Posts Tagged Phil Stenholm

Evanston Fire Department history Part 56

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

 

FAIT ACCOMPLI 

As of 1955, 70% of Evanston’s firefighters had less than ten years’ experience. This compares to only 10% with less than ten years’ experience in 1940. With a younger fire department, advances in medicine, and the prevention and treatment of disease, only two off-duty deaths occurred in the EFD from heart attacks and other illnesses after 1950. Fireman Clarence Wahle (Truck Co. 22) died in 1955, and Captain George Croll (Fire Prevention Bureau) passed away after a lengthy illness in 1960. 

An explosion and fire in a laboratory at the Union Thermoelectric Company at 2001 Greenleaf Street in May 1955 resulted in a $104,000 loss. There were no workers in the lab at the time of the explosion. The fire was knocked-down fairly quickly by firefighters, but there was considerable damage to the company’s valuable equipment. The $104,000 loss was the fifth highest loss from fire in Evanston’s history up to the point in time, behind only the Northwestern University Technological Institute, Boltwood School, Marshall Field & Company warehouse, and Mark Manufacturing Company fires.

Engine Co. 23 and the reserve truck were relocated from Station # 5 to the new Station # 3 and Engine Co. 25 was relocated from Station # 1 to Station # 5 on Saturday, September 3, 1955. Reserve Engine 26 — one of the two 1927 Seagrave Standard 1000-GPM pumpers — was relocated to Station # 5 at this same time. EFD Chief Henry Dorband led a “noisy” parade down Central Street from Station # 5 to Station # 3, followed by a dedication ceremony that featured speeches by the mayor, the city manager, and the two aldermen from the 7th ward. It was the pinnacle of Chief Dorband’s career. 

With Engine Co. 25 relocated to Station # 5, the 11th and 12th men previously assigned to Engine 25 when it was at Station # 1 were transferred to Squad 21. Thus, Engine Co. 25 was now a ten-man company, with five men on each platoon, one man on a Kelly Day every day, four men scheduled to work the shift, and a minimum three-man crew if a man was absent. Conversely, Squad 21 was now a 14-man company, with seven men on each platoon, one man on a Kelly Day every day, one man each shift assigned as the platoon commander’s driver, five men scheduled to ride the squad, and a minimum four-man crew if a man was absent.    

With the opening of the new Station # 3, all insured structures in Evanston were finally within 1-1/2 miles of an engine company and within 2-1/2 miles of a truck company, meeting the NBFU standards of the day. The two intersections furthest from a fire station were Church & Fowler and Foster & Grey, both 1-1/2 miles from the nearest fire station. Both intersections were in the 5th ward and within the square half-mile bounded by Simpson Street on the north, Church Street on the south, the North Shore Channel on the west, and the C&NW RR Mayfair Division tracks on the east, an area that would incur more residential structure fires than any other square half-mile in Evanston over the next thirty years.

Once it was relocated to the new Fire Station # 3, Engine Co. 23 became a combination engine / truck company (what would be called a “jump company” today), manning Engine 23 for fire calls and minor fires in Station # 3’s district, and staffing Truck 23 for fire calls in Station # 5’s district. The company at Station # 3 did not normally respond to alarms south of Emerson Street. Truck Co. 21 was the first-due truck in Station # 1’s and Station # 3’s districts, and Truck Co. 22 was the first due truck in Station # 2’s and Station # 4’s districts. Truck Co. 22 would transfer (change quarters) to Station # 1 whenever Truck 21 was at a working fire.

Four of the five engine company first-due areas changed in September 1955. Engine Co. 22 was still first due east of Asbury and south of Greenleaf, but Engine Co. 21 was now first-due between Greenleaf and Emerson east of Asbury, and between Dempster and Emerson west of Asbury; Engine Co. 23 was first due north of Emerson and east of Dodge up to the canal, and then east of Prairie Avenue up to the Wilmette border; Engine Co. 24 was first-due west of Asbury and south of Dempster; and Engine Co. 25 was first due north of Emerson and west of Dodge up to the canal, and then west of Prairie up to the Wilmette border.

All of the engine companies except Engine 23 had a “second engine” district that was larger than their first-due area. There was still a three engine response to the downtown “high-value district” bounded by Lake – Oak – Clark – Hinman, and a three engine / two truck response to schools during school hours, hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement homes.

Engine Co. 24 would transfer (change quarters) to Station # 1 if Engine 21 was at a working structure fire north of Church Street, and Engine Co. 25 would transfer to Station # 1 if Engine 21 was at a working structure fire south of Church Street. Anytime four engine companies were out of service at the same time, the remaining engine company would immediately transfer to Station # 1, if it wasn’t already there. If Engine Co. 23 was the last remaining engine company in service, it would man the engine and transfer to Station # 1, and leave the truck behind at Station # 3.  

Squad 21 (typically with a five-man crew, or a minimum of four men if a member was absent) responded to all fire calls, inhalator calls, and specialized rescues city-wide. Squad 21 was equipped with four military-type searchlights, an inhalator, a portable gas-powered generator, fans, power tools, portable floodlights, salvage covers, two portable turret nozzles, pry bars, axes, sledge-hammers, and an oxygen-acetylene cutting torch, as well as a 100-gallon booster tank and hose-reel. The rig also had a 1000-GPM pump, but it did not have a hose bed and carried no hose load. 

F-2 (the platoon commander and his driver) responded to all fire calls and other significant incidents, and was the back-up inhalator unit. F-1 (Chief Dorband and his driver) responded to working fires and other major incidents, and if the chief was on duty, he could cover an alarm if F-2 was unavailable. F-3 (Fire Prevention Bureau Assistant Chief William Murphy) investigated explosions and any fire of suspicious origin, as well as all major fires. One firefighter was assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau during business hours as Chief Murphy’s administrative assistant and fire code enforcement inspector.   

Squad 22 (the 1924 Seagrave high pressure turret / hose truck) was kept in ready-reserve at Fire Station #1, and could be manned and driven to a fire if requested by a chief officer. Also, the two reserve 1927 Seagrave pumpers – Engine 26 at Station # 5 and Engine 27 at Station # 4 – were fully-equipped, and could be staffed by off-duty personnel and be temporarily placed into service to cover the city in the event of a major fire. In addition, one reserve inhalator was kept at Station # 1 and another was kept at the Evanston Police station, in the event that both Squad 21 and F-2 were unavailable to respond to an inhalator call. 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 55

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

 

ALMOST DONE

All three of Evanston’s new fire stations were completed and placed into service during 1955; Station # 5 at 2830 Cental Street on January 25th, Station # 2 at 702 Madison Street on March 12th, and Station # 3 at 1105 Central Street on September 3rd.

