Posts Tagged Palatine Firefighter Richard “Dick” Freeman

Palatine Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

The Palatine Fire Department will host a brief ceremony Sunday morning to recognize the service and sacrifice of three Palatine volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty fighting a fire 47 years earlier.

On Feb. 23, 1973, volunteer firefighters John Wilson, Richard Freeman and Warren Ahlgrim lost their lives fighting a fire in the Ben Franklin store in downtown Palatine. The early morning fire started in the basement of the store and quickly spread throughout the building. Wilson, Freeman, and Ahlgrim were on the first hose line and died while fighting the fire in the basement of the store.

The memorial ceremony will be held at the Palatine Firefighter’s Memorial at the corner of North Brockway and West Slade streets in the village’s downtown. The Palatine Fire Honor Guard will step off from Station 85 at 39 E. Colfax at about 8:45 a.m. and march to the memorial. The ceremony will begin at about 9 a.m. and include a wreath presentation and ringing of the ceremonial fire bell honoring the three firefighters that paid the ultimate sacrifice 47 years ago.

The ceremony is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.

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Palatine LODD Anniversary

Palatine FD Press Release

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Palatine LODD Anniversary

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Palatine Fire Department history

The Ben Franklin store fire killed three Palatine firefighters. John Tobin photo

John Tobin photo

The Ben Franklin store fire killed three Palatine firefighters. John Tobin photo

John Tobin photo

Excerpts from

When fire broke out at the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store on Feb. 23, 1973, John Tobin was a high school senior who lived about a mile from downtown Palatine.

It was early that morning and his father, Dave, then a second lieutenant with the village’s volunteer fire department, had already left for the scene. So had the assistant chief, who lived across the street. Tobin felt he had no choice but to ditch school. He started running toward the fire. Towering over the fire was Palatine’s 1969, [75-foot Snorkel].

But nothing had prepared him for what he saw that morning. Staring at the scene in shock, Tobin heard one firefighter say three others were trapped in the basement.

In his rush to get to the fire, Tobin had forgotten his camera. He ran home to get it and when he got back to downtown Palatine he saw his father working on the fire outside and knew he was safe.

“It wasn’t until hours later we found out who was in there,” Tobin said. Three firefighters were killed — Warren Ahlgrim, Richard Freeman and John Wilson — after they were trapped in the basement filled with carbon monoxide.

The fire was 43 years ago, and Tobin has never forgotten the emotions of that day and how it changed him.

All these years he could never get the image of [the Snorkel] out of his mind.

Tracking it down became something like an obsession for him. He heard it had been sold to downstate Salem, Illinois, in 1981. In 2003 he stopped in Salem overnight while driving home from a convention. But by then Salem had sold the truck to Pierceton, Indiana. So he paid a visit.

Earlier this year, Pierceton officials were ready to sell the old truck. They called Tobin, who told them the best he could offer was $5,000. They accepted.

“This is my childhood idol of a truck,” Tobin said.

For the past few days Tobin has been hard at work at the Bartlett Fire Department, where the truck is being housed while he buffs the paint, fixes the lights and creates a tribute to Ahlgrim, Freeman, and Wilson.

“It brings back old memories and it honors those firefighters that were killed that day,” Tobin says.

On Tuesday the restored truck was in downtown Palatine, exactly where it had been 43 years ago, as Palatine held its annual memorial service at the Firefighters Memorial at Brockway and Slade streets.
After the memorial service, Tobin plans to keep the truck in a barn on his property in West Dundee.

thanks Dan

The Ben Franklin store fire killed three Palatine firefighters.

The Ben Franklin store fire killed three Palatine firefighters. John Tobin photo

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Palatine Firefighters Memorial Dedication Ceremony

Excerpts from the Daily Herald:

Standing outside in subzero temperatures that kept most suburbanites indoors, Palatine firefighters and community members paid tribute Monday morning to three fallen colleagues on the 42nd anniversary of the day they died battling a massive blaze in the village’s downtown.

