Posts Tagged American LaFrance

Firefighters sue over excessive noise from sirens (more)

Excerpts from the

During 38 years as a Chicago firefighter, George Beary regularly heard the emergency sirens as he rode on the back of the firetruck. Since his retirement in 2005, Beary, the chairman of a committee of retired Chicago firefighters, said he suffers from tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing or buzzing in the ears.

Beary, former vice president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, is among about 4,400 current and former firefighters nationwide who are suing Federal Signal, an Oak Brook-based company that makes sirens, claiming it didn’t do enough to make them safer for those on firetrucks. Since 1999, Beary said he and about 700 Chicago firefighters have filed suit. Some have been settled or ruled on, but the vast majority, about 500, are still open.

Firefighters contend the company could have designed sirens in a way that directs the volume away from areas where firefighters sit in the engines, shielding them from sound blasts that lawyers say reach 120 decibels, roughly equivalent to a rock concert.

Federal Signal argues that directing the sound defeats one of the main purposes of a siren — to warn motorists and pedestrians that a truck is coming. And it says it has long supported what many departments have advised their firefighters to do: wear ear protection.

David Duffy, attorney for Federal Signal, said studies measuring the level of noise firefighters are exposed to during their work shifts, including sirens, is on average below 85 decibels.

The lawsuits, which began surfacing more than a decade ago, have been in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey and the Chicago area, said attorney Marc Bern, who’s leading all of them. In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said juries have decided in favor of Federal Signal in most of the half-dozen or so suits that have gone to trial.

The company also has settled in some cases without admitting any wrongdoing. The largest settlement, reached in 2011, required the company to pay $3.6 million to 1,069 firefighters for cases filed in Philadelphia.

Federal standards take into account the intensity of the sound and the duration. The higher the decibel level, the shorter the time workers can be exposed to it. Rick Neitzel, who studies noise and other exposures at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said the standards are geared to traditional jobs like manufacturing, not firefighting, where shifts can last longer and the exposure is intermittent but intense.

thanks Dan

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Firefighters sue over excessive noise from sirens

The Buffalo News has an article on a lawsuit by firefighters over excessive noise from emergency sirens.

There are few things more synonymous with firefighting than the loud, anxiety-inducing siren of an approaching fire engine. But are those ubiquitous sirens also damaging the hearing of the men and women who ride the trucks?

More than 190 Buffalo firefighters think so, and have filed suit seeking damages for their injuries.

The suits, which are similar to civil cases filed by firefighters in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago, claim the companies that made or used the sirens “knew or should have known” they were harmful.

The lawsuits – 20 are now pending in Buffalo federal court – seek an unspecified amount in damages for each of the 193 firefighters named in them. Filed in state court in September, they recently were moved to federal court by the six defendants.

“All parties are entitled to have their rights determined by the judicial system, and that applies to defendants as well as plaintiffs,” said Anthony J. Colucci III, a lawyer for Pierce Manufacturing, one of the defendants.

This is not the first time firefighters have sued over a loss of hearing. In early 2011, Federal Signal Corp., a manufacturer of fire engine sirens, announced a settlement with 1,125 firefighters represented by one of the lawyers in the Buffalo case.  Under that settlement, the company offered to pay $3.8 million, but characterized the offer as a “favorable development.” The Illinois-based manufacturer cited its success in obtaining defense verdicts in cases that went to trial and its track record in getting other suits dismissed by the court. The settlement offer amounted to an average of $3,380 for each of the firefighters.

“Federal Signal has strong defenses to these claims, and we are committed to defending our siren products and litigating these cases as necessary,” said Jennifer Sherman, chief administrative officer and general counsel for the company, at the time. “Sirens are necessary public safety products and save lives.”

Bern alleges that his clients were subjected to a harmful work environment and, in court papers, suggests that several factors contributed to their hearing loss, including a truck compartment that by design invited excessive noise. He also says the compartment lacked adequate sound insulation.

In the 2011 announcement of the Federal Signal settlement, a lawyer for the 1,125 firefighters called the offer a satisfactory resolution and acknowledged the difficulty in winning the hearing loss cases.

