Posts Tagged Evanston Fire Department history

Evanston Fire Department history

Saturday, January 7, 2023, is the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the Pioneer Fire Company of Evanston.

See History of the Evanston Fire Department – Part 1 
 
thanks Phil

Tags: , , ,

History of The Evanston Fire Department – Part 81

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

ADVANCE OR JUMP

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.  

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

History of The Evanston Fire Department – Part 80

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

 

THE RAND REPORT

With enthusiasm for the Fire Station Relocation Plan lagging, the world-famous Rand Corporation was hired by the Evanston City Council in 1986 to conduct an independent analysis of the Evanston Fire Department, and then make recommendations with respect to the advisability of relocating one or more of Evanston’s fire stations in order to improve response times to structure fires and EMS calls. Rand was advised that the locations of Station # 2 and # 4 were “locked in stone,” but relocation of Station # 1, Station # 3, and / or Station # 5 would be acceptable.

Rand first determined that the two areas that had incurred the most structure fires and EMS calls over the  previous twenty years were two specific square-mile areas, one bounded by Howard Street on the south, Ridge Avenue on the west, Main Street on the north, and Lake Michigan on the east, with the “bull’s eye” at Oakton & Custer (essentially Station # 2’s first-due area), and the other bounded by Dempster Street on the south, the Metropolitan Sanitary District canal on the west and north, and the C&NW RR tracks north of Emerson Street and Asbury Avenue south of Emerson on the east, with its “bull’s eye” at Emerson & Dodge. The downtown area had a disproportionate number of EMS calls, but not many structure fires. 

Rand confirmed that the square mile in southeast Evanston was well-served by Fire Station # 2. However, the intersections furthest from an Evanston fire station in 1986 — Church & Pitner, Emerson & Hartrey, and Foster & Grey — were within the other square mile. Not surprisingly, Rand determined that the response times to structure fires and EMS calls in the 5th Ward would be significantly decreased if Fire Station # 1 was relocated to Lake & Ashland, and if Stations # 3 and # 5 were consolidated into a new station at Ashland & Noyes. 

There would, unfortunately, be a corresponding and not insignificant increase in response times to incidents in the downtown area and especially in the northwest corner of the city, but the overall average response times city-wide would be somewhat reduced.

Rand also recommended that the “jump ambulance” be located at Station # 2 and be staffed by personnel  from Truck Co. 22 when needed. Rand further recommended that the two full-service MICU ambulances be located at the new Station # 1 at Lake & Ashland and at the new Station # 3 at Ashland & Noyes. Rand did not recommend locating an ambulance at Fire Station # 4, although not having an ambulance at Station # 4 would have meant that Station # 4 would have only three firefighters instead of five, and the EFD chiefs did not want any of the fire stations to be staffed by only three-firefighters.

With the Rand Report recommending construction of new fire stations at 1500 Lake Street and 2210 Ashland  Avenue, it seemed likely that the two new fire stations would be built. EFD chiefs disagreed with the Rand Report regarding deployment of companies, and decided to move the second engine proposed by Rand for the new Station # 1 to the new Station # 3, and place the two full service MICU ambulances at Stations # 3 and # 4 instead of at Stations # 1 and # 3.

However, just as political opposition helped torpedo the proposed new Station # 2 at Kamen Park in South Evanston soon after it was proposed, unexpected opposition to the proposed new fire station at Ashland & Noyes suddenly surfaced after the Rand Report was released.

Residents in the “High Ridge” area of northwest Evanston (northwest of Crawford & Gross Point Road) did not wish to suffer a minimum 5-1/2 – to – six minute response time to fires and medical emergencies in their neighborhood, which was sure to be the case if the closest fire station was located at Ashland & Noyes. They argued that just because there were few calls for service from their neighborhood should not mean that they should receive substandard emergency services.

Wilmette Fire Station # 27 at 747 Illinois Road was only a mile from Central & Crawford, and so Engine 27 and Ambulance 27 would have been able to respond to incidents in the “High Ridge” area of Evanston within two or three minutes. This would have mitigated the argument against the consolidation of Station # 3 and # 5 at Ashland & Noyes, but an “automatic aid” agreement between Wilmette and Evanston for this purpose was not proposed, probably because Evanston had nothing to offer Wilmette in return. 

At the end of the day, Ambulance 2 was relocated from Station # 1 to Station # 4 in 1987, and the city council agreed to rebuild Fire Station # 4 and remodel Station # 2. The aldermen then tabled any further discussion of building new fire stations.The new Station # 4 was rebuilt on the site of the original Fire Station # 4 during 1989 at a cost of $643,000, and Station # 2 was extensively remodeled in 1990 to provide accommodations for female firefighters and more space on the apparatus floor. Also, Truck Co. 21 was relocated from Fire Station # 1 to Fire Station # 3 in 1991, becoming the reborn “Truck Co. 23.”

With a rebuilt firehouse in service in southwest Evanston, and with a truck company in service at Station # 3, new Evanston Fire Chief James Hunt (ex-Cape Coral, Florida F. D.) proposed in March 1993 that Station # 1 be moved about a mile to the northwest and be rebuilt as a three-bay firehouse on a vacant lot formerly home to a gas station at the southeast corner of Emerson & Wesley, about halfway between the proposed new fire stations at 1500 Lake Street and 2210 Ashland Ave. 

As part of Chief Hunt’s plan, Station # 3 and Station # 5 would remain where they were, even though with Engine 21 located on Emerson Street, it would be feasible to split Engine 23’s district between Engine Co. 21 (east) and Engine Co. 25 (west), with the Metropolitan Sanitary District canal serving as the divider. Also, as had been proposed as part of the original Fire Station Relocation Plan in 1984. Station # 1 at 909 Lake Street would be converted into a headquarters facility, housing training classrooms, administrative offices, and equipment storage.