On Feb. 23, 1973, volunteer firefighters John Wilson, Richard Freeman and Warren Ahlgrim lost their lives fighting a fire in a Ben Franklin store.

Some of the firefighters who were there with them that day, along with Ahlgrim’s widow, Rose, joined current members of the fire department at the Palatine Firefighters Memorial for a solemn ceremony recognizing their sacrifice.

Members of the Palatine Fire Department Honor Guard presented a wreath at the statue that stands at the memorial in recognition of the firefighters’ service, and performed a bell ceremony honoring Wilson, Freeman and Ahlgrim.

The three volunteer firefighters were on the first hose line battling the 1973 fire in the downtown Ben Franklin store. They died while working to put out the fire in the store’s basement.

thanks Dan

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Palatine FD Memorial


FF Memorial Press Release 2014 Memorial Flyer

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Palatine LODD Anniversary

This from John Tobin from Saturday’s memorial service on the 40th anniversary of the Ben Franklin Store fire in Palatine that claimed the lives of three firefighters.

Ben Franklin fire tribute………The fallen three Feb 23, 1973. 
Very nice to see the friends and family come out to pay their respects…… Plote transporting the precious cargo…….two old war horses reunited after 25 years of being apart……honor guard……PFD rural pumper… of the fallen fire fighters…….the PFD memorial……. yours truly…….
Emotions still run deep after all these years!
Plote Contractor brings old fire truck home

John Tobin photo

Old Seagrave Snorkel on low boy trailer

John Tobin photo

old Seagrave fire engines

John Tobin photo

old Palatine FD Snorkel

John Tobin photo


fire department honor guard

John Tobin photo

Palatine FIre Department

John Tobin photo

old Seagrave engine Palatine Rural FPD

John Tobin photo


family members of heroic firefighters

John Tobin photo

Palatine Firefighter Memorial

John Tobin photo

Elgin Firefighter John Tobin

John Tobin has an article HERE.

Stacey Page Online has an article HERE.


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Palatine LODD Anniversary

Today marks the anniversary of the 1973 fire in Palatine that claimed the lives of three firefighters.

The Daily Herald has an article about the tragic event with photos from John Tobin and a short video with John.

Once the burning Ben Franklin five-and-dime store in downtown Palatine began to breathe in and out — the intensifying pressure preparing to blow out the windows and cave in the roof — that was the unmistakable sign for everyone to pull out.

But word quickly spread among the firemen that three of their brothers were unaware how dangerous the situation had grown.

Volunteer firefighters Warren Ahlgrim, Richard Freeman and John Wilson died in the Feb. 23, 1973, fire, their emptied air packs no match against a seemingly innocuous basement filled with few flames but plenty of carbon monoxide.

“Everyone wanted to save Johnny’s store, and nobody realized what kind of danger they were in,” former Palatine firefighter George Palmer said. “They were good at eating smoke, but had they not had their air packs, they probably would have come out sooner. It was the brave thing to do. But in retrospect, they shouldn’t have gone in.”

The main floor was smokey but clear of flames. Firefighter John Wilson, 40, owned the store and figured the furnace was the likely culprit.

He led Richard “Dick” Freeman, 25, and Warren “Auggie” Ahlgrim, 32, through the building he knew so well. To access the basement, they had to make their way through the long, narrow structure to a set of interior stairs.

Each man was equipped with an air pack. Based on the atmosphere, lung capacity and exertion, their oxygen might last anywhere from about 10 to 20 minutes.

At one point, Wilson came upstairs and got another line from Tobin’s dad, saying the fire was pretty much snuffed. That was the last time anyone saw him alive, as the fire, in fact, had spread.

Tobin and high school classmate Rick Cartwright both had their cameras at the scene and captured gut-wrenching shots of firefighter Howie Freeman working to put out the blaze, and later being held back from trying to rescue his son.

Crews eventually removed the bodies once the structure was safe enough to enter.

“We all stood there silently and respectfully while each of them were loaded into the ambulances,” said Tobin, who recently wrote a book about the fire. “The whole town was affected. I know I’ve never been the same.”

The entire article can be found HERE.

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