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1921: Jersey City Under Commission Government
A Book of Achievement

A Model Fire Department

This Web version:

N no city of its size in the country is there today a more efficient Fire Department than in Jersey City, and in no city of any size is there a better disciplined body of firemen. This condition is another example of the fine work that can be accomplished under the commission form of government, with capable men as commissioners.

Since the advent of commission government the entire Fire Department has been modernized. New motor-propelled engines and trucks have taken the place of the antiquated apparatus, and every part of the equipment, from the nozzle of the hose to the housing of the men, is new and of the most modern type.

A Fire School

The installation of new apparatus alone, however, by no means gave Jersey City an efficient department. The commissioners soon saw that something else was necessary, and that something was a thorough schooling of the men in the art of fire fighting. A training school was started and every man in the department from the chief down to the driver of an engine was compelled to attend. The old as well as the young started in the primary department of this school of scientific fire fighting and were kept as students until they passed all the tests.

The art of ladder scaling, the use of the life net, the operation of the pulm-otor and the wearing of the smoke mask were but some of the things taught and mastered by the men. The method of handling back draughts and the fighting of fires from various angles and under various climatic conditions were learned so that today, when a section of the department responds to an alarm of fire, it is prepared to meet any and all conditions with the knowledge of how to cope with them.

Better Housing Conditions

With the new apparatus also came better housing conditions for the men. All old fire houses were renovated and placed in condition as nearly as possible equal to the new. All now have shower baths, reading rooms, and in fact every home comfort for the men.

The new triple fire house, the largest and finest in the State, with its assembly and drilling room and most modern features of every kind, is a fair sample of the standard of the Fire Department as it exists today in this city. A more detailed description of this splendid building is given under the heading "City Repair Bureau."

High Rating of Underwriters

That the department is now up to a high standard is evidenced by the fact that the National Board of Fire Underwriters, after an inspection and survey of every detail of the department, re-rated the city and raised it from a fifth to a third class city, a very high rating for efficiency and equipment.

Much of the improvement in the morale of the men has been due to the elimination of politics and favoritism from the department. Merit is now the standard and the result must be apparent to every citizen and is reflected in the ability of the department to handle fires with skill, preventing their extension and reducing the resulting losses by fire.

Two Platoon System

As becomes a city of the size of Jersey City, the City Commissioners established a two-platoon system, which means still better fire protection.

The two-platoon system which is now in effect changes the duty of the fire fighting force. Heretofore the entire fire department consisted of what might be called one platoon, which was always on duty, but from the men on duty there were certain details made that took a number of individuals out of the line of fighting fires.

Under the present system the entire force of officers and men is divided in half, each of which constitute a platoon, and one of the two platoons is always on duty.

The records of the National Board of Fire Underwriters show that in 1910 the fire losses in Jersey City amounted to $712.120, a per capita loss of $2.66.

In 1913, the first year under Commission Government, when Frank Hague was Director of the Department of Public Safety, the fire losses were reduced to $638,790, and the per capita loss to $2.17.

Last year, 1920, despite unusual conditions, the efficiency and adequacy of our city department was proven by the fact that the losses in this city amounted to only $315,630, and the per capita loss was only $1.05. Under the direction of the present officials there has been a reduction in total losses of approximately 50 per cent. and of per capita losses of more than 60 per cent. Meanwhile, by way of comparison, the per capita loss for the whole of the United States rose from $2.33 in 1910 to $2.58 in 1920.

"Jersey City Ranks First"

Jersey City is the twenty-second city in size in the United States. Among these twenty-two largest cities, how- ever, Jersey City ranks first by reason of the fact that our fire losses for the years 1919 and 1920 were less than those of any of the larger cities. Improvements in the Fire Department, including the installation of modern equipment, increased efficiency in fire-fighting methods, etc., are reflected in the low fire loss which is quite apparent from the figures quoted.

The items in which the most marked improvements have been made, taken from the Fire Underwriters' records, are as follows:

Item 1.--Fire companies now have an officer on duty at all times.

Item 10.--Additional companies have been installed to give mainly adequate distribution.

Items 11 and 12.--The manual force has been largely increased, giving a mainly adequate strength to companies, particularly in the daytime.

Item 13.-Engine capacity has been materially improved by purchase of motor pumpers.

Item 15.--Engines are kept in good condition.

Item 17.--More adequate special stream appliances are now provided.

Item 18.--Equipment is provided with adequate large chemical tanks.

Item 19.--More adequate reserve hose wagons.

Item 25.--Good repair shops and repair facilities.

Item 29.--Good system of drills.

Item 31.--The improvement of apparatus, increased efficiency by drills and more effective work made possible by the good equipment has resulted in materially improved fire methods.

Building Codes Enforced

In addition to these items the Fire Underwriters have re-graded the city because of our "mainly adequate Building Code of 1907 is being well enforced" and "The mainly good provisions as to explosives and inflammables are being well enforced," and also because of "material improvements in structural conditions."

The effectiveness of these improvements for the protection of property from fire is manifested to some extent in the fact that of 1,034 fires recorded in Jersey City during 1920, all but three were confined to the buildings in which the fire started.

Return to the Jersey City Under Commission Government Index

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