History of the New York Fire Department
GENERAL NEWS ARTICLES
A Resume of Its Gradual Growth for Three Hundred Years to the Greatest Fire-Fighting Organization in the World— Installation of Steam Engines, the Marine Fire-Fighting Fleet, the Electric Alarm System, Followed by the Creation of a Fire Prevention Bureau, Training Schools, and the Equipment of the Department With Motor-Propelled Apparatus
It is a noteworthy fact that the history of the New York fire department had its beginnings when the foundations of the city itself were being laid, for the men who were the early settlers of New Amsterdam made provision almost from the first for protection against fire, and so firmly was the necessity for protection against this element implanted in the minds of these early pioneers and their descendants that New York has never neglected its fire department, and to-day it stands out as the most complete and best equipped fire fighting organization in the world. It has met the problems as they have arisen—has met them with unusual ability— and it has spared no expense to keep abreast with the increasing danger which followed the construction of the modern skyscraper and which brought with it problems not dreamed of even half a century ago. The fireman of to-day must he a man of initiative, courage, and possessed of a knowledge of chemistry and architecture as well as a strong body and an alert mind. New York was practically the first to develop many of the most scientific methods of fighting fire and its advance has taught the cities of the world what can be accomplished in this line. The fame of the old volunteer department was world-wide, and the modern department is unrivaled for efficiency, but it is fair to give credit to the volunteers as the pioneers, and say for them that they built a firm foundation upon which rests the present admirable system. The rolls of the old volunteer department contains the names of men that were makers of history in many other lines than that of fire fighting.
Origin of the Department
I lie New h ‘»rk lire department was started with the first Dutch settlement, and under the administration of (inventor Stuyvesant, in 1017. stringent ordinances were passed requiring citizens to sweep their chimneys and the construction Ilf wooden chimneys and thatched roof was prohibited, hour fire wardens were appointed to supervise enforcement of the ordinance. The first fire ordinance was passed in 1048, and an appropriation was made providing that the funds received from fines for dirty chimneys should he applied to the purchase and maintenance of fire ladders, hooks and buckets. In addition to the ordinances providing buckets, hooks, etc., a rattle-watch of eight men was established. Each citizen being required-to perform the duties appertaining to this watch in turn. The first leather fire buckets were bought by the city in 1657 and they were made by a New Amsterdam shoemaker. The first order was for 150 fire buckets. These buckets, were distributed in convenient parts of the town at nine residences. The first fire company in New York was composed of eight men, disrespectfully dubbed the “Prowlers,” and their equipment consisted of 250 buckets, hooks and small ladders. It was later increased in membership to fifty. The early rules to provide against conflagration reqttiretl each citizen of New Amsterdam should fill three buckets of water after sunset and place them on his doorstep for the use of the fire patrol, and another requirement was that ten buckets should lie filled with water and left at the town pump. The citizens were required to mark their buckets so that they could be identified, and at the conclusion of the fire all the buckets were taken to the city hall or left on the common in a heap, and the town crier sent forth to call citizens to claim their buckets. It cannot be said, however, that the ordinances requiring clean chimneys were very thoroughly enforced, and the office of fire warden fell into disuse and the ordinance became a dead letter. When the British took possession of New Netherland, in 1664, the fire protection laws were practically forgotten and there was no marked revival of interest in fire prevention and protection until 1674, when there was a meeting of civic officials with regard to fire matters. At that time the fire wardens had been stirred up to sufficient activity to request that necessary fire hooks and ladders be provided. The next record of an attempt to improve the fire department is found in 1676, when all persons who had possession of the city’s ladf ders, buckets or hooks, were called upon to d&v . liver them to the mayor and a number of wells were ordered dug. A new ordinance was also passed requiring people whohad no chimneys in their houses, to build them without delay, and in 1683 a law was enacted empowering the appointment of fire wardens who had authority to impose a fine not exceeding 20 shillings upon persons who had failed to comply with the chimney ordinance and providing for the keeping of hooks, ladders and buckets in convenient places.
