1902 Encyclopedia > Fire and Fire Extinction

Fire and Fire Extinction
(including: Great Fires of History; Firefighting. Fire Brigades)




FIRE is considered in the present article in relation to the destruction by it of life and property. History is full of accounts of the devastation it has caused in the towns and cities of nearly country of the civilized world. The following list embraces the most memorable of the great fires of which records have been preserved:—

GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND

798. London, nearly destroyed.

982 " greater part of the city burned.

1086 " all houses and churches from the east to the west gate burned.

1212. " greater part of the city burned.

1666. " "The Great Fire," September 2 –6.

It began in 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 form th 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. " Houses of Parliament burned.

1861. " Tooley Street wharves, &c., burned. Loss estimated at £2,000,000.

1873 " Alexandra palace destroyed.

1137. York, totally destroyed.

1184. Glastonbury, town and abbey burned.

1292. Carlisle, destroyed.

1507. Norwich, nearly destroyed ; 718 houses burned.

1544. Leith, burned.

1598. Tiverton, 400 houses and a large number of horses burned ; 33 persons killed. Loss over £150,000.

1612. " 600 houses burned. Loss over £200,000.

1731. " 300 houses burned.

1700. Edinburgh, "the Great Fire."

1612. Cork, greater part burned, and again in 1622.

1613. Dorchester, nearly destroyed. Loss, £200,000.

1614. Stratford-on-Avon, burned.

1644. Beaminster, burned. Again in 1684 an d1781.

1675. Northampton, almost totally destroyed.

1683. Newmarket, large part of the town burned.

1694. Warwick, more than half burned ; rebuilt by national contribution.

1707. Lisburn, burned.

1727. Gravesend, destroyed.

1728. Wellingborough, 800 housed burned.

1743. Crediton, 450 houses destroyed.

1760. Portsmouth, dockyard burned. Loss, £400,000.

1770 " " " 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.

1854. Gateshead, 50 persons killed. Loss, £1,000,000.

1875. Glasgow. Great fire. Loss, £300,000.


FRANCE

59. Lyons, burned to ashes. Nero offers to rebuild it.

1118. Nantes, greater part of the city destroyed.

1137. Dijon, burned.

1524. Troyes, nearly destroyed.

1720. Rennes, on fire from December 22 to 29,850 houses burned.

1784. Brest. Fire and explosion in dockyard. Loss £1,000,000.

1862. Marscilles, 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 destryoed.

1106. Venice, greater part of the city was burned.

1577. " 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. Leipsic 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 burn by Austrian Croats.

1680. Fürth was again destroyed.

1686. Londau was almost destroyed.

1758. Pirma was burned by Prussians. 260 houses destroyed.

1762. Munich lost 20 houses.

1764. Königsberg, public buildings &c., burned. Loss, £c., burned. Loss £600,000.

1769. " almost destroyed.

1784. Rokitzan (Bohemia) was totally destroyed. Loss, £300,000.

1801. Brody, 1500 houses destroyed.

1859 " 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.


NORTHERN EUROPE

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 " royal palace with contents burned.

1795 " 50 streets, 1563 houses burned.

1751. Stockholm, 1000 houses destroyed.

1759. " 250 houses burned. Loss, 2,000,000 crowns

1775. Abo, 200 houses and 15 mills burned.

1827. " 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.


RUSSIA

1736. St Petersburg, 2000 houses burned.

1862. " great fire, £1,000,000.

1752. Moscow, 18,000 houses burned.

1812. " 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 estimated at £30,000,000

1753. Archangel, 900 houses burned.

1793. " 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.





TURKEY

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, an 1767 great havoc was made by fire.

1769. July 17. A fire raged for twelve hours, extending nearly 1 mile in length. Many of the palaces, some small mosques, and nearly 650 houses were destroyed.

1171. 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 whih had been rebuilt since the fires of 1782. In the same year, March 13, a fire in the suburb of Pera desroyed 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.

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. " 3000 dwellings burned. 3000 to 4000 shops, &c. consumed. Loss £4,000,000.

1796. " 4000 shops, mosques, magazines, &c., burned.

1841 " 12,000 houses were burned.


INDIA

1631. Rajmahal. Palace and great part of the town burned.

1799. Manilla, vast storehouses were burned.

1833. " 10,000 huts were burned, March 26. 30,000 people rendered homeless, and 50 lives lost.

