Archive for May 2nd, 2021

MVA with fire in Prospect Heights, 5-1-21

This from Prospect Heights FPD Chief Drew Smith:

At 05:07 on Saturday, May 1 Prospect Heights and Wheeling companies were dispatched to an accident with extrication on eastbound Palatine Road near Wolf. First arriving units found a minivan on fire and at least two other cars involved. The scene was located just east of the Canadian National railroad bridge. No one was transported to the hospital despite the damage to the vehicles involved. A Superior ambulance was also on scene as they could not pass the crash scene. I am told they began triage before companies arrived.

Wheeling Firefighters stretch on a car fire after a crash

Prospect Heights FPD photo

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 22

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment aboutHistory of Evanston Fire Department

Pensions and White Elephants 

52-year old Assistant Chief Fire Marshal J. E. “Jack” Sweeting died of stomach cancer on Christmas Day 1912, after 25 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department. Sweeting had joined the EFD in 1887 back when it was still a part-time paid fire department, and he was one of the three men appointed as full-time paid firemen in 1888. He was also the first fireman promoted to the rank of captain (in 1895), and the first promoted to the rank of assistant chief (in 1905). He spent his entire career at Fire Station # 1, serving as company officer of Motor Engine Co. 1 at the time of his death.  

Capt. Thomas Norman — company officer of Engine Co. 3 — was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief Fire Marshal in 1913 and replaced Sweeting as company officer of Motor Engine Co. 1, and Capt George Hargreaves was transferred from Station # 1 to Station # 3 at that time.  

The Evanston Firemen’s Pension Fund was chartered with the State of Illinois in January 1913, and the first pensions were granted in January 1916 after the EFPF became fully funded. Fireman Mathew Maxwell (Engine Co. 3), who retired after 20 years of service, and Engineer William Sampson (Engine Co. 2), who was awarded a disability pension, were the first Evanston firefighters to receive pensions.

Additionally, the widow and minor children of deceased EFD Lt. John Watson (Engine Co. 2), who died of an accidental overdose of aspirin in January 1914 — he had suffered from constant back pain since being injured in a fall at a house fire in 1911 — began to receive a survivor’s pension at that same time. However, the widow and eight surviving children of Jack Sweeting were denied a survivors pension, because the assistant chief made the mistake of dying a week before the pension fund was legally chartered.

In his 1913 report to the city council, EFD Chief Carl Harrison recommended complete motorization of Fire Station # 1, which would allow the seven horses still in service there to be transferred to the street department, retired, or sold. Harrison recommended the city purchase an automobile tractor for the aerial-ladder truck, an automobile double 50-gallon chemical engine to replace the 40 year horse-drawn Babcock chemical engine, and an automobile for the chief.

The city council declined to appropriate the funds needed to purchase a tractor for the aerial ladder truck or an automobile chemical engine, but the aldermen did appropriate $800 for an “auto-buggy” horseless carriage for the chief, and an Overland roadster was placed into service in 1914, replacing the chief’s horse-drawn buggy and Barney the horse. 

While Harrison seemed to be 100% on board with motorization of the fire department — or at least replacing Fire Station # 1’s horse-drawn rigs with automobiles, just a week after submitting his annual report to the city council, a bolt broke loose and damaged four of the six cylinders of the Robinson motor-engine, putting the rig into the repair shop for a month. An exasperated Harrison told the city council that fire departments would probably always need to maintain horses, because automobile fire apparatus were just too unreliable. 

That said, when its Robinson motor engine was in service, the Evanston Fire Department was a favorite source of assistance to other North Shore towns and villages during the 1910’s. The EFD made several jaunts into Wilmette during this era, most notably to a conflagration involving a bank, a restaurant, and a grocery store on Railroad Avenue on August 3, 1916.

And could there be a more unlucky date than October 31, 1913? It was Halloween in Wilmette, and while the village slept, a fire broke out at 514 Linden Avenue, the residence of prominent civil engineer Grafton Stevens. Mr. Stevens escaped safely, but Mrs. Stevens could not get out. So her husband ran back inside to save her, but he also became trapped by the flames. Despite the heroic rescue efforts of Wilmette and Evanston firemen, the couple perished in the inferno.

The Jumbo’s finest hour would come on the morning of Tuesday, December 30, 1913, as Motor Engine Co. 1 raced up Railroad Avenue to the Village of Winnetka — flying past the Wilmette Fire Department’s horse-drawn combination truck while both were en route to the blaze — in response to a call for assistance received from the Winnetka Volunteer Fire Department. A fire at the Winnetka Merchandising Company had trapped residents in apartments located above the store. On scene just a few minutes after the call for assistance was received, members of EFD Motor Engine Co. 1 deployed the auto engine’s two, 25-foot ground ladders to help rescue five of the residents, before the Jumbo’s powerful 750-GPM pump helped extinguish the flames.

The Jumbo also performed yeoman duty at several of Evanston’s larger fires of the period, including one at the Bogart Building in 1912, another at Rosenberg’s department store in January 1916 (where it pumped through the night into the next day), and another at the Evanston Strand Theatre in December 1917.

The Robinson Fire Apparatus Manufacturing Company had a reputation for building custom fire engines that were fast and powerful, but also somewhat cranky and delicate. The engine delivered to Evanston was mostly the latter. To say that the Jumbo was a “white elephant” would not be an exaggeration. But even though it had more than its share of mechanical problems and spent a lot of time in the repair shop, there is no disputing its speed and power when it was operating on all cylinders.

At the time that the Robinson engine was under consideration by the Evanston City Council in 1911, none of the companies that would later become the leaders in the production of automobile fire engines were manufacturing triple-combination pumpers. However, once Seagrave, American-LaFrance, and Ahrens-Fox began to produce reliable and durable automobile pumpers, the temperamental hot rod manufactured by Robinson could not compete, and the company went out of business. And once the company was out of business, spare parts could only be obtained by salvaging parts from other Robinson rigs. That is, if any could be located… 

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As seen around … Orland Park

From Chicagoland_fire_photos on instagram:

An Orland Park FPD engine, most likely Engine 5 on a call with Ambo 5 

Spare engines are numbered 7&8
spare Orland FPD fire engine

Chicagoland_fire_photos on instagram

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