The other defendants in the lawsuits are American LaFrance, Kovatch Mobile Equipment, Seagrave Fire Apparatus and Mack Trucks, all of Pennsylvania.

The link between noise and hearing loss in firefighters dates back decades. In 1992, then-U.S. Fire Administrator Olin L. Greene, the nation’s top fire official, said noise is probably “the most underrated health hazard” for firefighters and emergency service personnel.

More recently, a University of California study in 2007 found 40 percent of all firefighters were at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. The study of more than 400 firefighters from 35 fire departments in California, Illinois and Indiana also found that firefighters use ear protection devices – ear muffs and ear plugs – only about a third of the time.


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American LaFrance … sad news (follow up)

An article in has a follow article to the sudden closing of American LaFrance Fire Apparatus in South Carolina:

A former employee who said he locked the gate to American LaFrance earlier this year stood inside the Patillo building once again Wednesday — this time, not as an employee, but as one of hundreds interested in the county’s sales of the dissolved company’s business personal assets.

American LaFrance closed in January, ending employment for hundreds and leaving behind a $650,000 debt to taxpayers in an economic development deal.

On Wednesday, the county sought to recoup that money in a public auction of the debts at the company’s final resting place on Cypress Gardens Road.

According to the county supervisor, Dan Davis, this is likely the only time a county has had to sell off a company’s business personal property in an economic deal killed by the company essentially disappearing.

Prior to the 9 a.m. start Wednesday, more than 90 had pre-registered online, and more than 70 had pre-registered for in-person bidding the day before.

Scout Boats President Steve Potts drove over from his Summerville plant to get a deal. His No. 1 item of interest? Bridge cranes.

Robert Holseberg of Rewined Candles in Charleston was also looking for extra equipment to aid in his company’s expansion. He was particularly interested in the forklifts, tables and cabinets.

The company’s inventory, which includes firetrucks in various stages of completion, was not in Wednesday’s sale. The county says the owners of the Patillo building have claim to it due to American LaFrance defaulting on its lease. A representative of the Patillo building said they are still trying to reach someone within the company to settle the issue.

thanks Dan

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American LaFrance … sad news (more)

The our in South Carolina wrote this interesting followup article on the closing of American LaFrance.

[A] building stands in a graveyard of machinery, empty except for the occasional groundskeeper drop-by. Inside, the building hums with electricity, but the domed lights overhead barely dent the darkness. Overturned chairs, pushed together desks, and walls lined with unfinished work serve as a reminder: no one works here anymore.

The 300,000 square-foot Patillo building on Cypress Gardens Road now houses all that is left of 100-plus-year-old firetruck maker American LaFrance, which closed in January.

“It’s just a nightmare,” County Supervisor Dan Davis told the Independent during an exclusive tour of the warehouse. Davis wasn’t talking about the loss of 200 jobs — which devastated the community in its own right. Davis was talking about the fallout of the company’s closure and its large, outstanding debt to the county.

When American LaFrance shut down, it owed $650,000 to the county. In the years following its 2008 bankruptcy, company officials worked with the county, unable to pay toward its fee-in-lieu of tax deal offered for economic development. The unpaid fee was on its business personal property.

Though the company was struggling prior, the Great Recession played a part in the death of American LaFrance. Shrinking emergency services’ budgets were likely a direct blow to the company. Davis said, just last year, officials from Rio de Janeiro visited the facility as they prepared to contract a firetruck manufacturer for more than 100 vehicles in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. American LaFrance didn’t get the contract. If it had, Davis said, it might have been able to weather the Great Recession.

Since January, Berkeley County has embarked into uncharted territory: reclaiming the debt. It’s a first for a county in South Carolina, so there is no precedent. The amount owed to Berkeley County doesn’t stop with $650,000. The county has had to foot the $2,800 monthly lease for the space and more for its humming electricity. More public money has been spent on working with a number of attorneys to determine how to legally proceed. Most weeks, the county expends about 40 man-hours dedicated to American LaFrance and the fallout. It took 12 county employees a week to consolidate the company’s property to one facility. When the company closed, it was operating out of two locations.

