Archive for April 6th, 2022

Of interest … Ignite the Spirit Fund

Ignite the Spirit letter


Evanston Fire Department history Part 69

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Chief Lester Breitzman retired in July 1971, after 35 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department. Chief Breitzman was one of only four firemen hired by the City of Evanston between 1932 and 1939, as the country was in the grip of the Great Depression. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1947, to captain in 1952, and to assistant chief in 1957. He commanded the Fire Prevention Bureau for eight years prior to being appointed chief in 1964.

In addition to Chief Breitzman’s retirement, Capt. Leonard Bach (29 years of service), and firemen Ed Lyyjoki (23 years of service), Robert Godeman (20 years of service), and Richard Hennessey (24 years of service) also retired in 1971. Capt. Michael Lass resigned just one year after being promoted to captain, taking a position as IAFF Illinois field rep. A brilliant union leader, Capt.Lass had been president of Local 742 prior to his resignation. 

Twenty five-year veteran Assistant Chief Jim Wheeler served as acting chief when Chief Breitzman retired, and then was appointed chief fire marshal in October. Chief Wheeler’s father Orville was an Evanston firefighter 1914-24, passing away after a short illness in July 1924, just days before he was to have been promoted to lieutenant. Orville was a chief’s buggy-driver prior to his death, and his older son (and Jim’s older brother) Chester was a long-time chief’s buggy-driver / administrative assistant as well, before he retired in 1972. 

Capt. Robert Brandt was promoted to assistant chief and replaced Chief Wheeler as a platoon commander, and firemen Jim Burns and John “Skip” Hrejsa and fire equipment mechanic Ernie Bongratz were promoted to captain in 1971. New firemen hired were Phil Burns, Dave Cleland, William Noland, Bruce Peters, Dave Pettinger, and Ken Semrow in 1971, and Michael Lipnisky in 1972.   

The EFD added three new Dodge station wagons to the fleet in 1970-71, with the two 1970 Dodge wagons assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau (F-3 & F-4), and the 1971 Dodge wagon assigned to the platoon commander (F-2). The new station wagons replaced a 1963 Plymouth station wagon, a 1964 Plymouth station wagon, and a 1962 Ford station wagon. The new F-3 was an auxiliary ambulance just like the previous F-3, equipped with a stretcher and first-aid gear and garaged at Station # 5 at night and on weekends when not being used by an FPB inspector, available to be staffed by Engine 25 when needed. 

An unusual incident occurred on August 9, 1971, when a seaplane taking off from Lake Michigan near Clark Street Beach crashed and capsized. The U. S. Coast Guard crew stationed at Wilmette Harbor responded to the crash aboard their cutter, and Squad 21 responded aboard the EFD’s DUKW (F-7). A USCG rescue helicopter also responded. Both of the occupants in the plane were rescued.

Major fires occurring during Chief Wheeler’s regime, including one at the J. P. Schermerhorn & Company condominium at 838 Michigan Avenue in September 1971 ($95,000 damage), another that gutted Bramson’s clothing store at 1711 Sherman Avenue in October 1971 ($1.2 million loss), one at the Evanston Scrap Metal & Iron works at 1311 Foster Street in January 1972 ($150,000 loss), one at the Freedman Seating Company warehouse at 2000 Greenleaf Street in February 1973 ($100,000 damage), and an explosion and fire at a laboratory inside the Northwestern University Technological Institute at 2145 Sheridan Road ($87,167 damage) in March 1973.

The condo fire in September 1971 involved a fairly new five-story multi-unit residence that required a high-rise attack, with water supplied by engines pumping into stand-pipes, engine companies donning SCBA and carrying hotel loads into the building and attacking the blaze from the floor below the fire floor, and truck companies ventilating the floors above the fire. It was a complicated operation that required personnel to rotate in and out of the building as SCBA air supply ran out. Bottles were transported back & forth via EFD station wagons and the International pick-up truck from the scene to Station # 1, where the bottles could be refilled. 

The fire at the upscale Bramson’s clothing store in the downtown “high value district” was reported about 45 minutes before the 8 AM shift change, so that the oncoming shift was available to staff the two reserve engines and the reserve truck. This allowed all five engine companies, both truck companies, and Squad 21 to respond to the fire within the first few minutes. The fire was located in the basement, and crews from Engine 21, 22, and 23 spent about half an hour attempting to locate the seat of the blaze, while Truck 21 ventilated, and Truck 22 and Squad 21 performed salvage duties. .

Unfortunately, the fire eventually worked its way up through the walls into the first floor, at which point crews were ordered out of the building and the fight went defensive. The aerial ladders of both Truck 21 and Truck 22 were extended to establish elevated master streams, with water supplied by Engine 24 pumping from Davis & Sherman and Engine 25 pumping from Clark & Sherman. Engine 23 took the hydrant at the northwest corner of Church & Sherman, supplying a monitor set-up on the roof of Lytton’s clothing store to the south,

Engine 21 supplied another monitor set-up in front of the store from the hydrant located on the east side of Sherman Avenue just north of the fire, and Engine 22 was at the hydrant at Church and Orrington, supplying 2-1/2 inch lines to a monitor located in the alley. Engine 21, Engine 22, and Engine 23 also supplied hand lines that were used in the initial interior attack and then again later once the fire was under control. The $1.2 million loss from this fire was the third highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.           

The Evanston Scrap Metal and Iron Works fire on Foster Street was more than a junkyard fire. Although the business was involved in the acquisition of scrap metal (including a couple of old Evanston fire trucks), it recycled the metal for use in various types of construction projects. This was a “surround and drown” type of fight that involved using master streams to knock down the main fire, and then hand-lines used in an extensive overhaul that lasted many hours.

The fire at the Freedman Seating Company warehouse on Greenleaf Street was a day-long slog, as truck companies ventilated, Squad 21 salvaged, and three engine companies supplied hand-lines from nearby hydrants. This was just one of many fires to occur over the years in a business located in close proximity to the C&NW RR Mayfair Division freight tracks on the west side of Evanston.

The $87,167 loss from the fire at the Northwestern University Technological Institute stemmed mainly from the initial explosion. Firefighters made an interior attack using stand-pipes and hotel loads, and the fire in the lab was knocked-down fairly quickly by Engine 23 and Engine 21. Five years later, the Unabomber sent a mail bomb to the same facility. An NUDPS officer was injured when he opened the suspicious package. The 1973 fire & explosion at the N. U. Tech building was the second major fire to occur there. In December 1940, Evanston and Chicago firemen battled a major conflagration involving the building’s superstructure while it was still under construction.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pierce Eye Candy … Dallas, TX

From RB:

Dallas FD getting 2 tillers
(First tillers for Dallas)
Pierce TDA for Dallas FD Truck 39 Pierce TDA for Dallas FD Truck 39

Tags: ,