The First Paid Department
The first record of a paid fire department in the city of New York is in 1697, when the aidermen were authorized to appoint two fire wardens in each ward and a penalty of three shillings was imposed for neglect to remedy defective flues and hearths—one-half of the fine going to the city and one-half to the warden. By this time the practice of having every house equipped with fire buckets had become general and was continued long after the introduction of fire engines. In his history dealing with the early days of the lire department, Charles P. Daly says: “If a fire broke out at night the watchman gave the alarm with his rattle and knocked at the doors of the houses with the cry, ‘Throw out your buckets,’ the alarm being further spread by the ringing of the bell in the fort and by the bells in the steeples of the different churches. As soon as possible two lines were formed from the fire to the nearest well or pump, and a law was passed prohibiting breaking of the fire lines along which the buckets were being passed.” The first handfire engines used in New York were imported in the year 1731, and the engines which had been built by Mr. Newsham, of London, were brought to New York by the ship Beaver. On December the 1st of that year two rooms were fitted up in the city hall, where the engines could be ‘‘secured.” The engines were designated Nos. 1 arid 2. They were located in the rear of the city hall, and fire fighting became an imposing civil function. The Alderman and assistant Alderman took charge at fires and the public at large was compelled to do fire duty. Peter Rutger, a brewer and assistant Alderman, was the first man that ever had charge of a fire engine on Manhattan Island and John Roosevelt was the second. At that time the population of New York was 8,628 and there were about 2,100 houses.
The First Chief Engineer
Anthony Lamb was first man known as the chief engineer and he was given a salary of $12 per year. From that time the fire department continued to increase and additional engines were provided and politics played considerable part in the location of the various engine houses. The first engine built in this country was Thomas Lose, and it was known as engine No. 3. In Decemliei, 1737, the general assembly of the Colony passed an act enabling the corporation of the city of New York to appoint not more than fortytwo, able, discreet and sober men as firemen, and this was the legal establishment of the volunteer fire department, which lasted for one hundred and twenty-seven years. They were to manage and care for the fire apparatus and to be called the Firemen of the City of New York to be ready for service by night as well as by day. and be diligent, industrious and vigilant. This legislative act also gave the first exemption “which freed and exempted from the several offices of constable, and surveyor of the highways, and off and from being put into or serving upon any juries or inquest, and from being compellable to serve in the militia, except in case of invasion or other imminent danger. Fines were provided for absence from fire and monthly drills were required.”
Fire Was an Occasion of State
In those days a fire in New York v as an occasion of state, for we find in the law’s of that date that upon the breaking out of any fire in the city “all sheriffs, under or deputy sheriffs, high constable, petty constables and marshals, upon notice thereof, were required immediately to the scene of the conflagration, and with their rods, staves and other badges of authority aid and assist in extinguishing the said fire and cause the people to work to extinguish the flames.” Jacob Turk, who became the head of this organization, held his position for twenty-five years, and to him is credit due for the introduction of the leather cap which is worn by firemen of to-day. After the breaking out of the revolution the fire companies were formed into a military organization, and when New York was evacuated by the American army the firemen left the city with the army. When the British evacuated the city, only one of the engines was fit for duty, and it was not until 1783 that an attempt was made to reorganize the department, and in 1780 the department was materially increased and stringent fire laws regarding the storage of inflammable materials were passed. The fire department of New’ York was incorporated in 1798 and trustees were elected. The funds of the corporation were obtained from the chimney fines, certificates, donations and penalties imposed upon citizens for violations of the fire laws.