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 square miles. 20,000 persons were made homeless.

1873. " A fire destroyed 10,000 houses.


UNITED STATES

1679. Boston. All the warehouse, 80 dwellings, and the vessels in the dockyards were consumed. Loss, £200,000.

1760. " A fire caused a loss estimated at £100,000.

1787. " A fire consumed 100 buildings, February 20.

1794. " 96 buildings were burned. Loss, £42,000.

1872. " 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 over was 65 acres. 776 buildings, comprising the largest granite and brick warehouses of the city, filled with merchandise, were burned district had been rebuilt more substantially than ever.

1778. Charleston. A fire caused the loss of £100,000

1796. " 300 houses were burned.

1838. " One-half the city was burned on April 27. 1158 building destroyed. Loss £600,000.

1802. Portsmouth (Maine), 102 buildings destroyed.

1813. " 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 52 acres. The loss was £3,000,000.

1845. 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. More than three-quarters of the city was burned, May 4. 2500 buildings. Loss £2,200,000.

1851. " 500 buildings burned. Loss, £600,000.

1850. Philadelphia. 400 buildings burned, July 9. 30 lives lost. Loss, £200,000.

1865. " 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. Property destroyed worth £100,000, Sept. 15.

1859. " Property destroyed worth £100,000, Sept. 15.

1866. " Two fires on August 10 and November 18. Loss, £100,000 each.

1871. " 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 3 1/3 sq. miles, 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 building 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. 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. " 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. " 2500 houses and 17 churches in French quarter burned.

1825. New Brunswick. A tract of 4,000,000 acres, more than 100 miles 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, Chatham, 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. " Great fire on June 21. The area burned over was 200 acres. 37 streets, and squares totally or in part destroyed ; 10 miles of streets ; 16y50 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 one mile 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. " A fire on July 9 rendered 10,000 people destitute. The space burned was one mile in length by half a mile in width, including 1200 houses. Loss, £1,000.000.


SOUTH AMERICA

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.


WEST INDIES

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.

1843. Port Republicain (Hayti). Nearly one-third of the town was burned.

Such great fires as the above are due, first, to the combustible contents of buildings and of the materials they are built of, and to radical defects in the method of construction, and secondly, to the want of proper means and appliances for promptly extinguishing fire and preventing the spread of them. Wooden buildings crowded together in narrow crooked streets, insufficient supply or absolute want of water, no fire-engines or only the feeblest machines for pumping water, and no organized or trained and disciplined body of firemen, were the conditions in earlier times, and in some countries they are the conditions still.





It is of importance, however, to bear in mind that the loss of property by great fires or conflagrations is really small in proportion to the loss of property by great fires or conflagrations is really small in proportion to the loss by fires of moderate proportions. Thus a very competent authority, Mr Cornelius Walford, gives it as his opinion that great fires, properly so called, "involving the loss of £50,000 and upwards, probably do not account for more than one-fifth of the losses of any average year." With the gradual improvement of the organization for coping with fires, the disproportion of conflagrations year by year becomes greater, so that really small but oft-occurring fires are now, in all well-governed communities, the subject which demands the careful attention of authorities. No means at present exist for accurately estimating the average annual loss of property by fire throughout the world, as an scarcely any country is an official record of fires and their results kept ; and the imperfect returns of insurance companies are of comparatively little significance. It is estimated that the value of the insured property destroyed by fire all over the world amounts to from thirty to forty millions of pounds sterling annually. (See INSURANCE.)

In modern times great improvement have been made in the means employed for the prevention and extinction of fires. Broad thoroughfares have taken the place of narrow crooked streets ; incombustible materials, such as brick, stone (natural and artificial), iron are used not only for the exterior, but for interior of important buildings as far as practicable; the introduction into cities of an abundant supply water is common ; the electric fire-alarm telegraph, powerful steam fire-engines, extension ladders, and fire-escapes are among the mechanical appliances now in daily use. The two essential character of buildings, and the organizations of trained men who can make the modern appliances effective. The methods of organization and procedure differ in different countries.

