Archive for category Fire Department History

Calumet City Fire Department history

This from Jeff Rudolph:

Greeting from sunny, warm Florida. In my travels around I located the remains of an old Calumet City, IL American LaFrance engine on some property near Ruskin, FL. Engine 304 has clearly seen better days. Yes there are 2 trees growing up through it. The owner of the property was from East Troy, WI, and moved several vehicles down here years ago.

The photo of 304 as it used to look is a Bill Friedrich photo.  

Jeff Rudolph

vintage Calumet City fire engine rusting in a field

Jeff Rudolph photo

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Elgin Fire Department history

For #TBT from Larry Shapiro;

Elgin Engine 2 2009 KME LMFD Predator Severe Service 2000/500 GSO 7405 plus Engines 1 and 5

#larryshapiro; #FireTruck; #ElgoinFD; #KMEFire; #KMEWorksForYou

Larry Shapiro photo

#larryshapiro; #FireTruck; #ElgoinFD; #KMEFire; #KMEWorksForYou

Larry Shapiro photo

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 55

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



All three of Evanston’s new fire stations were completed and placed into service during 1955; Station # 5 at 2830 Cental Street on January 25th, Station # 2 at 702 Madison Street on March 12th, and Station # 3 at 1105 Central Street on September 3rd.

While waiting for its new quarters to be completed, Engine Co. 23 and the reserve truck were temporarily relocated from Fire Station # 3 on Green Bay Road to the new Station # 5 in northwest Evanston, as Station # 3 was closed on January 25th. It its final days as a working firehouse, the aging apparatus floor was supported from below by wooden beams that were set-up temporarily in the basement. Because Engine Co. 23 needed to move out of Station # 3 ASAP, Engine Co. 25 remained at Station # 1 for most of 1955, and did not relocate from Station # 1 to Station # 5 until the new Station # 3 was completed in September. 

Chief Dorband, the Fire Prevention Bureau, and Truck Co. 22 were relocated from Station # 1 to the new Station # 2 on Madison Street on March 12th, and the two assistant chiefs assigned as platoon commanders at Station # 1 were relieved of company officer responsibilities and were provided with a Chevrolet station-wagon (known as “F-2”) and a driver at this time. As such, the platoon commanders were now akin to a Chicago F. D. battalion chief. Chief Dorband only responded to working fires. If he was off-duty, his driver based at Station # 2 would pick him up at his residence at 1424 Wesley Avenue and drive him to the fire.

The Evanston Fire Department was increased from 88 men to 100 on April 1, 1955, as Peter Erpelding, David Henderson, Roger Lecey, Roger Schumacher, Joseph Burton, Patrick Morrison, Robert Pritza, Richard Ruske, Donald Searles, Frank Sherry Jr, and Richard Zrazik were hired, and Edward Pettinger returned from a leave of absence. Firemen James Wheeler and William Windelborn were promoted to captain, replacing the two platoon commanders as company officers.   

Squad 21 continued to respond to all inhalator calls and special rescues, but beginning on April 1st, it also responded to ALL fire calls – not just working structure fires — city-wide with a four-man crew, or at least three-men if a man was absent. Squad 21 did not have a company officer, so the platoon fire equipment mechanic was normally in charge of the crew. In 1956, Squad 21 responded to more than 400 calls, which was 25% more than the busiest engine company (Engine Co. 24)!   

While the rig had a 1000-GPM pump, a 100-gallon water tank, and a booster hose reel mounted atop its body, Squad 21 did not have a hose bed or standard hose load, so it could not run as an engine company. However, it could respond to a minor fire in a pinch, or initiate a limited fire-attack with its booster after arriving at a structure fire if no engine company was on the scene.

