Archive for October 10th, 2018

Evanston Fire Department history

This from Phil Stenholm:

The original Evanston firehouse (1873-83) was located at the Evanston Village Hall at the southwest corner of Church & Sherman. The two volunteer hose companies (Pioneer Hose Co. No.1 & the C. J. Gilbert Hose Co.) and the volunteer H&L Co. (Evanston Hook & Ladder Co.) shared this space.

The two volunteer hose companies disbanded by mass resignation in a dispute with the village board over equipment in 1881, and the volunteer H&L Co. was disbanded in 1883.

A new part-time/paid 12-man Evanston Fire Co. (operating a four-wheel hose wagon, the Babcock chemical-engine, and a Davenport H&L) was organized in 1883 by new Fire Chief Sam Harrison (ex-C. J. Gilbert Hose Co. foreman) in a former paint shop (frame construction) located at the northwest corner of Sherman Avenue & the north alley of Davis Street. The building featured a stable, and the EFD acquired its first horses at this time. (Apparatus had formerly been hand-pulled).

The Evanston Fire Department relocated to the new city hall at the northwest corner of Davis & Sherman in 1893, but was there only four years. (Several members of the city council objected to the pungent odor of the fire department’s horses emanating through the building during city council meetings).

So in 1897 the Evanston Fire Dept & Evanston Police Dept were relocated from city hall to a new police/fire facility built just for them at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman (present site of a high-rise office building). The address of the fire station (Station #1) was 807 Grove Street, while the police station had a Sherman Avenue address. The firehouse had four bays, and there was a fifth bay just to the east of the firehouse that housed the Evanston Police ambulance. (The police department provided ambulance service in Evanston until 1976).

Evanston firefighters worked a 112-hour work-week (24 hours on/12 hours off) 1901-1920, until the 84-hour work-week two-platoon system (24 hours on / 24 hours off with two weeks annual paid vacation) was implemented in 1920, and the EFD operated with two-platoons (with some adjustments for extra days off that reduced the work-week to 73-1/3 hours in 1942 and to 67-1/2 hours in 1948) until April 1957, when the 56-hour work-week and three-platoon system with three weeks annual paid vacation was established.

Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1 were located at Station #1 for many years before Truck Co. 2 (not to be confused with the Truck Co. 2 that later became Engine Co. 2 at Station #2) was organized at Station #1 in September 1924 (Truck Co. 1 responded to alarms east of Asbury Avenue, and Truck Co. 2 responded to alarms west of Asbury Avenue). Note: Truck Co. 1 operated with a 1924 Seagrave 85-ft TDA 1924-51, and Truck Co. 2 operated with the old Truck 1 (1917 Seagrave city-service truck) 1924-37, and then with a 1937 Seagrave 65-ft service aerial-ladder truck 1937-52.

As of September 1924, Engine Co. 1 operated with a 1917 Seagrave 750 GPM triple-combination pumper, Engine Co. 2 operated as a two-piece company (a so-called “tractorized-steamer” consisting of a 1906 American LaFrance 700-GPM steamer pulled by a 1918 Seagrave two-axle tractor as one piece and a 1917 Seagrave 300-GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper as the other), and Engine Co. 3 operated with the other 1917 Seagrave 300 GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper (the twin of Hose 2).

After the Boltwood School fire in January 1927, Evanston voters passed a bond issue that authorized Evanston Fire Department membership to be increased from 61 to 84 and two new engine companies (Engine Co. 4 at a new west-side fire station and Engine Co. 5 at Station #1) to be organized, the purchase of two new pumpers (twin 1927 Seagrave Standard 1000-GPM triple-combination pumpers that were assigned to Engine Co. 2 and Engine Co. 5, with Engine 2 later becoming playground equipent at Firemen’s Park at Simpson & Maple), construction of a Fire Station #4 (originally recommended by the NBFU to be built at Dempster & Dodge and to house the new Engine Co. 4 and Truck Co. 2, it ended-up a half-mile further south at 1817 Washington Street with just Engine Co. 4), and the creation of a Fire Prevention Bureau with a full-time inspector (building inspections and fire code enforcement had previously been conducted by the truck companies).

