ordinances for municipalities, which would be simple to adopt and enforce.
Every municipality should have a fire prevention bureau, with city ordinances to cover essential problems of fire safety and with proper provisions for enforcement at the local level. Each community differs from other places in matters such as zoning, building regulations and licensing, items of no concern to the State fire marshal. We believe that fire prevention, like charity, must begin at home.
After every session of the various State legislatures, more and more responsibilities are imposed on the State fire marshal. One example is the “model hotel fire safety law” that was formulated by a special committee of State, provincial, and city fire marshals, which will be passed in some form by many States. In my State we are asking for enforcement at the local level, for the reason that there are about 3,000 hotels that would come under the act, many of them in metropolitan areas of Chicago, Peoria, Decatur, Springfield, East St. Louis, and other Illinois cities, which have competent fire prevention bureaus and do an excellent job of fire prevention inspection and seldom call on the State fire marshal office for assistance. We are constantly urging other cities and towns to organize fire prevention bureaus and adopt proper local ordinances.
I know of no other State that has a larger or more able force of field deputy fire marshals than Illinois, or whose legislature appropriates a larger budget from the fire prevention fund, collected from the fire insurance companies at the rate of one-half of 1 percent on all business done in the State during the year. In spite of this, if we were compelled by law to inspect the 3,000 hotels of the State semiannually and make the necessary rechecks and follow-up for compliance, we would not get the job done and I do not think any other State could do the work properly at the State level, especially if we are to carry out the mandates we already have from the law making bodies, which include in Illinois passing on proposals for gasoline service stations, bulk storage plants and garages, dry cleaning plants, liquefied petroleum gases, approval of plans for buildings for schools and places of public assembly, inspecting several hundred private nursing homes, county operated homes, and hospitals for the State Departments of Public Health and Public Welfare, besides the State hospitals, penal, corrective, and educational institutions. Our work includes also the investigation of some 500 fires of suspicious origin; conducting regional fire department instruction schools for firemen; visual education and demonstration programs for school children and local organizations; cooperation with the State firemen’s association and the State fire college; and sponsoring a Statewide fire prevention week program.
No State fire marshal wishes to try to organize a bureaucracy or an army of unqualified employees going about the State confusing the issues, even if funds are available. We prefer to have fewer men who know and like their work, can point out definite fire hazards and use tact, diplomacy and salesmanship, explaining methods of correction and responsibility for non compliance. We have a number of employees in our office who have demonstrated their ability and have been working on their jobs from 15 to 25 years. Their services are invaluable.
If some plan could be worked out to take the fire service out of politics from top to bottom, it would be a great stride toward greater fire safety. It is a disastrous set back to any fire protection program when some competent fire chief or chief of an inspection bureau is discharged just because a new mayor of an opposite political faith has been elected. Politics in the fire service