First Fire Boat
The first fire boat that appears in the history of the department is reported along about 1800. when a floating engine was placed upon a boat and it was stored in one of the central slips in the East River and thirty men provided for its operation. In order that the members of the common council, engineers and fire wardens might be more readily designated at fires, the mavor recorder, aldermen and assistants were required to have on these occasions a white wand at least five feet in length with a gilded flame at the top. and each of the engineers should have a leather cap painted white with a gilt front thereto and an engine painted thereon and have a good speaking trumpet painted black; and each of the fire wardens should wear a like cap with the citv arms painted on the front and the crown painted black and have also a sneaking trumpet painted white. The use of the fire buckets was started in the earlv colonial days and was not dispensed with until 1819, when they were entirely superseded bv the use of hose and all of the engines furnished with suctions. It was about this period that the old original two-reel hose wheel made its appearance, and the invention of it was credited to David J. Hubbs. It was either attached to the engine by tail hooks or drawn bv members of the company. The early fire boats were evidently not of much benefit, for we find that the floating engine lay aground most of the year 1818 in her slip at the font of Roosevelt street, and was finally transferred to the corporation yard and set un as a supply engine. In 1822 the department had grown to 1.209 men, including engineers and fire wardens, had 40 engines. 4 hook and ladder trucks and 10.245 feet of hose, 17 ladders. 23 hooks and l machine for throwing down chimneys.
Fir«l Fire Alarm Bell
In 1838. the city was divided into five districts, and for the first time the bell by its strokes indicated the district in which the fire was located and a ctmola with the alarm bell was placed in Center Market. In 1841, the appointment of the firemen in New York city was placed under the control of five fire commissioners and the introduction of Croton water caused a further reorganization of the department in 1843. At this period in the history of the department there were a great many feuds existing between the various companies and strenuous efforts were made to bring about a condition of peace, which resulted in the disbandment of a number of companies. In 1846, Morse’s magnetic telegraph was introduced as a method of transferring the signals in the department and the city was again subdivided into additional districts.
Harry Howard, whose name is known wherever volunteer firemen exist, was made chief engineer of the department in 1857, at which time the strength of the New York fire department had 2′ ‘ _ reached more than 2,000 men and the department owned houses and lands valued at $300,000, while the apparatus was valued at $75,000. In 1807, an appropriation of $19,500 was made for the purpose of testing steam fire engines, and this appropriation was followed with much agitation. The first practical operation of the steam fire engine in New York was January 17, 1859; but the test was not satisfactory. Later in 1859 several of the fire insurance companies doing business in the city presented the department with a steam fire engine, but Chief Decker, who was Chief Howard’s successor, condemned their use. He said they were serviceable auxiliaries to the hand engine, but they could never take the place of the hand apparatus, as eight fires out of every ten that occurred were brought under subjection by the quickness of operation of the hand engine, so there was no necessity for placing the steamers at work.
Installation of Steam Fire Engines
In 1801, there was a fire force in New York of 4.040 men, and there had been installed ten steam engines, and six others were authorized to be purchased, making a total of sixteen steamers, which was considered sufficient number for any ordinary emergency. The last official report of the chief engineer of the volunteer fire department was made June 30. 1805, and it showed that there were then 3,421 men in the department. The act creating the Metropolitan fire department was passed May 30. 1805, and it was contested by the men of the volunteer system who resented the abolition of the old volunteer system. Four commissioners were appointed and their attempt to take possession of the city’s property was met with a quo warranto proceeding, but the law was sustained and the volunteer department passed out of existence.
With the organization of the paid department, the old volunteers believed that much of the glamour and public interest in firemen would disappear, but the contrary has been the case. In the volunteer days there was always spirited rivalry between the organizations, but the public was more anxious for protection than for demonstrations of loyalty to organizations, and from its first day of duty the paid department, which was to a large extent made up of men who had belonged to the old volunteer organizations, has kept up a pace which has not been surpassed by any other fire department in the world.