Engine Co. 4 and Engine Co. 5 were organized in November 1927, with Engine Co. 5 (operating one of the new 1000-GPM pumpers) first-due to the downtown Evanston “high-value district” and with Engine Co. 1 (operating with the 1917 Seagrave 750-GPM pumper until 1938, then with a 1937 Seagrave 750-GPM triple-combination pumper) now the city-wide “second engine” and inhalator company (the EFD’s inhalator had formerly been transported to rescue calls in the Evanston police ambulance, with two police station officers and a firefighter from Engine Co. 1 on-board).

So Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 5, Truck Co. 1, and Truck Co. 2 (known as Engine Co. 21 , Engine Co. 25, Truck Co. 21, and Truck Co. 22 after radios were installed in 1952) as well as Squad 21 (a two-man pumper-squad equipped with the EFD’s inhalator and placed into service in 1952) were located at Station #1 until 1955, when the construction of three new fire stations was completed, at which point Truck Co. 22 was relocated to the rebuilt/relocated Fire Station #2 at Madison & Custer and Engine Co. 25 relocated to the new Fire Station #5 in northwest Evanston. (Note: In the 1950’s, the EFD averaged about 100 inhalator calls per year — about two per week — and Squad 21 responded city-wide to inhalator calls until inhalators were assigned to the five engine companies in 1959).

The Evanston Fire Department had 82 members as of November 1927, with 41 firefighters assigned to each of the two platoons (seven firefighters assigned to Truck Co. 1 of which one was assigned as the Chief’s buggy-driver), six men assigned each to Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 2, Engine Co. 5, and Truck Co. 2, and five men assigned each to Engine Co. 3 and Engine Co. 4). A company could run one man short per shift, so minimum shift staffing was 34 (if every company ran one man short).

Six positions were cut from the EFD in January 1933 during the Great Depression, as Engine companies 1, 2, and 5 were reduced from six-man companies to five-man companies (with a minimum four firefighters on duty per shift if the company ran short).

Four of the six positions cut in 1933 were restored in 1942, but this was in response to the work-week for firefighters being reduced (by state law) from 73-1/2 hours to 67-1/2 hours by way of a “Kelly Day” (firefighters getting an extra day off every eight shifts). Note: During WWII, the only way to give pay raises was by giving workers more days off because of wage & price controls).

Even though four firefighter positions were restored in 1942, the overall effect (because of the Kelly Days) was to reduce maximum / minimum staffing of companies (Truck Co. 1 six-man maximum firefighters per shift and five-man minimum per shift of which one was assigned as the chief’s buggy-driver, five max / four min on Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 2, Engine Co. 5, and Truck Co. 2, and four max / three min on Engine Co. 3 and Engine Co. 4, with an aggregate minimum shift staffing of 28 (if all companies ran one-man short).

Then in 1948 Evanston Fire Department membership was increased from 82 to 88, but again this was only to allow for further reduction of the work-week (to 67-1/2 hours) by way of increasing the frequency of Kelly Days (now one extra day off after every four days worked). So even though the EFD membership was increased from 82 to 88, the maximum / minimum staffing was further decreased (33 max / 26 min), with minimum staffing on the four companies at Station #1 (Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 5, Truck Co. 1, and Truck Co. 2) now four-man each per company per shift (plus the Chief’s buggy-driver), and minimum staffing on Engine Co. 2, Engine Co. 3, and Engine Co. 4 now three men each per shift. (The 4th man assigned to Engine Co. 1 and Engine Co. 5 were assigned to Squad 21 beginning in 1952).

Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 5, Truck Co. 1, and Truck Co. 2 (known as Engine Co. 21 , Engine Co. 25, Truck Co. 21, and Truck Co. 22 after radios were installed in 1952) as well as Squad 21 (a two-man pumper-squad equipped with the EFD’s inhalator and placed into service in 1952) were located at Station #1 until 1955, when three new fire stations were completed. (Note: In the 1950’s, the EFD averaged about 100 inhalator calls per year — about two per week — and Squad 21 responded city-wide to inhalator calls until inhalators were assigned to the five engine companies in 1959).

The original Evanston Fire Station #2 was the former South Evanston Village Hall, acquired when the Village of South Evanston was annexed by the Village of Evanston (forming the new City of Evanston) in 1892.

The South Evanston Village Hall was a combination village hall/police station/jail/firehouse (with just one small apparatus bay located on the far south-end). The Evanston Police Dept. operated a South Precinct at this facility from 1892 until 1897 (when all P. D. functions were centralized at the new HQ at Grove & Sherman).

