Posts Tagged Evanston Fire Chief Sam Hicks

History of The Evanston Fire Department – Part 81

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department


Post World War II, Advance Ambulance was the North Shore’s foremost private ambulance company, mainly transporting patients from hospital to hospital, hospital to nursing home, or nursing home to hospital, but also sometimes from a residence to a hospital. The Advance Ambulance Evanston station was located in the former American Railway Express garage at 1019 Davis Street, and there was another station in Skokie at 5361 Main Street. There was also an Advance Ambulance station at Diversey & Cicero in Chicago.

In the 1970’s, Advance relocated their three North Shore suburban ambulances to a new three-bay station at 2421 Dempster Street in Evanston, on the border with Skokie. Then in 1980, Advance Ambulance made what was considered at the time to be a radical proposal to the City of Evanston and the Village of Skokie, offering to provide medical transport service for Evanston and Skokie from their Dempster Street ambulance station.

The plan was to replace the Evanston and Skokie MICU ambulances with Advance ambulances staffed by EMTs. Advance would take care of medical insurance paperwork, billing, and debt collecting. The company guaranteed that if two of the three ambulances assigned to the Evanston / Skokie station were on runs, that an ambulance assigned to the Chicago station would be moved up to the Dempster Street station, and if necessary, a fifth ambulance would be moved from Chicago to the Dempster Street station, so that the company could respond to as many as five EMS calls in Evanston and / or Skokie at the same time. 

The Evanston and Skokie fire departments would continue to provide paramedic services in their jurisdictions, but rather than do so with firefighters assigned to ambulances, the plan was for Evanston and Skokie to assign their paramedics and ALS gear to engine companies — three paramedic companies in each fire department — who would respond to medical emergencies along with an Advance ambulance. The plan would have allowed the Evanston and Skokie fire departments to run with four-man engine and truck companies; and not just the designated paramedic companies, either, but ALL engine and truck companies.

If necessary, a fire department paramedic would ride in the Advance ambulance to the hospital, but the paramedic company could still remain in service with a three-man crew while waiting for the paramedic to return from the hospital. The Advance Ambulance crew would drive the paramedic back to his or her fire station after completion of the run.

In the case of Evanston, there would have been three, four-man paramedic engine companies (probably 21, 22, and 25), one other four-man non-paramedic engine company (probably 24), one four-man truck company at Station # 2, and one four-man quint company at Station # 3 (coinciding with the proposal to move Truck Co. 21 to Station # 3), plus the shift commander (F-2), and either a dedicated driver for Squad 21 or a buggy driver for F-2. There would have been NO jump companies. In the case of Skokie, the three paramedic companies would have probably been Engine 1 at Station # 1, Rescue Truck 2 at Station # 2, and Squad-Engine 3 at Station # 3, with Snorkel-Truck Co. l, Engine Co. 2, Engine Co. 3, and Truck Co. 3 not staffed by paramedics.

Both the City of Evanston and the Village of Skokie declined the offer from Advance Ambulance, but if it had been accepted, it might have eventually led to an automatic-aid agreement between Evanston and Skokie that would have kept both fire departments intact as separate entities while combining dispatching and training, and with the closest company responding to a fire or medical emergency without regard to borders or jurisdiction.

An automatic aid agreement also would have afforded Evanston the opportunity to close Fire Station # 4 instead of rebuilding it, with Evanston Engine Co. 22 first-due to the east half of Station # 4’s district, and Skokie Engine Co. 2 (now known as Engine 17) taking the west half. In return, Evanston Engine 25 could have been the first due engine company to the area of Skokie northeast of Church & Crawford, and to Old Orchard Road east of Skokie Blvd. In addition, a fully-staffed four-man Squad 21 at Station # 1 could have replaced Engine Co. 24, operating as the paramedic company for Station # 1 and the RIT company at working fires.

Evanston Fire Chief Sanders “Sam” Hicks retired in 1987 after 37 years of service. The Evanston city manager began a nation-wide search for a replacement, and Raymond Brooks, chief of the Michigan City Fire Department in Indiana, was hired. Chief Brooks was the EFD’s second African American chief.

Seeing the need for three front-line MICU ambulances that had been obvious for years, Chief Brooks implemented the so-called Jump Company Plan on August 12, 1988. Under this plan, ambulances and paramedics were assigned to three of the five fire stations, as three engine companies — Engine 21, Engine  22, and Engine 25 — were established as four-man paramedic “jump companies,” so-called because the crews “jumped” back and forth as needed between their engine and ambulance. Both the engine and the ambulance would respond to structure fires, with three firefighters riding aboard the pumper and the fourth driving the ambulance.

However, response times to medical emergencies in the first-due areas of Station # 3 and Station # 4 — whose engine companies were no longer used as “first responders” — actually increased significantly, and a “jump company” could be out of service for as long as an hour during a medical transport, unavailable to staff its pumper and respond to a structure fire.The Jump Company Plan also could cause confusion at times. There was an incident at a house fire on Asbury Avenue following a natural gas explosion on May, 29, 1991, where a firefighter assigned to Ambulance 22 broke protocol and single-handedly transported a burn patient to St. Francis Hospital while the rest of the crew from Engine Co. 22 was fighting the fire.