Engine Co. 21, Truck Co. 21, Engine Co. 25, Squad 21, Engine Co. 22, and Truck Co. 22, were twelve-man companies, with six men assigned to each platoon, and Engine Co. 23, and Engine Co. 24 were ten-man companies, with five men assigned to each platoon. However, the driver for the platoon commander (F-2) was assigned administratively to Squad 21, and the driver for the Chief Fire Marshal (F-1) was assigned administratively to Engine Co. 22, so Squad 21 and Engine Co. 22 actually had one less man available each shift than the other twelve-man companies.  

One man each shift was on a Kelly Day, so the actual company staffing each shift was five men on Engine Co. 21, Truck Co. 21, Engine Co. 25, Squad 21 (including F-2 driver), Engine Co. 22 (including F-1 driver), and Truck Co. 22, or four men if the company was running a man short, and the actual company staffing each shift on Engine Co. 23 and Engine Co. 24 was four men, or three men if the company was running a man short. The truck company always took the extra man from the engine company if the truck company was down a man but the engine company at that station was at full-strength. 

There was a platoon commander assigned to each shift, and in addition, one man each shift was assigned as the driver and radio operator for the platoon commander (F-2), and one man each shift was assigned as the driver and administrative assistant for the chief (F-1). The buggy-drivers were also the EFD’s photographers. Also, one man was assigned as a fire prevention inspector and administrative assistant to the FPB chief (F-3). 
As of April 1, 1955, the maximum aggregate shift staffing in the Evanston Fire Department was 39 if all companies were at full strength, and the absolute minimum staffing was 31 if all companies were running a man short at the same time. Companies typically ran at full-strength November – March when vacations were not permitted, and then would sometimes run a man short in the spring, summer, and early autumn, when vacations were permitted, and when overtime comp days accrued during the winter months could be spent.  

The 39-man maximum / 31-man minimum restored EFD shift staffing to the years 1933-42, back before the first Kelly Days were implemented. Along with acquiring new apparatus and constructing new fire stations, restoring shift staffing to pre-World War II levels had been one of the three main goals of Chief Dorband’s modernization plan.

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New home for St Charles FD rescue squad

This from Danny Nelms:

From Virginia Fire Trucks FB

Wakefield in Sussex County took delivery of their newest apparatus recently . Heavy Rescue 290 is a 2003 Seagrave TWOODA with Seagrave # 78A75. This unit formerly served St Charles, Illinois where it was painted black over red. Prior to being delivered to Wakefield it received some touch up paint  and new graphics. Heavy Rescue 290 carries a compliment of hydraulic and extrication equipment and is powered by a Detroit Series 60 motor. Current Squad 290 is a 1988 Ford L8000-Marion which was originally from Mapleshade, New Jersey. It will be sold once Heavy Rescue 290 enters service.  Special thanks to Chief Bowden and John Rose for their generosity in moving the rig for photos.
2003 Seagrave heavy rescue formerly fro St Charles Illinois

Lawrence Trey White photo

2003 Seagrave heavy rescue formerly fro St Charles Illinois

Lawrence Trey White photo

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 54

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The second part of Chief Dorband’s modernization plan was implemented after the second bond issue passed in April 1953, setting the stage for three new fire stations to be constructed at a combined cost of $775,000 during 1954-55. 

In its most-recent inspection of the EFD in 1935, the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) had recommended that Truck Co. 2 be relocated from Station # 1 to a new Station # 2 in South Evanston that would have space for an aerial-ladder truck, establishment of a third truck company in a new Station # 3 in North Evanston that would have space for an aerial-ladder truck, and the relocation of Engine Co. 5 from Station # 1 to a proposed fifth fire station to be built in the area of Grant & Central Park in northwest Evanston. Chief Dorband followed the NBFU recommendations to the letter when planning the new fire stations.

The new Station # 2 was built as a two-story three-bay “headquarters” station with space for a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck and EFD administrative offices, on the southwest corner of Madison & Custer, one block west of the old Station # 2. The former Station # 2 at 750 Chicago Avenue was sold to a private party and converted into an automobile dealership, before becoming a restaurant about twenty years later.