So by 1897 the Evanston Fire Department was the only occupant left in a multi-purpose building where the fire department had been the least of concern, with a three-man hose company operating a two-wheeled horse-drawn hose cart.

The original Station #2 (which was only 15 years old at the time) was demolished in 1903 and replaced with a more-useful three-bay firehouse (the one that is now a restaurant) built on the same site. It was at this point that a Seagrave combination truck (chemical engine & H&L) was purchased for the company at Station #2 (as it became known as Truck Co. 2), with a six-man crew operating the combination truck and a four-wheeled hose cart. (A steamer was placed into service at Station #2 in 1911, as the company was expanded to nine-men and Truck Co. 2 became Engine Co. 2).

The EFD abandoned this facility in March 1955, moving Engine Co. 22 to the new Station #2 at 702 Madison Street (with Truck Co. 22 moving to Station #2 from Station #1, as the new Station #2 had space for a TDA). The Evanston Fire Department’s headquarters (Administation & Fire Prevention Bureau) was also relocated to the new Fire Station #2 at this time.

The original Fire Station #3 opened at 2504 West Railroad Avenue (name changed to Green Bay Road in 1937) on January 31, 1901. It was initially assigned a three-man crew (Hose Co. 3) operating a four-wheeled hose cart (replaced by the former Truck 1 H&L that was fitted with a hose box in 1907 as the company became Truck Co. 3). A steamer was moved to Station #3 in 1912 as the company was increased to nine men and re-designated Engine Co. 3, and the EFD remained there until the house was abandoned in January 1955. The building is now home to a photographer’s studio.

So by 1912 there were three engine companies n service with the Evanston Fire Department (one engine company at each of the three fire stations) and one truck company (at Station #1).

Engine Co. 23 (and the reserve truck that was also located there) relocated initially to the new Fire Station #5 at 2830 Central Street in January 1955, and then Engine Co. 23 moved to the new Station #3 in at 1105 Central Street in September 1955, as Truck Co. 23 (operating Truck Co. 2’s former rig, the 1937 Seagrave 65-ft aerial truck) was organized at the new Station #3. Note: The EFD was increased from 88 to 100 when Truck Co. 23 was organized, which increased max / min staffing per company to four (max) and thee (min), plus two men assigned to Squad 21, the shift commander and a buggy-driver assigned to a station wagon (F-2) at Station #1, and the chief’s buggy-driver at Station #2, for a total minimum staffing of 29 men per shift if all companies ran one man short or a maximum of 37 men per shift (if no firefighters were absent) .

By 1950, Evanston’s population had grown to 73,641, a 20% increase over the population of 1930. The population increase can be mostly-attributed to the post-World War II “baby boom,” as well as to the residential development of southwest Evanston and the High Ridge area of northwest Evanston. The Evanston Fire Department, however, had not kept pace with the changing times. Despite the addition of “new blood” (50 new firefighters–mostly veterans of WWII–had been hired during the years 1946-50), the leaders of the EFD were old and tired. But change was in the wind.

Albert Hofstetter died in September 1950 at the age of 70 after serving 36 years as chief (a regime that spanned World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, the onset of the Cold War, and the start of the Korean War), and he was succeeded in office by Henry Dorband (a 31-year veteran of the EFD). Then just two weeks after the death of Chief Hofstetter, Assistant Chief John E. Mersch (a 44-year veteran of the EFD) died after suffering a heart attack behind the wheel of his staff car while leading the Fire Prevention Week parade up Orrington Avenue. Chief Mersch was the EFD’s first Fire Prevention Inspector, serving in that capacity for 22 years after suffering a disabling leg injury in a traffic collision in September 1927. He was initially replaced as Fire Prevention Inspector by Capt. John Schmidt in 1951, followed by Capt. William Murphy in 1952.

The deaths of Chief Hofstetter and Assistant Chief Mersch came just two years after two other long-time assistant chiefs (Tom McEnery and Carl Windelborn) had retired. The four veteran chiefs had served a combined 180 years with the EFD, an average of 45 years per man! Thus, the leadership of the Evanston Fire Department was transformed virtually overnight. The new chiefs (Henry Dorband, James Geishecker, and Michael Garrity) joined the EFD during the years 1918-20, so they had been waiting a long time (more than 30 years each!) for a chance to make their mark. The EFD would remain in the hands of this new group of leaders for nearly 15 years.