Berkeley County will auction off the business personal property later this year, likely in June. Already, the county contracted a private company to inventory what’s inside the warehouse. The public funds used in the meantime will be added to American LaFrance’s debt — covered by money raised in the auction.

Berkeley County only has claim to the business personal property — desks, chairs, pictures, everything essential to making a business run. After an auction to reclaim the debt owed, the company’s inventory — the unfinished firetrucks, the engines, the transmissions, everything essential to making emergency vehicles — will likely be auctioned off by the property owner since American LaFrance has already defaulted and owes the owner money.

With the debt owed to public and private enterprises, no one seems able to raise an American LaFrance representative to pay the bills or collect the inventory.

thanks Dan

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American LaFrance … sad news (more)

There are updates about American LaFrance since they closed their doors last month.


According to a press release sent to News 2, a class action law-suit has been filed on behalf of two former employees of American LaFrance, a South Carolina-based fire truck manufacturer that closed without warning last week.

Richardson Patrick Westbrook & Brickman (RPWB) said the two former employees filed suit against the plant claiming they and others weren’t given proper notice of termination under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) before being laid off January 17, 2014.  Both employees worked for American LaFrance for approximately 10 years until their termination.

News 2 reached out to American LaFrance about the WARN violation when they closed, the have yet to respond. However, in a statement sent via e-mail American LaFrance claims, “Unfortunately, the company’s unexpected current financial condition requires the discontinuation of operations in these locations at this time and these facilities are not expected to reopen.”

Richardson Patrick attorney Jay Ward, who represents the former employees, said, “These employees have been left out in the cold.  Not only did they lose wages and benefits, they lost the time they needed to search for new employment. Our firm has extensive experience in protecting the rights of workers locally and nationally, and our goal is to make sure these employees receive all they are due.”

American LaFrance abruptly closed its facilities in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, California, which resulted in the layoffs of approximately 150 employees.

From the Summerville Journal:

A week after the unexpected closing of American LaFrance’s Berkeley County location, a law firm has filed suit on behalf of laid off employees.

The company moved in August from its 450,000-square-foot Summerville factory to a 103,000-square-foot building at 164 Spring Grove Road, off Cypress Gardens Road in Moncks Corner.

Richardson Patrick Westbrook & Brickman has announced via the firm’s website that a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of two former employees of American LaFrance LLC, the Moncks Corner-based fire truck manufacturer.

The two former employees filed suit against the plant claiming they and others weren’t given proper notice of termination under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) before being laid off Jan. 17, 2014. Both employees worked for American LaFrance for approximately 10 years until their termination.

Richardson Patrick attorney Jay Ward, who represents the plaintiffs, said the sudden and unexpected closing was not handled properly.

“These employees have been left out in the cold,” he said. “Not only did they lose wages and benefits, they lost the time they needed to search for new employment. Our firm has extensive experience in protecting the rights of workers locally and nationally, and our goal is to make sure these employees receive all they are due.”

American LaFrance abruptly closed its facilities in Moncks Corner, Ephrata, Pa., and Los Angeles, which resulted in the layoffs of approximately 150 employees.

In a written statement to employees obtained by, the 173-year-old manufacturer of fire, rescue and other emergency vehicles, announced it was closing its warehouse, production and service facilities in Moncks Corner; Ephrata, Pa.; and Los Angeles.

“Unfortunately, the company’s unexpected current financial condition requires the discontinuation of operations in these locations at this time and these facilities are not expected to reopen,” the statement read.

American LaFrance moved its headquarters and main assembly plant from North Charleston to Summerville in mid-2007.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2008 after having lost $104 million over the previous two years.


In two months, the Hickory Fire Department was supposed to get a brand new $700,000 ladder truck. But that won’t happen after the company building it shut down. The new ladder truck was supposed to replace a truck that is almost 15 years old at Fire Station Three.

The city went with American LaFrance, a company they had used before and has made thousands of trucks for more than 100 years.

The gates at the American LaFrance plant in South Carolina are padlocked and the 150 employees laid off Friday evening. Staff with the city of Hickory said they visited the plant just last month to look at the progress of the ladder truck they ordered.

