Posts Tagged George Stiles

Evanston to honor anniversary of LODDs

From the City of Evanston website:

The Evanston Fire and Police Departments will hold a remembrance ceremony on Wednesday, July 22, 2 p.m., at Firemen’s Park, to honor the lives of fallen department firefighters William Craig, George Stiles and Marty Leoni.

This year will mark the 110-year and 30-year anniversaries of the line-of-duty deaths of firefighters William Craig and George Stiles, and Marty Leoni, respectively. Firefighters George Stiles and William Craig lost their lives at the Clayton Marks Building fire at 1900 Dempster St. on December 13, 1905. Firefighter/Paramedic Marty Leoni was with the department for four years and was responding to a structure fire at 1927 Jackson Ave. with a report of an infant trapped on the second floor on July 22, 1985. Leoni lost his life that day, and for the second time that century, the Evanston Fire Department experienced and faced what every firefighter and every fire department knows can be a reality, but hope never is.

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber states, “Thirty years ago Firefighter/Paramedic Marty Leoni died tragically in a house fire while searching for a trapped victim. On July 22, we will honor the memory and service of Firefighter/Paramedic Leoni, Firefighter Craig and Firefighter Stiles, who gave the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the citizens of Evanston.”

This ceremony will also acknowledge other firefighters and police officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.

The remembrance ceremony will include:

Assembly of Personnel – 2 p.m.

Presentation of Colors – 2:10 p.m.
EFD/EPD/AFFI Honor Guard

Prayer Service/Moment of Silence – 2:15 p.m.
Chaplain David Jones

Dispatch of Last Alarm – 2:25 p.m. exactly

Remarks – 2:30 p.m.
Fire Chief Greg Klaiber
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl
Captain Mike Adam (retired)

Tolling of the Bell Ceremony – 2:45 p.m.

Stand Down of Colors – 3 p.m.
EFD/EPD/AFFI Honor Guard

Fellowship and Food – 3:10 p.m.

All members of the public are encouraged to attend. Firemen’s Park is located at the corner of Simpson St. and Maple Ave.

For more information, please call/text 847-448-4311. For convenience, residents may simply dial 3-1-1 in Evanston.

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Evanston FIre Department History (more)

More from Phil Stenholm:

December 13, 1905, was the first day on the job for new Evanston fireman George McKimmons. And at the weekly City Council meeting the previous evening, Mayor John Barker had appointed Carl Harrison (company officer of Hose Co. 3) the new Chief Fire Marshal of the Evanston Fire Department, replacing Norman Holmes. Harrison accepted Mayor Barker’s appointment, but, because he did not wish to begin his tenure as Fire Marshal on the “unlucky 13th,” he requested that he not assume his new post until Thursday, December 14th. Thus, Assistant Chief Jack Sweeting would be the acting Chief Fire Marshal for one more day. Little did anyone know that it was to be the darkest day in the history of the Evanston Fire Department.

Located at 1900 Dempster Street, the Mark Manufacturing Company was Evanston’s largest employer in 1905, with a work-force of 1,000. Established in 1901 by Cyrus Mark and his sons, Clayton and Anson, the company (a subsidiary of the Youngstown Steel & Tube Company) manufactured wrought-iron pipe. The company’s plant actually consisted of several different buildings, including the pipe mill, the engine house, a warehouse, and several smaller buildings and sheds.

At 12:50 PM on Wednesday, December 13, 1905, the Evanston Fire Department was notified of a fire at the Mark Manufacturing Company plant. Crude oil leaking from a pipe in the mill’s socket room had ignited, and the 200 employees in the building were safely evacuated. Mark employees battled the blaze with the company’s own fire fighting equipment while the EFD was en route.

Upon arrival at about 1 PM, firemen from Station # 1 (Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1) encountered heavy fire inside the pipe mill. Because the plant was located on the outskirts of town, water-pressure was low, and direct-pressure from hydrants was not effective. The fire was much too large for the chemical-engine to be useful, and the Fire Department’s lone steam fire engine–the 600 GPM ”City of Evanston No. 1”–could supply only two 2-1/2” hose-lines. With few options left, Assistant Chief Sweeting ordered Truck Co. 1 to make entry and attack the fire through the front door on the north side of the building, and Engine Co. 1 to play a second stream through a door at the southeast corner of the building (from a position in the alley between the plant’s pipe mill and engine house). Although firemen on the north side of the pipe mill (Truck Co. 1, led by Lt. Thomas Norman) were driven-back while attempting to make entry (Fireman Thomas Watson was overcome by smoke and gas and had to be rescued by other fire fighters), the crew at the southeast corner of the building (Engine Co. 1, led by acting assistant company officer George Stiles) was able to direct its stream through an open doorway onto the seat of the fire.