The new one-story three-bay Station # 3, with one bay long enough to eventually house a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck, was constructed on a vacant lot owned by the Metropolitan Sanitary District and leased to the City of Evanston on the east-side of the North Shore Channel, a block west of Evanston Hospital and a mile from the Northwestern University campus, at the northeast corner of Central Street and what had been Cooper Avenue pre-canal construction in 1908, about a mile east of the old Station # 3. The former Station # 3 at 2504 Green Bay Road was sold and converted into a photography studio.

However, the construction of Fire Station # 5 would prove to be a bit more complicated.

Chief Dorband’s modernization plan called for Station # 5 to be built on top of what used to be Bennett Avenue, between Perkins Woods and Lincolnwood Elementary School. The portion of Bennett Avenue that ran between Grant and Colfax streets had been closed when Perkins Woods was established as a Cook County Forest Preserve in the 1920’s, but the right-of-way was still owned by the city. Station # 5’s first-due area would include all of northwest Evanston, plus a large chunk of the 5th Ward, including the area north of Church Street and west of the C&NW RR Mayfair Division freight tracks.

Planned as a long and narrow one-story one-bay residential-style firehouse set-back several hundred feet from the street, the single apparatus bay would be located on the south-side of the facility, with driveway access onto Grant Street. The living quarters would feature a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a bunk-room, a bathroom with a shower, a captain’s office, a large storage room, and a watch-desk with a radio and a telephone, separated into two sections by a long hallway. The parking area and front door would be accessed from the Colfax Street side. The station would carry a street address of 2700 Colfax St.

However, the Lincolnwood School PTA objected to the proposed site, arguing that a fire station located that close to the school would pose a danger to the children if the fire engine was responding to an emergency call while the children were coming to or going home from school. The city council agreed, but Chief Dorband was furious, pointing out that the aldermen had readily approved construction of the new Fire Station # 1 on Lake Street in 1949, even though it was located just a half-block from St. Mary’s School.

With the Perkins Woods site taken off the table, a city playground-park at the northeast corner of Simpson & Bennett (now known as Porter Park) was presented by Chief Dorband as the next-best alternative, especially since the lot was already owned by the city, and was located even closer to the 5th ward than Grant & Bennett. However, citizens living in the area objected to the idea of replacing their park with a fire station. Also, the site was located nearly two miles from some areas within the “High Ridge” neighborhood northwest of Crawford & Gross Point Road.

Getting desperate, the city council next focused on a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Central Park Avenue and the south alley of Central Street that was for sale at a reasonable price, and with a footprint just large enough for a Chicago FD-style, two-story, one-bay firehouse. However, Northminster Presbyterian Church leaders objected to the Central Park Avenue site, because they said having a fire station on their block would potentially disrupt Sunday morning church services, Wednesday evening prayer meetings, and choir practice

With a voter mandate to build a new fire station in northwest Evanston and possessing the funds needed to construct it, but with seemingly no place to put it, the city council reluctantly purchased a lot costing $25,000 in a business district on the south side of Central Street at Reese Avenue. The lot cost more than what the aldermen wanted to spend, but the footprint was large enough for a two-bay firehouse. While the Central Street site was a half-mile further away from the 5th ward than the Perkins Woods site would have been, it was well-suited to provide fire protection to northwest Evanston, all the way up to Crawford & Old Glenview Road.

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Homewood Fire Department history

From Mike Summa for #TBT:

For TBT-The Homewood Fire Dept. once utilized this 1989 PemFab/3D as Squad 546.
vintage Homewood FD rescue squad

Mike Summa photo

and from our archives:

#larryshapiro; #Homewoodfd; #FireTruck; #Pemfab;

Larry Shapiro photo

#larryshapiro; #Homewoodfd; #FireTruck; #Pemfab;

Larry Shapiro photo

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 53

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The civil service rank of lieutenant was eliminated from the EFD in 1954, as the position was now called “captain II,” while the former rank of captain was now called “captain I.” The captain II position had a slightly higher salary than lieutenant, and a lieutenant would need to have served at least one year in the position before he could be promoted to captain II. A captain II would be automatically elevated to captain I after one year.