Despite expected opposition from downtown Evanston merchants and wealthy residents of the lakefront area of the 1st ward who did not want Fire Station # 1 to be relocated, Chief Hunt’s plan was very popular with residents in the 5th Ward (who finally got a fire station) and with residents in the 6th Ward in northwest Evanston and with residents in the 7th Ward in northeast Evanston (who got to keep their fire stations), and so it was readily approved by the city council.

However, the new Station # 1 at 1332 Emerson Street was not actually completed for almost five years (February 1998), after unexpectedly high construction costs nearly doubled the project’s price-tag from $1.2 to $2.2 million.Plans to convert the old Fire Station # 1 to the EFD’s new headquarters met similar delays, so the fire department’s administrative offices were located in a cramped second-floor office in leased commercial space on Dodge Avenue for several years.

Tags: , , , , ,

History of The Evanston Fire Department – Part 79

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

THE FIRE STATION RELOCATION PLAN

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…  

Tags: , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 78

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

 

JUST A ROUTINE HOUSE FIRE 

With Evanston Fire Department (EFD) minimum shift staffing officially reduced to 26 in 1980, placing the third MICU ambulance into front-line service while also maintaining five three-man engine companies, two three-man truck companies, and two two-man MICU ambulances (plus the shift commander) would not be possible. Therefore, two paramedics were assigned to Truck Co. 21 each shift so that Truck 21 could be the “jump company” for Ambulance 3, staffing the ambulance if a third ambulance was needed. However, because Truck Co. 21 had to be in quarters in order to staff A-3 – AND – Truck Co. 22 had to be in service to provide truck coverage for the city while Truck 21 was manning A-3, the third ambulance could not always be staffed when it was needed.

As a result, City Manager Ed Martin recommended that Truck 21 and Ambulance 3 be relocated from Station # 1 to Station # 3, with the two paramedics assigned to Truck Co. 21 assigned to Ambulance 3 full-time, and with the three firefighters from Engine Co. 23 and the driver of Truck 21 forming a four-man “quint company” that would operate with Truck 21’s 1,250-GPM / 300-gallon / 100-foot RMA quint. When available, Ambulance 3 would follow the quint to any fire in Station # 3’s first-due area to provide a fifth and sixth firefighter to help make full use of the rig’s capabilities, but otherwise Ambulance 3 would be a full-time MICU ambulance 24/7.

However, by this time it had become very apparent that the quint had two major design flaws. The first was that because the truck had only one rear axle instead of two, if the 300-gallon tank was filled with water, the rear axle could collapse. This happened twice. Also, because the rig had only one outrigger jack on each side, the aerial ladder could not be extended at certain angles without the truck tipping over. This never happened, but it was understood that it could happen if the truck wasn’t perfectly positioned at a certain angle in just the right way. As a result, the plan to move Truck 21 to Station # 3 and place a four-man quint company in service, with Ambulance 3 staffed with two paramedics, was dropped, mainly because the quint could not carry water.  

During the years 1981-84, EFD front-line pumpers underwent major refurbishment. Because of the large-diameter supply hose added to EFD pumpers in 1977-78, the hose beds as originally designed were not particularly useful. Therefore, the bodies were reconfigured, with the factory-installed top-mounted booster reels removed and replaced with a transverse hose tray for 1-1/2 inch attack line located atop the pump panel. This provided more room for larger diameter hose in the bed. Also, the turret nozzles temporarily installed in 1978 were made permanent. In addition, enclosed cabinets were installed on the side of the rigs so that SCBA gear could be better protected from the elements, instead of just being hung by straps on the side of the rigs.

After the pumpers were refurbished, the same company converted the EFD’s 1979 Chevrolet utility van into a “command van” (the new F-2), replacing the shift commander’s 1979 Chevrolet station, which was then reassigned to the Medical Officer (F-22). Also, in 1982 a used, 1968 Pirsch / GMC tractor (ex-Aurora, Colorado) was purchased for the reserve truck at Station # 3. This tractor replaced the 1952 Pirsch tractor (refurbished in 1969), pulling the 1952 Pirsch TDA (also refurbished in 1969).

In addition, the box on the 1976 Chevrolet MICU (Ambulance 3) was remounted on a new Chevrolet chassis in 1982, and new Ford MICU ambulances were acquired in 1984 (Ambulance 1) and 1986 (Ambulance 2). One of the two 1980 Ford MICU ambulances was placed into reserve as Ambulance 4 in 1984 replacing the 1975 Dodge van ambulance (the original Ambulance 1 and the EFD’s reserve MICU since 1980), and the other was taken out of service in 1986 and was converted into the EFD’s mobile air cascade known as “Airwolf.” With the exception of the shift commander’s Chevy command van and the medical officer’s Chevy station wagon, EFD staff cars were now unmarked sedans leased from rental car companies.

In late 1983, the EFD took delivery of a new 1,250-GPM / 500-gallon pumper, built by Welch on a Spartan chassis. The pumper cost $114.586.39, but because it was acquired by means of a federal grant, half of the cost was paid by the federal government. However, the grant stipulated that the apparatus be placed at Fire Station # 2, so the 1979 Pirsch 1,250 / 750 pumper that had been Engine 22 since April 1979 was moved to Station # 1 and became the new Engine 21. The 1968 Pirsch 1,250 / 300 TCP that had been running as Engine 21 since 1968 was placed into reserve at this time, and the two remaining 1952 Pirsch pumpers were junked.