Also in 1991, a scandal involving falsified, absent, or lost paramedic training records from 1988 and 1989 implicating 80% of the EFD’s 50 paramedics cast a cloud over Evanston’s Emergency Medical Service program. Nobody was criminally charged or prosecuted, but some of the paramedics were suspended up to ten days without pay. An agreement was reached in June 1991 between IAFF Local 742, the Evanston Fire Department, St. Francis Hospital (the EFD’s resource hospital), and the State of Illinois Department of Public Health, that saved both the program and the certification of Evanston’s paramedics. However, before they could be reinstated and re-certified as paramedics, the firefighters — some of whom had been paramedics for 15 years — were required to pass a comprehensive two-day exam at St. Francis Hospital.

Three firefighters who had been serving as paramedics prior to the scandal declined to take the re-certification test, and one took the test but failed it. The other 36 passed and were reinstated. However, Medical Services Division Chief Sam Hunter voluntarily gave up his paramedic certification and was reassigned to the Training Division. Chief Brooks resigned in April 1991 and moved to Alhambra, California, where he was hired as that city’s new fire chief. He would later serve as the fire chief in San Jose, California, and in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as city manager of Birmingham.

Deputy Chief Phil Burns was named acting chief following the departure of Chief Brooks. Soon after, the Jump Company Plan was dropped, and EMS was essentially restored to pre-August 1989, with two front-line fully-staffed MICU ambulances, and one fully-equipped but unmanned MICU “jump” ambulance that was staffed by a truck company whenever a third ambulance was needed, presuming the truck company was available and in quarters.The only difference between the EMS deployment of the 1980’s and the 1990’s was that Ambulance 2 (now known as Ambulance 22) was assigned to Station # 2 instead of Station # 4, and Ambulance 3 (now known as Ambulance 23) and Truck Co. 21 (re-designated Truck Co. 23) were relocated from Station # 1 to Station # 3.

Chief Burns retired from the EFD in 1991, becoming chief of the Rolling Meadows F. D. Division Chief Dave Franzen served as acting chief following the retirement of Chief Burns. Evanston City Manager Eric Anderson selected James Hunt, chief of the Cape Coral F.D. in Florida to be Evanston’s new chief in 1992. Both City Manager Anderson and Chief Hunt moved on to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1996. Division Chief John Wilkinson served as acting chief for two years after the departure of Chief Hunt, before being named Evanston’s 19th permanent fire chief in 1998.

Beginning in 1999, one engine company at each of the city’s five fire stations was staffed with paramedics and equipped with ALS gear. The equipment was purchased jointly by IAFF Local 742 and the City of Evanston. Local 742’s half of the contribution utilized money it received from the Foreign Fire Tax Board fund, a source of money that Local 742 had used previously to purchase forcible-entry and thermal-imaging equipment for the EFD. Thus, with ALS gear at all five stations, and with nearly 2/3 of the members of the EFD certified as paramedics, it was no longer necessary for an MICU ambulance to arrive before advanced life-saving efforts could commence.

The EFD was still operating two dedicated front-line MICU ambulances in 1999, one at Station # 1, and one at Station # 2, each staffed by two paramedics. A third “jump” ambulance was located at Fire Station # 3, and it could be staffed by paramedics from Truck Co. 23 if a third ambulance was needed, presuming Truck 23 was available and in quarters. Engine 23 would eventually replace Truck 23 as the “jump company” at Station # 3.  

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History of The Evanston Fire Department – Part 79

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department


The “Fire Department Modernization Plan” proposed by Chief Henry Dorband and approved by Evanston voters in 1951 and 1953 led to the construction of three new fire stations, each completed in 1955. With the completion of the rebuilt Fire Station # 2, the relocated Fire Station # 3, and the new Fire Station # 5, Evanston had at last met the recommendations offered by the National Board of Fire Underwriters in 1935.

As of September 1955, all insured structures within the corporate city limits of Evanston were within 1-1/2 miles of a fire station and engine company. The five stations served Evanston well for many years, providing average response times in the 2-to-3 minute range, with no response time (normally) longer than four minutes.

In 1984, at the behest of Evanston Fire Chief Sam Hicks, city council staff floated a “Fire Station Relocation Plan” designed to replace the city’s five fire stations with three new ones, to be constructed up & down the central spine of Evanston. One of the new stations was to be constructed at Willard D. Kamen Park at Asbury & South Boulevard in south Evanston, another was to be built on vacant land at the southwest corner of Lake & Ashland in central-west Evanston that had been designated as a future city park, and a third was to be constructed on the site of the abandoned Municipal Testing Lane at Ashland & Noyes in north-central Evanston.