While waiting for its new quarters to be completed, Engine Co. 23 and the reserve truck were temporarily relocated from Fire Station # 3 on Green Bay Road to the new Station # 5 in northwest Evanston, as Station # 3 was closed on January 25th. It its final days as a working firehouse, the aging apparatus floor was supported from below by wooden beams that were set-up temporarily in the basement. Because Engine Co. 23 needed to move out of Station # 3 ASAP, Engine Co. 25 remained at Station # 1 for most of 1955, and did not relocate from Station # 1 to Station # 5 until the new Station # 3 was completed in September. 

Chief Dorband, the Fire Prevention Bureau, and Truck Co. 22 were relocated from Station # 1 to the new Station # 2 on Madison Street on March 12th, and the two assistant chiefs assigned as platoon commanders at Station # 1 were relieved of company officer responsibilities and were provided with a Chevrolet station-wagon (known as “F-2”) and a driver at this time. As such, the platoon commanders were now akin to a Chicago F. D. battalion chief. Chief Dorband only responded to working fires. If he was off-duty, his driver based at Station # 2 would pick him up at his residence at 1424 Wesley Avenue and drive him to the fire.

The Evanston Fire Department was increased from 88 men to 100 on April 1, 1955, as Peter Erpelding, David Henderson, Roger Lecey, Roger Schumacher, Joseph Burton, Patrick Morrison, Robert Pritza, Richard Ruske, Donald Searles, Frank Sherry Jr, and Richard Zrazik were hired, and Edward Pettinger returned from a leave of absence. Firemen James Wheeler and William Windelborn were promoted to captain, replacing the two platoon commanders as company officers.   

Squad 21 continued to respond to all inhalator calls and special rescues, but beginning on April 1st, it also responded to ALL fire calls – not just working structure fires — city-wide with a four-man crew, or at least three-men if a man was absent. Squad 21 did not have a company officer, so the platoon fire equipment mechanic was normally in charge of the crew. In 1956, Squad 21 responded to more than 400 calls, which was 25% more than the busiest engine company (Engine Co. 24)!   

While the rig had a 1000-GPM pump, a 100-gallon water tank, and a booster hose reel mounted atop its body, Squad 21 did not have a hose bed or standard hose load, so it could not run as an engine company. However, it could respond to a minor fire in a pinch, or initiate a limited fire-attack with its booster after arriving at a structure fire if no engine company was on the scene.

Engine Co. 21, Truck Co. 21, Engine Co. 25, Squad 21, Engine Co. 22, and Truck Co. 22, were twelve-man companies, with six men assigned to each platoon, and Engine Co. 23, and Engine Co. 24 were ten-man companies, with five men assigned to each platoon. However, the driver for the platoon commander (F-2) was assigned administratively to Squad 21, and the driver for the Chief Fire Marshal (F-1) was assigned administratively to Engine Co. 22, so Squad 21 and Engine Co. 22 actually had one less man available each shift than the other twelve-man companies.  

One man each shift was on a Kelly Day, so the actual company staffing each shift was five men on Engine Co. 21, Truck Co. 21, Engine Co. 25, Squad 21 (including F-2 driver), Engine Co. 22 (including F-1 driver), and Truck Co. 22, or four men if the company was running a man short, and the actual company staffing each shift on Engine Co. 23 and Engine Co. 24 was four men, or three men if the company was running a man short. The truck company always took the extra man from the engine company if the truck company was down a man but the engine company at that station was at full-strength. 

There was a platoon commander assigned to each shift, and in addition, one man each shift was assigned as the driver and radio operator for the platoon commander (F-2), and one man each shift was assigned as the driver and administrative assistant for the chief (F-1). The buggy-drivers were also the EFD’s photographers. Also, one man was assigned as a fire prevention inspector and administrative assistant to the FPB chief (F-3). 
 
As of April 1, 1955, the maximum aggregate shift staffing in the Evanston Fire Department was 39 if all companies were at full strength, and the absolute minimum staffing was 31 if all companies were running a man short at the same time. Companies typically ran at full-strength November – March when vacations were not permitted, and then would sometimes run a man short in the spring, summer, and early autumn, when vacations were permitted, and when overtime comp days accrued during the winter months could be spent.  

The 39-man maximum / 31-man minimum restored EFD shift staffing to the years 1933-42, back before the first Kelly Days were implemented. Along with acquiring new apparatus and constructing new fire stations, restoring shift staffing to pre-World War II levels had been one of the three main goals of Chief Dorband’s modernization plan.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 54

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

BEST LAID PLANS

The second part of Chief Dorband’s modernization plan was implemented after the second bond issue passed in April 1953, setting the stage for three new fire stations to be constructed at a combined cost of $775,000 during 1954-55. 

In its most-recent inspection of the EFD in 1935, the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) had recommended that Truck Co. 2 be relocated from Station # 1 to a new Station # 2 in South Evanston that would have space for an aerial-ladder truck, establishment of a third truck company in a new Station # 3 in North Evanston that would have space for an aerial-ladder truck, and the relocation of Engine Co. 5 from Station # 1 to a proposed fifth fire station to be built in the area of Grant & Central Park in northwest Evanston. Chief Dorband followed the NBFU recommendations to the letter when planning the new fire stations.

The new Station # 2 was built as a two-story three-bay “headquarters” station with space for a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck and EFD administrative offices, on the southwest corner of Madison & Custer, one block west of the old Station # 2. The former Station # 2 at 750 Chicago Avenue was sold to a private party and converted into an automobile dealership, before becoming a restaurant about twenty years later.

The new one-story three-bay Station # 3, with one bay long enough to eventually house a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck, was constructed on a vacant lot owned by the Metropolitan Sanitary District and leased to the City of Evanston on the east-side of the North Shore Channel, a block west of Evanston Hospital and a mile from the Northwestern University campus, at the northeast corner of Central Street and what had been Cooper Avenue pre-canal construction in 1908, about a mile east of the old Station # 3. The former Station # 3 at 2504 Green Bay Road was sold and converted into a photography studio.

However, the construction of Fire Station # 5 would prove to be a bit more complicated.

Chief Dorband’s modernization plan called for Station # 5 to be built on top of what used to be Bennett Avenue, between Perkins Woods and Lincolnwood Elementary School. The portion of Bennett Avenue that ran between Grant and Colfax streets had been closed when Perkins Woods was established as a Cook County Forest Preserve in the 1920’s, but the right-of-way was still owned by the city. Station # 5’s first-due area would include all of northwest Evanston, plus a large chunk of the 5th Ward, including the area north of Church Street and west of the C&NW RR Mayfair Division freight tracks.