In 1986, the 1968 Pirsch pumper was dismantled and its stellar 1,250-GPM pump was sent to Appleton, Wisconsin, where it was installed in a new pumper being built by the Pierce Manufacturing Company for the EFD. This was Evanston’s first Pierce rig, and it was a high-priority rush job, because the EFD needed a pumper equipped with a foam tank ASAP to provide stand-by at the city waterworks parking lot at Lincoln & Sheridan for medical helicopters landing with patients or organs destined for Evanston Hospital. The Pierce Dash 1,250 / 500 / 30 pumper arrived in April 1987 and became the new Engine 23 at Fire Station # 3, with the 1974 Howe 1,000 / 300 pumper being placed into reserve. 

At 2:45 PM on the afternoon of Monday, July 22, 1985, the Evanston Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at a duplex at 1927 Jackson Ave. It was thought to be a “routine” house fire, like hundreds of others fought by the EFD over the years. Shift Commander Joe Planos was already on the road and arrived a minute after the call was dispatched, reporting smoke showing from the residence. While he was waiting for the first-due companies to arrive, Capt. Planos was advised by neighbors that an infant might be in the house. Planos directed the first arriving company to commence search & rescue efforts immediately.

Truck Co. 21 arrived first, parking directly in front of the house. The truck company was staffed by three firefighters cross-trained as paramedics, Joe Hayes, Marty Leoni, and James Edwards, and the crew went to the rear of the residence and made entry into an enclosed back porch. Meanwhile, Engine Co. 21 (Capt. Ken Dohm and crew) and Engine Co. 23 (Capt. Ward Cook and crew) arrived, and the two engine companies led-out hand-lines from Engine 21, attacking the fire through the front door. As Truck Co. 21 made its way up a rear stairway to the second floor, an apparent “backdraft” explosion in the 1st floor apartment blew-out the back door and sent a fireball up the stairway.

Acting Captain Hayes, standing at the foot of the stairs, and truckman Edwards, halfway up the stairway, were able to side-step the flames. Marty Leoni, already up on the 2nd floor landing, could not escape, and was trapped. Hayes called for Leoni to jump, but he chose instead to break down the door and force-entry into the 2nd floor apartment, probably with the intention of escaping out a second-floor window. However, upon entering the flat he was attacked by a guard dog. Hayes attempted to make his way up the stairway to assist his stricken comrade, but was driven back by fire, suffering serious burns to his hands and face in the process.

By this point, the rear stairway was engulfed in flames. Acting Capt. Hayes’ portable radio was damaged by the fire, and so the two engine companies operating hand-lines in the front of the residence were initially unaware that a firefighter was trapped. However, once they were advised and the hose lines were brought to the rear of the house, the flames had communicated into the second floor interior and the residence was fully-involved in fire. All on duty EFD personnel, as well as units from Wilmette, Skokie, and Winnetka, were called to the scene to assist with the rescue efforts, but they proved unsuccessful. Marty Leoni died in the second floor apartment before he could be located. He was 28 years old and had joined the EFD in January 1981.

It was later learned that the infant who was believed to be in the house when firefighters arrived had already been driven to the hospital by his distraught mother accompanied by other family members – BEFORE – the EFD was even notified of the fire. It seems the infant’s five-year old brother had been playing with a cigarette lighter, and in doing so, unintentionally set his little brother’s bedding on fire while the child was asleep in the crib. Everyone in the house at the time the fire started was at the hospital by the time firefighters arrived.

Subsequent to this fire, three engine companies would be dispatched to all Evanston fire calls (known in EFD parlance as a “general alarm”), even before a working fire could be confirmed. It was understood that if three engine companies had responded initially to the Jackson fire instead of two, one of the engines would have reported to the rear alley and would have been available to lead-out a hand-line that would have backed-up the truck company operating in the rear of the residence.

With the tragic death of Marty Leoni, the EFD suffered its first “killed in action” fatality since December 1905, when firemen George Stiles and William Craig were killed at the Mark Manufacturing Company fire. Subsequent to Marty Leoni’s death, the “Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial” — a monument to Evanston’s fallen firefighters — was built by members of IAFF Local 742 at Firemen’s Park at Simpson & Maple, being officially dedicated on July 23, 1993. While building the monument, off-duty firefighters were approached by an eight-year old child on a bike. He had no hands, because they had been lost to fire some eight years earlier. The boy was the infant Marty Leoni had been trying to rescue that day in 1985. 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 77

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

THE GHOSTS OF THE EFD 

During 1980-81, the number of sworn members of the Evanston Fire Department (EFD) was reduced by attrition from 114 to 106 (eventually to 104). The position of Fire Equipment Mechanic was transferred to Fleet Services, as a civilian mechanic was hired by the City of Evanston to maintain EFD apparatus, with apparatus now maintained and repaired at the city yards instead of in the shop bay at Fire Station # 1. Also, firefighters absent due to injury or illness were no longer replaced by extra firefighters assigned to each shift.

Per an agreement between IAFF Local 742 and the City of Evanston, minimum EFD shift staffing was set at 26 in 1980, the lowest minimum staffing since 1926, back when Evanston’s population was 50,000, and 50 years before the EFD took over ambulance service. A company officer and two firefighters were assigned to each of the two truck companies and five engine companies, and two paramedics were assigned to each of the two MICU ambulances, with the shift commander (F-2) in charge.

As part of the 26-man minimum shift staffing, Squad 21 was taken out of front-line service and was staffed by one firefighter from Station # 1 (usually from Truck Co. 21) only when the specialized rescue equipment carried aboard the rig was needed at an incident. If no firefighters were at Station # 1, Squad 21 could not respond to an incident until at least one firefighter arrived at Station # 1 to provide manpower. 