Very soon after he was appointed Chief Dorband introduced an ambitious “Fire Department Modernization Plan” that was designed to meet the current and future needs of the EFD. A $160,000 bond issue to pay for new equipment and apparatus was passed by Evanston voters in April 1951 (88% of the voters approved), and a second $775,000 bond issue to pay for three new fire stations passed by a much smaller margin (60% approval) in April 1953. The two bond issues (totaling $935,000) did (indeed) lead to the “modernization” of the EFD:

1. Five new pieces of fire fighting apparatus were purchased from Peter Pirsch & Sons (of Kenosha, Wisconsin). Included in the purchase (with a total price-tag of about $135,000) were two tractor-drawn 85-foot aerial-ladder trucks, two 1000 GPM triple-combination pumpers, and one 1000 GPM combination pumper/rescue squad. The Pirsch rigs that were placed into service in 1951-52 were the first non-Seagrave apparatus acquired by the EFD since 1911. To secure the contract, Pirsch had to outbid (or “underbid”) American LaFrance and Seagrave for the ladder trucks, and Mack for the pumpers and the rescue squad. Also, the tractor formerly used to pull the old Seagrave aerial-ladder was rebuilt as a Chicago F. D.-style “high-pressure wagon,” equipped with a mounted deluge nozzle and large-diameter fireboat hose. Other new and innovative equipment added to the EFD’s inventory at this time included SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus), replacing the old-fashioned canister-type gas masks that had been used for many years;

2. At a cost of $13,000, two-way FM radios were purchased and placed into EFD fire stations and apparatus. The new radio system initially had some problems with “bleed-over” interference from a local taxi cab company, but the problem was eventually resolved by engineers assigned to the project. (The “20-series” prefix was first used by EFD units after the radios were installed in 1952, to lessen confusion with other fire departments sharing the same radio frequency). The EFD’s base station radio received the FCC-assigned call-sign “KSC 732”;

3. 6,000 feet of new fire hose was purchased (4,000 feet of 2-1/2 inch line, plus 2,000 feet of larger-diameter 3-inch line used to supply deluge and master stream nozzles);

4. Three new fire stations (built at a cost of $775,000) were constructed during 1954-55 Station # 2 was rebuilt as a two-story three-bay “headquarters” station at 702 Madison Street (with space for a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck); Station # 3 was relocated to a lot owned by the Metropolitan Sanitary District at 1105 Central Street in northeast Evanston (near Evanston Hospital), where it was rebuilt as a one-story three-bay firehouse; and a brand-new one-story two-bay (with heated floors!) Station # 5 was constructed in northwest Evanston. (Station # 5 was originally supposed to have been constructed on the north side of Grant Street, just east of Perkins Woods. However, the Lincolnwood School PTA objected to the plan, arguing that a fire station located adjacent to the school would pose a danger to the children. As a result, Station # 5 was built on a more-expensive lot in a commercial district at 2830 Central Street). All three of the new stations were completed and placed into service during 1955 (Station # 5 on January 25th, Station # 2 on March 12th, and Station # 3 on September 3rd). While waiting for its new quarters to be completed, Engine Co. 23 temporarily ran out of Station # 5 for about seven months.

Annual salaries in the EFD in 1953 ranged from $7,200 (Chief Fire Marshal) to $5,484 (Assistant Chief Fire Marshal) to $5,100 (Captain) to $4,770 (Lieutenant) to $4,620 (both for Mechanic and Administrative Assistant) to $4,332 (Fireman I) to $4,272 (Fireman II) to $4,200 (Fireman III) to $4,080 (Fireman Recruit). The Civil Service rank of “Lieutenant” (assistant company officer) was eliminated from the EFD in 1954, as the civil service position of “Lieutenant” was now called “Captain II.” (The civil service rank of “Captain” was now called “Captain I”). In 1955, the Assistant Chief Fire Marshals assigned as Platoon Commanders were relieved of company officer responsibilities. (Previously, the two Platoon Commanders were company officers of Truck Co. 21 and Truck Co. 22, respectively). A station-wagon known as “F-2” was used by the on-duty platoon commander (assistant chief). One firefighter from each platoon was assigned as the platoon commander’s buggy driver.

