Archive for August 10th, 2021

House fire in Zion, 8-5-21

From Max Weingardt:

Zion Box Alarm 8/5/21

Seagrave Meanstick quint

Max Weingardt photo

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 33

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


At 1 PM on Sunday afternoon, January 9, 1927, boy scout LeRoy Kreutzer noticed smoke wafting from the Boltwood Intermediate School at the southeast corner of Dempster & Elmwood. Boltwood School served as Evanston’s lone junior high school at the time, as well as the headquarters of the Evanston chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, but the facility had previously served as Evanston Township High School for forty years, until the new ETHS campus was opened at Church & Dodge in 1924. Kreutzer pulled fire alarm box # 313 at Dempster & Elmwood, and then ran over to EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter’s residence at 1228 Sherman Avenue, awakening the chief from his Sunday afternoon nap.
Chief Hofstetter ran across the alley and met up at the front of the school with companies arriving from Station # 1, and it was quickly determined that the fire was confined to a manual arts classroom in the basement. Although the fire was contained to just the one room, EFD engine companies had difficulty getting to the fire due to heavy smoke throughout the interior of the school. Despite the heavy smoke conditions, a monkey, and several white mice located in the science lab were rescued. The truck companies attempted to ventilate the heat and smoke from the structure, but the efforts failed as a strong gust of wind entered the building and fanned the fire. The flames swept past firefighters, traveling up an interior stairway, before blowing out through second-floor windows.

A “General Alarm” was sounded, as all on duty AND off-duty EFD firemen were ordered to the scene. The blaze was out of control, with the very real possibility that the flames could jump over the alley and threaten homes (including Chief Hofstetter’s house!) located to the east of the school as well as the Dempster Street business district. After two firemen barely escaped when part of the roof collapsed, Chief Hofstetter ordered all personnel inside to evacuate, and the fight went “defensive.”

With the EFD seemingly helpless to stop the firestorm, Chief Hofstetter requested assistance from the Chicago Fire Department. The Chicago F. D. had responded into Evanston on numerous occasions in the past, in each case assigning no more than two engine companies. However, this fire was larger and more threatening than any other previous Evanston blaze, and the Chicago Fire Department — with 1st Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Jerry McAuliffe in command at the scene — ended up sending six engine companies, two truck companies, a high-pressure wagon, and a water tower to Evanston.

At least two traffic collisions were blamed on the chaos resulting from so many fire trucks and spectators pouring into the neighborhood. At the height of the blaze, engines were pumping from various hydrants located within a six square-block area. Reportedly 20,000 spectators (about 1/3 of Evanston’s total population at the time!) gathered to watch the conflagration. Off-duty Evanston police officers were summoned to help with traffic and crowd control. 

Thanks in large part to the great assistance provided by the Chicago Fire Department, the fire was brought under control. Although Boltwood School was gutted, the homes located across the alley and the Dempster Street business district were saved. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries. Damage was estimated at $308,500, by far the highest-loss recorded in an Evanston fire up to that point in time. Two new District 65 junior high schools were subsequently constructed to replace Boltwood; Nichols in South Evanston, and Haven in North Evanston (with Haven initially being K-8, as it also replaced Cranston Elementary School).     

In the aftermath of the Boltwood fire, the competence of the Evanston Fire Department was called into question. The city council conducted an investigation, and quickly discovered some things they probably should have already known. The EFD of 1927 was simply a small town fire department operating in a city of 60,000 people, it was substantially undermanned and under-equipped and lacked “big water” capability, and that therefore a disaster like that of the Boltwood School fire was inevitable. 

Evanston voters were presented with a $75,000 bond issue in the city election of April 5, 1927. The bond issue passed, resulting in many improvements in the EFD:

1. Twenty (eventually 23) additional firefighters were hired within a year
2. A fourth fire station was constructed
3. Two new engine companies were organized;
4. Two 1000-GPM pumpers were purchased
5. A portable high-pressure turret nozzle was acquired 
6. A Fire Prevention Bureau was established

Tags: , , , , , ,

Area apparatus orders

Here is a list compiled by Josh Boyajian of current area apparatus on order:

Alsip – Seagrave Engine

Berwyn – E-One Metro 100 Low Profile Ladder

Blue Island – Sutphen 100’ MM Ladder

Bolingbrook – (2) E-One Engines

Buffalo Grove – E-One Engine

Carol Stream – E-One RM Tower Ladder

Cicero – Pierce Impel Engine

Crestwood – (2) Seagrave Engines

Geneva – Pierce Ascendant Ladder

Hampshire – Pierce Enforcer PUC Engine

Joliet – E-One RM Tower Ladder

Lisle Woodridge – Pierce Ascendant MM Tower

Lockport – Seagrave Apollo Tower Ladder

Lombard – Pierce Enforcer Engine

Melrose Park – Pierce Impel Engine

Morton Grove – E-One EMAX Engine

Oak Brook – Pierce Ascendant Ladder

Oak Brook – Pierce Enforcer Engine

Norwood Park – Pierce Ascendant MM Tower

River Grove – Ford E-450 Wheeled Coach Ambo

Skokie – Pierce Enforcer Engine

Stickney – Ford F550 Horton Type 1 Ambo

Sugar Grove – Sutphen Engine

Thornton – Sutphen 75’ MM Ladder

Tri State FPD – Pierce Enforcer Ascendant Ladder

Western Springs – Pierce Saber Engine

Westmont – Pierce Impel Engine

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,