Los Angeles Fire Department
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Los Angeles firemen were roused almost to the lynching point yesterday when Frank B. Willits, driver of the combination hose and chemical wagon of Engine Company No. 14, sustained injuries in a collision in font of the company house, East Thirty-fourth street and Central avenue, with Vernon avenue car No. 342, that will incapacitate him for life from active duty.
apparent disregard of human life and reckless operation of the
car by the motorman, who had a straight, clear stretch of four blocks
to travel before he arrived at the point opposite the fire
station will be the cause of Fire Chief Lips, demanding a clear-cut
ordinance that will halt all street cars passing fire stations
on each side of the station so that the lives and limbs of
firemen will be saved.
Frank B. Willits, the injured driver, is fifty-three years old, and yesterday's affair was his first accident. For nine years he was detailed with Engine Company, No. 3, West Second and Hill streets, where he drew the reins over the backs of the three horses attached to the heaviest apparatus in the company. While there he was noted for his careful driving. He was detailed as hose wagon diver at Engine Company, No. 14, last September, so he could be near his family, residing at 1180 East Thirty-sixth street.
worst injury is a compound fracture of the right elbow. This
will probably leave him a stiff arm for life. The other
injuries he sustained were bruises and lacerations, all of which
will compel him to remain inactive for weeks to come.
Willits was strapped to his seat, and fell with the apparatus.
Driver Willits was at his post at 8 a.m. when the exercise signal for the horses is sounded. As he drove the team from the house Vernon avenue car No. 342 southbound, approached at a seed variously estimated between thirty and thirty-five miles an hour. No warning bell was given and just as the rear wheels of the wagon passed over the west track, used by the south bound cars, the car struck the wagon with terrific impact, telescoping the rear wheels, and throwing the combination wagon a distance of twenty-four feet.
The wrecked vehicle was raised from the ground, thrown clear of the east track and turned over on its right side between the east track and the curb. Willits was held tight in his seat by the straps, and his right elbow was caught so that the iron work of the seat splintered and crushed the bone.
The injured driver was taken home, 1180 East Thirty-sixth street, where Police Surgeons Quint and Cook reduced the fracture. He refused to take liquor, saying he had not tasted it for fifteen years.
"Lives and limbs of the firemen must be given protection," declared Fire Chief Lips. "These accidents are becoming too common. The street car men would be the first to criticize us were their houses destroyed by fire, due to accidental delays on our part. They do not exercise common sense precautions, and we will ask he Council to give us new legislation to protect our lives."
Mayor McAleer and members of the Fire Commission are much wrought up over the accident. They will demand that action be taken by the City Council to put a stop to collisions between fire engines and electric cars.
This morning the Fire Commission meets and Chief Lips will render an official report of yesterday's accident. Mayor McAleer favors appointing the captain of each company and some of the lieutenants, special policemen so they may arrest motormen who violate the ordinance when they are caught.
"I was shocked and pained at the accident," the Mayor
said. "It does seem that people would understand that
when firemen are on their way to a fire they are risking their
own lives to save those of other human beings and their
property, and world give firemen the right of way. This
sort of thing must stop."
The Los Angeles Examiner, June 29, 1906
The Los Angeles Herald, June 29, 1906 The Los Angeles Examiner, June 30, 1906
IT ought not to require the passage of a special ordinance to prevent the recurrence of collisions between street cars and the engines of the Fire department. Yet it would seem that some such action will be necessary if things go on as they have been going.
Twice within a fortnight have trolley cars run into wagons of the department, seriously injuring the occupants of the latter. In the first instance seven men were hurt, two so seriously that they have been under treatment at a hospital for more than ten days. In the most recent case, which happened day before yesterday, Frank B. Willits, the diver of a hose and chemical wagon, received injuries which may incapacitated him for further service and only escaped death by a miracle.
In each of the cases the collision was due to the reckless rate of speed at which the trolley cars were run. The natural disposition is to blame the motormen for their apparent recklessness. An investigation may show, however, that they were simply obeying the orders of their superiors.
Left to himself, the motorman has every incentive to be careful. In case of accident he knows that not only the public, but his employers, will do their best to place the responsibility of injuries on him. He is in great measure the slave of a "schedule" prepared for him by those who wish, for purposes of economy, to handle a traffic with as few cars as possible. The fewer the number of cars the less employees are needed.
In glaring cases like those cited, which occurred in front to
engine houses, the likelihood of repetition may be minimized by a
simple order requiring a slow rate of speed when passing such
places. But the real difficulty will mot be solved that
way. A proper official supervision of the street car traffic
is what is needed.
The Los Angeles Examiner, June 30, 1906
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