From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



In 1962, news broke that a high-rise office building to be called “State Bank Plaza” was to be constructed in downtown Evanston. In response to the news, Chief Geishecker requested the city purchase a 100-foot aerial ladder truck for Station # 1, with the 1951 Pirsch TDA at Station # 1 to be moved to Station # 3, where it would replace the 25-year old 1937 Seagrave 65-foot ladder truck that was considered no longer fit for front-line service.

Truck Co. 23 was averaging only about two runs per week, so the city manager did not concur with Chief Geishecker’s recommendation, and thus the city council did not appropriate funds for a new TDA. Chief Geishecker then had a choice. He could transfer Truck Co. 21’s manpower to Squad 21 and move its 1951 Pirsch 85-foot TDA to Station #3 to run as Truck 23, or he could take Truck 23 out of front-line service and transfer its manpower to Squad 21.

Transferring Truck Co. 21’s manpower to Squad 21 and moving its 1951 Pirsch TDA to Station # 3 would have kept Truck Co. 23 in service, maintained the same shift staffing at Station # 1, and kept a truck company within 2-1/2 miles of all insured structures in the city, but it also would have meant no aerial ladder truck located within the downtown “high value district.” Downtown is where Evanston’s primary tax base was located in 1962, and where substantial fire insurance premiums were being paid. Businesses were already beginning to flee downtown Evanston and head to Old Orchard in Skokie, so keeping the remaining merchants happy was a priority of the city manager and city council.

Even having two truck companies (Truck 22 and Truck 23) within 1-1/4 miles of Fountain Square was not considered sufficient ladder company coverage for the downtown “high-value district” by the NBFU standards of the day. In fact, in its 1959 report following an inspection of the EFD, the NBFU had recommended adding an additional engine company at Station # 1 to replace Engine Co. 25 (relocated to the new Station # 5 in 1955). Placing Squad 21 back into service as a company at Station # 1 would add three additional men to Station # 1 each shift, as well as increasing by three the number of firefighters responding to all general alarms (fire calls), since the squad would respond to all fire calls city-wide.

Therefore, Chief Geishecker ordered Truck 23 to be taken out of front-line service effective January 1, 1963, with the truck’s manpower to be transferred to Squad 21 at Station # 1. Truck 23 (the 1937 Seagrave 65-foot aerial truck) became the EFD’s reserve truck at this time. The only negative with this move was that the closest truck company to Willard School and the Presbyterian Retirement Home in northwest Evanston would now be three miles away, and nearly four miles from the “High Ridge” area in the far northwest corner of the city.

Squad 21 had previously been in front-line service from April 1, 1955 to April 1, 1957, during which time it was the busiest company in the EFD. It had been taken out of front-line service in 1957 only because of shift staffing cuts stemming from implementation of the three-platoon schedule, and because staffing a third truck company was considered to be a higher priority at that time. Therefore, Squad 21 was kept in ready-reserve 1957-62, with very few runs each year. It was manned by Engine Co. 21 for inhalator calls (about 100 per year) up until inhalators were placed aboard all five front-line engines in 1959, and if needed, it could be driven to a fire by the fire equipment mechanic.  

Other than significantly increasing truck company response times to northwest Evanston, replacing Truck Co. 23 \with Squad 21 worked out very well for the EFD. After it was placed back into front-line service, Squad 21 once again became the EFD’s busiest company. Besides responding to all fire calls city-wide as a rescue & manpower company, the squad also responded to inhalator calls, minor fires, and miscellaneous details in Station # 1’s district, which kept Engine 21 available for structure fires.

While it was equipped with a 1000-GPM pump and a 100-gallon water tank, Squad 21 did not have a hose bed and so it did not carry a standard hose load. The squad did carry two 50-foot lengths of 1-1/2 inch hose (“donuts”) in one of its compartments, which could be rolled-out and connected to a side discharge port, but it was usually just faster and easier to lead-out the booster line (“red line”) if the squad was dispatched to a gas wash, vehicle fire, or trash fire, or if it arrived at a working structure fire prior to an engine company.

While Squad 21 carried just the two 50-foot lengths of 1-1/2 inch hose, Engine 21 carried 300 feet, and Engine 22 and Engine 25 each carried 250-feet. Engine 23 and Engine 24 (the two 1958 Seagrave pumpers) each carried 650-feet of 1-1/2 inch line, including two separate leads pre-connected to rear discharge ports. Engine 21 carried 1,800 feet of 2-1/2 inch line and the other four front-line engines each carried 1,500 feet. Because it was the first-due engine to the downtown “high-value district,” Engine 21 carried 1-1/2 inch and 2-1/2 inch “hotel loads.”

Engine 21, Engine 22, and Engine 25 had a lead of soft-sleeve suction hose in a tray on the right-rear step that was pre-connected to a rear intake port, and Engine 23 and Engine 24 had a lead of soft-sleeve suction hose on the front bumper that was pre-connected to a front intake port. A couple of additional leads of soft-sleeve suction hose were carried aboard each engine, but those leads were not pre-connected. All five front-line engines carried two sections of very rarely used hard suction hose.

Squad 22 (the high-pressure / hose truck) carried 1,750 feet of three-inch “fireboat” hose, and the ladder trucks each carried two 50-foot lengths of three-inch hose that could be rolled out and used to supply an elevated master stream. Although they were not in front-line service, the three reserve engines each carried a full hose load (250-feet of 1-1/2 inch hose and 1,500 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose), plus three sections of hard suction hose and two leads of soft-sleeve suction hose. Engine 21, Engine 22, Engine 25, Squad 21, Truck 23, and the three reserve engines were equipped with one-inch rubber booster line (“red line”) on a hose reel.

There was an additional 700 feet of 1-1/2 inch hose kept at Station # 1, an additional 250-feet at both Station # 2 and Station # 5, and an additional 650-feet at both Station # 3 and Station # 4. Also, an additional 1,500 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose was kept at each station, with all hose rotated on a regular basis.