Archive for January 31st, 2022

Cancer in the Fire Service

Excerpts from

January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month. The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) says from 2015 through 2020, 75% of those added to the Fallen Firefighter Memorial of Honor Wall were members who died from occupational cancer. While battling fires, crews are exposed to toxic chemicals.

Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez said “These contaminants remained on gear and on the skin of firefighters and could be transferred to fire department vehicles firehouse living spaces and most frightening transferred back to their homes at the end of the shift. And the old image of the firefighter with soot on the face and sweat dripping down, we’ve got to get rid of that, right?” Perez said. “That’s romantic from the fire service, but that is also the chemicals that sit in the surface and sit on your skin, that is causing these cancers, so we want to see clean firefighters.”

It’s essential firefighters get their annual physicals and follow-ups, have full personal protective equipment, track exposures to carcinogens, decontaminate immediately at the scene and launder gear after every event. 

In 2020, the state launched a preliminary exposure reduction training project. About half of the fire departments in Illinois -including Chicago- have completed the training. In return, departments received a free decontamination kit for every vehicle utilized. 

Perez says he wants the state’s more than 40,000 firefighters to be aware of the risks and the resources available to help them.  

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 58

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Thanks to relentless lobbying efforts by IAFF locals like Chicago’s Local 2 and Evanston’s Local 742, a bill was passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Gov.William Stratton in 1957 that mandated a 56-hour work-week for full-time Illinois firefighters. Henceforth, three platoons would be required to staff shifts, instead of the two platoon schedule that had been the operating standard since October 1920, when Evanston  became the 387th community in the U. S. to implement an “enlightened” two-platoon schedule and an 84-hour work-week for its firefighters.

Although they worked a two platoon / 84-hour work week in the years 1920-42, Evanston firemen were working a 67.5 hour work-week prior to the implementation of the 56-hour work-week in 1957. An earlier bill signed into law in 1942 had mandated an extra day off (known as a “Kelly Day”) for full-time Illinois firemen after every seven days worked, which cut the average work-week from 84 hours to 73.5 hours. Then after extensive lobbying by Local 742, the Evanston City Council in 1948 granted Evanston firemen an extra day off after every four days worked (matching Chicago’s schedule), which cut the average work-week from 73.5 hours to 67.5 hours.

Prior to 1957, 48 Evanston firemen had been assigned to each of the two platoons, and with nine men from each platoon on a Kelly Day every shift, the maximum shift staffing was 39 if all companies were running at full strength, or a minimum of 31 if all companies were running a man short. With a third platoon added, Kelly Days were no longer needed, so that freed-up 18 slots for the new platoon, but 21 additional men would be needed to maintain company and shift staffing at pre-1957 levels.

It was a state law, so the city council had no choice but to accept the 56-hour work-week for Evanston firemen. However, the aldermen refused to add any additional manpower to the EFD. Therefore, beginning on April 1, 1957, the 96 men that had been assigned to two platoons were spread over three platoons, with 32 men assigned to each of the three platoons instead of 48 assigned to each of two platoons, and with maximum shift staffing cut from 39 to 32, and minimum shift staffing cut from 31 to 29. This left just three men to cover for absences on each shift, instead of the eight extra men (one on each company) under the two-platoon system. It would be left up to EFD Chief Henry Dorband to decide how the 32 men would be deployed each shift. 

Because they were first-due to the downtown “high value district,” Truck Co. 21 and Engine Co. 21 were always staffed with a minimum of four men, but if a shift was at minimum staffing (29) because of absences due to vacations, overtime comp payback, injuries, and/or illnesses, the other six companies could operate with a three-man crew. With only three extra men instead of eight assigned to each shift to cover for absences, three-man crews on the engines and trucks located in stations outside the “high-value district” would now be the norm rather than the exception.

Squad 21 – the busiest company in the EFD in 1956 — was taken out of front-line service and placed into unmanned ready-reserve status at Station # 1 when the three-platoon system was implemented. Ten of the 14 men that had been assigned to Squad 21 were reassigned to Truck Co. 23 as Engine 23 and Truck 23 became separate companies at Station # 3, and the other four men from the squad were reassigned to Truck Co. 21 and Engine Co. 21, as the platoon commanders’ drivers were now assigned administratively to Truck Co. 21, and the fire equipment mechanics were assigned to Engine Co. 21.

Squad 21 was now staffed by personnel from Engine Co. 21 or Truck Co. 21 when needed for inhalator calls, and by a fire equipment mechanic when dispatched to a special rescue or a working fire. If both Engine Co. 21 and Truck Co. 21 were out of quarters and the fire equipment mechanic was not available, an engine or truck company from one of the other stations would be directed to transfer (change quarters) to Station # 1, and be ready to man Squad 21 if needed. 

The truck company districts were also changed at this time, as Truck Co. 23 was now first-due north of Foster Street, Truck Co. 22 was first-due south of Greenleaf Street, and Truck Co. 21 was first-due between Greenleaf and Foster (including the downtown “high-value district” and Northwestern University’s south campus area).

One additional assistant chief and eleven additional captains were required to staff three platoons, so there was a mass promotion on April 1, 1957, as Capt. Jim Mersch was promoted to assistant chief (platoon commander), and firemen Ted Bierchen, Robert Brandt, Harold Cowell, Roy Decker, Harold Dorband, Tom Hanson, Harry Meginnis, Victor Majewski, Hjalmar Okerwall, Joe Schumer, and Dave Tesnow were promoted to captain. The new captains were assigned to various companies, with no more than four assigned to any one platoon. Capt. Lester Breitzman (commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau) was also promoted to assistant chief at this time. 

The EFD now had a chief, four assistant chiefs, 24 captains, and 71 firemen, with eight captains and 21 firemen staffing five engine companies and three truck companies on each platoon, plus the three platoon commanders and their drivers, the chief and his three drivers, and an assistant chief and two firemen (inspectors) assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau.

For the first year of the 56-hour work-week, Evanston firemen on the three platoons 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. Then beginning in 1958, the “10-10-14-14-OFF-OFF” schedule was replaced with the more-familiar “24 ON / 48 OFF” schedule (24 hours on duty, followed by 48 hours off duty) that still remains in effect today. Evanston firemen would also now receive a three-week annual paid vacation instead of two weeks.

Firefighters battled a blaze at The Orrington Hotel in January 1958, the first significant hotel fire in Evanston’s history, and the first major fire since the implementation of the three platoon schedule. The alarm was answered with a ”high value district” response of three engine companies and one truck company, with two additional trucks, a fourth engine, and Squad 21 (manned by the platoon mechanic) responding on the second alarm. While crews from Engine 21, Engine 22, and Engine 23 attacked the blaze “surgically” with 1-1/2 inch hand lines, the truck companies evacuated guests, ventilated heat and smoke, and performed salvage duties.

The nine-story hotel sustained $75,000 in damage, but all guests were evacuated safely, the fire was knocked-down quickly, and as much property as possible was protected from smoke and water. It was a textbook performance by the EFD. Chief Dorband’s decision to transfer manpower from Squad 21 to Truck 23 when the three platoon schedule was implemented in April 1957 was controversial at the time, but clearly having three truck companies at the fire within ten minutes helped mitigate what could have been a disaster.

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New pumper/tanker for Manhattan FPD (more)

From Bill Schreiber:

#BigRedR; #rosenbaueramerica; #FireTruck;

Rosenbauer photo

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