All three ambulances were assigned to Station #1, with A-1 first-due to EMS and fire calls east of Asbury Avenue (inclusive), and A-2 first-due west of Asbury. In 1985, after a couple of paramedics complained that A-1 got three calls in row during a Bears game while A-2 got none, one of the communications operators suggested that the arbitrary Asbury Avenue border for A-1 and A-2 should be eliminated and that the two ambulances should just alternate every-other call, since they had the same equipment and were both located at the same fire station. This suggestion was actually rather quickly implemented, allowing paramedics assigned to the ambulance not “on the bubble” to remain at the hospital ER a bit longer, maybe go shopping, or even take a shower, knowing the other ambulance would get the next run. 

A minimum of six paramedics were assigned to each shift, with two assigned to each ambulance, and the other two to Truck Co. 21, which replaced Squad 21 as the “jump company” for the unmanned but fully equipped MICU Ambulance 3 at Station # 1. If Truck Co. 21 was not in quarters, Ambulance 3 could not be staffed. Also, if Truck Co. 22 was out of service, Truck Co. 21 was not permitted to staff Ambulance 3 even if Truck 21 was in quarters, because that would take both truck companies out of service.

There were actually times when Truck Co. 21 was in service and in quarters and easily could have staffed A-3, but a mutual aid ambulance had to be requested from Wilmette or Skokie only because Truck Co. 22 was out of service. This was in the days before before paramedics and ALS gear were assigned to all companies, so a delay resulting from having to wait for the arrival of an ambulance (and paramedics) from Wilmette or Skokie could prove deadly.

Vacations and Kelly Day absences were known in advance and were spread out evenly over the course of the year, and so those absences could be covered by the five extra firefighters assigned to each shift. Because it could not be known in advance exactly how many firefighters might be absent due to injury or illness on any given shift, off-duty firefighters covered for absent ill or injured firefighters, working voluntary “hire-back” overtime at the rate of time-and-a-half for the first eight hours of the 24 hour shift, and then “straight time” for the remaining 16 hours. Since it was known that on average two firefighters were absent each shift every day due to illness or injury, the seven positions eliminated remained in the budget as “ghost” overtime slots.

During the 1980’s, IAFF Local 742 successfully negotiated a change in the arrangement, so that firefighters working overtime received “time-and-a-half” for the entire 24 hour shift, at which point nine “ghost” positions were required instead of seven, and that’s when EFD membership was further reduced, from 106 to 104. So while the nine “replacement” firefighters did not actually exist, the salaries of the nine slots remained in the budget and were combined into an aggregate overtime fund that was paid to firefighters working off duty hours as illness and injury replacements.

City of Evanston Police / Fire communications operators (known collectively as “Dispatch”) assumed all aspects of fire dispatching in January 1982. Even though half of a communications operator’s salary was paid by the police department and half was paid by the fire department, an operator received just one pay check from the city. Communications operators wore an Evanston P. D. patch (with a “Communications” rocker above the patch) on their left uniform sleeve, and an Evanston F. D. patch on their right sleeve.

A few months after police / fire communications operators assumed all aspects of fire dispatching, the number of operators was increased from seven to nine, as two operators were now on duty at all times, instead of just one operator answering 9-1-1 calls and handling both police and fire radio traffic on the 11 PM – 7 AM shift. This change came about after two children were killed in an early morning house fire, with subsequent analysis of the radio traffic connected to the incident revealing that the single communications operator on duty was overwhelmed with police and fire radio traffic and telephone calls that led to some mistakes being made.

A police sergeant or lieutenant supervised the communications operators, with the fire department having some input regarding radio room operations as it pertained to the fire department, but no direct supervision with respect to staffing. A police desk officer would sometimes work as a communications operator to cover for an absence and in the process was expected to be able to dispatch a fire or EMS call, but firefighters were not permitted to work as communications operators.    

Previous to 1982, the Police / Fire communications operator would receive a report of a fire or medical emergency and then “tone it out” and broadcast the information, but then (whenever possible) a firefighter at the Station # 1 desk (known as “KSC 732 – the desk” back in the day) would usually handle all further radio traffic pertaining to the incident. Company officers were responsible for maintaining their own logs, so the time was stated after every radio transmission. Under the new system, radio traffic from EFD units in the field would be specifically directed to “Dispatch,” and then the operator was responsible for acknowledging and logging all radio traffic directed to Dispatch. Therefore it was no longer necessary to state the time after every radio transmission.

At this same time the EFD implemented a version of the Phoenix Fire Department’s Dispatch & Incident Command System invented by world famous PFD Chief Alan Brunacini in the 1970’s, as EFD radio procedures were radically changed. Among the many changes were the use of plain English instead of the “10-code”, calling the fire stations by their station number instead of by their FCC-assigned radio call sign, one group radio test every day instead of two, and new incident command and fireground terminology that replaced older concepts and jargon used by firefighters for many years. One of the communications operators was assigned the task of converting the Phoenix Fire Department’s communication operations manual to one that would fit the EFD, like changing a dispatch example from 2400 E. Van Buren to 2400 Main Street. 

A CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) system was purchased for the city by ADT (a private alarm company) in 1987, to aid Police / Fire communications operators in monitoring several hundred fire and burglar alarms connected directly to the Police / Fire Communications Center. The CAD system also provided automated logging of police and fire calls, replacing the pen & paper logs used previously by the operators. MDTs (mobile data terminals) were installed in EFD apparatus beginning in 1994.