Organization of the Paid Department
With the organization of the pa:d department fire fighting became a business, and under the constantly multiplying problems that have arisen with the remarkable advances that have been made in the construction of buildings, it has from necessity developed into a profession requiring trained minds as well as bodies developed to a high standard. The volunteer fireman fought fire with water when lie was not fighting some member of another company, but the paid fireman has learned that while he has to use water to put out a fire, he can prevent the fire spreading by the use of brains and save a large percentage of the damage that was once caused by the injudicious but enthus astic use of water. Many men who had been members of the old volunteer department entered the paid department and became its most valuable workers. Their experience in the volunteers had taught them how to care for the apparatus and how to get the best work out of the engines and as man of the men who donned the blue shirt in place of the red shirt were fresh from the ranks of the army in the Civil War, discipl ne was easily made a part of their business life, and from its inception the paid fire department has been a well-disciplined organization. The men who were given the command of the companies and battalions were leaders, and there have been few men who reached the rank of officers in the New York Fire Department who have not shown their willingness to lead their men: in other words, they were men of the type who have shown their preference to use the command “Come on with me” to “Go in there, men.” A very large percentage of the efficiency and bravery of the department has been attributable to the esprit du corns developed by the confidence felt by the privates in the courage and alrlity of the officers. The strongest proof of the sterling dualities of the officers of the department is found in the record of those who have died in the line of duty, a large percentage of whom were officers. Firemen in New York size un an officer bv his “smoke eating” abilities as well as the other qualit es which have led to his preference.
With the installation of the paid department also came many advances in equipment and the installation of machinery tb-’t would reduce the problems of fighting fire. New Y’ork has been criticised on account of its fire alarm system, but the fact stands out that New York firemen vet to a fire with less delay than anv other fire department n the world .and when thev reach a fire thev lose no time j„ pitting at work. Kverv officer in the New York department is compelled to make himself acquainted with the character of the fire risks in his particular district, and when a fire is located the officers and the older men in the company know just where the greatest danger spots are to be found, and precautions are taken to see that they are protected. The local comnrssioners have never been hunting for novelties in fire-fighting apparatus, but thev Cand in this thev are backed by the opinions of their experienced chiefs) have used what had been proven worth while until it was rendered obsolete by something that had demonstrated its value. The organization of the framing school has developed many of the best ideas that have found places in the department, and the men in charge of that school were always ready to study anv new device that was offered, but the city has been saved many thousands of dollars by their refusal to recommend the purchase of appliances that were excellent in theory but valueless in practical work. I he men who were active in the building up 61 the New York department put their greatest stress upon mak ng the men of the department efficient and training them in their duties from the first day of probation until the time for retirement after years of service was reached. A physical standard has been maintained, and those men who are not adapted to the work must make way for those who have the brain as well as the brawn to do their full duty at all times. During his administration Chief Croker made many efforts to have the physical standard raised even higher than it was .and he frequently expressed his disapproval of the appointment of men who were able to squeeze by the civil service examnation through a high percentage o.i the mental examination w hen they were not up to his ideas of what a fireman should he from a physical viewpoint. In a large percentage of instances tile men to whom lie had objected were obliged to leave tile department because they were themselves ready to admit the force of his argument after they had tried to perform the work to which they were assigned. To use an expression used by life chief: “A great many of the men who are able to pass the civil service tests are better qualified to perform the duties of bookkeepers and salesmen than they are able to carry a section of hose up a ladder to the top of a sixstory building.”
Motoring the Department
New York City, in the opinion of many persons, was slow in adopting the automobile as applied to fire apparatus, hut the apparent delay was not dvr.’ to any lack of appreciation of the poss bilities of motor apparatus, hut was due to a desire that some one else should do such experimenting as had to be done, and New York City had too much at stake to risk using a type of apparatus that has but recently passed from the experimental to the practical stage. The efficiency and the economy ot automobile apparatus has been fully demonstrated, and the time is not far distant when there will be no horse-drawn apparatus in the New York department. New York to-day is in possession of the most efficient automobile apparatus that can be obtained, and additional apparatus is being delivered as rapidly as it is completed by the manufacturers. The most of the men who have been at the head of tli – lighting force of the New York department have believed that the man behind the apparatus counted quite as much as the apparatus, and while New York was waiting for the demonstration of the efficiency of automobile apparatus its firemen continued to maintain the high record of the department for efficiency even ii they were still using horse-drawn engines, trucks and tenders. During the present y .-ar not a single horse has been purchased for the New York l ire Department, and more than 400 fire horses have been ret red. In an article on the subject of motor apparatus Fire Commissioner Joseph Johnson said:
“The job of motorizing a fire department such as New York’s carries with it difficulties which are not encountered in smaller cities. The character of our buildings—many of the commerc al structures taller than any others in the world— recessitates the installation of a heavier type of apparatus than those which are adequate for the average city. Another factor is the great expense involved in motorizing a department in which there are more than six hundred p’eces of apparatus. A mistake in the adoption of a standard in the initial stages of motorization might mean the loss of many hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city.
