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Lessons of the Fire

The fire of Saturday has, we are happy to say, been long in coming ; but having come it has brought its lessons with it, and we doubt not these will be profitable. The fire has taught us the value of the tube wells sunk at intervals throughout the town to supply water for fire emergencies ; and the efficacy of the one in Tancred street, which no amount of pumping seemed to cripple, points to these wells repeated in every part of the town and at close intervals as a system of water supply for fire prevention that cannot well be surpassed by any introduction of a more expensive scheme. While we are dependent ui)ou the engine of the Fire Brigade for throwing jets of water upon a burning building, we do not know that a water scheme from the river or any of the neighboring streams would supply the Brigade with water more copiously than do those coupled tube wells, unless, indeed, pressure could be obtained that would dispense with the use of the engine pump, and throw a jet as high as the buildings of the town render necessary. In the upper parts of the town, from Baring Square northwards, a difficulty stands in the way of the usefulness of these tube-wells. The water stands at too low a depth from the surface for an effective draught, and the engine refuses to throw an efficient stream. This is a difficulty that can only be got over by lowering the ground on which the engine stands, and now that a fire has occurred; taught us the value of the tube-wells; and shown us what a treasure we have in the men who form and officer our Fire Brigade, we hope the Corporation will turn their attention to the question of duplicating the tube-wells as far as practicable. The financial position of the Borough Council has prostrated all hope of public works being undertaken for some time, but now that the tube-wells have been proved to be sufficiently effective where the ground is low, and that those on the higher ground can be made so by simply lowering the surface to permit the play of the Brigade pump, the course of the Council is clearly defined, viz., to sink enough wells all over the town, to bring every building within reach of the hose. At present only East street, and a chain or two from it. are within the influence of the Borough Council’s provisions for fire prevention, and should a fire occur in any cottage anywhere away from these wells, the building must be left to its fate. We think that notwithstanding the financial difficulty some effort might be made in the line we have hinted at.

The members of the Fire Brigade are of opinion, from experiments made, that single pipes will do the work just as well as double ones. The greater portion of the cost of sinking the coupled tube wells lies in providing the couplings, and as a single pipe can be sunk at less than half the cost of a double one, it is worthy of consideration whether, in view of possible fires in cottages to the east and west of the railway line, single pipes should not be driven at convenient intervals, and of calibre sufficient to supply the engine. Not a few private hose are owned by the residents in the borough, but they are all of different sizes, and consequently cannot be brought into use on one pump. It is worth while coming to an understanding in regard to these hose, and making use only of one size—say inch diameter. Had the private hose been uniform on Saturday the bank cistern would have been of far more service than it was. The necessity for a Fire Police was fully manifested also, and it is to be hoped that this organisation will now take form, and not be allowed to fall through as up to now it has been. Nothing could have been better than the good generalship displayed by those in charge of the Brigade, nor than the energy with which its members worked, and many citizens displayed genuine pluck in sticking to posts of danger where stout hearts were wanted. But it would have been as well, after buckets had been procured,— and at one time there were plenty of them on the ground,—if a string of volunteers could have been got in two lines, from the pump down Spillard’s right-of-way, to the fire. Had this been done full buckets could have passed from hand to hand up one line and the empties returned in the same way down the other. Several attempts to institute communication of this kind were made, hut the crowd did not seem to understand what was required of them, and a very incomplete and irregular bucket supply was consequently kept up. We cannot refrain here from referring to the case of Mr. Hyde. A month ago, his policy of insurance lapsed, from his inability to pay the premium, and now the fire has left him penniless. He has a family of eight little children to be provided for, and there never was a case calling more loudly for aid. Subscription lists will be carried round during the week, and we doubt not the special circumstances of a hard-working honest man in misfortune will be fully appreciated and their claims valued.

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Bibliographic details

Lessons of the Fire, Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 23, 18 November 1879

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Lessons of the Fire Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 23, 18 November 1879

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