As of 1955, 70% of Evanston’s firefighters had less than ten years’ experience. This compares to 10% with less than ten years’ experience in 1940. With a younger fire department and advances in medicine and the prevention and treatment of disease, fewer off-duty deaths occurred from heart attacks and other illnesses after 1950.

The Fire Department Modernization Plan proposed by Chief Dorband in 1951 and the passage of bond issues in 1951 & 1953 had led to the purchase of new apparatus from Pirsch (the two TDAs, two pumpers, and the squad), equipment (breathing apparatus for the truck companies, new hose for the engines, and radios for the rigs), expansion of the firefighting force from 88 to 100, and construction of three new fire stations (rebuilt/relocated Station #2 with space for a TDA, rebuilt/relocated Station #3 with space for a TDA, and the brand-new Station #5, each completed in 1955).

With the completion of the rebuilt Fire Station #2 (built as a headquarters station around the corner from the old Station #2), the relocated Fire Station #3 at 1105 Central Street (built as a one-story, three-bay firehouse 3/4-mile to the east of the old two-story, two-bay Station #3 at 2504 Green Bay Road), and the new Fire Station #5 at 2830 Central Street in northwest Evanston, the EFD had (at last) essentially met the recommendations offered by the National Board of Fire Underwriters back during the Great Depression in 1935 (although the NBFU had recommended that Station #5 be built at Grant & Bennett, about 1/2-mile further south than where it ended up).

So as of September 1955, all insured structures within the corporate city limits of Evanston were within 1-1/2 miles of a fire station (and engine company). The five stations served Evanston well for many years, but in 1984 city council staff floated a plan to replace the city’s five fire stations with three new ones.

On April 1, 1957, a 56-hour work-week (mandated by a new state law) was implemented for Evanston firefighters. Three platoons (instead of two) would now be needed to staff the EFD. 31 or 32 men were assigned to each of the three platoons, with a minimum of 29 men on duty per shift at all times. If a shift was operating at “minimum” (because of absences due to vacations and/or illness), seven of the eight companies (all five engine companies and two of the three truck companies) could run (if necessary) with three men. Only Truck Co. 21 (because it was the “first-due” truck company to the downtown “high-value district”) was required to be staffed at all times with four men.

For the first year of the 56-hour work-week, Evanston firemen worked a schedule of two 10-hour shifts (8 AM to 6 PM), followed by two 14-hour shifts (6 PM to 8 AM), followed by two days off. Beginning in 1958, the “10-10-14-14” schedule was replaced with the “24-48” schedule (24 hours on duty, followed by 48 hours off duty) that still remains in effect today. Each fireman would also now receive a three-week annual paid vacation. There was no accompanying increase in the fire fighting force as the 56-hour work-week was implemented, however, so a “Police-Fire Cooperative Plan” was concocted by the City Manager to cross-train police officers as “auxiliary fire fighters.”

Cross-trained Evanston police officers would patrol in three station-wagon ambulances (known as “Car 31,” “Car 32,” and “Car 33”), responding to inhalator calls, ambulance runs, and fires in addition to their crime-fighting duties. Chief Dorband hated the plan so much he refused to implement it, so he was replaced by James Geishecker (a 38-year veteran of the EFD) on March 31, 1958. (And you can be sure Chief Geishecker DID implement the plan!). Chief Geishecker suffered a disabling stroke in late 1963, which led to his retirement in February 1964 after 44 years of service with the EFD.

After the city council declined to purchase a new ladder truck for Station #3, Truck Co. 23 (operating with a 25-year old Seagrave 65-ft service aerial truck) was disbanded on January 1, 1963, with its personnel used to organize Squad Co. 21 at Station #1 (SQD21 was previously only staffed when needed), but otherwise things were fairly constant until the mid-1970’s.

The concept of the paramedic was introduced in the Korean War, but was perfected in Viet Nam. Paramedics (who were not doctors, but rather highly-trained Army and Air Force medics and Navy corpsman) were able to provide much of the same type of treatment on the battlefield that formerly would have only been available at a field hospital. As the paramedic concept was brought home to the U.S. during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the NBC-TV series Emergency! provided the American public with a weekly glimpse into the world of Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics, helping to spread the idea across the nation.

