Page images
PDF
EPUB

square miles. In 1882, there were 50 engine company and 19 hook-and-ladder company stations, besides look-outs, fuel depôts, and store houses. There were 57 steam fireengines but no manuals In the period 1880-82 the average force was 939 officers and men, and the average annual expenditure was £288,190, or £230 8s. per 1000 of the population. In the same period the average annual fire losses were £880,000, or about £710 per 1000 of the population. The quantity of water used by the fire-engines was about 40,000,000 gallons annually in the period 1880-2, or about 1-9ooth part of the total supply.

In London, the whole of the water supply is pumped, and the average pressure is quite inadequate for fire extinction without the intervention of fire-engines. A large number of observations were made all over the metropolitan area by the Board of Works, in 1876, and it was found that the average pressure was only about 30 lbs. per square inch, when there was no extraordinary draught on the pipes, such as that required for fire extinction. It is not surprising that this should be so. The pressure given by the water companies is that required by statute, or, otherwise, by the customers of the companies, and even if they desired to do so it is doubtful whether, in the words of the Select Committee of 1876-7, the companies would be "justified by their constitution in incurring expenditure for fire purposes," for which purposes alone it would be necessary for them to increase their

pressure. The quantity of water delivered for all purposes is sufficient to meet the demands for fire extinction. There are, according to Captain Shaw's reports, very few cases of short supply, and constant supply is being gradually extended voluntarily by the water companies. Hydrants have been put down by the Corporation throughout the City, and connected directly by branches with the constantly charged mains of the New River Company, and they have on several occasions been found useful, though the pressure is not such as to admit of fire-engines being dispensed with in all cases. A few hydrants have also been recently introduced by the Metropolitan Board of Works to other parts of the metropolis.

In the matter of pressure, however, as already stated, the general metropolitan water supply is undeniably deficient. There is a copious supply of water, contiguous to the property to be protected, but it cannot be brought to bear upon a fire without the intervention of fireengines.

The population of the metropolis, in 1881, was 3,814,571, and the Metropolitan Board of Works area is about 121 square miles, including the City's one square mile. There are 55 land fire-stations, 12 street, 127 fire-escape, and 4 floating stations; and the brigade consists of 588 officers and men. The annual average cost of the fire brigade for the three years 1880-2, was £99,880, or £56 45. per 1000 of the population. It is somewhat difficult to arrive at the value of the property destroyed by fire in the metropolis, but a calculation based upon the contributions of the insurance companies to the support of the fire brigade, and upon evidence given by Captain Shaw and others before the Select Committee on the Fire Brigade, in 1877, would make it appear that in 1882 the value of insured and uninsured property destroyed by fire was probably considerably in excess of 2} millions sterling, or about £ 588 per 1000 of the population. As compared with the efficiently hydranted places already referred to, it will be seen that the cost of the fire-extinguishing service, and the fire losses are very high in London. This will be made very apparent upon an inspection of the appended Table A (page 562), which gives, in addition to the cost of the fire services and fire losses in the several places referred to, a statement of what the cost and losses would be in the metropolis, were the rates of cost and loss the same as in the other places.

It will be asked why the metropolis should have been allowed to remain year after year subject to the preventible drain of wealth indicated by these figures. The reply is that, the past and existing state of things have not been submitted to in ignorance or willingly, but the difficulties surrounding the subject in the metropolis have been practically insurmountable.

More than twenty years ago, the Select Committee on Fires in the Metropolis directed attention to the extraordinary facilities for extinguishing fires then existing in Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow, and to the efficiency and small cost of the fire services in those places; and more recently, in 1876–7, the Select Committee on the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, having heard evidence as to the advantages of the hydrant systems referred to, recommended that hydrants should be put down in the metropolis at once wherever a constant supply was given, and that the water supply should be improved so as to give every where constant service and increased pressure. But it was sound that to comply with these recommendations a permanent expenditure of £ 337,000 per annum beyond the cost of the fire brigade would be involved. Of this annual