Fires are dealt with, first and chiefly, by way of prevention ; secondly, by prompt measures for extinction when they have begun ; and thirdly, by circumscription or limitation when the fire has obtained such a hold of any building or range that the salvation of the burning property is beyond hope. In concerting preventive measures, a knowledge of the principal causes of fires is of the utmost consequence ; and as bearing on the ordinary causes the following abstract of the results deduced from abut 30,000 fire, which occurred in London during the thirty-three years 1833–65, possessed significance. The percentages of different causes:—Candles 11·07, children playing 1·59, curtains 9·71, flues 7·80, gas 7·65, lucifers 1·41, smoking tobacco 1·40, sparks of fire 4·47, spontaneous ignition 0·95, stoves, 1·67, other known causes 19·40, unknown causes 32·88. There is too much reason to suspect that a considerable proportion of fires attributed to no known cause are due to incendiarism ;and were an official investigation into the origin of fires instituted, it most probably would result in a great saving of property. Among preventive measures the fire-proof building of large erections occupies an important place. Much can be done structurally to prevent and to limit fires, although it is now conceded that the through fire-proofing of any building is almost impracticable. The erection itself may be fire proof, but no sooner is it stored with inflammable goods or property than it ceases to be invulnerable. It is of the utmost importance to reduce the danger of fire to a minimum in many public structures, as for example, public record offices, banks, and great libraries and museums and in such establishments generally the most complete precautions are observed. Open fire-places or discouraged, arched floors are provided, the use of exposed woods is, as far as possible, avoided, gas and other lights are most carefully arranged, and fire-buckets, hose, and other appliances are in readiness for any emergency, while the premises are constantly partrolled by wathcmen. For the prompt extinction of a fire in its incipient stages the water-buckest, hand-pumps, and extincteurs alluded to below are of the utmost value. When such means fail or are wanting, the services of fire brigades and salvage corps, if brought into requisition without loss of time, generally result in a great saving of property ; but when a fire has obtained complete mastery of a building, it is a recognized fact that the most powerful engines, even aided with unlimited supplies of water, are ineffectual, and the efforts of the firemen are directed to confining the conflagration within the limits over which it has secured a hold. To cut off neighbouring properties, the use of gunpowder and other means of breaking conncexion are frequently required.

FIRE EXTINCTION

In coping with fires, water is the great agent employed ; and in towns where the supply of water is abundant, and where especially there is a constant and high pressure in the mains, the task of the firemen is much simplified. In such cases it is frequently only necessary to attach the firehose to the plugs, and the pressure in the main pipe is sufficient, without the aid of engine to throw the jet over the whole burning mass. But it is only rarely that town are so favourably situated, and for the equipment of an ordinary fire brigade and fire establishment the following among appliances are required.

Hand-Pump and Bucket.—A small hand-pump which can be set into a bucket of water is the most effective means of distributing a small supply of water without waste. If judiciously used it will put out any fire in its earlier stages. The Portable Chemical Extinguisher (fig. 1), Dick’s Patent Extincteur, &c., designed to answer the same purpose as the hand-pump and bucket, and Now in extensive use in factories, warehouses, and public buildings. The vessel is a cylindrical tank, holding 7 gallons or upwards of water, and is carried on the back. Carbonic acid is generated at the moment of using within the vessels itself, and from its compressibility affords the power which projects the liquid. The working pressure varies from 70 to 120lb per square inch, according to the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere ; and the projectile range of the jet is from 40 to 50 feet.

Hand-worked Engines consist essentially of a pair of single-acting force-pumps mounted on wheels, and power, and are hauled by men or horses. Those most a 5/8-inch jet to a height of 100 feet. Each pump is 5 inches in diameter, with 9 _-inch stroke. A smaller engine that may be carried into buildings by four men is also used. Those of the London fire brigade are worked most effectively by 26 to 30 men ; pumps 6 or 7 inches diameter and 8 inches stroke. Each stroke (with 6-inch pumps) delivers 1 2/3 gallons of water. Still larger engines, with pumps of the same size, in all the larger towns.