In the Chicago area, fire departments with a tradition of providing ambulance service were the first to train paramedics and place Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances into service, some as early as 1973. The Niles Fire Department (which had provided free ambulance service to its residents since 1946) established a paramedic program in 1973, and the Chicago Fire Department (which had 33 ambulances in service as of July 1970) placed their first two paramedic-staffed Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances into service in 1974. Five additional MICUs were soon added to the Chicago F. D. fleet, followed by 52 more over the next several years. The Skokie Fire Department placed two MICUs staffed with paramedic firefighters into service (replacing their two Cadillac ambulances) in 1975.

In Evanston, a demonstrator MICU (minus the drugs and the specialized ALS gear only paramedics would be certified to use) was borrowed from the State of Illinois Department of Public Health during the Summer of 1974, and was tested over a 60-day period by the EFD. Although the fire department was testing the ambulance, Evanston Mayor Jim Staples wanted police officers (NOT firefighters) to be the paramedics, and the police epartment (NOT the fire department) to operate the MICUs! Police Chief William McHugh, however, did not want any part of the new Emergency Medical Service (EMS). Crime was on the rise, and the Evanston P. D. was hard-pressed enough to provide rudimentary “throw-and-go”-style ambulance service, without having to commit personnel and resources to a sophisticated new program. So over the objections of Mayor Staples, the Evanston City Council gave the medical transport (ambulance) duties formerly assigned to the police department, as well as the new Emergency Medical Service program, to the fire department.

Seven firefighters (Roger Bush, Dave Cleland, Jim Dillon, Randy Drott, Jerry McDermott, Jim McLaughlin, and Dave Pettinger) were trained and certified as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975. Although it had never provided front-line ambulance service, the Evanston Fire Department was no stranger to the world of rescue. The EFD had been responding to inhalator (emergency resuscitation) calls since 1913!

In January 1976, MICU Ambulance 1 (a modified Dodge van) was placed in service at Fire Station # 1, staffed by one three-man crew (including two paramedics) each shift. The seven firefighters who had been cross-trained as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975 were among the personnel assigned to Ambulance 1 that first year. ALS gear was donated by the Washington National Insurance Company, one of Evanston’s largest employers at the time.

After Ambulance 1 was placed into service, the Evanston Police Department continued to maintain its three stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon patrol cars for one more year, backed-up by the EFD’s three stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon staff cars. A police department station wagon patrol-ambulance or a fire department station-wagon auxiliary-ambulance was dispatched to relieve EFD Ambulance 1 at the scene of any EMS incident where paramedics and the MICU were not needed. During 1976, five more Evanston firefighters (Joe Hayes, Dave Lopina, Art Miller, Jim Potts, and Bob Wagner) were trained and certified as paramedics, so that by the end of the year, the EFD had a total of twelve members certified as paramedics.

In November 1976, Ambulance 1 was nearly demolished and three firefighters (Jim McLaughlin, Jerry McDermott, and Phil Burns) and a nurse from St. Francis Hospital were injured, when the ambulance in which they were riding (while en route to a medical emergency on Dewey Avenue) was struck broadside by a drunk driver at Church & Ridge (the exact same spot as a crash involving Truck Co. 2 almost exactly 50 years earlier!). While waiting for a second MICU that was already on order, the EFD borrowed an old Cadillac ambulance from the Skokie F. D. This Cadillac ambulance was retained by the EFD even after Ambulance 1 was repaired and the second MICU arrived, eventually becoming the first Ambulance 3.

A second MICU (Ambulance 2, purchased at a cost of $35,000) was placed in service at Fire Station # 1 in January 1977. Ten additional firefighters (Capt. Bill Best, and FFs Mike Adam, Miriam Boyle, Ken Dohm, Bob Hayden, Ben Jaremus, Don Kunita, Ernesto Martinez, Mike Whalen and Don Williams) were trained and certified as paramedics during 1977, and Capt. Leonard Conrad was appointed the EFD’s first Medical Officer that same year. The EFD had expanded to a force of 114 at this point.

To provide staffing for the ambulances, firefighters previously assigned Squad 21 were transferred to the two ambulances and Squad 21 was taken out of front-line service.

With staffing on the two front-line ambulances cut-back to two in 1977, an engine company was now assigned to all EMS”calls as a first-responder and/or support (manpower) company. (With its three-man crew, Ambulance 1 had responded to EMS calls in Station # 1’s first-due area by itself–without a support engine–throughout 1976).