On New Year’s Eve 1984, a fire destroyed the Byer Museum of the Arts at 1700 Hinman Ave. In addition to the loss of a historical landmark (the building was once home to the prestigious “University Club”), most of the museum’s priceless contents including its unique “Treasures of the Orient” collection were lost as well. The two truck companies from Evanston plus a truck company from Skokie that responded on the MABAS box attempted to salvage as much of the contents as possible, but the loss was still estimated at $5 million-plus.

However, the estimated loss was later reduced to about $1 million by the insurance company after some of the items reported lost in the fire were found at another location, and the matter remained in dispute for many years while litigation proceeded through the courts. If correct, the $5 million loss initially reported would have been the highest loss ever recorded in an Evanston fire up to that point in time. 

The cause of the blaze was never absolutely determined. The EFD’s lead investigator (FF / PM Dave Pettinger) believed the cause of the fire was “suspicious,” since the fire alarm system had been disabled and no point of origin could be located. However, EFD Chief Sam Hicks disagreed, believing the cause was an electrical problem.

Tags: , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 76

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

In 1978, Chief Ayers reorganized the EFD, using a miniaturized version of the forward-thinking Oklahoma City Fire Department’s organizational chart as a template. Under the new system the EFD’s organizational chart became more vertical, with the chief serving essentially as the CEO, and a deputy chief (appointed by the chief) serving as chief operating officer. This meant that the chief would no longer respond automatically to working fires or other major incidents.

In addition, Chief Ayers established four divisions: Operations, Training, Fire Prevention, and Personnel. As part of the new system, the chief could select anyone to be a division chief. It did not have to be an assistant chief. It could be a captain, or even someone from outside the fire department. Also, a division chief served at the pleasure of the chief, and so he could be replaced at any time.
 
Two of the assistant chiefs who had been serving as shift commanders were promoted, with Assistant Chief Robert Brandt becoming the EFD’s Deputy Chief and commander of the Operations Division, and Assistant Chief John Becker appointed chief of the Personnel Division. The third shift commander — Assistant Chief Richard Schumacher — retired. Also, Assistant Chief Robert Schumer was appointed chief of the Fire Prevention Division, and Assistant Chief Sanders “Sam” Hicks was appointed chief of the Training Division.

Three senior captains formerly assigned as company officers — Joe Planos, Ed Majkowski, and Bill Moore — were appointed shift commanders, replacing Brandt, Becker, and Schumacher. Like the division chief appointments, the position of shift commander was – NOT  – a civil service rank, and so the shift commanders served at the pleasure of the chief and could be replaced at any time. Additionally, Capt. Len Conrad was appointed to the new position of Medical Officer, Capt. James Mersch Jr was appointed to the new position of Fire Prevention Officer, and Capt. Tom Linkowski was appointed to the new position of Public Information Officer. Three firefighters were assigned as a shift fire prevention inspector / fire investigator.

The shift commander continued to operate with a station wagon, but the EFD replaced its other station wagon auxiliary ambulance staff cars with Dodge and Plymouth sedans and Datsun and Honda compact coupes in 1977-78. Radio call-signs also changed a bit at this time.The chief was still F-1 and the shift commander was still F-2, but the other command officers were assigned a call-sign that matched the last two digits of their telephone number. So Chief Brandt (866-5927) was “F-27,” Chief Becker (866-5926) was “F-26,” Chief Hicks (866-5925) was “F-25,” Chief Schumer (866-5933) was “F-33,” Capt Conrad (866-5922) was “F-22,” Capt. Linkowski (866-5934) was “F-34,” Capt. Mersch (866-5935) was “F-35.”  and Fire Equipment Mechanic Jerry Czarnowski (866-5917) was “F-17,” a call-sign used when he was out in the field in the EFD’s utility van.

Many older members of the Evanston Fire Department felt uncomfortable with the changes. During Glen Ayers’ four-plus years as chief of the EFD, 31 firefighters retired (about seven per year). By contrast, during Al Hofstetter’s 36 years as chief, 76 firemen retired (about two per year). Also, the addition of a second ambulance in January 1977 and the increase in command staff and fire prevention inspectors in 1978, combined with manpower diverted to cover the absence of firefighters on “Kelly Days,” resulted in staffing cuts on Squad 21, the EFD’s busiest company during the years 1963-1975.

Because of the addition of specialized rescue equipment in the 1970’s, Squad 21’s 1965 International / General Body pumper-squad had been replaced with a Chevrolet / Penn Versatile Van (AKA the “Pie Truck”) in 1978, typically manned by two firefighters who would cross-staff the ex-Skokie F. D. Cadillac ambulance (Ambulance 3) whenever a third ambulance was needed. However, Squad 21 was taken out of front-line service in 1980, with the apparatus manned only when its special rescue equipment was needed.

When Squad 21 was taken out of front-line service, minimum staffing per shift was officially reduced to 26, the lowest since the mid-1920’s, back when Evanston’s population was only 50,000, and long before the EFD assumed responsibility for municipal ambulance service.

The Evanston Fire Department was in the midst of change, but it was not limited to just the organizational chart. The EFD’s first female firefighter — Miriam Boyle, who had worked in a flower shop prior to joining the  EFD — was hired in 1976. She was trained and certified as a paramedic in 1977, but resigned in 1979. A second female firefighter — Paulette Hojnacki — joined the EFD in 1981. She resigned three years later. Meanwhile, lawsuits charging the City of Evanston and its fire department with racial discrimination were about to be settled.

