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- Fires and Firemen - 3/6 -


| Astley's Amphitheatre | " | -- | 1794 | Mark Lane | " | 150,000 | 1850 | Covent Garden Theatre | " | -- | 1808 | Store Street and Tottenham | | | | Court Road | " | -- | 1802 | Macfee's | Liverpool | 40,000 | 1846 | Gorees | " | 400,000 | 1802 | Formby Street | " | 380,000 | 1842 | Cowdray House | Sussex | -- | 1793 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- October | 52 Buildings | Philadelphia| $100,000 | 1839 | Grimsdell's, Builder's Yard | Spitalfields| -- | 1852 | Withwith's Mills | Halifax | £35,000 | 1853 | Robert-street | N.Liverpool | 150,000 | 1838 | Lancelot's-hey | Liverpool | 80,000 | 1854 | Memel Great Fire | Prussia | -- | 1854 | London Wall | London | 84,000 | 1849 | 20 Houses, Rotherhithe | " | -- | 1790 | Lancelot's-hey | Liverpool | 30,000 | 1834 | Wapping | London | 100,000 | 1823 | Houses of Parliament | " | -- | 1834 | Pimlico | " | -- | 1834 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- November | Royal Palace | Lisbon | -- | 1794 | New York | United St. | -- | 1835 | 20 Houses, Shadwell | London | -- | 1796 | Aldersgate-street | " | £100,000 | 1783 | Cornhill | " | -- | 1765 | Liver-street | Liverpool | 6,000 | 1829 | Wright and Aspinall, | | | | Oxford-street | London | 50,000 | 1826 | Hill's Rice Mills | " | 5,000 | 1848 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- December | Dock Yard | Portsmouth | -- | 1776 | Patent Office and Post Office | Washington | -- | 1836 | 600 Warehouses | New York |$4,000,000 | 1835 | Fenwick-street | Liverpool | £36,000 | 1831 | Brancker's Sugar-house | " | 34,000 | 1843 ----------+--------------------------------+-------------+-----------+----- (Extracted from the Royal Insurance Company's Almanac, 1854.)

One reason, perhaps, why there is such a general average in the number of conflagrations throughout the year, is, that the vast majority occur in factories and workshops where fire is used in summer as well as winter. This supposition appears at first sight to be contradicted by the fact, that nearly as many fires occur on Sunday as on any other day of the week. But when it is remembered that in numerous establishments it is necessary to keep in the fires throughout that day, and as in the majority of cases a very inadequate watch is kept, it is at once apparent why there is no immunity from the scourge. Indeed, some of the most destructive fires have broken out on a Sunday night or on a Monday morning--no doubt because a large body of fire had formed before it was detected. A certain number of accidents occur in summer in private houses from persons on hot nights opening the window behind the toilet glass in their bedrooms, when the draught blows the blind against the candle. Swallows do not more certainly appear in June, than such mishaps are found reported at the sultry season.

If we watch still more narrowly the habits of fires, we find that they are active or dormant according to the time of the day. Thus, during a period of nine years, the percentage regularly increased from 1.96 at 9 o'clock A.M., the hour at which all households might be considered to be about, to 3.34 at 1 P.M., 3.55 at 5 P.M., and 8.15 per cent at 10 P.M., which is just the time at which a fire left to itself by the departure of the workmen, would have had swing enough to become visible.

The origin of fires is now so narrowly inquired into by the officers of the Brigade, an by means of inquests, that we have been made acquainted with a vast number of curious causes, which would never have been suspected. From an analysis of fires which have occurred since the establishment of the Brigade, we have constructed the following Tables:--