Steam Fire-Engines are essentially a pair of single-acting suction and force pumps driven by steam power. They are hauled by two horses, or are self-propellers. They weigh, as drawn to fires, from 5000 to 8000 lb. Fig. 2 represents the kind that is most in use in the United States. The diameter of the cylinder in this engine is 7 _ inches, and that of the pumps 4 _ inches, with a stroke of 8 inches. The boilers are tubular, of sufficient capacity to work the pumps 500 strokes per minute. The usual working pressure of steam is 80 to 100lb per square inch. The weight as drawn to fires is about 8000 14 lb sulphuric acid. The soda

dissolved in the water, and the acid is held in a leaden jar within the tank, which is securely closed. At the moment of using the sulphuric acid is mixed with the water, and instantly combining with the soda causes carbonic acid to be given off with a pressure of 140 lb on the square inch. The tanks are used independently and charged separately, so that a continuous stream of water, usually _ inch jet, may be maintained. 300 feet of _ inch rubber hose is carried. The whole apparatus, charged and carrying three men, weighs about

Chemical Engines are of several forms and sizes. The size most used consist essentially of two cylindrical copper or steel tanks, each holding 80 gallons of water (fig. 3) The charge for tank is 28 lb bicarbonate of soda and 5000 lb, and is drawn by two horses. The hose is rarely carried upon the engine ; it is usually on a separate carriage drawn by one horse. The reel carries about 1000 feet of 3_ inch rubber hose. Six hosemen ride on the carriage. The total load is about 3000 lb. [Footnote 236-1]

Ladder Carriages carry from 20 to 25 ladders of various lengths (see fig. 4). Two ladders spliced reach 70 feet. The carriage fully equipped and carrying 12 men weighs from 7000 to 8000 lb, and is drawn by two horses. The "aerial ladder" (so-called) reaches when fully extended a height of 100 feet, and is self-supporting ; it is readily moved, when raised. It is made 8 sections, each being a ladder about 12 feet long, and is put together and raised in six minutes. It is available as a fire-escape. The total load with its carriage is about 6000 lb.

Electric Fire-Alarm Telegraph.—Time is a most important element in all fires, and the purpose of this telegraph is to put it in the power of any one discovering a fire to make known the locality of it to the fire department in the shortest possible time. Throughout the town or city "alarm boxes" are placed, connected by telegraph wire with the central office and all the stations of the department. They are small iron boxes about a foot square, numbered in order and placed conspicuously on telegraphy poles, or on the side of a building at corners of streets. Inside of each is a simple clock-work, which is set in motion by the pulling of a handle, and which records at engine-house, of the existence of a fire, by the action of the fire itself, and records there the number of the building and the room in which it occurs. The apparatus is very simple, and may be fully relied on. It consists of a small tube, called a thermostat, about 3 inches long, containing a spiral strip of metal, so arranged that the expansion due to a rise of thirty degrees above the ordinary temperature of the room in which it is placed, will close the connexion between the two poles of a battery, and produce an electric current, which, passing through a small iron box containing a clockwork and circuit breaker, called a "transmitter," at once strikes a bell and starts a register at the nearest station of the fire department, which records the number of the building and the room in which the fire has broken out. The thermostat in placed upon the ceiling of each room at intervals of 25 feet throughout the building, the transmitter in every room that requires a separate signal. The signal is transmitted even the wires are broken. This telegraph has been adopted in New York and Boston.

The electric arrangements connected with the fire brigade in the city of Glasgow, which have been devised by Mr R. S. Symington, telegraph engineer, have been carried out on a scale of much efficiency and perfection. The city is divided into six fire districts, all connected by telegraph with the central principal station. There are also placed throughout the city 80 "electric fire alarm boxes," at the corners of the principal streets, and the occurrence of fire can throughout these be instantly telegraphed to the nearest "fire station," and at the same time to the "central station." On the arrival of the first detachment, the "box" from which the signal was given is by an ingenious arrangement immediately converted into a "telegraph station" (for the time being), connecting al the stations, and enabling the firemaster to commands the whole "staff." The fire master, as also the principal men, reside on the premises at the central station ; and men and horses are summoned by an electric bell system leading into each man’s bedroom. Besides the above arrangements there are placed in many warehouse and extensive establishments throughout the city about 2000 electric thermostats, by which the rising of a mercurial column causes a loud gong to sound, at once drawing attention to unoccupied or shut-up premises .

ORGANIZATION.—The organizations of Paris an Berlin are similar, and are based upon the idea of small detachments of men, lighter machines, and a large number of stations, and on the presumption that no fire will have got beyond the control of the small detachment before it is discovered and made known. The results have been generally satisfactory under the conditions existing in those cities. In London larger detachments and fewer stations existing in those cities. In London larger detachments and fewer stations have given the central office the number of the box. To guard against false alarms the outer door of the bo is locked, but keys are kept at hand and are in the possession of all policemen and firemen.