In response to a series of legal actions taken during the 1970’s by African American applicants and firefighters who felt they had been the victims of racial discrimination in hiring and promotions involving the Evanston Fire Department, a court-ordered one-time “blacks-only” civil service promotional test for the position of Fire Captain was offered in 1980. In the history of the EFD up to 1980, only three blacks had received a promotion to the rank of captain –Sam Hicks in 1963, Donald Searles in 1965, and Joseph Burton in 1970.

The blacks-only civil service promotional test was very controversial, however. A white firefighter sued the city with a claim of “reverse discrimination,” and a white captain resigned soon after he was promoted because he said the rank no longer meant anything. Chief Ayers refused to promote anyone (white OR black) to the rank of captain, and left the Evanston Fire Department for another chief’s position in Colorado. 

However, as the result of the blacks-only promotional test, three African American firefighters — Samuel Boddie, Samuel Hunter, and Milton Dunbar — were promoted to the rank of captain in December 1980, and following the departure of Glen Ayers, 30-year EFD veteran Sanders Hicks was appointed chief on May 4, 1981, after serving as the “acting chief” for five months. Chief Hicks was Evanston’s first African American fire chief. 

A number of major fires occurred during the Ayers administration, including one that gutted the Rust-Oleum Corporation laboratory at 2301 Oakton Street ($400,00 loss) in January 1977, less than two years after the one at Rust-Oleum’s storage yards in May 1975. Another blaze destroyed Michelini’s Restaurant and Art Gallery at 2001 Maple Avenue in December 1978, another one ravaged the North Shore Electric Company warehouse at 245 Dodge Avenue in January 1979 ($425,000 damage), and still another heavily damaged the J. P. Schermerhorn & Company condominiums at 838 Michigan Avenue ($500,000 loss) in May 1980, the second one at that location in less than ten years,.

Also, a fire ripped through the Northern Weathermakers warehouse at 2143 Ashland Avenue ($750,000 damage) in October 1980, and another heavily-damaged the Ebenezer A.M.E. church at 1109 Emerson Street ($750,000 loss) in December 1980. A fire at The Orrington Hotel in March 1981 ($250,000 damage, but with all occupants safely evacuated) occurred after the departure of Chief Ayers, while Sam Hicks was serving as acting chief. Another major fire had occurred at The Orrington in 1958.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 75

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

ROCK ISLAND RED

In July 1976, Rock Island Fire Chief Glen Ayers was appointed chief of the Evanston Fire Department (EFD), the first outsider to serve as Evanston’s fire chief since Norman Holmes came to Evanston from the Chicago Fire Department in 1905. Once Ayers took charge, the first thing he did was order Chief Beattie’s yellow fire trucks — including a new Mack pumper still at the factory —  to be re-painted “Rock Island Red.” The new 1,000-GPM / 300-gallon Mack pumper arrived in December 1976, and was placed into service as the new Engine 25 in January 1977.

The rig that the new Mack pumper replaced was the 1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 squad-pumper (the original Squad 21) that was rebuilt as a TCP by General Body in 1966. The 1952 Pirsch was placed into reserve as Engine 26 after the Mack pumper went into service at Station # 5. The EFD’s remaining 1958 Seagrave 1000 / 300 open cab TCP (ex-E23) was then sold at auction, purchased by the Indian Trail Restaurant in Winnetka for use as a parade and party vehicle. The Seagrave rig appeared in the North Evanston 4th of July Parade a few times while it was owned by Indian Trail.

The EFD chose to keep the older 1952 Pirch pumpers in reserve instead of the two 1958 Seagrave pumpers, partly because the Pirsch rigs had enclosed cabs, but mainly because the Pirsch pumpers consistently out-performed the Seagrave pumpers at annual pump tests. In fact the pump on the other 1958 Seagrave rig  (Engine 24) performed so poorly in its 1974 pump test that it was temporarily replaced by one of the older Pirsch pumpers while its pump was repaired, and then it was sold at auction immediately after it was replaced as a front-line rig in 1975. 

On April 11, 1977, the City of Evanston purchased 21 100-foot lengths and three 50-foot lengths of Duro-lite low-friction five-inch supply hose for the EFD at a cost of $10,990, enough hose for three of the EFD’s five engine companies. The city purchased an additional 18 100-foot lengths and an additional two 50-foot lengths of Duro-lite supply hose at a cost of $11,400, on April 6, 1978, as all five EFD engine companies were now equipped with five-inch supply hose.

The acquisition of the supply hose radically changed firefighting tactics, because engine companies could now lead-out from the hydrant to the fire, instead of from the fire to the hydrant. Eventually the ambulance crew assigned to a fire was responsible for taking the “plug position” and hooking up the supply lime to the hydrant.    

During 1978, the Insurance Service Organization (ISO) conducted an inspection of the Evanston Fire Department. The ISO was formerly known as the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU), and this was the first inspection of the EFD by the ISO / NBFU in almost twenty years. As a result of the inspection, the ISO dropped the EFD’s rating from a class “3” to a class “4” fire department, in part because the EFD’s front-line aggregate pumping capacity had been reduced from 6,000 GPM to 5,250 GPM since 1959.

The Evanston City Council, the city manager, and Chief Ayers collectively freaked out, and plans were immediately made to purchase two new apparatus with minimum 1,250-GPM pumps.

The first rig purchased was a Pirsch Model 88C 1,250-GPM / 750-gallon TCP, acquired at a cost of $76,200. The pumper was a so-called “spec” rig, in that it was manufactured during a slow period when the company was not in receipt of many orders and wanted to keep their workers busy. The problem with a spec pumper is that it is what it is, and the fire department that buys it has no input in the design or specifications. The new Pirsch engine went into service as the new Engine 22 in April 1979, with the former Engine 22 (1970 Pirsch 1000 / 300 TCP) going into reserve, even though it was only nine years old. 