Planned as a long and narrow one-story one-bay residential-style firehouse set-back several hundred feet from the street, the single apparatus bay would be located on the south-side of the facility, with driveway access onto Grant Street. The living quarters would feature a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a bunk-room, a bathroom with a shower, a captain’s office, a large storage room, and a watch-desk with a radio and a telephone, separated into two sections by a long hallway. The parking area and front door would be accessed from the Colfax Street side. The station would carry a street address of 2700 Colfax St.

However, the Lincolnwood School PTA objected to the proposed site, arguing that a fire station located that close to the school would pose a danger to the children if the fire engine was responding to an emergency call while the children were coming to or going home from school. The city council agreed, but Chief Dorband was furious, pointing out that the aldermen had readily approved construction of the new Fire Station # 1 on Lake Street in 1949, even though it was located just a half-block from St. Mary’s School.

With the Perkins Woods site taken off the table, a city playground-park at the northeast corner of Simpson & Bennett (now known as Porter Park) was presented by Chief Dorband as the next-best alternative, especially since the lot was already owned by the city, and was located even closer to the 5th ward than Grant & Bennett. However, citizens living in the area objected to the idea of replacing their park with a fire station. Also, the site was located nearly two miles from some areas within the “High Ridge” neighborhood northwest of Crawford & Gross Point Road.

Getting desperate, the city council next focused on a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Central Park Avenue and the south alley of Central Street that was for sale at a reasonable price, and with a footprint just large enough for a Chicago FD-style, two-story, one-bay firehouse. However, Northminster Presbyterian Church leaders objected to the Central Park Avenue site, because they said having a fire station on their block would potentially disrupt Sunday morning church services, Wednesday evening prayer meetings, and choir practice

With a voter mandate to build a new fire station in northwest Evanston and possessing the funds needed to construct it, but with seemingly no place to put it, the city council reluctantly purchased a lot costing $25,000 in a business district on the south side of Central Street at Reese Avenue. The lot cost more than what the aldermen wanted to spend, but the footprint was large enough for a two-bay firehouse. While the Central Street site was a half-mile further away from the 5th ward than the Perkins Woods site would have been, it was well-suited to provide fire protection to northwest Evanston, all the way up to Crawford & Old Glenview Road.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 53

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

THE FIREMAN

The civil service rank of lieutenant was eliminated from the EFD in 1954, as the position was now called “captain II,” while the former rank of captain was now called “captain I.” The captain II position had a slightly higher salary than lieutenant, and a lieutenant would need to have served at least one year in the position before he could be promoted to captain II. A captain II would be automatically elevated to captain I after one year.

Five of the seven EFD lieutenants – Leonard Bach, Herb Claussen, George “Bud” Hofstetter, George Jasper, and Willard Thiel — were promoted to captain II immediately, but because they had been promoted to lieutenant on January 1, 1954, and had less than one year experience as a lieutenant, Lt. Harry Schaeffer Jr and Lt. Richard Schumacher had to wait until January 1, 1955, to receive their promotions to captain II. Therefore, Harry Schaeffer Jr and Richard Schumacher were the last EFD lieutenants. All future promotions would be directly from fireman I to captain II.

The Evanston Fire Department battled two significant “storefront” fires in 1953-54.

The first was at the Suburban Surgical Supply Company store at 604 Davis Street, on March 2, 1953. Because the fire was in the downtown “high-value district,” the initial response was three engine companies and one truck company. A second alarm brought in a fourth engine company, a second truck company, and Squad 21. Firefighters confined the flames to the structure of origin. However, the store was gutted, and the damage estimate was a hefty $100,000, tying this fire with the Tapecoat (1951) and Evanston Country Club (1922) fires for the fifth-highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.

The second fire occurred in September 1954, at the A & P supermarket at 2106 Central Street in North Evanston. Engine Co. 23 was first on scene, and encountered a light haze of smoke in the interior of the store. The second engine company and the truck company arrived and followed Engine Co. 23 into the store. While the companies were probing for the origin of the smoke, the ceiling partially collapsed.

Everybody got out alive, but Capt. Ron Ford, Capt. Herb Claussen, and firemen Arnold Windle, Dave Tesnow, and Ted Bierchen were injured and transported to local hospitals. A second alarm and a call-back of the off-duty platoon were ordered, with the off-duty platoon called-back mainly to replace the injured men. While the fire wasn’t necessarily spectacular, the A & P did sustain an estimated $70,000 loss from fire, smoke, and water damage, not to mention a narrow escape for Evanston firefighters.

Released in October 1954 and now legally in the public domain, the Evanston Fire Department starred in an Encyclopedia Britannica educational short film produced under the auspices of renowned educator Dr. Ernest Horn of the University of Iowa. Called simply “The Fireman,” the plot was somewhat similar to the one in the classic 1903 Edwin S. Porter silent film melodrama “The Life of an American Fireman,” and it featured a number of Evanston firefighters and some of the new Pirsch rigs in action. The film didn’t win an Academy Award, but it was shown in schools around the country.

SYNOPSIS (SPOILER ALERT!):

Rookie fireman “Tom Briggs” (not his real name, but if his real first name is Tom and he is in fact a rookie completing his first year on the job, then it has to be Tom Kostopoulos) arrives for work at Station # 1 and stands morning inspection with his fellow firefighters. Chief “Jim” Dorband (actually it’s EFD Chief Henry Dorband) is satisfied and dismisses the men. Fireman Tom is assigned as tillerman on one of the aerial-ladder trucks by duty officer “Captain Drake” (not his real name, but it would appear to be platoon drillmaster and Engine 25 Capt. Ed Fahrbach).

Under the supervision of Captain Drake and Chief Dorband, Fireman Tom and the other men participate in a training drill, where Tom and another man climb Truck 21’s aerial-ladder to the roof of the fire station and demonstrate how the the hose roller works, another fireman pretends to be overcome from smoke and is carried down a ladder and “resuscitated” by use of an inhalator, and another jumps into a life net from atop the drill tower.

Training over, the exhausted men relax in the station, but only briefly. A voice over a speaker in the firehouse suddenly announces “Alarm! – Third & Main… Alarm! – Third & Main.” Firefighters put on their game faces, slide down the pole to the first floor, and the Pirsch rigs roll out of Station # 1, headed west on Lake Street, with the men probably wondering, “Where the heck is Third & Main?”