“When I began the administration of the fire department its motor zation was one of the first problems. After exhaustive tests of practically every type of machine manufactured in this country by reputable apparatus men we drew specifications for standard motor driven tire lighting machines. As a result of our studies on the apparatus subject we have adopted four distinct types—first, a steam pumping engine propelled by a front drive gasoline tractor which can torn in its own length; second, a gasoline propelled and pumping engine; third, a motor propelled hook and ladder truck, and fourth, a gasoline driven hose wago: Of these types there are several styles adapted to the peculiar conditions in various parts o, the city. Some of our hose wagons, for instance, are equipped with two chemical tanks, each tank holding thirty-five gallons of ext nguishing fluid. The tanks, which are built under the driver’s seat, do not interfere with the hos.‘ racks on the main body of the wagon. This type of apparatus is known as the ‘chemical scout,” and is peculiarly adapted to the suburbs, where not only high speed is required, but wherg tire can often he conquered in its incipiency with a chemical fluid. Another and heavier type of hose wagon is designed for the high pressure district.
“One phase of the motor apparatus question in which we moved with particular caution was that of adopting a gasoline pumping engine. After testing several we purchased a powerful engine from a manufacturer in the West and placed it in service with Engine Company 39, on the ground floor of Fire Headquarters, so that the apparatus could be observed in service by members of my apparatus board. This engine, which was christened ‘The Giant’ by some of our newspaper friends, is propelled by a 126-horsepower gasoline motor. The pump, a piston drive, is operated also by this motor. The apparatus weighs more than six tons. It pumps between 700 and 800 gallons of water a minute. Its speed is 35 m.les an hour. ‘The Giant’ has been in service now for more than a year.
“Another type of motor propelled fire engine— a front drive tractor affair attached to the regulation steam pumper—was purchased about the same time as ‘The Giant’ and placed in service in Engine Company 58, at 115th street and Lenox avenue, one of the busiest companies in the city.
“The performances of each of these pieces of apparatus were carefully watched. We decided that the part of wisdom would be to adhere to the steam pumping type of engine with a gasoline froitt drive tractor. This decision was made partly because our old steam engines could be utilized in the motorization and partly because the gasoline pumping engine is still in an experimental stage. Several months ago I ordered 28 more steam fire engines with the front drive tractor, and recently we have placed a dozen or more of these in service. The motor propelled hook and ladder trucks, which are driven by gasoline-electric motors, have also been adopted as a standard. The hose wagon problem was the least difficult of all, as it involved no complications which had not already been worked out by the makers of the average commercial trucks.”
The Motor Equipment
In all there are 104 motor vehicles either in service in our fire department or under contract for delivery during the present year. One hundred and twenty-six of these are in service now and thirty-eight will he delivered before the cold weather arrives. Here is the list of New York’s motor vehicles on duty to-day:
Fighting Fires in Skyscrapers
The problems that face the firemen of New Y’ork are not equaled in any other city in the world, for in no other city can be found buildings of the same height and character—but in the character, in the scientific construction of the buildings the most difficult part of the problem has been solved to a great extent. Fivery city that has modern buildings has fireproof buddings, buildings as immune from destruction by fire as human ingenuity has been able to make them, but these buildings cannot be compared to the old-time structures as fire risks because every device that will assist in the quick extinguishment of fire is installed in them and the fire engine plays no part. In the downtown district of Manhattan there are six buildings the roofs of which arc from O00 to 712 feet above the level of the street. The fire engine as an important factor in fighting fires in the heart of the business section ceased to exist several years ago, when the high pressure system was installed. One must not understand, however, that New York city’s high pressure system, which was devised to do away with the fire engine in the congested business district, is used by the firemen in coping with a blaze 500 feet aloft, for the present high pressure would not carry water to such a height. The standpipe system in these skyscrapers is the solution of the problem. By means of 6-inch pipes reaching from the basement to the roof and with hose connections on each floor water for the use of firemen is furnished by the building itself. A volume of water sufficient to subdue an average blaze is stored constantly in tanks on the roofs of these buildings. It feeds by gravity into the standpipes and centrifugal pumps in the basement replenish these roof tanks at will, and in the tallest buildings there is a relay system of tanks on the various floors.