The second rig purchased was a 1,250-GPM / 300-gallon / 100-foot aerial-quint. A quint combines the functions of a pumper and a ladder truck in one vehicle, and the EFD had absolutely no prior experience with quint rigs. Pirsch came in with the low bid, but it was rejected by Chief Ayers because he said it did not meet specifications. Instead the contract was awarded to FWD Truck & Equipment (Seagrave), with Evanston paying the company $185,645 on April 23, 1979, for the quint.

The quint arrived in 1980 and was placed into service as the new Truck 21 at Station #1, with the former Truck 21 (1968 Pirsch 100-foot TDA) being moved to Station # 2 as the new Truck 22 after a diesel engine was installed. The former Truck 22 (the 1952 Pirsch 85-foot TDA that had been extensively refurbished in 1969) was moved to Fire Station #3, where it replaced the 1951 Pirsch 85-foot TDA (ex-T21) as the EFD’s lone reserve truck.

In addition to the new rigs, two new Ford modular MICU ambulances were placed into service as Ambulance 1 and Ambulance 2 in 1980, replacing the 1975 Dodge van ambulance (the original MICU 1) and the ex-Skokie F. D. Cadillac ambulance. The 1976 Chevrolet modular MICU ambulance (the original Ambulance 2) became Ambulance 3 at this time. Ambulance 2 initially was assigned to Station # 2, but by 1981 all three ambulances  were located at Station # 1. Also, a new 1979 Chevrolet station wagon was purchased for the shift commander, and a 1979 Chevrolet van replaced the 1974 Dodge utility van.  

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 74

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE

In January 1976, MICU Co. 1 (AKA “Ambulance 1”) was placed into service at Evanston Fire Station # 1, staffed by a three-man crew — including two paramedics — each shift. The seven firefighters who had been cross-trained as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975 — Roger Bush, Dave Cleland, Jim Dillon, Randy Drott, Jerry McDermott, Jim McLaughlin, and Dave Pettinger — were the first Evanston firefighters assigned to Ambulance 1. ALS gear was donated by the Washington National Insurance Company, one of Evanston’s largest employers at the time. The first Ambulance 1 (fleet # 310) was a 1975 Dodge Type II van ambulance. 

The Evanston Police Department continued to maintain its three stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon patrol ambulances through 1976, backed-up by the EFD’s two 1970 Dodge stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon staff cars that were replaced by Dodge sedans and Honda compact cars in 1977. Whenever possible, a police department station wagon patrol-ambulance or a fire department station-wagon auxiliary-ambulance was dispatched to relieve Ambulance 1 at the scene of any EMS incident where paramedics and the MICU were not needed.

During 1976, five more Evanston firefighters — Joe Hayes, Dave Lopina, Art Miller, Jim Potts, and Bob Wagner — were trained and certified as paramedics, so that by the end of the year, the EFD had a total of twelve certified paramedics. A second MICU — a 1976 Chevrolet Type I modular ambulance with a “box” attached to the chassis (fleet # 314) — was purchased at a cost of $35,000 and was placed in service at Fire Station # 1 in January 1977.

In November 1976, Ambulance 1 was nearly demolished and three firefighters — Jim McLaughlin, Jerry McDermott, and Phil Burns — and a nurse from St. Francis Hospital were injured, when the ambulance in which they were riding en route to a medical emergency on Dewey Avenue was struck broadside by a drunk driver at Church & Ridge, the exact same spot as the crash involving Truck Co. 2 almost exactly 50 years earlier!.

With Ambulance 1 out of service and the second MICU not scheduled to arrive until after the first of the year, the EFD borrowed an old Cadillac ambulance from the Skokie F. D. to run temporarily as Ambulance 1. This 1968 Cadillac ambulance was eventually purchased by Evanston from Skokie and was retained by the EFD even after Ambulance 1 was repaired, becoming the first Ambulance 3.

The new MICU arrived in January 1977 and was designated Ambulance 2. Capt. Bill Best, and firefighters Mike Adam, Miriam Boyle, Ken Dohm, Bob Hayden, Ben Jaremus, Don Kunita, Ernesto Martinez, Mike Whalen, and Don Williams were trained and certified as paramedics during 1977, as the EFD expanded to a force of 114. Capt. Best was the first captain certified as a paramedic.

With its three-man crew, Ambulance 1 had responded to EMS calls in Station # 1’s first-due area by itself without a support engine throughout 1976, but with staffing on the two front-line ambulances cut-back to two in 1977, an engine company was now assigned to all EMS calls as a first-responder and/or manpower company. 

After Ambulance 2 arrived and was placed in service, it was assigned first-due to all EMS calls city-wide, and  because it was not an MICU, the ex-Skokie F. D. Cadillac ambulance responded first-due to fire calls, and to EMS calls only if Ambulance 2 was not available. Even after Ambulance 1 was repaired and returned to  service at Station # 1 in the second quarter of 1977, Ambulance 2 continued to respond first-due to EMS calls, and Ambulance 1 responded first-due to fire calls.

Prior to 1980, EFD paramedics assigned to ambulances routinely worked without any restriction as firefighters at a fire, sometimes assisting a truck company ventilating the roof, or pulling a line and attacking the fire. It was only later that the ambulance crew was prohibited from engaging in fire suppression or assisting with ventilation, although they could assist an engine company hooking up to a hydrant, as long as they were available to provide EMS immediately when needed.