After making several right turns, we see Truck 21 going southbound on Hinman Avenue, but then F-1 (Chief Dorband) and the Pirsch parade somehow end up at 2160 Isabella Street, on the Evanston / Wilmette border! Smoke can be seen wafting from the residence, and firefighters waste no time and go right to work, as Engine 21 and Engine 25 lead-out. One of the pumpers hooks-up to the hydrant at the southwest corner of Isabella & Green Bay Road, while Truck 22’s main is extended to the roof in the rear of the structure.

Long story short, Fireman Tom and Captain Drake wearing SCBA run into the house, little Judy’s kitten is rescued, the fire is extinguished, the companies pick-up, and the men return to quarters. The End.

The Evanston Fire Department rarely missed an opportunity back in the day to have firefighters hone their skills by drilling at a house about to be demolished, and that would appear to have been the case in this film. The ground on which the house was located would soon become part of a grocery store parking lot.

Encyclopedia Britannica released another educational short film called “The Policeman” in November 1954. With interior scenes shot inside the Evanston police station and exterior scenes filmed in Highland Park, “The Policeman” follows HPPD “Officer Barnes” and his partner in Car 91 on the mean streets of Highland Park, recovering an abandoned stolen bicycle, writing a traffic ticket, and finding a missing child. Officer Barnes is presented as a regular human being in the film, eating breakfast with his wife and kids prior to leaving for work, and then returning home to his family after the completion of his shift.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 52

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

 

PROTO-MABAS

After Squad 21 was placed into service in September 1952, manpower assignments were switched around slightly at Station  # 1. The two extra men formerly assigned each shift to the two downtown “high-value district” companies – Engine 25 and Truck  21 – were moved to Squad 21, as the squad responded with a two-man crew to all inhalator calls (about 100 per year in the 1950’s), replacing Engine 21 as the city-wide inhalator squad, and thus keeping Engine 21 available for fires. Additional inhalators were kept in ready-reserve at Station # 1 and could be loaded onto any EFD vehicle in case Squad 21 was not available.

Squad 21 did not respond only to inhalator calls. With four mounted searchlights, a portable gas-powered generator, power tools, smoke-ejector fans, portable floodlights, extra salvage covers, two portable turret nozzles, a backboard, a Stokes basket, a large supply of rope, rappelling gear, and an oxygen-acetylene cutting torch on-board, Squad 21 also responded to all working structure fires, rescue calls, and any other incident that required the many specialized tools carried aboard the rig.

As a result of placing Squad 21 into service with a two-man crew, each of the engine and truck companies at Station # 1 now operated with a maximum five man-crew each shift, although each company could “run short” with a four-man crew if one of the company’s men was absent due to vacation, illness, or injury. With Squad 21 always staffed by two men, and with a chief’s driver always on duty, the maximum daily staffing at Station #1 each shift remained 23 men, although it could be as few as 19 if all four companies at Station # 1 were running a man short.

The engine companies at the other three fire stations continued to operate as they had since the additional Kelly Day was added in 1948, with a four-man crew scheduled each shift, although each of the companies could run with a three-man crew if a man was absent due to vacation, illness, or injury. This resulted in an aggregate maximum daily shift staffing at the four fire stations of 35 men if no firefighters were absent, and an absolute minimum of 28 if all seven companies were to run one-man short at the same time. Because Evanston firefighters were not permitted to take vacations or use overtime comp days November through March, it was not uncommon for a shift to be operating at maximum strength or near-maximum strength on any given winter day. Conversely, it was not uncommon for several companies or sometimes even all seven companies to be operating a man short on any given day in the spring, summer, and early fall.    

Annual salaries in the EFD in 1953 ranged from $7,200 (Chief Fire Marshal) to $5,484 (Assistant Chief Fire Marshal) to $5,100 (Captain) to $4,770 (Lieutenant) to $4,620 (both for Mechanic and Administrative Assistant) to $4,332 (Fireman I) to $4,272 (Fireman II) to $4,200 (Fireman III) to $4,080 (Fireman Recruit).

During 1953, Capt. Lincoln Dickinson (Engine Co. 23) retired after twenty years of service, and Lt. Knud Hanson (Truck Co. 22) retired after 26 years of service. Back when he was rookie firefighter, Capt. Dickinson was one of the three members of the EFD who were laid-off on January 1, 1933, so his twenty years of service was spread over two separate tours. The three Evanston firefighters who were laid-off during the Great Depression did not receive credit toward retirement while laid-off. 

To fill the void left by the departure of Capt. Dickinson and Lt. Hanson, Lt. Erv Lindeman was promoted to captain and assigned as company officer of Engine Co. 24, Capt. Ronald Ford was transferred from Engine Co. 24 to Engine Co. 23, and firemen Harry Schaeffer Jr and Richard Schumacher were promoted to lieutenant in January 1954. Lt. Schumacher was the first Evanston firefighter hired after World War II to be promoted. Both Lt. Schaeffer and Lt. Schumacher would eventually retire as assistant chiefs.

After the plethora of retirements in the 1940’s, only seven Evanston firefighters who were not officers retired in the 1950’s, including firemen John Lee (26 years of service), Bernard Lindberg (26 years), John Linster (26 years), and William Schreiber (22 years) in 1950, Francis Williams (24 years) in 1951, John Kabel (20 years) in 1953, and Charles Bammesberger (28 years) in 1955. Fireman Kabel was one of the men laid-off on January 1, 1933, so like Capt. Dickinson, his career was interrupted, and so his service was spread over two separate tours. 

Patterned after the Chicago Fire Department’s box alarm card system, the Mutual-Aid Box Alarm System (or “MABAS”) was created in 1968 to provide the fire departments of northern Illinois with a systematic pre-planned mutual-aid response to fires, medical emergencies, special rescues, etc,   

Although it wasn’t formally established until 15 years later, the origin of one of the MABAS divisions can perhaps be found in July 1953, when a number of North Shore fire departments that would eventually form MABAS Division 3, including Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, Northbrook, Highland Park, and the Glenview Naval Air Station, participated in a day-long joint training exercise held under the auspices of the Northeastern Illinois Fire Chiefs Association at New Trier High School in Winnetka. The need for the joint training exercise was noted after several local fire departments responded into the Village of Wilmette on November 28, 1952, assisting the Wilmette F. D. in battling a large fire at St. Augustine’s Episcopal church at 1122 Oak Ave. Fire departments provided mutual-aid to each other long before there was a MABAS, but it tended to be somewhat disorganized and at times a bit chaotic, and that was apparently the case at the St. Augustine’s church fire.