Mayor Rudy Wright was stunned when Channel 9 told him the company that started production in the 1800s is ceasing operations. “That is a tremendous tragedy for one of the great brand names in American history,” he said. “I feel for the employees. I can ensure you who were working hard to the last day to try to do the right thing.”

Channel 9 learned that American LaFrance built Hickory’s very first fire truck back in 1914 when the department had only one full-time employee.

“Thousands of trucks across the country. It is one of the most quality companies in America,” collector Lee Huffman said.

When Channel 9 called the company Monday, no one answered.  In a press release, American LaFrance said it was closing the facilities because of unexpected financial struggles.

The city said they paid much of the money for the $700,000 truck upfront because the company offered a discount. They are not sure if and when they’ll get the truck which was scheduled to arrive in early spring but did said they got a performance bond as insurance so they should be able to get their money back.

Huffman and his family own several old American LaFrance trucks. He hopes the company delivers.  “It puts the city of Hickory in a bad position as far as getting a new truck,” he said. City leaders said they will meet Tuesday morning to discuss their options. The mayor said the city is protected and will get a new truck.

From Lancaster OnLine:

Firetruck and rescue vehicle manufacturer American LaFrance has closed its warehouse, production and service facility in West Earl Township and two other plants.

American LaFrance released a statement confirming the closure of the plant on Cocalico Creek Road, as well as sites in Moncks Corner, S.C., and Los Angeles, idling at least 150 workers. It blamed the move on its “unexpected current financial condition,” while offering no details.

“The company is advising its customers that they will be able to continue obtaining replacement parts and service for vehicles manufactured by American LaFrance from a new third party vendor,” the company statement reads. “American LaFrance will contact customers with information about where they can obtain parts and service for their vehicles in the near future.”

In 2009, according to newspaper records, the business announced plans to close but reversed the decision. The West Earl Township plant kept operating and a service center was added, although the workforce was cut to about 50 employees.

With a 173-year history of fire vehicle manufacturing that includes hand-drawn, horse-drawn and steam-powered fire engines, American LaFrance established a presence in Lancaster County by purchasing Ladder Towers Inc. about 15 years ago. The local plant made firetrucks with aerial ladders reaching as high as 110 feet.

The parent firm, based in South Carolina, eventually fell on hard times, filing for bankruptcy reorganization in 2008. Instead of making 100 trucks a year at the West Earl Township facility, volume dropped to 50, a plant official said at the time.

thanks Dan

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American LaFrance … sad news

Sad news in the fire apparatus industry out of South Carolina – this is from

American LaFrance logo has confirmed that American LaFrance LLC (Fire Apparatus Builders)  based in Moncks Corner, Pimlico and Ephrata Pa have CLOSED their DOORS today @ 5pm. Telling employees they are closed and not to return next week, we have reached out to Patriarch Partners the Parent Company of ALF for comment, we will bring more news as soon as we can confirm more details. Estimates are over 150 people are out of a job today due to these actions.

American LaFrance fire engine


thanks Dennis & Shawn 


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Palos Heights FPD is added to the site

Palos Heights Fire Protection District patchThe Palos Heights Fire Protection District has been added to MABAS Division 19. This now completes all of Division 19 departments. Palos Heights has two stations with 22 career personnel covering 4.5 square miles. Each station has a jump company that will staff the engine or ambulance. The ambulance is staffed by two and the officer follows in 6408 or 6418.

Engines are from American LaFrance or Pierce, and the ambulances are either Medtec or Road Rescue. Palos Heights does not have an aerial unit. They also maintain a retire ambulance for their dive team.

