Danbury News - Nov 1890 - Articles Regarding Foster Bros' fire investigation

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Four Danbury News articles from Nov. 18, 1890 regarding the fire that destroyed the Foster Brothers' factory two days prior.

AN INVESTIGATION. -- The City Officials Will look into Sunday's Fire.

[from 'Local News and Gossip'] Chief Morris Meyers defends actions of firemen at Foster Bros.' fire.

Concerning Fires -- Dear Editor:

Editor News: -- [Superintendent of Water Works responds to Chief Morris Meyers account of lack of water pressure at the Foster Bros.' fire.]


The first article, 'An Investigation', announces that Mayor Hopkins calls for an investigation into the fire department's handling of the fire at Foster Brothers. Concerned citizens are urged to attend a hearing on the matter at City Hall.

The second article, from the column for 'personal news and gossip', is a statement by the Fire Chief Morris Meyers defending the conduct of the firemen at the Foster Brothers' fire by using the excuse that they are not paid a monthly salary.

The third article is a letter to the editor of the Danbury News which draws similarities in mismanagement of fires between the recent Foster Brothers' fire and a fire from the previous February, referred to as 'the great Hull fire' on Main street. The concerned author of the letter expresses the frustration of the citizens of Danbury with actions of the firemen at these fires and the insecurity they feel due to their perceptions of the fire department's repeated negligence. The author implores the mayor to take action.

The fourth article is a letter to the editor of the Danbury News from the Superintendent of Water Works, Chas. B. Mason. He directly refutes the statements that Fire Chief Morris Meyers made in the article from the previous day in which he blamed the poor water pressure on the malfunction of the hydrant.



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[Danbury News, November 18, 1890]

The City Officials Will Look into Sunday’s Fire.
A searching investigation is to be made of the charges of mismanagement and incompetency against the fire department, in handling Sunday morning’s fire, and an effort will be made to place the blame where it belongs.
Mayor Hopkins said, this morning, that while no formal charges had been made against anybody, he believed that the talk about the city regarding the mismanagement of the fire, called for such an investigation as is proposed.
An effort will be made at that time to ascertain the difficulty with the water supply.
The engineers of the steamer will be given an opportunity to be heard, and Chief Meyers and the department officers will explain their side of the affair.
The hearing will be held in room 6, of the City Hall, Friday evening, and will be conducted by the fire committee.
All persons interested in the matter are requested to appear before the committee at that time, in order to aid in reaching a thorough understanding.

[Personal News and Gossip Column]
Chief Meyers, of the fire department, said this afternoon that he wished to correct an erroneous impression regarding the paid members of the fire department, several of whom have been accused of neglecting their duty at the fire Sunday morning. These men, he said, are not receiving a monthly salary, as seems to be the impression, but are paid twenty-five dollars and fifty dollars a year, to respond to alarms of fire, where they are to do the work of firemen. They are under the control of the fire department only at such times.

Concerning Fires.
Dear Editor: -- Will you kindly permit a citizen to say a few words through the medium of your estimable paper concerning fires in Danbury and the management thereof. After reading the lengthy and able article in last evening’s News, giving so full and clear an account of last Sunday morning’s fire in Foster Brothers’ lumber yard and factory, I was forced to exclaim: Oh! how long must we, citizens of Danbury, endure this farce in the management of the fire department? The scene Sunday morning last was an exact duplicate of the one enacted at the Main street fire on the second of February last, vis.: criminal mismanagement or almost total depravity of ability.
Perhaps in this connection it will be well to recall a fact or two concerning the great Hull fire to compare with this last fire. Fire was discovered in Harris’ cellar at about 12:30 a.m. An alarm was promptly sent in, the fire department promptly responded, water was plenty, and for more than an hour hose companies and firemen were unemployed. Yet Hull’s large block was entirely destroyed. Fire caught in the roof in the rear of Bernd’s block, and the firemen’s attention was called to it, they were besought to play a stream of water upon it a full half hour before the fire had worked along the rafters and into the building, instead of playing the water upon hot brick in Hull’s cellar. But no, not a finger was raised to save Barnd’s block until fire waived up out of the sky-light. And all this time the assuring command was given by one high in authority:
“Do not move a thing, I will tell you when to get out. You are in no danger; you are perfectly safe.” How does the picture differ from last Sunday morning’s. This time the alarm could not be given. Fire alarm system has been out of order for more than two weeks. Again water was being played upon a worthless damaged pile of lumber while the firemen holding the hose were plead with to turn their attention to saving a valuable factory, as fire had lodged upon it at a small point. The pleader was comforted by these words: “We were ordered to play water here and must do so ‘till Chief Meyers comes.” And Meyers was not to be found until after the fire had gained such headway as to destroy the factory in spite of the efforts of the citizens, while paid firemen were leaning on axes, etc.
Another enjoyable feature for us who are at the mercy of the fire fiend and the fire department is the proof we had of the engineer’s inability to manage the fire engine. Just at the moment when the engine was most needed it was rendered useless for more than a half hour, because of dousing the engine’s fire. The water in the boiler had been allowed to get out. During that half hour the fire fiend was raging unchecked. Fortunately but little wind was moving especially from the north, or the fire would have continued to have found prey the whole length of Delay street.
After the city has been raked over two or three times by fires, she will begin to arouse and awake to the fact that it will largely pay to have some expert electrician look after the fire alarm system. Surely it looks unwise to put the system in the hands of those not understanding the first elements of electricity and the system of alarm.
The query suggests itself forcibly to my mind, how long, instead of having our fire department protect our property and our lives, shall we be compelled to endure the insecurity now existing, the little protection against fire occurring at any time within a block, and the feeling that any night we may again have enacted the scenes of Hull’s fire, and the Foster Brother’s fire.
Must we wait till the third or sixth manifestation of incompetency and mismanagement before our mayor and others will awaken and be convinced that there is something for them to do?

Editor News: -- In reply to the statement of Chief Engineer Meyers in your account of the Foster Brothers’ fire, “That they could get no water at all from the hydrant in the railway yard (No. 98).” “That had they been given water in time they could have saved the factory;” and “That after sending a policeman to me there was a much greater pressure, &o.” I wish to say that hydrant No. 98 has been opened and oiled within a month, was in good order the morning of the fire with a pressure of eighty pounds. Any child could open it by turning to the left. They had all the water possible from the start and not a valve was opened or closed by us during the fire. Everything in this department was in perfect order the morning of the fire.
Chas. B. Mason,
Supt. Water Works.




“Danbury News - Nov 1890 - Articles Regarding Foster Bros' fire investigation.” WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 22 Sep. 2019.


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