The 1953 joint training exercise gave the participating north suburban fire departments an opportunity to practice working together at a complex incident. Chief Henry Dorband, both platoons of Engine Co. 23 manning Engine 23 and Truck 23, Engine Co. 25 manning both Engine 25 and Squad 22, Truck Co. 22 , and Squad 21 represented the Evanston Fire Department at the exercise, with Engine Co. 25 commanded by platoon drillmaster Capt. Ed Fahrbach, and with Truck Co. 22 led by platoon commander Assistant Chief Michael Garrity. Recently promoted Assistant Chief William Murphy — commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau — stayed behind in Evanston and served as acting platoon commander, with Engine Co. 21, Engine Co. 22, Engine Co. 24, and Truck Co. 21 covering the city while the other companies were in Winnetka. 

 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 51

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

 

ONE MAN’S TRASH IS ANOTHER MAN’S FIRE

The first major fire to occur during the Dorband administration was at the Tapecoat Company chemical plant at 1521 Lyons Street, on a frigid day in January 1951. Located on a dead-end street in the 5th ward, just east of the C&NW RR Mayfair Division freight tracks, Tapecoat manufactured high-strength tape and chemical coatings used to seal commercial pipeline connections. Fire departments didn’t think much about hazardous materials in 1951, but if the Tapecoat fire occurred today, it might require a HazMat response.
 
Evanston firefighters contained the blaze, but not before an estimated $100,000 damage to the structure and its contents. The $100,000 loss was one of the top five highest-dollar losses from a fire in Evanston’s history up to that point in time, with only the fires at the N. U. Technological Institute (December 1940), Boltwood School (January 1927), the Marshall Field warehouse (December 1948), and the Mark Manufacturing Company plant (December 1905) sustaining greater dollar losses. Of course the Mark fire was many times worse than the others, because two Evanston firemen lost their lives battling that blaze.      

In the summer of 1952, one of the platoon drillmasters and a handful of new recruits manned the EFD’s soon-to-be scrapped 1917 / 1930 Seagrave Suburbanite 500 / 50 TCP (Engine No. 6) one last time for old time’s sake, as the venerable engine pumped for two days straight and delivered thousands of gallons of water onto a stubborn, smelly, stinking, smoldering fire located deep within the bowels of the city dump at 2100 Oakton St. The dump would be re-developed as a landfill recreation area known as James Park in 1965, featuring a picnic area, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and the famous “Mount Trashmore.”  

With a virtual flotilla of new Pirsch rigs — Truck 21 (1951 Pirsch 85-foot TDA), Truck 22 (1952 Pirsch 85-foot TDA), Engine 21 (1952 Pirsch 1000 / 80 TCP), Engine 25 (1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 TCP), and Squad 21 (1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 combination pumper – rescue squad) — running out of Fire Station # 1 beginning in September 1952, the former Engine No. 1 – the 1949 Seagrave Model J-66 1000 / 80 TCP — was relocated to Station # 2, where it became Engine 22.

The two 1937 Seagrave Model G-80 750 / 80 TCPs remained in front-line service in the same places they had been located previously, but with a new 20-series prefix number assigned, such that Engine No. 3 was now Engine 23 at Station # 3, and Engine No. 4 was now Engine 24 at Station # 4.

The 1937 Seagrave 65-foot aerial ladder truck with 80-gallon booster that ran as Truck No. 2 at Station # 1 for 15 years was designated Truck 23, relocated to Station # 3, and placed into ready-reserve, meaning it could be staffed by Engine Co. 23 if a third truck was needed. In fact, you might say Engine Co. 23 was the EFD’s first “jump company”! The dilapidated 1917 Seagrave city service truck — Truck No. 1 1917-24, Truck No. 2 1924-37, placed into reserve as Truck No. 3 in 1938, and assigned briefly to the Evanston Auxiliary Fire Service 1942-44 — was stripped of usable parts and junked. 

The two 1927 Seagrave Standard 1000 / 50 TCPs that had been Engine No. 2 and Engine No. 5 for 25 years were placed into reserve, with old No. 2 becoming Engine 26 at Station # 2 (rig was moved to the new Station # 5 in 1955), and old No. 5 relocating to Station # 4, where it was designated Engine 27. The 1927 Seagrave pumpers were not equipped with radios. The 1917 / 1930 Seagrave Suburbanite 500 / 50 TCP (Engine No. 6) that had been the EFD’s lone spare pumper since 1938 was decommissioned and dismantled at this time.   

The 1924 Seagrave tractor formerly used to pull the old 85-foot aerial-ladder trailer (Truck No.1 1924-51) was retained and rebuilt as a Chicago F. D.-style high-pressure wagon, equipped with a mounted fireboat-type deluge nozzle, and with large-diameter hose carried aboard the rig’s pumper body / hose-bed that had been salvaged from the 1917 / 1930 Seagrave Suburbanite TCP after it was dismantled.

The high-pressure wagon was designated Squad 22 and placed into ready-reserve at Station # 1, where it was available to be driven to a working fire if requested. It was normally parked in the repair shop bay, and in addition to being a high-pressure wagon, it was used by EFD mechanics as a utility truck. Like the two 1927 Seagrave pumpers, Squad 22 was not equipped with a radio.

Also, 6,000 feet of new fire hose was purchased in 1951-52, including 4,000 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose for the front-line pumpers, and 2,000 feet of larger-diameter hose used to supply deluge and master stream nozzles. .

Other equipment added to the EFD’s inventory at this time included four powerful factory-installed searchlights mounted atop Squad 21 that could be used to provide lighting at night-time fires, two portable deluge nozzles and an oxygen-acetylene cutting torch carried aboard Squad 21, and several sets of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) that replaced the old-fashioned canister-type gas masks that had been used by firefighters for many years. The SCBA however were assigned only to the two truck companies at Station # 1.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 50

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

 

KSC732 IS ON THE AIR! 

At a cost of $13,000, two-way FM radios were purchased and placed into Evanston fire stations and on-board most EFD vehicles in June 1952. Paid for with funds from the 1951 bond issue, the new radio system initially had some problems with “bleed-over” interference from a local taxi cab company, but the problem was soon resolved by Motorola engineers assigned to the project.

The 20-series prefix was first used by the Evanston Fire Department after the radios were installed,in 1952, to help lessen confusion with other fire departments that were sharing the same radio frequency at that time, as well as other fire departments that might be added at a later date. 

