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Fire Escape

ladder, ladders, iron, steps, top, fig, fixed, ropes, escapes and frame

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FIRE ESCAPE. Perhaps few subjects have more extensively engaged the public attention, or exercised so much ingenuity, as the best mode of rescuing individuals from death by fire. Notwithstanding the varied talents that have been directed to this object, it is a singular fact, that no invention has yet been produced so universally efficient as to supersede all others, or to induce the belief that the limits of perfection have been attained. Many excellent and ingenious contrivances have been produced, most of which will be found embodied in the following classified description. Fire escapes may generally be divided into three classes, viz. ladders, portable escapes, and carriage escapes. With the common fire ladders all must be well acquainted ; they are made of different lengths to reach a first, second, third, or fourth story window. When of the largest kinds they are generally furnished with iron guides or hand-rails at the sides, and also with a contrivance for raising them. This contrivance consists of a short conical iron tube, jointed to one of the upper rounds or steps of the ladder ; a long pole fixes into this tube, and affords great facility in raising the ladder. A well-made ladder of bamboo, from its extreme lightness, combined with the requisite strength, has been considered by some persons admirably adapted for the purposes of a fire escape. Another form of ladder, and one that is at present very successfully employed, consists of short lengths, from eight to nine feet long, which fit one on the other to any required extent, by a strong, but simple joint, in the same way as scaling ladders. The advan tages of this kind of ladder are, great portability and convenience, with all the practical utility of the longest and most unwieldy ladder. Mr. Gregory, whose numerous fire escapes have attracted deserved attention, has constructed a great variety of ladders; among them is a very pretty ladder, in two parts or lengths, one sliding upon the other, and sustained at any required elevation by a simple contrivance. A cradle is attached to this ladder, for the rescue of timid or infirm persons ; the whole is of a convenient size for carrying or stowage, and is very easily managed. Mr. Gregory's patent ladders are exhibited in the engraving on the preceding page. Fig. 1 is a side view of one of the ladders, nine feet in length. Fig. 2 exhibits three of these ladders connected together, and applied as a fire escape, with a light car or cradle, raised by ropes h h, working in pulleys attached to the top of the ladder. Fig. 3 represents four of these ladders raised, for the purpose of elevating the fireman, and enabling him to direct the stream of water from the engine most effectually upon the fire. A set of these ladders may be placed on a light hand carriage, or might accompany each fire engine. On reaching a conflagration, the lower ladder is first raised, and the feet secured in their place by a bolt passing through them and two blocks, placed upon the engine for that purpose. The iron stays b b crossing each other are hooked into staples fixed in the back of this ladder. The first ladder being thus firmly fixed, a man mounts it and attaches another on the top of it; a third, fourth, or a fifth, may in this way be added, until the required height is obtained. When the height is considerable, two guy ropes d d are employed, to preserve the ladders in the proper position. For this purpose the back of the carriage is provided with two large square staples, through which the bar e is thrust ; to the ends of this bar the ropes are made fast, as shown. The

ladders are each precisely alike, so that all fit one another; they are connected by the following simple and effective contrivance. Two long hooks or half staples a a are fixed on the hook of each ladder by means of an iron strap, and riveted through ; each ladder is provided with two flat steps c c at its lower end, which drop into the two hooks and make a firm and secure joint. Rope ladders have sometimes been employed as fire escapes; the most common kind consist of strong rope sides, with wooden steps ; circular pieces of wood are sometimes added to the ends of the steps, to keep the ladder from walls, &c. In Edinburgh wire chain ladders are employed with great success, being used by men duly trained for that purpose. The principal difficulty with all ladders of this description, is in raising them to the windows where they are required ; this difficulty has been surmounted in the rope ladder of Mr. A. Young, the most ingenious and useful contrivance of this kind with which we are ac quainted. It consists of a number of rounds A, Flg. 2, (in the engraving on the following page,) which form the steps of the ladder by being united with two ropes B B; these are suspended from an iron frame C, terminating in hooks a a, which can very conveniently be lodged on the sill of a window, and thus form a secure support for the ladder. The principal peculiarity of this con trivance consists in making the ladder, so that the rounds or steps can be put together as shown at Fig. 1, forming a pole by which the frame c can be raised up to a window from bow. To effect this, the ends e of the rounds A have ferules fitted fast upon them, and the other ends f are reduced so as to enter the cavities of the ferules, which project beyond the end of the wood, thus forming sockets for their reception. The iron frame c at the top has a projecting pin d, which fits into the socket e of the upper round ; this supports it at the top. The small end of this step is inserted into the fertile of the second, which is again fixed to the top of the third, and soon to the bottom. In this way a pole is formed, as in Fig. I, of all the steps of the ladder joined together, by which means the hooks at the top of the iron frame may be raised up to a window sill, and then a single jerk or pull at the lower end disunites the staves from one another, and they assume the form of Fig. 2, ready for ascending or descending. The side ropes of the ladders B B are composed of three small lines plaited together, which method gives the means of fastening the staves very securely to them ; this is shown by Fig. 3. A hole is bored through the stave at the place where the rope is to be fixed, large enough to receive one of the three lines, and a groove is turned round outside of it at the same place. One of the lines is passed through this hole, the other two are taken round in the groove so as to surround the stave, then all three, being plaited together make a firm connexion. The frame c at the top has two iron rods b b fixed to its sides, which are useful as hand-rails to any person getting out of a window on to the ladder. The whole rolls up into a compact bundle, and is easily carried about. A ladder on the same principle may also be constructed entirely of metal, by using wire chains, and metal tubes for the steps. Mr. Young received a silver medal and fifteen guineas from the Society of Arts for his invention.

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