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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/884

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Fire Walls to Combat the Fire Menace

The principle is similar to that of the cyclone cellar or the collision bulkhead of the ocean steamer

��WHEN the Asch building fire, in 191 1, snuffed out the lives of one hundred and forty-five girls, the newspapers in indignation demanded adequate protec- tion for factory workers. New and larger fire-escapes were placed on practically every building, fire drills were instituted, existing stairways were broadened, and fireproof materials of all kinds were devised over night. Today we rest easy in the knowledge that the factory fire-hazard is at last eliminated. We are only fooling ourselves.

The word "fire-escape," as applied to the usual exterior exit from a building in time of fire, is a misnomer. It should be, in most instances, "fire-trap." And our fire-drills, held with such regularity under the fire



Fire in a typical New York loft building. In

of fire laws and drills the fire escapes are inadequate,

the stairways jammed and the elevators stopped


��prevention laws, fail utterly under emer- gency conditions. This is not due to the design of the fire-escape or the weakness in the fire drill, but to inherent defects in the design of the buildings. Architects and builders generally fail to realize that the capacity of a fire-escape or stairway is limited, and that a multi-storied building, intended to be occupied by large numbers of people on each floor, must be supplied with special means for meeting the exigencies of a rapid egress.

Although the fire-drill has been made compulsory in several States, it is the dread of most factory owners. In some New York city shops the workers absolutely refuse to go out on fire escapes that are from ttMi to thirty stories above the street. When a fire drill interrupts the day's work, the day is practically lost, because some girls among the workers become hysterical and others take several hours to get back into the spirit of their work. Of course the fire drills in the public schools have reached a high point of efficiency, but ac- cording to one prominent investi- gator who studied the fire-hazard (juestion, there was not a single concern he visited which had de- xeloped a scheme of rapid dis- missal similar to the school-drill.

Mr. H. F. J. Porter, an engineer and advisory expert on fire pre- \'ention, who was one of the first to institute fire drills in factories to facilitate the escape of the occupants in case of fire, early saw the shortcomings of the fire drill and the inadequacy of the fire escape. In casting about for some other method of escape from fire lie has pressed into service the most natural and available means at his disposal: a wall of substan- tial and fireproof construction, extending from cellar to roof, with doorways in it on each floor.

In case of fire on one side of the wall, the people on that side simply pass through the doorways, close the fireproof doors and are perfect-

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