Palos Heights Fire Protection District

Palos Heights Fire Protection District headquarters station 1 at 12300 S. Harlem Avenue. Karl Klotz photo

Palos Heights Fire Protection District American LaFrance

Palos Heights Fire Protection District Engine 6403, a 2005 American LaFrance Eagle which runs out of Station 1. Karl Klotz photo

Palos Heights Fire Protection District Pierce Lance engine

Palos Heights Fire Protection District Engine 6413 which runs out of Station 2. Larry Shapiro photo


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Thoughts on CFD apparatus needs – a commentary

Thoughts from Bill Post about recent comments made regarding CFD spare apparatus for Tower Ladder 10 and Squad 1:

One of the great things about Tower Ladder 10’s location, is that they are not more than a mile and a half away from Fleet Management (the shops), so they could easily have work done on their rig whenever they wish. The oldest front line tower ladders though are three, 1996 HME/LTIs that are at Tower Ladders 21, 37, and 39, all of which are 16 years old. The CFD had been trying to replace most of their rigs within 10 to 15 years of frontline service. That said, Tower Ladder 21’s rig looks pretty good and it’s been getting it’s share of extra alarms lately. Tower ladders are listed on the city of Chicago’s official 2012 buying plan issued by the department of Procurement Services. This means that they intend to have bids requested to build them.

My concern is about the spare Snorkel that was running as Squad 1. That’s the only spare 55′ Snorkel left. I understand that it’s twin was gotten rid of over the last few years. Most readers of this site probably know by now that the CFD has been wanting to replace the three Snorkel Squads for the last few years, and that it has even been listed on Chicago’s official buying plan.

The catch, is that American LaFrance (ALF) holds the manufacturing rights to the Snorkel brand that they acquired from the old Snorkel corporation that went out of business (over 10 years ago), and ALF refuses to build any new Snorkels. The alternative is to rehab and remount an old Snorkel on a new chassis and body which several fire departments that still use Snorkels have done already. When there are fewer Snorkels out there, it becomes more difficult to even find Snorkels to rebuild and remount. 

I have heard that there may be other manufacturers that would be willing to design their own aerial similar to a "Snorkel", however it would be very expensive.  So, it would be much simpler if American LaFrance would just sell the rights to the Snorkel if not just build them again. Even though you see less of them in use, there are still a few major and several smaller fire departments that use Snorkels. The Memphis (TN) fire department had been running with two single-piece Snorkel Squads (which had been been using remounted Snorkels on newer chassis) and the Philadelphia (PA) fire department had been using two remounted full-size Snorkels. Since both Memphis and Chicago make extensive use of the smaller Snorkel Squads, it would be a good idea if they would start a class-action suit against American LaFrance to either manufacture the Snorkel or to at least let another company (who is willing to build the Snorkel) have the specs and rights to build them. The irony about this is that the Chicago Fire Department and our old repair shops is where the idea for the original Snorkel began, and our old repair shops even outfitted the original Snorkel for fire service applications. American LaFrance now owns the original Snorkel (which served as Snorkel 1 and Snorkel Squad 3) as part of their historic collection, even though they never actually built or outfitted the rig. The boom and platform were actually built by the Pitman Corporation. It really seems as if they are holding the fire service (in general) and Chicago Fire Department (in particular) hostage.

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The color of fire trucks (part 4)

The next installment in this series about Chicago area fire trucks looks into departments in MABAS Division 3 that over the years have changed over to red fire apparatus. Also highlighted is a department that was always red but at one time had an engine that was a different color.

Deerfield had two Ward LaFrance P80 series engines with the Ambassador cab. Engine 720 was delivered in 1973 with a 1,250-GPM pump and Engine 712 came in 1977. Engine 720 carried 750 gallons of water , Engine 712 carried 1,000 gallons, and both were painted white over lime green.

Deerfield-Bannockburn Fire Department 1977 Ward LaFrance Ambassador engine

Deerfield Engine 712 was a 1977 Ward LaFrance P80 with an Ambassador cab. It had a 1,500-GPM pump with 1,000 gallons of water. Larry Shapiro collection

The Glenbrook Fire Protection District (formerly the Glenview Rural Fire Protection District) merged with the Glenview Fire Department in 1992. The original Glenview Rural trucks were red, then sometime after the district name changed  the Glenbrook apparatus was transitioned to yellow. Subsequent purchases arrived yellow. The department had three American LaFrance Pioneer Series engines, one of which was a newer Pioneer II model. They also had a small squad and a 1968 Ford/Snorkel. The red 75-foot Snorkel was refurbished in 1986 and came back yellow from Pierce with a new four-door Arrow cab. Later they purchased a newer squad from Hackney and two Pierce Arrow engines.