At about 1:15 PM, Stiles told one of his men–rookie fire fighter George McKimmons–that the hose-lead was too short, and that he should go out front and pull up the slack. With McKimmons 30 feet away at the north end of the alley, and with Engine Co. 1 pipemen Stiles, Edward Johnson, and William Craig playing their stream through the southeast door of the pipe mill from a location inside of a storage shed adjacent to the alley, an explosion from the interior of the pipe mill caused the south wall to totter. Seeing that the wall was unstable, Stiles yelled for the crew to evacuate.

As Stiles, Craig, and Johnson came around the corner of the alley, a second more-powerful explosion occurred, and the east wall collapsed onto them. Craig, in front of the other two, was buried under the collapsed wall. Johnson, in the middle, was struck by falling debris, but was not buried. Stiles, at the rear of the column, was buried under burning debris.

George McKimmons called to the other firemen working in front, and Assistant Chief Sweeting and Truck Co. 1 (Lt. Norman and fire fighters Jack Eckberg, Walter Hubert, William Ludwig, and Joseph Steigelman), along with Engine Co. 1 teamster George Gushwa, hurried to the rubble with the other hose-line. As their fellow firemen poured water onto them to protect them from the intense heat, Eckberg and McKimmons were able to extricate Craig within five minutes. He was pulled out–alive, but disoriented–and reportedly asked McKimmons, “Where are we going?”

Evanston Police officers W. J. Schultz and John Keane transported Craig to St. Francis Hospital in the police ambulance. While en route, Craig was asked if he was hurt, to which he supposedly replied, “Not much.” However, Craig died shortly after arrival at the hospital.

After rescuing Craig, firemen spent another few minutes extricating Stiles. He was located lying face-down with two large pulley-wheels around his neck, unconscious from a severe head injury. Stiles was transported by other fire fighters (aboard Engine Co. 1’s hose wagon) to St. Francis Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

William Craig, a native of Knoxville, Illinois, was 35 years of age, and had just returned to the Evanston Fire Department the previous summer after spending four years as a dining car conductor on the Illinois Central Railroad. He had originally joined the EFD on January 31, 1901, but left after less than a year. Craig was survived by his wife, child, mother, father, and sister.

George Stiles was 32 years old, and had served nearly five years with the EFD. Like William Craig, Stiles also joined the Fire Department on January 31, 1901. He was to have been promoted to Lieutenant in January 1906. He was survived by his wife of 11 years (Caroline), a nine-year old daughter (Stella), a seven-year old son (Howard), his mother, and a sister.

In addition to the deaths of William Craig and George Stiles, three other Evanston firemen were seriously injured: Thomas Watson suffered burns, bruises, and smoke and gas inhalation, and was reported “critical and near death” upon arrival at St. Francis Hospital; Edward Johnson sustained lacerations to the back of his head and severe bruises to his hands and knees when struck by the wall; and Jack Eckberg suffered burns and bruises while working to extricate Craig and Stiles. Another fireman (Joseph Steigelman) was spared serious injury when he was struck on the helmet by a falling brick. With two firemen dead and three others injured, fire fighting efforts were furthered hampered by freezing temperatures, high winds, and a damaged valve on the steam fire engine. The Chicago Fire Department was summoned, and eventually extinguished what was left of the blaze amidst the rubble and ruins. Superstitious Carl Harrison (The Man Who Would be Fire Marshal) arrived sometime after the wall collapsed, maintaining he was only there as a “spectator.”

The Mark Manufacturing Company sustained $115,000 damage; the pipe mill was destroyed, the engine house was severely damaged, much machinery and stock were lost, and several freight cars located on a railroad siding on the west-side of the plant were heavily-damaged or destroyed. The $115,000 loss was the highest amount recorded in an Evanston fire until Boltwood Intermediate School was destroyed by fire ($308,500 loss) on January 9, 1927. And no more Evanston fire fighters would be killed in action for almost 80 years–until the afternoon of July 22, 1985, when Marty Leoni died after he was trapped on the second floor of a residence following an apparent backdraft explosion at a house fire at 1927 Jackson Ave.

George McKimmons, the rookie fireman whose first day on the job was December 13, 1905, would serve two tours of duty with the Evanston Fire Department, eventually leaving the EFD for good in 1915 to join the Chicago Fire Department. After being promoted to the rank of “Captain,” McKimmons organized CFD Truck Co. 44 at Engine Co. 55’s house at Sheffield & Diversey in 1928. His brother Dan was an Evanston fireman for 31 years, retiring as a Lieutenant in 1943.

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