> > > >

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 443 (429)

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition
1947-48 Theatre Catalog
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 443
Page 443

1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 443

Sprinklers for That Extra Fire Protection

"Automatic Firemen" Continuously on Guard

For Instant Action Whenever a Fire Starts

"The reasonable safety of the public requires that automatic sprinklers be persistently urged, followed up, and demanded in the building laws and police laws until every theatre has this protection." So said John R. Freeman, 3. fire protection engineer of international reputation, many years ago. At that time only a few theatres were equipped with sprinkler systems for the automatic control of fire. But the recurrence of tragic fires involving serious loss of life aroused public authorities in many of the large cities of the country to enact ordinances requiring sprinkler systems in the stage areas and dressing rooms, so that today more theatres are protected to some extent with automatic sprinklers.


In the large city playhouses, the presence of firemen during performances also supplements "on the spot, survillance against fire hazards, but there are thousands of small theatres which are not required to have this protection, The average American goes perhaps once a week for entertainment to the neighborhood movie house. He enters the theatre with expectancy and the hope of an enjoyable carefree three hours or so. His mind is far away from the perils of fire, but, if he is sitting in the loge he is suddenly brought face to face with that danger because of the persons smoking around him. He subconsciously hopes that his neighbor will squash the butt thoroughly when finished with the cigarette.

Theatre auditoriums are seldom sprinklered. Some terrible fires have occurred in balconies, yet the loge apparently is considered fire-safe as smoking is not prohibited. It has been estimated that an average of four or five fires break out in theatre buildings every day. Fortunately, the public is not always present, but the men who have to fight these fires have suffered losses in their ranks, such as in the blaze of May 19, 1943, which caused the death of three firemen when the mezzanine in 1he Victory Theatre, Salt Lake City, collapsed. This theatre was equipped to handle road shows, but at the time of the fire was catering only to motion-picture customers. Needless to say the building was not sprinklered and has never been rebuilt.

Eddie Foy was performing in the play, ttMr. Bluebeard," at the Iroquois Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, on that memorable matinee of December 30, 1903, when flames swept the stage and auditorium, resulting in a toll of 602 dead and 250 injured. Foy, in describing his experience as an eyewitness to that awful tragedy, said:

nThe theatre was one of the finest that had yet been built in this country ea palace of marble and plate glass,



Secretary, National Automatic Sprinkler and Fire Control Association

plush and mahogany, and gilding. It had a magnificient promenade foyer, like an Old World palace hall, with a ceiling 60 feet from the floor and a grand staircase ascending on either side. Backstage it was far and away the most commodious I have ever seen. . . .

ttWe were told that the theatre was the very last word in efficiency, convenience, and, most important of all, in safety. It is true that the building itself was probably as nearly fire-proof as a building can be made, but because of certain omissionsesome careless and made in the interest of economy*it was a foolis paradise. There had been no great theatre disaster in this country for many years, and all precautions against such a thing were greatly relaxed},

This observation, made many years ago, sounds very familiar. Only last year (1946) the news accounts about the fatal fires in the so-called "fire-proof" LaSalle and Winecofi' Hotels were emphasizing the fire-resistant construction of these buildings, yet they were the scenes of deadly fires. These events in seemingly fire-proof buildings shocked the public and hastened enactment of laWs requiring the installation of automatic sprinkler equipment in hotels.


The fatal catastrophes last year in hotels caused a public awakening of the dangers from fire and country-wide demand for action is still underway. The national fire-waste reached such dizzy

heights that even the President of the United States deemed it necessary to do something to stop this irrevocable waste of life and property. The fire loss in theatres has also been mounting. Owners and operators would do well to pause and consider seriously whether their theatres possess modern fire-protection facilities.

tiThe show must go on), is the trouper'is maxim. The same principle should be applied to the physical properties of the theatre to insure continunity in business. A more general use of automatic sprinkler systems for the protection of public places of assembly, as well as in other classes of occupany, was recommended by the Presidents Conference in May, 1947.


A theatre is a place of public assembly and sometimes a mercantile building as well. Earlier this year (1947), fire theatened the Carlson Theatre block in Mayville, New York. In response to an inquiry, Bernard Burns, manager, informed the National Automatic Sprinkler and Fire Control Association that an overheated furnace pipe ignited the beams "and the sprinkler saved the whole block? He said the sprinkler system extends into every corner of the brick theatre building, which covers an entire block. He considers the assurance of safety to patrons the chief gain derived from automatic sprinkler protection, and that is the opinion expressed by other theatre operators.

In August, 1946, the following comment was received by one of the ASSOciationis members from the Brant Rock Theatre, Brant Rock, Massachusetts. '1:

THEATRE AUDITORIUMS, such as this of the Rialto Theatre, Lancaster. New Hampshire, are irequentlyv not sprinklered. In this theatre, which is, with this exception, sprinklered throughout, the installation reduced the insurance rate between 50 and 80 percent. On the next page are two pictures showing part of the installation-and the protection a properly installed system can give the theatre.
1947-48 Theatre Catalog, 6th Edition, Page 443