Ambulance 3 was equipped with ALS gear in 1978 and was replaced with a modular-type MICU in 1980, but it was staffed by paramedics assigned to Truck Co. 21)ONLY when:

1. Both of the two front-line ambulances were NOT available, AND
2. Truck Co. 21 was available (and in quarters), AND
3. Truck Co. 22 was available to provide truck company coverage for the rest of the city.

Seeing a need for three front-line ambulances and expanded paramedic coverage, Evanston Fire Chief Raymond Brooks implemented the so-called jump-company plan on August 12, 1989. Under this plan, ambulances were assigned to three of the five fire stations, as three engine companies (Engine Co. 21, Engine Co. 22, and Engine Co. 25) were established as four-man jump-companies. The crews jumped back and forth as needed between their engine and ambulance. However, because the plan was shown to actually increase response times to medical emergencies in the first-due areas of Station # 3 and Station # 4 (whose engine companies were no longer used as first responders), and because a jump-company could be out of service for as long as an hour during a medical transport (and thus unavailable to respond to a fire), the plan was eventually scrapped.

Beginning in 1999, one engine company at each of the city’s five fire stations was equipped with ALS gear. The equipment was purchased jointly by IAFF Local 742 and the City of Evanston. Local 742’s half of the contribution utilized money it receives from the Foreign Fire Tax Board fund, a source of money that Local 742 had used previously to purchase forcible-entry and thermal-imaging equipment for the EFD. Thus, with ALS gear now at all five stations, and with nearly 2/3 of the members of the EFD now certified as paramedics, it was no longer necessary for an ambulance to arrive before advanced life-saving efforts could commence. The EFD operates two dedicated front-line MICU ambulances (one at Station # 1, and one at Station # 2), each staffed by two paramedics, plus a third “jump” ambulance at Fire Station # 3 that can be staffed (when needed) by paramedics from Truck Co. 23.

While the Evanston Fire Department membership had been increased from 100 to 114 when the paramedic program was implemented, actual shift staffing was reduced (to 26) as the result of more personnel being assigned to administrative positions and as the result of more Kelly Days (Short Days) and additional paid vacation time for Evanston firefighters per a series of collective bargaining agreements between the City of Evanston and IAFF Local 742 undertaken 1974-1982.

The Fire Department Modernization Plan proposed by Chief Henry Dorband (and approved by Evanston voters in 1951 and 1953) led to the construction of three new fire stations, each completed in 1955. With the completion of the rebuilt Fire Station # 2, the relocated Fire Station # 3, and the new Fire Station # 5, Evanston had (at last) met the recommendations offered by the National Board of Fire Underwriters in 1935. As of September 1955, all insured structures within the corporate city limits of Evanston were within 1-1/2 miles of a fire station and engine company. The five stations served Evanston well for many years, providing average response times in the 2-to-3 minute range, with no response time (normally) longer than four minutes.

In 1984, city council staff floated a plan to replace the city’s five fire stations with three new ones. The idea was to consolidate the ambulance crews, engine companies, and truck companies with at least eight firefighters and/or paramedics at each station, to provide more manpower for first responders arriving at the scene of a fire or medical emergency, and to improve response times to areas of the city that incurred the most incidents.

The Rand Corporation was hired in 1986 to conduct an analysis of the Evanston Fire Department’s response times, and Rand determined that the EFD’s average response time would indeed be decreased if the five existing fire stations were to be replaced by three new stations to be located up & down the central spine of Evanston (one to be built at Willard D. Kamen Park at Asbury & South Boulevard in South Evanston, another to be located on vacant land at Lake & Ashland in central-west Evanston, and a third to be constructed on the site of the abandoned Municipal Testing Lane at Noyes & Ashland in north-central Evanston).

The proposed new Station #1 (Lake & Ashland) would have operated with two engine companies, one ambulance, Squad 21 (driver only), and the shift commander, and both the proposed new Station #2 (Asbury & South Blvd) and the proposed new Station #3 (Noyes & Ashland) would have operated with one engine company, one truck company, and an ambulance.