Chief George Beattie retired in January 1976 after 29 years of service, 28-year veteran Assistant Chief Ed Pettinger retired a month later, and Capt. Richard Schumacher and Capt. John Becker were promoted to  assistant chief (platoon commander). Meanwhile, 35-year EFD veteran Assistant Chief Willard Thiel — the EFD’s training officer since 1958 — was appointed acting chief by City Manager Ed Martin while the city manager and city council began a nation-wide search for a new fire chief. Chief Thiel was chosen to be acting chief only because he said he had no interest in becoming chief, and that he would retire as soon as a new chief was named.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 73

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  

On May 1, 1975, the Evanston City Council accepted bids for a new 1,000 / 300 triple-combination pumper, with the exact same specifications as the two Howe pumpers purchased a year earlier. The new pumper would replace the 1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 TCP (Engine 25) that was originally Squad 21 before being rebuilt as a TCP by General Body in 1966. Mack came in with the low bid of $53,725, beating out FWD Seagrave, Pirsch, and several other apparatus manufacturers for the contract. As expected, EFD Chief George Beattie specified that the new Mack pumper be painted “safety yellow,” just like the two Howe pumpers delivered in 1974 and 1975.

In addition, Chief Beattie received a new Plymouth sedan (fleet #301) in 1975 that was painted red instead of “safety yellow,” with the chief’s 1973 Plymouth station wagon transferred to the platoon commanders as the new F-2 after a light bar was installed on the roof replacing the portable “Kojak light.” The former F-2 (1971 Dodge station wagon) was transferred to the Fire Prevention Bureau to be used by the newly-created fire investigation unit (arson squad) that would be staffed each shift by a trained fire investigator, with one of the two FPB captain’s positions eliminated after Capt. Joe Thill retired and was not replaced.  

Also, as part of the contract resulting from the firefighters strike of February 1974, the average work-week for firefighters was reduced from 56 hours to 54 hours, with two new positions created in the EFD in 1975 that increased  total membership from 100 to 102. One fireman would now be assigned each shift to cover for a fireman absent while on a “short day” (formerly known as a “Kelly Day”), with three firemen on each shift covering for vacations and sick leave. As a result, the de facto EFD minimum shift staffing was reduced from 28 to 27, with six three-man companies (the five engine companies plus Truck 22), two four-man companies (Truck 21 and Squad 21), and the shift commander (F-2).     

Eighteen new firefighters were hired in 1974-75, including Samuel Boddie, Art Miller, Bill Betke, Jim Potts, Dave Lopina, Bob Hayden, Mike Adam, Don Gschwind, Thomas Simpson, Joe Hayes, Bob Wagner, Keith Filipowski, Ken Dohm, Tom Kavanagh, Milton Dunbar, Ward Cook, Jim Keaty, and Donald Williams. Also, Fireman James “Guv” Whalen was promoted to captain, firemen Harry Harloff and Ken Perysian retired after 23 years of service, and several other firefighters resigned.  

On Wednesday, May 28, 1975, the Evanston Fire Department responded to a report of a fire in the rear storage yard of the Rust-Oleum Corporation at 2301 Oakton Street. A second alarm was struck immediately upon arrival of the first companies, and a MABAS box was eventually pulled, the first time the EFD had requested a MABAS box since the system was implemented in 1968.

At the peak of the fire, 19 2-1/2-inch hand lines, two deluge nozzles, one multi-versal, one ladder pipe from Truck 22, one street jack, and one deck gun from Squad 21 supplied streams that were played onto the storage yard and nearby exposures, as numerous 55-gallon drums full of paint exploded and were sent hundreds of feet into the air. Evanston police temporarily evacuated some of the residences to the east and north. 

A 200,000-gallon water storage tank located at the southwest corner of Cleveland & Hartrey was supplied by a 24-inch feeder main that extended south from Church Street. The storage tank fed a 1,000-GPM pump owned by Rust-Oleum and operated by their company fire brigade, as well as the standard ten-inch and twelve-inch residential mains in the neighborhood. Engines from the Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Morton Grove, and Winnetka fire departments pumped water from numerous hydrants located to the east and north of the fire, including one hydrant at the dead-end of Cleveland Street at the C&NW RR Mayfair Division tracks 1/4 mile north of Rust-Oleum.

The conflagration was eventually surrounded, drowned, contained, and extinguished, but not before causing $775,000 in damage, making it the fourth highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time. Only the fires at the American Hospital Supply Corporation (October 1963), the Rolled Steel Corporation (January 1970), and Bramson’s clothing store (October 1971) cause greater damage. If nothing else, the Rust-Oleum fire was certainly the most spectacular fire in Evanston’s history!

The next day — May 29, 1975 — the Evanston Fire Department celebrated its centennial. Although May 29, 1875, was the date that the EFD was legally established by ordinance, the actual genesis of the village fire department was January 7, 1873, when the 60-man volunteer Pioneer Fire Company of Evanston was accepted for service by the village board. 

The purpose of the fire department ordinance of May 29, 1875 was not to create a firefighting force. The Pioneer Fire Company — renamed “Pioneer Hose Co. No. 1” in December 1874 when the Holly High-Pressure Waterworks was placed into service — already existed, and had existed for more than two years. Rather, the  real purpose of the ordinance was to legally describe the method by which additional volunteer fire companies could be organized and accepted for service with the village going forward, since by May 1875 the C. J. Gilbert Hose Company was already in the process of being organized, chartered, and trained.

Once the C. J. Gilbert Hose Company was ready to be accepted for service, the ordinance needed to describe the relationship between the two hose companies. They might be rivals, but they could not be competitors. They had to work together for a common purpose. Also, the ordinance legally installed the fire marshal as chief of the fire department, with the two hose companies plus any other companies that might eventually be organized and accepted for service officially and legally under the command and direction of the fire marshal.  

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,