Thus Engine 1 became Engine 21, Truck 2 became Truck 22, Engine 5 became Engine 25, etc. The new combination pumper / rescue squad was designated “Squad 21,” and EFD Chief Henry Dorband used the radio call-sign “F-1,” the same call-sign he had been using on the Evanston Police radio frequency since he got his new two-way radio-equipped Mercury automobile 1951.

The Evanston Fire Department ended up on the same radio frequency as the Wilmette, Winnetka, Northfield, Glencoe, and Highland Park fire departments. While radio repeaters were used on the Chicago Fire Department’s Main and Englewood radio frequencies, they were not employed on the radio frequencies used by north suburban fire departments, so sometimes a radio transmission from one of the fire departments on the frequency might inadvertently interfere with the radio transmission of another fire department on that same frequency.

The Evanston Police Department’s base-station radio-transmitter received the FCC-assigned call-sign KSA580 when it was placed into service in 1951, and the Evanston Fire Department’s base-station radio-transmitter received the FCC-assigned call-sign KSC732 when it was placed into service in 1952.

The base-station radio-transmitter at Station # 1 was known as “KSC732 – the desk,” or simply “732 – the desk.” The radio-transmitter at Station # 2 was KSC733, the radio-transmitter at Station # 3 was KSC734, and the radio-transmitter at Station # 4 was KSC735. The radio-transmitter at Fire Station # 5 received the FCC-assigned call-sign KSD841 when the station opened in 1955.

The EFD’s radio system was tested twice a day, once at 0800 hours, and then again at 2000 hours, with each station having to acknowledge receipt of the test by stating its FCC-assigned call-sign. A radio test could be delayed if one or more companies were en route to a call, or even canceled if a major incident was in  progress. 

Each EFD company officer was responsible for keeping track of the current status of all of the other companies of the same type (engine or truck). For example, the officer of Engine Co. 24 would need to know whether or not Engine Co. 23 was in service or out of service, because it could change Engine Co. 24’s first-due or second-engine response area. Company officers would have to acknowledge over the radio whenever another company’s status changed. If acknowledging from a fire station, the station’s FCC-assigned call-sign — or sometimes just the last three numbers of the call-sign — was used.

Both the police and fire department base radio consoles were initially located in a room on the second floor / south side of the police station, in close proximity to the stairway that led from the police station to Fire Station # 1. The radio consoles were later relocated to a room on the first floor / northeast side of the police station, next to the police complaint desk and on the far opposite side from Station # 1.  

Both the police and fire department radios were operated by civilian communication operators who were under the supervision of a police sergeant. Technically, half of a communication operator’s salary was paid by the police department, and half was paid by the fire department. Prior to 1975, communication operators were exclusively male, and in some cases were retired police officers or retired firefighters. Multi-tasking, speaking clearly, and having a good memory was useful. Typing skill was absolutely NOT a requirement.

All fire calls, inhalator calls, and details were broadcast over the EFD radio, with communication operators usually announcing fire and inhalator calls, automatic alarms, car fires, trash fires, etc, and a firefighter at the desk at Station # 1 typically announcing a non-emergency engine or truck company detail, such as a residential lock-out, a gas-wash, or an odor investigation.

A four-second long horn-type alert-tone was broadcast immediately prior to announcing a fire call, inhalator call, or detail, as well as for the twice-daily radio test. This horn tone was unique to the EFD and was activated by pushing a button similar to a doorbell. It couldn’t be stopped once it was started, and it covered all voice transmissions that might be in progress. There were only two activation buttons for the horn, one located in the Evanston Police radio room, and the other at the desk at Fire Station # 1. 

The communication operator did not assign EFD companies to a call. Rather, the communication operator would simply announce the call-type and location twice, and then state the time and the EFD’s radio call-sign. Then the radio system would turn into a party-line conference call. Companies that were due to respond were expected to acknowledge receipt of the call over the radio, and it was up to the platoon commander to make sure that the proper companies had acknowledged and were responding.

This somewhat arcane aboriginal dispatch procedure that dated back to 1952 was not changed until 1982!

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 49

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

THE MODERNIZATION PLAN

Chief Hofstetter was succeeded in office by 52-year old Henry Dorband, a 31-year veteran of the EFD who had been the company officer of Truck Co. 1 and a platoon commander since being promoted to assistant chief fire marshal in 1948. Capt. Michael Garrity was promoted to assistant chief fire marshal when Dorband was appointed chief, joining Assistant Chief Jim Geishecker as one of the EFD’s two platoon commanders.

Deceased Assistant Chief J. E. Mersch was initially replaced as commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau by Capt. John Schmidt in 1951, followed by Capt. William Murphy in 1952 after Capt. Schmidt retired to take a position with the Federal Civil Defense Administration.

Thus, the leadership of the Evanston Fire Department was transformed and invigorated virtually overnight. Chiefs Dorband, Geishecker, and Garrity joined the EFD during the years 1918-20, so they weren’t exactly rookies. They had been waiting a long time — more than 30 years each! — for a chance to make their mark.

In addition to the new chiefs and the changing of the guard in the Fire Prevention Bureau, Lt. Jim Mersch, Lt. Lincoln Dickinson, Lt. Ronald Ford, and Lt. Lester Breitzman were promoted to captain in the years 1950-52, with Capt. Mersch assigned to Engine Co. 1, Capt. Breitzman to Engine Co. 2, Capt. Dickinson to Engine Co. 3, and Capt. Ford to Engine Co. 4, and with Capt. Ed Fahrbach moving from Engine Co. 4 to Engine Co. 5 after 27-year veteran Capt. Frank Sherry retired in 1951.

While Assistant Chief Geishecker and Assistant Chief Garrity worked opposite platoons and served as truck company officers at Station #1 in addition to their platoon commander responsibilities, the two captains who served as company officers of the two engine companies at Station # 1 – Jim Mersch with Engine Co. 1 and Ed Fahrbach with Engine Co. 5 – were the EFD’s senior captains, working opposite platoons and serving as drillmasters, in addition to their company officer responsibilities.

In addition to the deaths of Chief Hofstetter and Assistant Chief Mersch in 1950, the retirements of Capt Sherry in 1951 and Captain Schmidt in 1952, and the various promotions to chief, assistant chief, and captain that soon followed, Lt. William Rohrer retired in 1950 after 27 years of service, Lt. Charles Novak (24 years of service) retired in 1951, and Lt. Fred Schumacher (25 years of service) retired in 1952.

Ed Burczak joined Francis “Marvin” Hofstetter as one of the EFD’s two fire equipment mechanics in 1950, and to replace the promoted and retired lieutenants, firemen Leonard Bach, Herb Claussen, Knud Hanson, George “Bud” Hofstetter, George Jasper, Erv Lindeman, and Willard Thiel were promoted to lieutenant during 1951-52.