Five of the seven EFD lieutenants – Leonard Bach, Herb Claussen, George “Bud” Hofstetter, George Jasper, and Willard Thiel — were promoted to captain II immediately, but because they had been promoted to lieutenant on January 1, 1954, and had less than one year experience as a lieutenant, Lt. Harry Schaeffer Jr and Lt. Richard Schumacher had to wait until January 1, 1955, to receive their promotions to captain II. Therefore, Harry Schaeffer Jr and Richard Schumacher were the last EFD lieutenants. All future promotions would be directly from fireman I to captain II.

The Evanston Fire Department battled two significant “storefront” fires in 1953-54.

The first was at the Suburban Surgical Supply Company store at 604 Davis Street, on March 2, 1953. Because the fire was in the downtown “high-value district,” the initial response was three engine companies and one truck company. A second alarm brought in a fourth engine company, a second truck company, and Squad 21. Firefighters confined the flames to the structure of origin. However, the store was gutted, and the damage estimate was a hefty $100,000, tying this fire with the Tapecoat (1951) and Evanston Country Club (1922) fires for the fifth-highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.

The second fire occurred in September 1954, at the A & P supermarket at 2106 Central Street in North Evanston. Engine Co. 23 was first on scene, and encountered a light haze of smoke in the interior of the store. The second engine company and the truck company arrived and followed Engine Co. 23 into the store. While the companies were probing for the origin of the smoke, the ceiling partially collapsed.

Everybody got out alive, but Capt. Ron Ford, Capt. Herb Claussen, and firemen Arnold Windle, Dave Tesnow, and Ted Bierchen were injured and transported to local hospitals. A second alarm and a call-back of the off-duty platoon were ordered, with the off-duty platoon called-back mainly to replace the injured men. While the fire wasn’t necessarily spectacular, the A & P did sustain an estimated $70,000 loss from fire, smoke, and water damage, not to mention a narrow escape for Evanston firefighters.

Released in October 1954 and now legally in the public domain, the Evanston Fire Department starred in an Encyclopedia Britannica educational short film produced under the auspices of renowned educator Dr. Ernest Horn of the University of Iowa. Called simply “The Fireman,” the plot was somewhat similar to the one in the classic 1903 Edwin S. Porter silent film melodrama “The Life of an American Fireman,” and it featured a number of Evanston firefighters and some of the new Pirsch rigs in action. The film didn’t win an Academy Award, but it was shown in schools around the country.


Rookie fireman “Tom Briggs” (not his real name, but if his real first name is Tom and he is in fact a rookie completing his first year on the job, then it has to be Tom Kostopoulos) arrives for work at Station # 1 and stands morning inspection with his fellow firefighters. Chief “Jim” Dorband (actually it’s EFD Chief Henry Dorband) is satisfied and dismisses the men. Fireman Tom is assigned as tillerman on one of the aerial-ladder trucks by duty officer “Captain Drake” (not his real name, but it would appear to be platoon drillmaster and Engine 25 Capt. Ed Fahrbach).

Under the supervision of Captain Drake and Chief Dorband, Fireman Tom and the other men participate in a training drill, where Tom and another man climb Truck 21’s aerial-ladder to the roof of the fire station and demonstrate how the the hose roller works, another fireman pretends to be overcome from smoke and is carried down a ladder and “resuscitated” by use of an inhalator, and another jumps into a life net from atop the drill tower.

Training over, the exhausted men relax in the station, but only briefly. A voice over a speaker in the firehouse suddenly announces “Alarm! – Third & Main… Alarm! – Third & Main.” Firefighters put on their game faces, slide down the pole to the first floor, and the Pirsch rigs roll out of Station # 1, headed west on Lake Street, with the men probably wondering, “Where the heck is Third & Main?”