Glenbrook Fire Protection District Engine 144 1976 American LaFrance Pioneer

Glenbrook Engine 144 was a 1976 Pioneer Series from American LaFrance with 750 gallons of water and a 1,250-GPM pump. Larry Shapiro collection

Glenview apparatus has always been red. In 1975, they purchased a pumper-squad from Seagrave with a 300-gallon water tank. Squad 8 came white over lime green. This unit was later repainted red but retained the white roof.

Glenview Fire Department 1975 Seagrave PB series pumper squad

Glenview had this one unit that was not painted red. Pumper-Squad 8 was a 1975 Seagrave P-Series with 300 gallons of water and a 1,500-GPM pump. Larry Shapiro collection

For many years, Northbrook painted their units yellow, having previously been red. They had three engines, a Sutphen tower ladder, two squad units, and utility vehicles that were yellow. They also had a matching yellow stripe on their modular ambulances. The apparatus changed to white over red in 1996 when they received two engines, a squad, and a ladder from Pierce.

Northbrook Fire Department Engine 58 1975 American LaFrance Pacemaker

Northbrook Engine 58 was a 1975 American LaFrance Pacemaker Series engine with 500 gallons of water and a 1,000-GPM pump. The Pacemaker was a conventional custom fire cab by TCM instead of an American LaFrance custom Century or Pioneer cab. Larry Shapiro collection

The Park Ridge Fire Department ran with white over lime green apparatus for many years. Including this conventional Pirsch engine, they had a Mack CF/Pirsch mid-mount ladder, a custom cab-over Pirsch engine, and two Seagrave WB Series low profile engines that were painted to match. They also had stripes on their modular ambulances that matched the apparatus. All but the mid-mount ladder were later repainted red.

Park Ridge 1958 conventional Pirsch fire engine

Park Ridge Engine 44 shown here at a fire scene, was a 1958 conventional cab Pirsch with 500 gallons of water and a 1,000-GPM pump. Steve Redick collection

To see the earlier posts in this series, enter the word color into the search field.

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Chicago 3-11 Alarm fire in Bridgeport 12-31-11

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Looking at the scene facing west on 37th Street, Engine 29 is on a hydrant with Squad 1A and Tower Ladder 37 working in Sector 1. Larry Shapiro photo

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Light smoke pushes out of the building at 1428 W. 27th Street this morning. Josh Boyajian photo

At approximately 8AM this morning the Chicago Fire Department received a report of black smoke coming from a four-story warehouse at 1427 W. 37th Street. First arriving companies reported a fire and the alarm was elevated to a 2-11 within minutes. A 3-11 was struck roughly a half hour later which was struck out around 9:30AM. Three tower ladders and the Snorkel from Squad 1 were all working along with one multi-versal and hand lines. Seven engines (19, 28, 29, 39, 49, 50, and 65) were working at the scene as well.

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

55-gallon drums were stacked throughout the building prompting a Haz Mat Level I, though the barrels were empty. Larry Shapiro photo

A Level I Haz Mat was requested when companies discovered stacks of 55-gallon drums inside the building, but the drums turned out to be empty as the building’s occupant is a manufacturer of industrial drums and containers.

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Squad 1 works in the background and Engine 29 supplies them with water. Josh Boyajian photo

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Higgins Brothers, Inc. manufactures industrial drums and containers. Larry Shapiro photo

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Tower Ladder 5 was in the rear of the building. Larry Shapiro photo

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Tower Ladder 37 was setup at the 1-2 corner of the building on 37th Street. Larry Shapiro photo

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Tower Ladder 39, running with a spare unit, was in the adjacent lot on the east side of the building in Sector 4. Larry Shapiro photo

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at 1428 w 37th Street 12-31-11

Companies enter in the rear of the building after the fire is knocked down. Larry Shapiro photo

The Chicago Tribune has an article on the fire HERE.

Larry Shapiro and Tim Olk were at the scene as well as several other photographers. A gallery can be found HERE.

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