. sum about £150,000 represented the increased cost of pumping alone; and since the quantity of water required for fire purposes is infinitesimal as compared with the quantity supplied for all other purposes, it is obvious that this expenditure of power, if the whole had to be pumped to the requisite height, would be out of proportion to the result obtained. I have made a calculation, based upon the relative quantities, and upon the evidence given before the Committee, from which it appears that for the purpose of discharging water through a hydrant upon a fire in this way, about 170 horse-power would be required for every gallon of water thrown. And there would be the attendant disadvantages that all the house fittings would have to be altered and strengthened, and the mains and pipes would have to be taken up, and relaid of greater size and strength, and at enormous inconvenience to the householders and the traffic in the streets ; and the pressure would, in the greater part of the metropolitan area, be inconveniently great. This proposal also involved the great disadvantage that it could not be carried out until the water companies should have been ranged under one control.

1

As long ago as 1862, the late Mr. James Easton, who held the view that no satisfactory supply of water for fire extinction with constant high pressure could be secured in connection with the ordinary domestic supply, proposed to lay down a completely new set of mains to be used exclusively for fire purposes, but the cost would have been enormous. His estimate was 672,000 per square mile, and his proposal only extended to forty square miles of the metropolis. This area alone would have involved an annual cost for interest and working expenses of £150,000. A somewhat similar proposal was put forward by the Metropolitan Board of Works, on the advice of Sir J. Bazalgette, Sir F. Bramwell, and Mr. Edward Easton, in 1877, but with the addition that the water was to be taken from the chalk formation at about fifteen or twenty miles from the centre of London, instead of from the water companies' mains as was proposed by Mr. Easton, and that the supply was to be used for potable and culinary purposes after being pumped to the greatest attainable elevation in order that it might have sufficient pressure for fire extinction purposes. It was estimated that the introduction of such a system of hydrants would have resulted in an annual saving of £60,000 in the existing expenses of the fire brigade. This scheme, involving a dual supply to every house, was taken to Parliament, but was withdrawn; and in their annual report of 1878, the Board said that they "came to the conclusion, in view of the disfavour with which the scheme appeared to be regarded by most of the local authorities of the metropolis and others, not to bring it before Parliament again in the following session." Looked at purely from a fire extinction point of view there is one great objection to all the proposals that have been hitherto made, viz., that owing to the great variations of level in the metropolis, there would, in many localities, be insufficient pressure, while in others the pressure would be excessive.

In any water supply for fire purposes, it is certainly desirable that the pressure, in addition to being sufficient, should also be moderately uniform in the hose, whatever may be the elevation of the locality. This uniformity is practically obtained at present by the use of fire-engines, but with the great drawback that the power requisite for giving the pressure is not available on the instant that the occasion for its use is discovered. The diagram B (on the wall) illustrates among other things the result of the vigorous efforts made by the fire brigade to reduce this evil to a minimum. It shows that since the year 1870, when Captain Shaw first began to publish the distances travelled by his engines—the distances run have increased from II miles per fire in 1870 to 341 miles in 1882. The number of journeys made has increased from 8000 to 29,000, and the total distance run from 22,000 miles to 66,000 miles in the year.

According to the evidence given before Sir H. Selwin Ibbetson's Committee in 1877, the fire-engines were then used for pumping at about one-fifth of the fires only. If that was still the case in 1882, then it follows that for each time the engines were used for pumping upon a fire they must have run on an average 172 miles.

When it is considered under what unfavourable conditions, and how uselessly the journeys are often made, some idea may be formed of the superiority of a system of hydrants where the power as well as the water is always on the spot ready for instant application. The same diagram illustrates also another feature of the fire brigade service, viz., the growth of its cost from the commencement of the old fire-engine establishment in 1833. It will be seen that the growth has been, and is very rapid as compared with the growth of the population. In the first year of the Metropolitan Board of Works' administration of this service, the cost of the brigade was under £41,000 ; in 1882 it was £106,552, or an increase in the period of sixteen years of 160 per cent., while the population increased only 28 per cent., and the number of fires 44 per cent. In the year 1883, the cost had further increased to over £115,000. It must not be supposed for a moment that this increase is to be regarded as unnecessary under existing conditions.

a

« EelmineJätka »