Very soon after he was appointed chief fire marshal, Henry Dorband unveiled an ambitious “Fire Department Modernization Plan” that was designed to implement all of the remaining unmet recommendations from the 1935 NFBU inspection, and meet the current and future needs of the Evanston Fire Department.

A $160,000 bond issue to pay for new equipment and apparatus was passed by Evanston voters in April 1951 (88% of the voters approved), and a second $775,000 bond issue to pay for three new fire stations passed by a much smaller margin (60% approval) in April 1953. The two bond issues totaled $935,000, and did indeed lead to the modernization of the EFD.

The first of the two bond issues enabled the City of Evanston to purchase five new pieces of firefighting apparatus from Peter Pirsch & Sons of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Included in the purchase — with a total price-tag of about $135,000 — were two tractor-drawn 85-foot aerial-ladder trucks, two 1000-GPM triple-combination pumpers, and one 1000-GPM combination pumper / rescue squad. To secure the contract, Pirsch had to outbid (underbid) Seagrave and American LaFrance for the ladder trucks, and Mack for the pumpers and the rescue squad.

The TDA that had been purchased from Pirsch in 1950 and delivered in 1951 (the new Truck No. 1) was retroactively incorporated into the bond issue as one of the two tractor-drawn aerial-ladder trucks, with the $35,000 appropriation returned to the city treasury. In addition, a new chief’s automobile – a 1951 Mercury sedan equipped with an Evanston Police FM two-way radio — was purchased with funds from the bond issue.

Chief Dorband assigned all five of the new Pirsch rigs to Station # 1 when they were placed into service in September 1952, and ordered them to be parked outside whenever possible, so that Evanston voters could drive-by the firehouse and see the city’s brand-new modern fire apparatus with their own eyes. The five Pirsch rigs would remain together at Station # 1 until 1955.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 48

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

THE END OF AN ERA

Lt. John Schmidt returned from Germany in 1949 and was promoted to captain, after Lt. William Owens was promoted to captain and then almost immediately retired after 20 years of service. Also, Lt. Ed Fahrbach was promoted to captain and assigned as company officer of Engine Co. 4, with Irish-born Capt. Michael Garrity using his seniority to effect a transfer from Station # 4 in what was then the back-water hinterlands of southwest Evanston to Station # 3 on Green Bay Road in North Evanston, which unlike Station # 4, was close to both bus and rail transportation. Fireman Charles Novak was promoted to lieutenant at about this same time.

By 1950, Evanston’s population had grown to 73,641, a 20% increase over the population of 1930. The population increase can be mostly-attributed to the post-World War II “baby boom,” as well as to the residential development of both southwest and northwest Evanston. The Evanston Fire Department, however, had not kept pace with the changing times. Despite the invigoration of “new blood” — 50 new firemen, mostly all veterans of WWII, had been hired during the years 1946-49 — the leaders of the EFD were old, sick, and tired. However, change was in the wind.

Following a lengthy illness, EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter died on September 24, 1950, at the age of 70, after 49-1/2 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department, including the last 36+ years as Chief Fire Marshal. Though very ill in the weeks prior to his death, Chief Hofstetter still hoped to retire from the EFD on his Golden Anniversary in March 1951. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it that far.

Then just 17 days after the death of Chief Hofstetter, 67-year old 1st Assistant Chief Fire Marshal J. E. Mersch died after suffering a heart attack behind the wheel of his staff car while leading the annual Fire Prevention Week parade up Orrington Avenue. Chief Mersch had served 45 years with the Evanston Fire Department, and was the first Fire Prevention Inspector, serving in that capacity for 22 years after suffering a disabling leg injury in a traffic collision in September 1927. He helped to establish the Fire Prevention Bureau in 1929, and then single-handedly ran it right up until the moment of his death.

The deaths of Chief Hofstetter and Assistant Chief Mersch came just two years after two other long-time chief officers — 46-year veteran Assistant Chief Tom McEnery and 38-year veteran Assistant Chief Carl Windelborn — had retired. The four veteran chiefs had served a combined 178 years with the EFD, an average of more than 44 years per man!

The last major fire to occur during the Hofstetter regime was one that gutted the North Shore Flour Supply Company warehouse at 709 Chicago Ave in April 1950. With the structure located just a couple of hundred feet from Station # 2, Engine Co. 2 was on the scene in about a minute, immediately taking the hydrant next-door to the south, leading out, and attacking the fire through the front door.

Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1 assisted Engine Co. 2, with truckmen laddering the roof and ventilating, while pipemen from Engine Co. 1 grabbed a second line off Engine 2 and followed Engine Co. 2 into the interior. However, Truck Co. 1 was unable to adequately ventilate the reinforced roof, and so the two engine companies working inside had to back-out to avoid being overcome by heat and smoke.

Engine Co. 4, Engine Co. 5, and Truck Co. 2 responded on a second alarm, with Engine Co. 3 changing quarters to Station # 1. The off-duty platoon was called-in to staff the reserve engine at Station # 4 and the reserve truck at Station # 3, and to provide relief for firefighters working at the fire, Nearby Station # 2 was used as a staging area for men from the opposite platoon while they waited for assignments, and as a temporary rest & recovery area for firefighters after being relieved. The blaze was eventually extinguished, but not before a $70,000 loss to the building and its contents.

A few days after the fire, the assistant chiefs who served as the company officers of Truck Co. 1 and Truck Co. 2 scheduled remedial training for members of the two truck companies on the subject of “proper vertical ventilation.” During the course of the training, worsening weathering damage to the aging wooden aerial-ladder on Truck No. 1 was noted. The truck’s ground ladders had been replaced in 1938, but the aerial-ladder, trailer, and tractor were 25-years old.

With Chief Hofstetter on extended medical leave, Assistant Chief Henry Dorband (company officer of Truck Co. 1) was dispatched to meet with Evanston’s mayor and aldermen to explain the problem with the aerial-ladder, and to offer possible solutions:

1. Replace the wooden aerial-ladder with a metal aerial-ladder (estimated cost: $15,000);
2. Replace both the aerial-ladder and the trailer (estimated cost: $25,000);
3. Replace the tractor, trailer, and aerial-ladder (estimated cost: $35,000).

The city council opted for choice # 3, and the city advertised for bids to supply a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck, with specifications that included an 85-foot metal aerial ladder, water-proof equipment compartments on the trailer, and a canopy cab with additional rear-facing bench seating for four behind the cab. 