Curtains 2,511 Candle 1,178 Flues 1,555 Stoves 494 Gas 932 Light dropped down Area 13 Lighted Tobacco falling down do. 7 Dust falling on horizontal Flue 1 Doubtful 76 Incendiarism 89 Carelessness 100 Intoxication 80 Dog 6 Cat 19 Hunting Bugs 15 Clotheshorse upset by Monkey 1 Lucifers 80 Children playing with do. 45 Rat gnawing do. 1 Jackdaw playing with do. 1 Rat gnawing gaspipe 1 Boys letting of Fireworks 14 Fireworks going off 63 Children playing with Fire 45 Spark from Fire 243 Spark from Railway 4 Smoking Tobacco 166 Smoking Ants 1 Smoking in Bed 2 Reading in do. 22 Sewing in do. 4 Sewing by Candle 1 Lime overheating 44 Waste do. 43 Cargo of Lime do. 2 Rain Slacking do. 5 High Tide 1 Explosion 6 Spontaneous Combustion 43 Heat from Sun 8 Lightning 8 Carboy of Acid bursting 2 Drying Linen 1 Shirts falling into fire 6 Lighting and Upsetting Naphtha Lamp 58 Fire from Iron Kettle 1 Sealing Letter 1 Charcoal Fire of a Suicide 1 Insanity 5 Bleaching Nuts 7 Unknown 1,323

Among the more common causes of fire (such as gas, candle, curtains taking fire, children playing with fire, stoves, &c.), it is remarkable how uniformly the same numbers occur under each head from year to year. General laws obtain as much in small as in great events. We are informed by the Post-Office authorities that about eight persons daily drop their letters into the post without directing them–we know that there is an unvarying percentage of broken heads and limbs received into the hospitals–and here we see that a regular number of houses take fire, year by year, from the leaping out of a spark, or the dropping of a smouldering pipe of tobacco. It may indeed be a long time before another conflagration will arise from "a monkey upsetting a clotheshorse," but we have no doubt such an accident will recur in its appointed cycle.

Although gas figures so largely as a cause of fire, it does not appear that its rapid introduction of late years into private houses has been attended with danger. There is another kind of light, however, which the insurance offices look upon with terror, especially those who make it their business to insure farm property. The assistant secretary of one of the largest fire-offices, speaking broadly, informed us that the introduction of the lucifer match _caused them an annual loss of ten thousand pounds!_ In the foregoing list we see in how many ways they have given rise to fires.

Lucifers going off probably from heat 80 Children playing with lucifers 45 Rat gnawing lucifers 1 Jackdaw playing with lucifers 1 --- 127

One hundred and twenty-seven known fires thus arise from this single cause; and no doubt many of the twenty-five fires ascribed to the agency of cats and dogs were owing to their having thrown down boxes of matches at night--which they frequently do, and which is almost certain to produce combustion. The item "rat gnawing lucifer" reminds us to give a warning against leaving about wax lucifers where there are either rats or mice, for these vermin constantly run away with them to their holes behind the inflammable canvas, and eat the wax until they reach the phosphorus, which is ignited by the friction of their teeth. Many fires are believed to have been produced by this singular circumstance. How much, again, must lucifers have contributed to swell the large class of conflagrations whose causes are unknown! Another cause of fire, which is of recent date, is the use of naphtha in lamps--a most ignitable fluid when mixed in certain proportions with common air. "A delightful novel" figures as a proximate, if not an immediate, cause of twenty-two fires. This might be expected, but what can be the meaning of a fire caused by a high tide? When we asked Mr. Braidwood the question, he answered, "Oh! we always look out for fires when there is a high tide. They arise from the heating of lime upon the addition of water." Thus rain, we see, has caused four conflagrations, and simple overheating forty-four. The lime does no harm as long as it is merely in contact with wood, but if iron happens to be in juxtaposition with the two, it speedily becomes red-hot, and barges on the river have been sunk, by reason of their bolts and iron knees burning holes in their bottoms. Of the singular entry, "rat gnawing a gaspipe," the firemen state that it is common for rats to gnaw leaden service pipes, for the purpose, it is supposed, of getting at the water, and in this instance the gray rodent labored under a mistake, and let out the raw material of the opposite element. Intoxication is a fruitful cause of fires, especially in public houses and inns.

It is commonly imagined that the introduction of hot water, hot air, and steam pipes, as a means of heating buildings, cuts off one avenue of danger from fire. This is an error. Iron pipes, often heated up to 400°, are placed in close contact with floors and skirting-boards, supported by slight diagonal props of wood, which a much lower degree of heat will suffice to ignite. The circular rim supporting a still at the Apothecaries' Hall, which was used in the preparation of some medicament that required a temperature of 300°, was found not long ago to have charred a circle at least a quarter of an inch deep in the wood beneath it, in less than six


Fires and Firemen - 3/6

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