After making several right turns, we see Truck 21 going southbound on Hinman Avenue, but then F-1 (Chief Dorband) and the Pirsch parade somehow end up at 2160 Isabella Street, on the Evanston / Wilmette border! Smoke can be seen wafting from the residence, and firefighters waste no time and go right to work, as Engine 21 and Engine 25 lead-out. One of the pumpers hooks-up to the hydrant at the southwest corner of Isabella & Green Bay Road, while Truck 22’s main is extended to the roof in the rear of the structure.

Long story short, Fireman Tom and Captain Drake wearing SCBA run into the house, little Judy’s kitten is rescued, the fire is extinguished, the companies pick-up, and the men return to quarters. The End.

The Evanston Fire Department rarely missed an opportunity back in the day to have firefighters hone their skills by drilling at a house about to be demolished, and that would appear to have been the case in this film. The ground on which the house was located would soon become part of a grocery store parking lot.

Encyclopedia Britannica released another educational short film called “The Policeman” in November 1954. With interior scenes shot inside the Evanston police station and exterior scenes filmed in Highland Park, “The Policeman” follows HPPD “Officer Barnes” and his partner in Car 91 on the mean streets of Highland Park, recovering an abandoned stolen bicycle, writing a traffic ticket, and finding a missing child. Officer Barnes is presented as a regular human being in the film, eating breakfast with his wife and kids prior to leaving for work, and then returning home to his family after the completion of his shift.

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Vintage 4-11 Alarm fire in Chicago, 2-12-71

From Steve Redick:

February 12, 1971 4-11 at 15th & Karlov

vintage fire scene in Chicago

photographer unknown

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 52

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



After Squad 21 was placed into service in September 1952, manpower assignments were switched around slightly at Station  # 1. The two extra men formerly assigned each shift to the two downtown “high-value district” companies – Engine 25 and Truck  21 – were moved to Squad 21, as the squad responded with a two-man crew to all inhalator calls (about 100 per year in the 1950’s), replacing Engine 21 as the city-wide inhalator squad, and thus keeping Engine 21 available for fires. Additional inhalators were kept in ready-reserve at Station # 1 and could be loaded onto any EFD vehicle in case Squad 21 was not available.

Squad 21 did not respond only to inhalator calls. With four mounted searchlights, a portable gas-powered generator, power tools, smoke-ejector fans, portable floodlights, extra salvage covers, two portable turret nozzles, a backboard, a Stokes basket, a large supply of rope, rappelling gear, and an oxygen-acetylene cutting torch on-board, Squad 21 also responded to all working structure fires, rescue calls, and any other incident that required the many specialized tools carried aboard the rig.

As a result of placing Squad 21 into service with a two-man crew, each of the engine and truck companies at Station # 1 now operated with a maximum five man-crew each shift, although each company could “run short” with a four-man crew if one of the company’s men was absent due to vacation, illness, or injury. With Squad 21 always staffed by two men, and with a chief’s driver always on duty, the maximum daily staffing at Station #1 each shift remained 23 men, although it could be as few as 19 if all four companies at Station # 1 were running a man short.

The engine companies at the other three fire stations continued to operate as they had since the additional Kelly Day was added in 1948, with a four-man crew scheduled each shift, although each of the companies could run with a three-man crew if a man was absent due to vacation, illness, or injury. This resulted in an aggregate maximum daily shift staffing at the four fire stations of 35 men if no firefighters were absent, and an absolute minimum of 28 if all seven companies were to run one-man short at the same time. Because Evanston firefighters were not permitted to take vacations or use overtime comp days November through March, it was not uncommon for a shift to be operating at maximum strength or near-maximum strength on any given winter day. Conversely, it was not uncommon for several companies or sometimes even all seven companies to be operating a man short on any given day in the spring, summer, and early fall.    

