15 NOVEMBER 1935, Page 3

The Wimpole Street Fire The tragic fire in which five

perSons lost their lives in a Wimpole Street house last Sunday is one of those fortunately rare catastrophies against which, it would seem, no complete provision can be made. Of the origin of the fire nothing certain is likely to be known, for all the inmates of the house lost their lives, and the structural damage was so complete as to leave it doubtful where the first outbreak occurred. Why no one woke till the flames had made the staircase impassable is part of the mystery. So is the apparent failure of both mistress and maids to realise that there was access, by a skylight, to the roof. In an ordinary dwelling-house of moderate height the provision of external staircases or ladders would be an unjustifiable expense, having regard to the Slightness of the average risk of fire, and for the same reason automatic alarms or sprinklers, universal in every well-organised factory, would involve dispro- portionate cost. Whether any moral could be drawn from this particular disaster is undiscoverable, since all the essential facts remain obscure. Fortunately the suggestion that smarter work at the Welbeek telephone exchange might have brought the fire-engines sooner seems quite unfounded, * * * *