When firemen enter a building of the type of the Woolworth Building or the Metropolitan Life Building in response to an alarm for a blaze on one of the upper floors they sever all connection with the department apparatus and with the street. They carry with them two lengths of hose, 100 feet in all, but even this is not likely to be used in fighting the fire. On each floor of the skyscraper and attached to the standpipe is hose sufficient in length to reach any part of the floor. This hose is furnished by the owner of the building by order of the fire department. It is inspected regularly by our firemen. The house line hose is two and one-half inches in diameter— the regulation size used by the fire department. The fire department hose is carried by the firemen merely for use in an emergency. The fighting of a fire in the modern tall building really begins before the firemen arrive, however. At its very incipicncy the blaze is attacked automatically by water from the sprinkler system with which practically all the modern office, loft and factory buildings are equipped. The installation of these sprinklers is compelled by the fire department as a precautionary measure against the loss of life by fire. FYom an engineering standpoint the system of distributing water for use in case of fire in the Woolworth Building is supposed to be the last word in hydraulic achievement. In this building, whose fifty-fifth st«ry reaches to a height of 712 feet above the ground, the standpipes are six inches in diameter. They were tested under 400 pounds of hydraulic pressure per square inch. From the fire mains in the cellar these standpipes branch out and rise through the building in stair towers and corridors. They are so distributed that 75 feet of hose on a standpipe connection in the building will reach a fire no matter in what part of the building it may start. Three of these standpipes continue through the tower to a level of the forty-first story, and one continues to the highest accessible part of the structure, which is a gigantic lantern. The tanks which supply the standpipes arc automatically filled by pumps located in the cellar The Metropolitan Life Building, at Twenty-third street and Madison avenue, the roof of which is 700 feet above the street level, has a total tank capacity of 22,200 gallons to supply its 6-inch standpipe system. In both the Woolworth and Metropolitan Life buildings there would be no shortage of water in coping with a blaze at the dizzy height of 500, 600 or i’Ht feet above the ground. The Bankers’ Trust Building, at 11 Wall street, is another type of office building. Its pyramid roof is 540 feet in the air. On each of its thirty-nine floors 100 feet of linen hose is attached to the standpipes, in constant readiness for the firemen should a blaze occur. In the Singer Building, New York firemen could as readily extinguish a blaze on the topmost floor, 612 feet above the street level, as they could in a basement, once they were upon the scene. The tools are always there ready for them. The same is true in the City Investing Building, at 165 Broadway, which is just 500 feet high. These six structures, the Woolworth, Metropolitan Life, Bankers’ Trust, Singer, City Investing and new Municipal buildings, are the tallest of New York’s office structures, and in them is embodied the highest type of modern firefighting paraphernalia.