The three new fire stations were to be drive-through facilities (Station #1 with four bays and Stations 2 & 3 with three bays), with all reserve apparatus stored at the old Fire Station #1 on Lake Street, which would also become the new EFD HQ (admin, training, Fire Prevention, and equipment & apparatus storage).

Political opposition torpedoed the proposed station in south Evanston where residents did not want to lose park land, as well as the one in north Evanston where residents in the High Ridge area of northwest Evanston did not wish to suffer a minimum 5-1/2-to-six minute response time to fire and medical emergencies in their neighborhood, which was sure to be the case if the closest fire station was located at Noyes & Ashland. Instead, the city council agreed to rebuild the city’s oldest firehouse (dilapidated Fire Station # 4, whose apparatus floor was being supported by heavy-duty timbers that structural engineers hoped would keep the floor from collapsing), and tabled any further discussion of building new fire stations. The new Station # 4 was rebuilt on the site of the original Fire Station # 4 during 1989, at a cost of $643,000.

Although rebuilding Fire Station # 4 was not recommended by the Rand Corporation, two of the study’s other recommendations were implemented. First, a third ambulance was placed into front-line service in 1989 (although it only occurred as part of the controversial jump company plan), and then Truck Co. 21 was relocated from Fire Station # 1 to Fire Station # 3 in 1990, becoming the reborn Truck Co. 23, a company which had been in service at Station #3 1955-62, back when the EFD ran with three truck companies

With a rebuilt firehouse in service in southwest Evanston, and Truck Co. 21 relocated to Station # 3, Fire Chief James Hunt proposed in March 1993 that Fire Station # 1 be rebuilt as a three-bay firehouse on a vacant lot (one-time site of a gas station) at the southeast corner of Emerson & Wesley, and that the former Station # 1 at 909 Lake Street be converted into a headquarters facility housing the Fire Prevention Bureau, training classrooms, administrative offices, and equipment storage.

The plan was readily accepted by the city council, but the new Station # 1 at 1332 Emerson Street was not actually completed for almost five years (February 1998), after unexpectedly high construction costs nearly doubled the project’s price-tag from $1.2 to $2.2 million.

Plans to convert the old Fire Station # 1 to the fire department’s new headquarters met similar delays, so the EFD’s administrative offices were located in a cramped second-floor office in leased commercial space on Dodge Avenue for several years.

Fire Station #2, the former headquarters station, was not rebuilt but it did undergo a major interior renovation in the 1990’s, and then Station #3 and Station #5 were completely rebuilt on their previous sites (Station #3 in 2004 and Station #5 in 2010), with Station #5 expanded from a former two-bay firehouse to a new three-bay facility.


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New ambulance for Chicago Heights

From the Fire Service, Inc. Facebook page:

Congratulations and a big Thank You to Fire Chief Jeffery Springer and the members of the Chicago Heights IL Fire Department on the delivery of their new 2018 Wheeled Coach, Type 1 Ambulance. This new unit is their third recent purchase and will be a welcome addition to their busy EMS fleet. This 2018 F-450 4×2 chassis comes complete with Liquid Sping suspension system, Custom Coolbar, All LED Emergency and Interior Lighting, Compartment Strip Lighting, Custom Interior configuration etc. Radios, Computer docking stations, monitor mounts, PAC tool brackets and fire extinguishers were also installed prior to final delivery. Lettering and Striping was professionally installed by Strypes Plus More. This unit was sold by Pete Lombardi. If you would like additionall information on this unit or any other recent delivery, please contact your local FIre Service Inc. reprsentative.

new Chicago Heights FD ambulance

Fire Service, Inc. photo

new Chicago Heights FD ambulance

Fire Service, Inc. photo

new Chicago Heights FD ambulance

Fire Service, Inc. photo

interior of new ambulance

Fire Service, Inc. photo

back of new ambulance

Fire Service, Inc. photo

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Evanston Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from

Former Evanston fire chief Greg Klaiber is sharply criticizing plans to close one of the city’s five fire stations as part of broader cuts to balance the city’s 2019 budget

In a message posted on his Facebook page, Klaiber says he can’t support elimination of nearly 10 percent of the city’s firefighter/paramedic positions.

Klaiber, who since his retirement from the city has worked as director of emergency management at Northwestern University, says that last year about 11 percent of the calls for service in the city came from within Station 4’s protection district.

Facebook post from Greg Klaiber about closing of Evanston fire station

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