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- Fires and Firemen - 2/6 -


proprietors have guaranteed. The central station receives the greatest number of "calls;" but as a commander-in-chief does not turn out for a skirmish of outposts, so Mr. Braidwood keeps himself ready for affairs of a more serious nature. When the summons is at night--there are sometimes as many as half-a-dozen--the fireman on duty below apprizes the superintendent by means of a gutta percha speaking-tube, which comes up to his bedside. By the light of the ever-burning gas, he rapidly consults the "London Directory," and if the call should be to what is called "a greengrocer's street," or any of the small thoroughfares in bye-parts of the town, he leaves the matter to the foreman in whose district it is, and goes to sleep again. If, however, the fire should be in the city, or in any of the great West-End thoroughfares, he hurries off on the first engine. Five minutes is considered a fair time for an engine "to horse and away," but it is often done in three. Celerity in bringing up aid is the great essential, as the first half hour generally determines the extent to which a conflagration will proceed. Hence the rewards of thirty shillings for the first, twenty for the second, and ten shillings for the third engine that arrives, which premiums are paid by the parish. All the engines travel with as few hands as possible: the larger ones having an engineer, four firemen and a driver, and the following furniture:--

"Several lengths of scaling-ladder, each 6 1/2 feet long, all of which may be readily connected, forming in a short space of time a ladder of any required height; a canvas sheet, with 10 or 12 handles of rope round the edge of it for the purpose of a fire-escape; one 10-fathom and one 14-fathom piece of 2 1/2-inch rope; six lengths of hose, each 40 feet long, 2 branch-pipes, one 2 1/2 feet, and the other from 4 to 6 feet long, with one spare nose-pipe; two 6-feet lengths of suction-pipe, a flat rose, stand-cock, goose-neck, dam-board, boat-hook, saw, shovel, mattock, pole-axe, screw-wrench, crow-bar, portable cistern, two dog-tails, two balls of strips of sheepskin, two balls of small cord, instruments for opening the fire-plugs, and keys for turning the stop-cocks of the water-mains."

The weight of the whole, with the men, is not less than from 27 to 30 cwt., a load which, in the excitement of the ride, is carried by a couple of horses at the gallop.

The hands to work the pumps are always forthcoming on the spot at any hour of the night, not alone for goodwill, as every man--and there have been as many as five hundred employed at a time--receives one shilling for the first hour and sixpence for every succeeding one, together with refreshments. In France, the law empowers the firemen to seize upon the bystanders, and compel them to give their services, without fee or reward. An Englishman at Bordeaux, whilst looking on, some few years since, was forced, in spite of his remonstrances, to roll wine-casks for seven hours out of the vicinity of a conflagration. We need not say which plan answers best. A Frenchman runs away, as soon as the _sapeurs-pompiers_ make their appearance upon the scene, to avoid being impressed. Still, such is the excitement that there are some gentlemen with us who pursue the occupation of firemen as amateurs; providing themselves with the regulation-dress of dark green turned up with red, and with the accoutrements of the Brigade, and working, under the orders of Mr. Braidwood, as energetically as if they were earning their daily bread.

The fascination of fires even extends to the brute creation. Who has not heard of the dog "Chance," who first formed his acquaintance with the Brigade by following a fireman from a conflagration in Shoreditch to the central station at Watling-street? Here, after he had been petted for some little time by the men, his master came for him, and took him home; but he escaped on the first opportunity, and returned to the station. After he had been carried back for the third time, his master--like a mother whose son will go to sea--allowed him to have his own way, and for years he invariably accompanied the engine, now upon the machine, now under the horses' legs, and always, when going up-hill, running in advance, and announcing the welcome advent of the extinguisher by his bark. At the fire he used to amuse himself with pulling burning logs of wood out of the flames with his mouth. Although he had his legs broken half a dozen times, he remained faithful to his pursuit; till at last, having received a severer hurt than usual, he was being nursed by the firemen beside the hearth, when a "call" came, and at the well-known sound of the engine turning out, the poor brute made a last effort to climb upon it, and fell back dead in the attempt. He was stuffed and preserved at the station, and was doomed, even in death, to prove the fireman's friend: for one of the engineers having committed suicide, the Brigade determined to raffle him for the benefit of the widow, and such was his renown that he realized £123 10s. 9d.