New York’* Marine Fire Fighting Fleet
For the purpose of fighting fires along the water front and for the protection of the ships in the harbor New York has a fleet of ten fireboats, and in a combined attack on a water front blaze or upon the flames of a burning ship they can pump 71,500 gallons of water a minute. At present the ten fireboats of the fleet are the
Zophar Mills, the New Yorker, the William L. Strong, the Abram S. Hewitt, the George B. McClellan, the James Duane, the James Willett, the Cornelius W. Lawrence, the Seth Low and the David A. Boody. An eleventh will soon be added, the William J. Gaynor, now under construction at Elizabeth, N. J. This boat, named after the present mayor, will Have a capacity for pumping 7,000 gallons of water in a minute. The registered horsepower will be !HX) and her gross tonnage 280. The length of the boat will be 120 feet and her beam 25 feet. The total cost will be $125,000. The James Willett and the James Duane were built in 1907. These two crafts are each 131 feet long, 28 feet beam, of 326 tons, 900 horsepower and pump 9,000 gallons of water a minute. The fireboat New Yorker, probably the most powerful fire fighting craft in the world, has a capacity for pumping 12,000 gallons of water a minute. Her horsepower is Y50. When in action the New Yorker pumps water through fifteen hose nozzles, the smallest of which is one and three-quarter inches and the largest two and one-half inches. Six of the fifteen lines are stationary pipes mounted on her deck and wheelhouse top. In an emergency the New Yorker could pump water through eighteen nozzles by the use of twin connections. In the fireboat fleet there are 278 men—one acting deputy chief, whose rank in the fleet would be equivalent to admiral; one battalion chief, 10 captains, 13 lieutenants, 52 engineers, 20 pilots, 125 firemen and 56 stokers. The stokers are civilians. AH the others are uniformed firemen. The average quota of men to a boat is two officers, one pilot, two marine engineers, ten firemen and two stokers. For each fireboat there is a dock station, on which are built sleeping quarters for the men. With the exception of the crew of the Zophar Mills, the men of the fireboat fleet sleep ashore in the department dormitories. There is no dormitory for the Zophar Mills, which is stationed at the foot of Beckman street in the blast River. Her officers and crew sleep on board.
Fire Prevention Bureau Created
Under a law passed in 1911 the work of the New Y’ork fire department was divided into two bureaus, both under the fire commissioner: The Bureau of Fire Extinguishment and the Bureau of Fire Prevention. The Bureau of Fire Flxtinguishment has charge of the extinguishment of fires and the necessary and incidental protection of property in connection therewith. The Bureau of Fire Prevention, which was not a separate bureau previous to the law passed in 1911, has charge of all matters relating to the prevention of fires, including those relating to the storage, sale, transportation or use of combustibles or explosives; to the installation of and maintenance of automatic or other fire alarm systems and the fire extinguishing equipment; to the means and adequacy of exits from all buildings, structures, vessels, places and premises in which numbers of persons work, live or congregate from time to time for any purpose, except tenement houses; and finally to the investigation of the cause, circumstance and origin of fires and the supression of arson. The powers conferred under the law are broad, and under its provisions many of the most serious menaces to life and property that existed a few years ago, especially in factories, have been eliminated, and smoking in factory and loft buildings has been stopped. The bureau has been active in the prevention of fire disasters in factories, and under the inspection of the bureau many violators of the regulations promulgated under the law have been punished by fines and imprisonment. The bureau has also been especially active in the prosecution of persons charged with arson, and through its efficiency the number of fires of incendiary origin has been materially reduced and several members of the so-called “Arson Trust,” which was responsible for a large percentage of the suspicious fires in the city, have been sent to prison. All garages are rigidly inspected and the number of fires in buildings used for that purpose has been greatly reduced.
Commissioner Joseph Johnson has a plan for the erection of a central administration building that will eliminate eight of the department’s present buildings and increase the efficiency of the department by centralization. The plan contemplates the acquirement of 80,000 feet of land, one city block, and the erection thereon of a new building at a cost of $2,000,000. The new structure would give ample space for all of the administrative departments of both of the bureaus of the department, garage and repair shop and the fire school and leave space for the natural expansion of the department for many years to come. The plan would also enable the city to sell much of the property now used by the various bureaus at such prices as would more than defray the cost of carrying out Commissioner Johnson’s proposed plan. Most of the buildings that would be disposed of, in the event the Board of Estimate approves of the proposition, are many years old and some of them are in need of extensive repairs.
Two hundred and fifty workmen are engaged upon the Dallas, Texas, filtration plant. David G. Morey is engineer in charge, and he declared his hope that with good working weather the plant will be ready for use by the city on September 1. With its chemical laboratory and the equipping of it for the clarifying of the water, this -work will cost the city about $275,000. It is to have a capacity of 20,000,000 gallons of clean water a day.