzle or hosepipe. Hand appliances of this kind, holding a few gallons, are often placed in the corridors of hotels, public buildings, &c., and if they are well-constructed, so that they do not fail to act when they are wanted, they are useful in the early stages of a fire, because they enable a powerful jet to be quickly brought to bear: but it is doubtful whether the stream of mixed gas and liquid they emit is much more efficacious than plain water, and too much importance can easily be attached to spectacular displays of their power to extinguish artificial blazes of wood soused with petrol, which have been burning only a few seconds. Chemical engines, up to 60 or 70 gallons capacity, are used by fire brigades as first-aid appliances, being mounted on a horsed or motor vehicle and often combined with a fire-escape, a reel of hose, and other appliances needed by the firemen, and even with pumps for throwing powerful jets of ordinary water. Large buildings, such as hotels and warehouses, where a competent watchman is assumed to be always on duty, may be protected by a large chemical engine placed in the basement and connected by pipes to hydrants placed at convenient points on the various floors. At each hose-station a handle is provided which when pulled actuates a device that effects the mixing of the acid and carbonate solution in the machine, so that in a minute or so a stream is available at the hydrants.
Automatic Sprinklers.—Factories, warehouses and other buildings in which the fire risks are great, are sometimes fitted with automatic sprinklers which discharge water from the ceiling of a room as soon as the temperature rises to a certain point. Lines of pipes containing water under pressure are carried through the building near the ceilings at distances of 8 or 10 ft. apart, and to these pipes are attached sprinkler heads at intervals such that the water from them is distributed all over the room. The valves of the sprinklers are normally kept closed by a device the essential feature of which is a piece of fusible metal; this as soon as it is softened (at a temperature of about 160° F.) by the heat from an incipient fire, gives way and releases the water, which striking against a deflecting plate is spread in a shower. In situations where the water is liable to freeze, the ceiling pipes are filled only with air at a pressure of say 10 ℔ per sq. in. When the sprinkler head opens under the influence of the heat from a fire, the compressed air escapes, and the consequent loss of pressure in the pipes is arranged to operate a system of levers that opens the water-valve of the main-feed pipe. The idea of automatic sprinklers is an old one, and a system was patented by Sir William Congreve in 1812; but in their present development they are specially associated with the name of Frederick Grinnell, of Providence, Rhode Island.
Fire-Escapes.—The best kind of fire-escape, because it is always in place, and always ready for use, is an external iron staircase, reaching from the top of a building to the ground, and connected with balconies accessible from the windows on each floor. In many towns the building by-laws require such staircases to be provided on buildings exceeding a certain height and containing more than a certain number of persons. Of non-fixed escapes, designed to enable the inmates of an upper room to reach the ground through the window, numberless forms have been invented, from simple knotted ropes and folding ladders to slings and baskets suspended by a rope over sheaves fixed permanently outside the windows, and provided with brakes by which the occupant can regulate the speed of his descent, and to “chutes” or canvas tubes down which he slides. Fire brigades are provided with telescopic ladders, mounted on a wheeled carriage, up which the firemen climb; sometimes the persons rescued are sent down a chute attached to the apparatus, but many fire brigades think it preferable to rely on carrying down those who are unable to descend the ladder unaided. Jumping sheets or nets, held by a number of men, are provided to catch those whose only chance of escape is by jumping from an upper window.
- In the United States a special officer called a “fire-marshal” has for some time been allocated to this work in many cities, and in 1894 state fire-marshals were authorized in Massachusetts and in Maryland, this example being followed by Ohio (1900), Connecticut. (1901), and Washington (1902); and in other states laws have been passed making official inquiry compulsory. In England the question has been mooted whether coroners, even where no death has occurred, should hold similar inquiries, but though this has been done in recent years in the City of London no regular system exists.
- See Thomas C. Martin, Municipal Electric Fire Alarm and Police Patrol Systems (Washington, 1904), Bulletin 11 of the Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce and Labour. The next plant was installed in Philadelphia in 1855; one in St Louis was completed in 1858; and work was begun in New Orleans and Baltimore in 1860.
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