Annual salaries in the EFD in 1953 ranged from $7,200 (Chief Fire Marshal) to $5,484 (Assistant Chief Fire Marshal) to $5,100 (Captain) to $4,770 (Lieutenant) to $4,620 (both for Mechanic and Administrative Assistant) to $4,332 (Fireman I) to $4,272 (Fireman II) to $4,200 (Fireman III) to $4,080 (Fireman Recruit).

During 1953, Capt. Lincoln Dickinson (Engine Co. 23) retired after twenty years of service, and Lt. Knud Hanson (Truck Co. 22) retired after 26 years of service. Back when he was rookie firefighter, Capt. Dickinson was one of the three members of the EFD who were laid-off on January 1, 1933, so his twenty years of service was spread over two separate tours. The three Evanston firefighters who were laid-off during the Great Depression did not receive credit toward retirement while laid-off. 

To fill the void left by the departure of Capt. Dickinson and Lt. Hanson, Lt. Erv Lindeman was promoted to captain and assigned as company officer of Engine Co. 24, Capt. Ronald Ford was transferred from Engine Co. 24 to Engine Co. 23, and firemen Harry Schaeffer Jr and Richard Schumacher were promoted to lieutenant in January 1954. Lt. Schumacher was the first Evanston firefighter hired after World War II to be promoted. Both Lt. Schaeffer and Lt. Schumacher would eventually retire as assistant chiefs.

After the plethora of retirements in the 1940’s, only seven Evanston firefighters who were not officers retired in the 1950’s, including firemen John Lee (26 years of service), Bernard Lindberg (26 years), John Linster (26 years), and William Schreiber (22 years) in 1950, Francis Williams (24 years) in 1951, John Kabel (20 years) in 1953, and Charles Bammesberger (28 years) in 1955. Fireman Kabel was one of the men laid-off on January 1, 1933, so like Capt. Dickinson, his career was interrupted, and so his service was spread over two separate tours. 

Patterned after the Chicago Fire Department’s box alarm card system, the Mutual-Aid Box Alarm System (or “MABAS”) was created in 1968 to provide the fire departments of northern Illinois with a systematic pre-planned mutual-aid response to fires, medical emergencies, special rescues, etc,   

Although it wasn’t formally established until 15 years later, the origin of one of the MABAS divisions can perhaps be found in July 1953, when a number of North Shore fire departments that would eventually form MABAS Division 3, including Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, Northbrook, Highland Park, and the Glenview Naval Air Station, participated in a day-long joint training exercise held under the auspices of the Northeastern Illinois Fire Chiefs Association at New Trier High School in Winnetka. The need for the joint training exercise was noted after several local fire departments responded into the Village of Wilmette on November 28, 1952, assisting the Wilmette F. D. in battling a large fire at St. Augustine’s Episcopal church at 1122 Oak Ave. Fire departments provided mutual-aid to each other long before there was a MABAS, but it tended to be somewhat disorganized and at times a bit chaotic, and that was apparently the case at the St. Augustine’s church fire.

The 1953 joint training exercise gave the participating north suburban fire departments an opportunity to practice working together at a complex incident. Chief Henry Dorband, both platoons of Engine Co. 23 manning Engine 23 and Truck 23, Engine Co. 25 manning both Engine 25 and Squad 22, Truck Co. 22 , and Squad 21 represented the Evanston Fire Department at the exercise, with Engine Co. 25 commanded by platoon drillmaster Capt. Ed Fahrbach, and with Truck Co. 22 led by platoon commander Assistant Chief Michael Garrity. Recently promoted Assistant Chief William Murphy — commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau — stayed behind in Evanston and served as acting platoon commander, with Engine Co. 21, Engine Co. 22, Engine Co. 24, and Truck Co. 21 covering the city while the other companies were in Winnetka. 


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New engine for Markham FD (more)

From MacQueen Emergency:

Congratulations to Markham Fire Department! The department took delivery of their new #Pierce Saber® Pumper.

See the specs

New Pierce Saber fire engine for the Markham FD in Illinois

Pierce composite

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