In what was something of a surprise, Peter Pirsch & Sons of Kenosha, Wisconsin, came in with the low-bid and was awarded the contract. With an estimated delivery date of August 1951, the EFD’s new TDA would be the first fire apparatus purchased by the City of Evanston from a manufacturer not named Seagrave since 1911.

Over the years, Evanston had been one of Seagrave’s best customers, spending upwards of $135,000 between 1917-49 to purchase a total of eight pumpers, three ladder trucks, and a tractor, plus major repairs to damaged rigs in 1927 and 1928, and a rebuild of one of the 1917 pumpers in 1930. However, by 1950 Seagrave was inundated with post-war apparatus orders that sometimes resulted in delivery dates as long as two years, and it was losing bids it would have won in the past. 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 47

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

A NEW POLICE / FIRE HQ AND ANOTHER SUDDEN DEATH

A new Seagrave Model J-66 canopy cab 1000-GPM / 80-gallon TCP equipped with a Pierce-Arrow V-12 engine for maximum power, and a Mars FL-8 light on the roof, two high-mounted red flashers, a Delco-Remy Twin-Blast siren, and a bell as warning devices, was placed into service at Fire Station # 1 as the new Engine No. 1 in January 1949, and what had been Engine No. 1 – one of the two 1937 Seagrave Model G-80 canopy cab 750-GPM / 80-gallon pumpers – was transferred to Station # 4, where it became the new Engine No. 4.

Engine Co. 1 continued to respond as the second engine to all structure fires and to inhalator calls city-wide, with Engine Co. 5 remaining the dedicated “high-value district” engine company. Also, the 1917 / 1930 Seagrave Suburbanite 500 GPM / 50-gallon TCP that had been running as Engine No. 4 since June 1947 was placed back into reserve at this time, as the EFD once again had both a pumper (Engine No. 6) and the city service ladder truck (Truck No. 3) in reserve. 

Also beginning in January 1949, the Evanston Fire Department no longer provided fire protection to the College Hill section of the Village of Skokie, as the Skokie Fire Department opened its long-awaited east-side Station # 2 at 8340 Hamlin Ave. The new Skokie F.D. Station # 2 was staffed mostly by full-time firefighters, operating with a brand-new 1948 American LaFrance Model 710 PJO 1000-GPM TCP. Together with its Station # 1 at 8031 Floral Avenue in downtown Skokie that was staffed mostly by full-time firefighters operating with a 1937 Pirsch 750-GPM / 60-foot aerial quad and a 1926 Ahrens-Fox 1000 GPM TCP, the Skokie Fire Department was fast becoming a significant north suburban fire department in the post-war years. 

At this point in time, the Wilmette Fire Department was partly full-time but still mostly part-time. and it was  located in a combined police / fire station built in 1915 at 831 Green Bay Road. Front-line apparatus in Wilmette’s two-bay fire station consisted of a 1942 Seagrave Model G-80 750 GPM TCP and a 1943 Seagrave Model J-66 750-GPM quad, with a 1915 American-LaFrance Model 75 750-GPM TCP in ready-reserve.   

The Winnetka Fire Department was located in a very unusual three-bay firehouse at Green Bay Road & Ash Street. The structure was built originally in 1870 as the Academy Hall school, and then it was extensively remodeled and transformed into a fire station in 1925. Like the Wilmette Fire Department, the Winnetka F. D. was partly full-time but mostly part-time in 1949, with a 1947 American-LaFrance Model 775 PGC 750-GPM TCP and a 1926 American-LaFrance Type 14 750-GPM quad in front-line service, and a 1919 American-LaFrance Type 75 750-GPM TCP in ready-reserve.

Built in 1897, the Evanston Police / Fire headquarters at Grove & Sherman was essentially condemned in 1948 due to rampant plumbing problems in the basement cell-block of the police station, and serious structural cracks in the apparatus floor of the fire station. There was also a potential fire hazard related to decomposing 19th century electrical wiring insulation buried deep inside the walls that would have required gutting the interior of the building to replace.

A new two-story Evanston Police / Fire Public Safety headquarters was constructed at the northwest corner of Lake & Elmwood during 1949, and opened for business on August 27th of that year. The old headquarters at Grove & Sherman was torn down almost immediately after the police and fire departments vacated the facility, and the lot was filled-in and leveled and used for more than 25 years as a parking lot for the Valencia theater. An 18-story high-rise office building known as One American Plaza was constructed on the site during 1975-77.

While about 20% larger than its predecessor, the new Public Safety headquarters mirrored the configuration and orientation of the old one. The Evanston Police Department occupied the east side of the facility with an address of 1454 Elmwood Avenue, and the six-bay Fire Station # 1 was located on the west side of the complex at 909 Lake Street.

A brick drill tower was built into the rear of the fire station, replacing the EFD’s old drill tower that had been constructed behind Station # 3 in 1925. The west bay was separated by a brick wall from the rest of the station, and served as the EFD‘s repair shop. The two bays located closest to the repair shop were longer than the other three bays and could easily accommodate aerial-ladder apparatus, with room to spare.

A small two-bay garage for the police ambulance and the prisoner wagon was located on the far northeast corner of the structure facing onto Elmwood Avenue, just a few steps from the EPD’s front desk, where police officers were on duty at all times and available to staff the ambulance when needed. The structure also included a basement parking garage that was used mainly by the police department for vehicle storage, and a basement handball court that was available to both Evanston police officers and firefighters.    

On September 20, 1949, EFD Capt. Ed Hanrahan (Engine Co. 1) suffered a fatal heart attack while playing handball in the basement handball court, less than a month after the station opened. Capt. Hanrahan suffered from what is known today as morbid obesity, and playing handball was part of his diet and exercise weight-reduction regimen. A 22-year veteran of the EFD, Hanrahan had served as one of Chief Hofstetter’s buggy drivers prior to being promoted to lieutenant in 1945, and was said to be one of the most popular men in the department.

Capt. Hanrahan was only 44 years old at the time of his death. He was also the fifth EFD officer age 50 or  younger to die suddenly of a heart attack since 1929, the other four being 39-year old Lt. Walt Boekenhauer (Engine Co. 4) while on vacation in July 1929, 41-year old Lt. Frank Didier (Engine Co. 2) while off-duty in September 1931, 50-year old Lt. Carl Dorband (Engine Co. 3) while sitting in front of Fire Station # 3 in May 1942, and 43-year old Lt. William Elliott (Truck Co. 1) while on his day off in January 1945.  

 

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