Mr. Samuel Brown, of the Institute of Actuaries, after analyzing the returns of Mr. Braidwood, as well as the reports in the "Mechanics' Magazine," by Mr. Baddeley, who has devoted much attention to the subject, drew up some tables of the times of the year, and hours of the day, at which fires are most frequent. It would naturally be supposed that the winter would show a vast preponderance over the summer months; but the difference is not so great as might be expected. December and January are very prolific of fires, as in these months large public buildings are heated by flues, stoves, and boilers; but the other months share mishaps of the kind pretty equally, with the exception that the hot and dry periods of summer and autumn are marked by the most destructive class of conflagrations, owing to the greater inflammability of the materials, than in the damper portions of the year. This, from the desiccating nature of the climate, is especially the case in Canada and the United States, and, coupled with the extensive use of wood in building, has a large influence in many parts of the Continent. The following list of all the great fires which have taken place for the last 100 years will bear out our statement:--

----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- | | | Value of | | | | Property | Month | Description of Property, &c. | Place | Destroyed | Year ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- January | Webb's Sugar-house | Liverpool | £4,600 | 1829 | Lancelot's-hey | " | 198,000 | 1833 | Town-Hall and Exchange | " | 45,000 | 1795 | Caxton Printing Office | " | -- | 1821 | Dublin and Co. Warehouse | " | -- | 1834 | Suffolk-street | " | 40,000 | 1818 | Mile End | London | 200,000 | 1834 | Royal Exchange | " | -- | 1838 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- February | York Minster | York | -- | 1829 | 3 West India Warehouses | London | 300,000 | 1829 | House of Commons | Dublin | -- | 1792 | Argyle Rooms | London | -- | 1830 | Camberwell Church | " | -- | 1841 | Custom House | " | -- | 1814 | Hop Warehouse | Southwark | -- | 1851 | J.F.Pawson and Co.'s | St. Paul's | | | Warehouses | Church Yard| 40,000 | 1853 | Pickford's Wharf | London | -- | 1824 | Goree Warehouses | Liverpool | 50,000 | 1846 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- March | New Orleans | United St. | $650,000 | 1853 | 15,000 houses at Canton | China | -- | 1820 | 13,000 houses | Peru | -- | 1799 | Manchester | England | -- | 1792 | Fawcett's Foundry | Liverpool | £41,000 | 1843 | Oil Street | " | 12,600 | 1844 | Apothecaries' Hall | " | 7,000 | 1844 | Sugar House, | | | | Harrington-street | " | 30,000 | 1830 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- April | 1000 Buildings | Pittsburg |$1,400,000 | 1845 | Savannah | United St. | 300,000 | 1852 | Parkshead, Bacon-street | Liverpool | £36,000 | 1851 | Windsor Forest | England | -- | 1785 | Margetson's Tan-yard, | | | | Bermondsey | London | 36,000 | 1852 | 1158 Buildings, Charleston | United St. | -- | 1838 | Horsleydown | London | -- | 1780 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- May | Dockhead | London | -- | 1785 | Great Fire, 1749 houses | Hamburgh | -- | 1842 | 23 Steamboats at St. Louis | United St. | $600,000 | 1849 | 15,000 houses | Quebec | -- | 1845 | York Minster | York | -- | 1840 | Duke's Warehouses | Liverpool | -- | 1843 | Okell's Sugar-house | " | -- | 1799 | Gibraltar Row | " | -- | 1838 | Liver Mills | " | £8,700 | 1841 | Billingsgate | London | -- | 1809 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- June | Rotherhithe | London | -- | 1765 | Copenhagen | Denmark | -- | 1759 | Montreal | Canada |$1,000,000 | 1852 | St. John | Newfoundland| -- | 1846 | Louisville | United St. | 100,000 | 1853 | 47 persons, Quebec Theatre | Canada | -- | 1846 | 1300 houses, Quebec | " | -- | 1845 | Gutta Percha Co., Wharf Road | London | £23,000 | 1853 | Humphrey's Warehouse, Southwark| " | 100,000 | 1851 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- July | Hindon | Wiltshire | -- | 1754 | 15,000 Houses | Constantinople -- | 1756 | 12,000 Houses | Montreal | -- | 1852 | 300 Houses | Philadelphia| -- | 1850 | 300 Buildings | N. America | $160,000 | 1846 | 302 Stores | New York | 1,200,000 | 1846 | Apothecaries' Hall | Liverpool | -- | 1851 | Glover's Warehouses | " | £17,000 | 1851 | Dockyard | Portsmouth | -- | 1770 | Wapping | London | 1,000,000 | 1794 | Ratcliffe Cross | " | -- | 1794 | Varna | Turkey | -- | 1854 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- August | Dublin | Ireland | -- | 1833 | Gravesend | England | 60,000 | 1847 | Walker's Oil Mill | Dover | 30,000 | 1853 | Falmouth Theatre | Falmouth | -- | 1792 | Buildings, Albany | United St. | $600,000 | 1849 | 10,000 Houses | Constantinople -- | 1782 | Smithfield | London | £100,000 | 1822 | East Smithfield | " | -- | 1840 | Bankside | " | -- | 1814 | Gateshead | England | -- | 1854 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- September | 46 Buildings | New York | $500,000 | 1839 | 200 Houses, Brooklyn | " | 150,000 | 1848 | Scott, Russell, and Co., Ship | | | | Builders, Mill Wall | London | L80,000 | 1853 | St. Paul's Church, Covent | | | | Garden | " | -- | 1795 | 60 Houses, Rotherhithe | " | -- | 1791


Fires and Firemen - 2/6

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