The station at Lake & Ashland would house Engine 21, Engine 24, and Ambulance 1, the station at Asbury & South Boulevard would house Engine 22, Truck 22, and Ambulance 2, and the station at Ashland & Noyes would house Engine 23, Truck 23, and Ambulance 3, all apparatus fully staffed, and with no “jump companies.” Each of the three new fire stations would have three “drive-through” bays, modern ventilation systems, and separate facilities for female firefighters.The new station at Ashland & Noyes might have also been a regional training center.

The shift commander (F-2), a driver for Squad 21, reserve apparatus (including Squad 21), equipment storage, and EFD administrative offices would be located at the existing Fire Station # 1 at 909 Lake Street, which would become more of an auxiliary fire station. Since Station # 1 would continue to exist in some fashion, the new fire station at Lake & Ashland would likely have been designated Fire Station # 4.

The two main purposes of the Fire Station Relocation Plan were to improve average response times by relocating fire stations to the areas of Evanston that incurred the most incidents, and to staff each of the three stations with eight firefighters, so that firefighters and paramedics would arrive at the scene of an incident as a group, rather than one company alone. Sort of like a “task force.”

Staffing each fire station with eight firefighters and/or paramedics would help firefighters coordinate operations on the fireground immediately upon arrival at a fire, satisfying the “two in / two out” requirements, and allowing companies to initiate search & rescue and an offensive interior attack without delay. It was not unusual for single companies like Engine 23, Engine 24, and Engine 25 to arrive on the scene of a working fire with just three firefighters, and the company would either have to begin operations without back-up support, or else wait until additional crews arrived before initiating search & rescue and an offensive interior attack.

Residents of the 5th Ward and their representatives on the city council were thrilled with the Fire Station Relocation Plan. Under the plan, the 5th ward would finally get the emergency services it had been promised  — and then subsequently denied — when Fire Station # 5 was constructed on Central Street in northwest Evanston in 1955, instead of at the originally-proposed Perkins Woods site at Grant & Bennett that was more than a half-mile closer to the 5th Ward.

While the 5th ward was very happy to finally receive some consideration from the city, the Fire Station Relocation Plan was generally not well-received in other parts of Evanston. Once a neighborhood has a fire station, it’s hard to explain to the residents of that area how emergency services would improve by relocating their fire station further away, even if the station is being relocated to an area of the city from where the most calls for service are received. This was the case with the neighborhoods served by all five of the existing fire stations in 1984, but especially for the residents served by fire stations # 4 and # 5.

There also was the matter of the aerial-ladder truck that was to be located in the new fire station at Asbury & South Boulevard having to somehow zig-zag through the underpass at Callan & South Boulevard when responding to alarms east of the CTA tracks along South Boulevard north of Calvary Cemetery. In terms of responding to calls without delay and negotiating traffic to get there, the existing Fire Station # 2 at Madison & Custer was actually in a good location. In addition, the residents in the neighborhood of Kamen Park at Asbury & South Boulevard did not wish to exchange a park for a fire station, even though only one section of the park would be used by the fire department.

As a result, the initial plan to build a new fire station at Asbury & South Boulevard that would combine Station # 2 and Station # 4 was dropped very soon after it was proposed. Instead, Fire Station # 2 was to be remodeled and would remain where it was at 702 Madison Street, with Engine Co. 22 and Truck Co. 22 located at the station with six firefighters combined assigned to the two companies.

The dilapidated Station # 4 structure at 1817 Washington Street could not be saved, but rather than just raze it and relocate Engine Co. 24 to the new Station # 1 at Lake & Ashland as had been originally proposed, the city council decided to have Station # 4 rebuilt on the same site as the 1927 facility. Also, Ambulance 2 was to be  relocated to Station # 4, so that the firehouse would have five firefighters assigned to it instead of just three.

The main problem with keeping Station # 2 and Station # 4 where they were already located is that it meant there would be only two engine companies located north of Main Street, and that just was not acceptable to anyone. So the plan to exchange the fifth engine company for a fully-staffed third MICU ambulance and a dedicated driver for Squad 21 was dropped,

Hence, it was proposed that Engine 25 remain in service as a second engine company at the new Station # 3 at Ashland & Noyes, with unmanned but fully-equipped MICU Ambulance 3 and the unmanned Squad 21 sharing a fourth bay at Station # 3. A-3 and Squad 21 would be staffed by personnel from one of the companies from Station # 3 if needed.

Under this configuration, the new three-bay Station # 1 at 1500 Lake Street would have five firefighters (E-21 and A-1), remodeled three-bay Station # 2 at 702 Madison Street would have six firefighters (E-22 and T-22), the new Station # 3 at 2210 Ashland Avenue would have nine firefighters (E-23, E-25, and T-23, plus unmanned A-3 and S-21 in a fourth bay), and the rebuilt two-bay Station # 4 at 1817 Washington Street would have five firefighters (E-24 and A-2). The shift commander (F-2) would be located at the new Fire Station # 1 instead of at old Fire Station # 1.

At least that was the plan…  

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