The Automatic Signal Telegraph gives instantaneous notice at the headquarters of the fire department, or at the nearest good result. In the principal cities of the United States different conditions have necessitated a proportionately larger force of men and more effective appliances.

London.—The metropolitan fire brigade is a force of about 400 men under the control of the Board of Works, but under the immediate command of the "chief officer." The city is divided into a number of districts, each under a "superintendent." Within each district are fire-engine stations properly equipped, each under a "engineer." The force at these stations is the unit of organization. Each engineer has independent telegraphic communication with his superintendent, and he in turn with the chief officer, 26 steam fire-engines and 86 hand-worked engines are in use. Floating steam fire-engines protect the river front. The chief officer has absolute command at fires.

Paris.—The firemen are a corps, "sapeurs-pompiers." Attached to the War Department, but at fires the corps acts under order from the prefect of police. It is under the immediate command of a colonel, and is divided into 12 companies, the company being the unit of organization. Fire stations, manned by three men and provided with hand-pumps and fire-escapes, are distributed throughout the city. If the men of a station, with bystanders impressed into the service by the police, are unable to extinguish the fire, men from oher stations of the company are summoned. Additional companies are called out by orders from headquarters of the corps. Hand-engines are the main reliance, but in 1876 five steam fire-engines were in use.

Berlin.—The department is subject to military discipline, and is under the command of a "fire-director" with subordinate officers. The city is divided into four inspector districts, with an officer in charge of each. Each district has numerous fire depôts, according to its needs, and each depôt is in charge of a fireman and four men, and is furnished with a small hand-engine, a hook and ladder, and a fire-escape. The principal stations are connected by telegraph.

New York.—The fire department of New York may be taken as the type of the best system now employed in the United States. It is on a military basis, under the control of a board of commissioners appointed by the mayor. The active force is under the immediate command of the "chief of department," and consists of 10 battalions, each of 6 companies, in all about 750 men. Each company, has its own horses stand harnessed in their stalls, which are placed immediately in the rear of the engine, and are loosed by a simple mechanical appliance which, simultaneously with the striking of the alarm, opens the front of the stall ; the horses, trained to move at the sound of the gong, advance rapidly each to his own places at the pole. They are instantly hitched in, the men spring to their seats, and the carriage is driven at high speed to the "alarm box" from which the alarm was given. To make sure that there will be a working pressure of steam on reaching the fire, the water in the engines, as they stand in the houses, is kept always at boiling point by the circulation of hot water from small stationary boilers, and fire is lighted in the engine the instant it leaves the house. Every effort is made to save even a few seconds of time, so that the interval between sounding the alarm and pumping water on the fire will average three minutes, and rarely exceeds fire minutes. The city is divided into 10 battalion districts. The smallest of these represent each an area of about 5000 by 2000 feet, and comprise the most exposed parts of the city ; but must of the districts are from two to three times as large. The signal boxes of the electric fire-alarm telegraph are placed conspicuously in the streets about 400 feet apart in the more crowded portion of the city, and from 1000 to 1200 feet in other portions. There are 540 in all. Alarms given from these boxes are instantly are telegraphed from the headquarters of the department to each company house in the city. The first alarm calls out two or more companies previously designated ; a second and third call out additional force. There are in use 57 steam fire-engines (5 of which are self-propeller), 1 steam fire-boat, 10 chemical engines, and 18 ladder carriages, including 5 "aerial ladders." The men are well-disciplined and skilful fireman. [Footnote 238-1] (A. P. R.)


Footnotes

236-1 A combined manual and chemical fire-engine is made by Dick of Glasgow, which consists of an iron tank on wheels, divided into two galvanized compartments. It has two pumps, with vertical motion, connected with the suction pipes, to fill the compartments with water where the chemicals are dissolved, and two pumps to project the chemical liquid from each compartment into the air-chamber, where they combine and generates carbonic acid gas. The gas is held in solution by the water, and is conveyed direct to the fire, upon which it exercises its fire-extinguishing power. The engine can be worked by four or five men, and is capable of throwing 30 gallons of water per minute, containing 250 gallons, of carbonic acid gas, a distance of 75 to 90 feet.

238-1 The foregoing article is reprinted by permission of Messrs. Little, Brown, and Co., Boston, Mass., from Great Fires and Fire Extinction, by General Alfred P. Rockwell, Boston, 1878.



The above article was written by General Alfred P. Rockwell.




Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries