Posts Tagged Phil Stenholm

Evanston Fire Department history

This from Phil Stenholm:

The original Evanston firehouse (1873-83) was located at the Evanston Village Hall at the southwest corner of Church & Sherman. The two volunteer hose companies (Pioneer Hose Co. No.1 & the C. J. Gilbert Hose Co.) and the volunteer H&L Co. (Evanston Hook & Ladder Co.) shared this space.

The two volunteer hose companies disbanded by mass resignation in a dispute with the village board over equipment in 1881, and the volunteer H&L Co. was disbanded in 1883.

A new part-time/paid 12-man Evanston Fire Co. (operating a four-wheel hose wagon, the Babcock chemical-engine, and a Davenport H&L) was organized in 1883 by new Fire Chief Sam Harrison (ex-C. J. Gilbert Hose Co. foreman) in a former paint shop (frame construction) located at the northwest corner of Sherman Avenue & the north alley of Davis Street. The building featured a stable, and the EFD acquired its first horses at this time. (Apparatus had formerly been hand-pulled).

The Evanston Fire Department relocated to the new city hall at the northwest corner of Davis & Sherman in 1893, but was there only four years. (Several members of the city council objected to the pungent odor of the fire department’s horses emanating through the building during city council meetings).

So in 1897 the Evanston Fire Dept & Evanston Police Dept were relocated from city hall to a new police/fire facility built just for them at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman (present site of a high-rise office building). The address of the fire station (Station #1) was 807 Grove Street, while the police station had a Sherman Avenue address. The firehouse had four bays, and there was a fifth bay just to the east of the firehouse that housed the Evanston Police ambulance. (The police department provided ambulance service in Evanston until 1976).

Evanston firefighters worked a 112-hour work-week (24 hours on/12 hours off) 1901-1920, until the 84-hour work-week two-platoon system (24 hours on / 24 hours off with two weeks annual paid vacation) was implemented in 1920, and the EFD operated with two-platoons (with some adjustments for extra days off that reduced the work-week to 73-1/3 hours in 1942 and to 67-1/2 hours in 1948) until April 1957, when the 56-hour work-week and three-platoon system with three weeks annual paid vacation was established.

Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1 were located at Station #1 for many years before Truck Co. 2 (not to be confused with the Truck Co. 2 that later became Engine Co. 2 at Station #2) was organized at Station #1 in September 1924 (Truck Co. 1 responded to alarms east of Asbury Avenue, and Truck Co. 2 responded to alarms west of Asbury Avenue). Note: Truck Co. 1 operated with a 1924 Seagrave 85-ft TDA 1924-51, and Truck Co. 2 operated with the old Truck 1 (1917 Seagrave city-service truck) 1924-37, and then with a 1937 Seagrave 65-ft service aerial-ladder truck 1937-52.

As of September 1924, Engine Co. 1 operated with a 1917 Seagrave 750 GPM triple-combination pumper, Engine Co. 2 operated as a two-piece company (a so-called “tractorized-steamer” consisting of a 1906 American LaFrance 700-GPM steamer pulled by a 1918 Seagrave two-axle tractor as one piece and a 1917 Seagrave 300-GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper as the other), and Engine Co. 3 operated with the other 1917 Seagrave 300 GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper (the twin of Hose 2).

After the Boltwood School fire in January 1927, Evanston voters passed a bond issue that authorized Evanston Fire Department membership to be increased from 61 to 84 and two new engine companies (Engine Co. 4 at a new west-side fire station and Engine Co. 5 at Station #1) to be organized, the purchase of two new pumpers (twin 1927 Seagrave Standard 1000-GPM triple-combination pumpers that were assigned to Engine Co. 2 and Engine Co. 5, with Engine 2 later becoming playground equipent at Firemen’s Park at Simpson & Maple), construction of a Fire Station #4 (originally recommended by the NBFU to be built at Dempster & Dodge and to house the new Engine Co. 4 and Truck Co. 2, it ended-up a half-mile further south at 1817 Washington Street with just Engine Co. 4), and the creation of a Fire Prevention Bureau with a full-time inspector (building inspections and fire code enforcement had previously been conducted by the truck companies).

Engine Co. 4 and Engine Co. 5 were organized in November 1927, with Engine Co. 5 (operating one of the new 1000-GPM pumpers) first-due to the downtown Evanston “high-value district” and with Engine Co. 1 (operating with the 1917 Seagrave 750-GPM pumper until 1938, then with a 1937 Seagrave 750-GPM triple-combination pumper) now the city-wide “second engine” and inhalator company (the EFD’s inhalator had formerly been transported to rescue calls in the Evanston police ambulance, with two police station officers and a firefighter from Engine Co. 1 on-board).

So Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 5, Truck Co. 1, and Truck Co. 2 (known as Engine Co. 21 , Engine Co. 25, Truck Co. 21, and Truck Co. 22 after radios were installed in 1952) as well as Squad 21 (a two-man pumper-squad equipped with the EFD’s inhalator and placed into service in 1952) were located at Station #1 until 1955, when the construction of three new fire stations was completed, at which point Truck Co. 22 was relocated to the rebuilt/relocated Fire Station #2 at Madison & Custer and Engine Co. 25 relocated to the new Fire Station #5 in northwest Evanston. (Note: In the 1950’s, the EFD averaged about 100 inhalator calls per year — about two per week — and Squad 21 responded city-wide to inhalator calls until inhalators were assigned to the five engine companies in 1959).

The Evanston Fire Department had 82 members as of November 1927, with 41 firefighters assigned to each of the two platoons (seven firefighters assigned to Truck Co. 1 of which one was assigned as the Chief’s buggy-driver), six men assigned each to Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 2, Engine Co. 5, and Truck Co. 2, and five men assigned each to Engine Co. 3 and Engine Co. 4). A company could run one man short per shift, so minimum shift staffing was 34 (if every company ran one man short).

Six positions were cut from the EFD in January 1933 during the Great Depression, as Engine companies 1, 2, and 5 were reduced from six-man companies to five-man companies (with a minimum four firefighters on duty per shift if the company ran short).

Four of the six positions cut in 1933 were restored in 1942, but this was in response to the work-week for firefighters being reduced (by state law) from 73-1/2 hours to 67-1/2 hours by way of a “Kelly Day” (firefighters getting an extra day off every eight shifts). Note: During WWII, the only way to give pay raises was by giving workers more days off because of wage & price controls).

Even though four firefighter positions were restored in 1942, the overall effect (because of the Kelly Days) was to reduce maximum / minimum staffing of companies (Truck Co. 1 six-man maximum firefighters per shift and five-man minimum per shift of which one was assigned as the chief’s buggy-driver, five max / four min on Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 2, Engine Co. 5, and Truck Co. 2, and four max / three min on Engine Co. 3 and Engine Co. 4, with an aggregate minimum shift staffing of 28 (if all companies ran one-man short).

Then in 1948 Evanston Fire Department membership was increased from 82 to 88, but again this was only to allow for further reduction of the work-week (to 67-1/2 hours) by way of increasing the frequency of Kelly Days (now one extra day off after every four days worked). So even though the EFD membership was increased from 82 to 88, the maximum / minimum staffing was further decreased (33 max / 26 min), with minimum staffing on the four companies at Station #1 (Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 5, Truck Co. 1, and Truck Co. 2) now four-man each per company per shift (plus the Chief’s buggy-driver), and minimum staffing on Engine Co. 2, Engine Co. 3, and Engine Co. 4 now three men each per shift. (The 4th man assigned to Engine Co. 1 and Engine Co. 5 were assigned to Squad 21 beginning in 1952).

Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 5, Truck Co. 1, and Truck Co. 2 (known as Engine Co. 21 , Engine Co. 25, Truck Co. 21, and Truck Co. 22 after radios were installed in 1952) as well as Squad 21 (a two-man pumper-squad equipped with the EFD’s inhalator and placed into service in 1952) were located at Station #1 until 1955, when three new fire stations were completed. (Note: In the 1950’s, the EFD averaged about 100 inhalator calls per year — about two per week — and Squad 21 responded city-wide to inhalator calls until inhalators were assigned to the five engine companies in 1959).

The original Evanston Fire Station #2 was the former South Evanston Village Hall, acquired when the Village of South Evanston was annexed by the Village of Evanston (forming the new City of Evanston) in 1892.

The South Evanston Village Hall was a combination village hall/police station/jail/firehouse (with just one small apparatus bay located on the far south-end). The Evanston Police Dept. operated a South Precinct at this facility from 1892 until 1897 (when all P. D. functions were centralized at the new HQ at Grove & Sherman).

So by 1897 the Evanston Fire Department was the only occupant left in a multi-purpose building where the fire department had been the least of concern, with a three-man hose company operating a two-wheeled horse-drawn hose cart.

The original Station #2 (which was only 15 years old at the time) was demolished in 1903 and replaced with a more-useful three-bay firehouse (the one that is now a restaurant) built on the same site. It was at this point that a Seagrave combination truck (chemical engine & H&L) was purchased for the company at Station #2 (as it became known as Truck Co. 2), with a six-man crew operating the combination truck and a four-wheeled hose cart. (A steamer was placed into service at Station #2 in 1911, as the company was expanded to nine-men and Truck Co. 2 became Engine Co. 2).

The EFD abandoned this facility in March 1955, moving Engine Co. 22 to the new Station #2 at 702 Madison Street (with Truck Co. 22 moving to Station #2 from Station #1, as the new Station #2 had space for a TDA). The Evanston Fire Department’s headquarters (Administation & Fire Prevention Bureau) was also relocated to the new Fire Station #2 at this time.

The original Fire Station #3 opened at 2504 West Railroad Avenue (name changed to Green Bay Road in 1937) on January 31, 1901. It was initially assigned a three-man crew (Hose Co. 3) operating a four-wheeled hose cart (replaced by the former Truck 1 H&L that was fitted with a hose box in 1907 as the company became Truck Co. 3). A steamer was moved to Station #3 in 1912 as the company was increased to nine men and re-designated Engine Co. 3, and the EFD remained there until the house was abandoned in January 1955. The building is now home to a photographer’s studio.

So by 1912 there were three engine companies n service with the Evanston Fire Department (one engine company at each of the three fire stations) and one truck company (at Station #1).

Engine Co. 23 (and the reserve truck that was also located there) relocated initially to the new Fire Station #5 at 2830 Central Street in January 1955, and then Engine Co. 23 moved to the new Station #3 in at 1105 Central Street in September 1955, as Truck Co. 23 (operating Truck Co. 2’s former rig, the 1937 Seagrave 65-ft aerial truck) was organized at the new Station #3. Note: The EFD was increased from 88 to 100 when Truck Co. 23 was organized, which increased max / min staffing per company to four (max) and thee (min), plus two men assigned to Squad 21, the shift commander and a buggy-driver assigned to a station wagon (F-2) at Station #1, and the chief’s buggy-driver at Station #2, for a total minimum staffing of 29 men per shift if all companies ran one man short or a maximum of 37 men per shift (if no firefighters were absent) .

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 southwest Evanston and the High Ridge area of northwest Evanston. The Evanston Fire Department, however, had not kept pace with the changing times. Despite the addition of “new blood” (50 new firefighters–mostly veterans of WWII–had been hired during the years 1946-50), the leaders of the EFD were old and tired. But change was in the wind.

Albert Hofstetter died in September 1950 at the age of 70 after serving 36 years as chief (a regime that spanned World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, the onset of the Cold War, and the start of the Korean War), and he was succeeded in office by Henry Dorband (a 31-year veteran of the EFD). Then just two weeks after the death of Chief Hofstetter, Assistant Chief John E. Mersch (a 44-year veteran of the EFD) died after suffering a heart attack behind the wheel of his staff car while leading the Fire Prevention Week parade up Orrington Avenue. Chief Mersch was the EFD’s 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 was initially replaced as Fire Prevention Inspector by Capt. John Schmidt in 1951, followed by Capt. William Murphy in 1952.

The deaths of Chief Hofstetter and Assistant Chief Mersch came just two years after two other long-time assistant chiefs (Tom McEnery and Carl Windelborn) had retired. The four veteran chiefs had served a combined 180 years with the EFD, an average of 45 years per man! Thus, the leadership of the Evanston Fire Department was transformed virtually overnight. The new chiefs (Henry Dorband, James Geishecker, and Michael Garrity) joined the EFD during the years 1918-20, so they had been waiting a long time (more than 30 years each!) for a chance to make their mark. The EFD would remain in the hands of this new group of leaders for nearly 15 years.

Very soon after he was appointed Chief Dorband introduced an ambitious “Fire Department Modernization Plan” that was designed to meet the current and future needs of the EFD. 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 (totaling $935,000) did (indeed) lead to the “modernization” of the EFD:

1. Five new pieces of fire fighting apparatus were purchased 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. The Pirsch rigs that were placed into service in 1951-52 were the first non-Seagrave apparatus acquired by the EFD since 1911. To secure the contract, Pirsch had to outbid (or “underbid”) American LaFrance and Seagrave for the ladder trucks, and Mack for the pumpers and the rescue squad. Also, the tractor formerly used to pull the old Seagrave aerial-ladder was rebuilt as a Chicago F. D.-style “high-pressure wagon,” equipped with a mounted deluge nozzle and large-diameter fireboat hose. Other new and innovative equipment added to the EFD’s inventory at this time included SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus), replacing the old-fashioned canister-type gas masks that had been used for many years;

2. At a cost of $13,000, two-way FM radios were purchased and placed into EFD fire stations and apparatus. The new radio system initially had some problems with “bleed-over” interference from a local taxi cab company, but the problem was eventually resolved by engineers assigned to the project. (The “20-series” prefix was first used by EFD units after the radios were installed in 1952, to lessen confusion with other fire departments sharing the same radio frequency). The EFD’s base station radio received the FCC-assigned call-sign “KSC 732”;

3. 6,000 feet of new fire hose was purchased (4,000 feet of 2-1/2 inch line, plus 2,000 feet of larger-diameter 3-inch line used to supply deluge and master stream nozzles);

4. Three new fire stations (built at a cost of $775,000) were constructed during 1954-55 Station # 2 was rebuilt as a two-story three-bay “headquarters” station at 702 Madison Street (with space for a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck); Station # 3 was relocated to a lot owned by the Metropolitan Sanitary District at 1105 Central Street in northeast Evanston (near Evanston Hospital), where it was rebuilt as a one-story three-bay firehouse; and a brand-new one-story two-bay (with heated floors!) Station # 5 was constructed in northwest Evanston. (Station # 5 was originally supposed to have been constructed on the north side of Grant Street, just east of Perkins Woods. However, the Lincolnwood School PTA objected to the plan, arguing that a fire station located adjacent to the school would pose a danger to the children. As a result, Station # 5 was built on a more-expensive lot in a commercial district at 2830 Central Street). All three of the new stations were completed and placed into service during 1955 (Station # 5 on January 25th, Station # 2 on March 12th, and Station # 3 on September 3rd). While waiting for its new quarters to be completed, Engine Co. 23 temporarily ran out of Station # 5 for about seven months.

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). The Civil Service rank of “Lieutenant” (assistant company officer) was eliminated from the EFD in 1954, as the civil service position of “Lieutenant” was now called “Captain II.” (The civil service rank of “Captain” was now called “Captain I”). In 1955, the Assistant Chief Fire Marshals assigned as Platoon Commanders were relieved of company officer responsibilities. (Previously, the two Platoon Commanders were company officers of Truck Co. 21 and Truck Co. 22, respectively). A station-wagon known as “F-2” was used by the on-duty platoon commander (assistant chief). One firefighter from each platoon was assigned as the platoon commander’s buggy driver.

As of 1955, 70% of Evanston’s firefighters had less than ten years’ experience. This compares to 10% with less than ten years’ experience in 1940. With a younger fire department and advances in medicine and the prevention and treatment of disease, fewer off-duty deaths occurred from heart attacks and other illnesses after 1950.

The Fire Department Modernization Plan proposed by Chief Dorband in 1951 and the passage of bond issues in 1951 & 1953 had led to the purchase of new apparatus from Pirsch (the two TDAs, two pumpers, and the squad), equipment (breathing apparatus for the truck companies, new hose for the engines, and radios for the rigs), expansion of the firefighting force from 88 to 100, and construction of three new fire stations (rebuilt/relocated Station #2 with space for a TDA, rebuilt/relocated Station #3 with space for a TDA, and the brand-new Station #5, each completed in 1955).

With the completion of the rebuilt Fire Station #2 (built as a headquarters station around the corner from the old Station #2), the relocated Fire Station #3 at 1105 Central Street (built as a one-story, three-bay firehouse 3/4-mile to the east of the old two-story, two-bay Station #3 at 2504 Green Bay Road), and the new Fire Station #5 at 2830 Central Street in northwest Evanston, the EFD had (at last) essentially met the recommendations offered by the National Board of Fire Underwriters back during the Great Depression in 1935 (although the NBFU had recommended that Station #5 be built at Grant & Bennett, about 1/2-mile further south than where it ended up).

So 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, but in 1984 city council staff floated a plan to replace the city’s five fire stations with three new ones.

On April 1, 1957, a 56-hour work-week (mandated by a new state law) was implemented for Evanston firefighters. Three platoons (instead of two) would now be needed to staff the EFD. 31 or 32 men were assigned to each of the three platoons, with a minimum of 29 men on duty per shift at all times. If a shift was operating at “minimum” (because of absences due to vacations and/or illness), seven of the eight companies (all five engine companies and two of the three truck companies) could run (if necessary) with three men. Only Truck Co. 21 (because it was the “first-due” truck company to the downtown “high-value district”) was required to be staffed at all times with four men.

For the first year of the 56-hour work-week, Evanston firemen worked a schedule of two 10-hour shifts (8 AM to 6 PM), followed by two 14-hour shifts (6 PM to 8 AM), followed by two days off. Beginning in 1958, the “10-10-14-14” schedule was replaced with the “24-48” schedule (24 hours on duty, followed by 48 hours off duty) that still remains in effect today. Each fireman would also now receive a three-week annual paid vacation. There was no accompanying increase in the fire fighting force as the 56-hour work-week was implemented, however, so a “Police-Fire Cooperative Plan” was concocted by the City Manager to cross-train police officers as “auxiliary fire fighters.”

Cross-trained Evanston police officers would patrol in three station-wagon ambulances (known as “Car 31,” “Car 32,” and “Car 33”), responding to inhalator calls, ambulance runs, and fires in addition to their crime-fighting duties. Chief Dorband hated the plan so much he refused to implement it, so he was replaced by James Geishecker (a 38-year veteran of the EFD) on March 31, 1958. (And you can be sure Chief Geishecker DID implement the plan!). Chief Geishecker suffered a disabling stroke in late 1963, which led to his retirement in February 1964 after 44 years of service with the EFD.

After the city council declined to purchase a new ladder truck for Station #3, Truck Co. 23 (operating with a 25-year old Seagrave 65-ft service aerial truck) was disbanded on January 1, 1963, with its personnel used to organize Squad Co. 21 at Station #1 (SQD21 was previously only staffed when needed), but otherwise things were fairly constant until the mid-1970’s.

The concept of the paramedic was introduced in the Korean War, but was perfected in Viet Nam. Paramedics (who were not doctors, but rather highly-trained Army and Air Force medics and Navy corpsman) were able to provide much of the same type of treatment on the battlefield that formerly would have only been available at a field hospital. As the paramedic concept was brought home to the U.S. during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the NBC-TV series Emergency! provided the American public with a weekly glimpse into the world of Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics, helping to spread the idea across the nation.

In the Chicago area, fire departments with a tradition of providing ambulance service were the first to train paramedics and place Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances into service, some as early as 1973. The Niles Fire Department (which had provided free ambulance service to its residents since 1946) established a paramedic program in 1973, and the Chicago Fire Department (which had 33 ambulances in service as of July 1970) placed their first two paramedic-staffed Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances into service in 1974. Five additional MICUs were soon added to the Chicago F. D. fleet, followed by 52 more over the next several years. The Skokie Fire Department placed two MICUs staffed with paramedic firefighters into service (replacing their two Cadillac ambulances) in 1975.

In Evanston, a demonstrator MICU (minus the drugs and the specialized ALS gear only paramedics would be certified to use) was borrowed from the State of Illinois Department of Public Health during the Summer of 1974, and was tested over a 60-day period by the EFD. Although the fire department was testing the ambulance, Evanston Mayor Jim Staples wanted police officers (NOT firefighters) to be the paramedics, and the police epartment (NOT the fire department) to operate the MICUs! Police Chief William McHugh, however, did not want any part of the new Emergency Medical Service (EMS). Crime was on the rise, and the Evanston P. D. was hard-pressed enough to provide rudimentary “throw-and-go”-style ambulance service, without having to commit personnel and resources to a sophisticated new program. So over the objections of Mayor Staples, the Evanston City Council gave the medical transport (ambulance) duties formerly assigned to the police department, as well as the new Emergency Medical Service program, to the fire department.

Seven firefighters (Roger Bush, Dave Cleland, Jim Dillon, Randy Drott, Jerry McDermott, Jim McLaughlin, and Dave Pettinger) were trained and certified as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975. Although it had never provided front-line ambulance service, the Evanston Fire Department was no stranger to the world of rescue. The EFD had been responding to inhalator (emergency resuscitation) calls since 1913!

In January 1976, MICU Ambulance 1 (a modified Dodge van) was placed in service at Fire Station # 1, staffed by one three-man crew (including two paramedics) each shift. The seven firefighters who had been cross-trained as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975 were among the personnel assigned to Ambulance 1 that first year. ALS gear was donated by the Washington National Insurance Company, one of Evanston’s largest employers at the time.

After Ambulance 1 was placed into service, the Evanston Police Department continued to maintain its three stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon patrol cars for one more year, backed-up by the EFD’s three stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon staff cars. A police department station wagon patrol-ambulance or a fire department station-wagon auxiliary-ambulance was dispatched to relieve EFD 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 members certified as paramedics.

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 (while en route to a medical emergency on Dewey Avenue) was struck broadside by a drunk driver at Church & Ridge (the exact same spot as a crash involving Truck Co. 2 almost exactly 50 years earlier!). While waiting for a second MICU that was already on order, the EFD borrowed an old Cadillac ambulance from the Skokie F. D. This Cadillac ambulance was retained by the EFD even after Ambulance 1 was repaired and the second MICU arrived, eventually becoming the first Ambulance 3.

A second MICU (Ambulance 2, purchased at a cost of $35,000) was placed in service at Fire Station # 1 in January 1977. Ten additional firefighters (Capt. Bill Best, and FFs 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, and Capt. Leonard Conrad was appointed the EFD’s first Medical Officer that same year. The EFD had expanded to a force of 114 at this point.

To provide staffing for the ambulances, firefighters previously assigned Squad 21 were transferred to the two ambulances and Squad 21 was taken out of front-line service.

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 support (manpower) company. (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).

Ambulance 3 was equipped with ALS gear in 1978 and was replaced with a modular-type MICU in 1980, but it was staffed by paramedics assigned to Truck Co. 21)ONLY when:

1. Both of the two front-line ambulances were NOT available, AND
2. Truck Co. 21 was available (and in quarters), AND
3. Truck Co. 22 was available to provide truck company coverage for the rest of the city.

Seeing a need for three front-line ambulances and expanded paramedic coverage, Evanston Fire Chief Raymond Brooks implemented the so-called jump-company plan on August 12, 1989. Under this plan, ambulances were assigned to three of the five fire stations, as three engine companies (Engine Co. 21, Engine Co. 22, and Engine Co. 25) were established as four-man jump-companies. The crews jumped back and forth as needed between their engine and ambulance. However, because the plan was shown to actually increase 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), and because a jump-company could be out of service for as long as an hour during a medical transport (and thus unavailable to respond to a fire), the plan was eventually scrapped.

Beginning in 1999, one engine company at each of the city’s five fire stations was 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 receives 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 now at all five stations, and with nearly 2/3 of the members of the EFD now certified as paramedics, it was no longer necessary for an ambulance to arrive before advanced life-saving efforts could commence. The EFD operates two dedicated front-line MICU ambulances (one at Station # 1, and one at Station # 2), each staffed by two paramedics, plus a third “jump” ambulance at Fire Station # 3 that can be staffed (when needed) by paramedics from Truck Co. 23.

While the Evanston Fire Department membership had been increased from 100 to 114 when the paramedic program was implemented, actual shift staffing was reduced (to 26) as the result of more personnel being assigned to administrative positions and as the result of more Kelly Days (Short Days) and additional paid vacation time for Evanston firefighters per a series of collective bargaining agreements between the City of Evanston and IAFF Local 742 undertaken 1974-1982.

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, city council staff floated a plan to replace the city’s five fire stations with three new ones. The idea was to consolidate the ambulance crews, engine companies, and truck companies with at least eight firefighters and/or paramedics at each station, to provide more manpower for first responders arriving at the scene of a fire or medical emergency, and to improve response times to areas of the city that incurred the most incidents.

The Rand Corporation was hired in 1986 to conduct an analysis of the Evanston Fire Department’s response times, and Rand determined that the EFD’s average response time would indeed be decreased if the five existing fire stations were to be replaced by three new stations to be located up & down the central spine of Evanston (one to be built at Willard D. Kamen Park at Asbury & South Boulevard in South Evanston, another to be located on vacant land at Lake & Ashland in central-west Evanston, and a third to be constructed on the site of the abandoned Municipal Testing Lane at Noyes & Ashland in north-central Evanston).

The proposed new Station #1 (Lake & Ashland) would have operated with two engine companies, one ambulance, Squad 21 (driver only), and the shift commander, and both the proposed new Station #2 (Asbury & South Blvd) and the proposed new Station #3 (Noyes & Ashland) would have operated with one engine company, one truck company, and an ambulance.

The three new fire stations were to be drive-through facilities (Station #1 with four bays and Stations 2 & 3 with three bays), with all reserve apparatus stored at the old Fire Station #1 on Lake Street, which would also become the new EFD HQ (admin, training, Fire Prevention, and equipment & apparatus storage).

Political opposition torpedoed the proposed station in south Evanston where residents did not want to lose park land, as well as the one in north Evanston where residents in the High Ridge area of northwest Evanston did not wish to suffer a minimum 5-1/2-to-six minute response time to fire and medical emergencies in their neighborhood, which was sure to be the case if the closest fire station was located at Noyes & Ashland. Instead, the city council agreed to rebuild the city’s oldest firehouse (dilapidated Fire Station # 4, whose apparatus floor was being supported by heavy-duty timbers that structural engineers hoped would keep the floor from collapsing), and 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.

Although rebuilding Fire Station # 4 was not recommended by the Rand Corporation, two of the study’s other recommendations were implemented. First, a third ambulance was placed into front-line service in 1989 (although it only occurred as part of the controversial jump company plan), and then Truck Co. 21 was relocated from Fire Station # 1 to Fire Station # 3 in 1990, becoming the reborn Truck Co. 23, a company which had been in service at Station #3 1955-62, back when the EFD ran with three truck companies

With a rebuilt firehouse in service in southwest Evanston, and Truck Co. 21 relocated to Station # 3, Fire Chief James Hunt proposed in March 1993 that Fire Station # 1 be rebuilt as a three-bay firehouse on a vacant lot (one-time site of a gas station) at the southeast corner of Emerson & Wesley, and that the former Station # 1 at 909 Lake Street be converted into a headquarters facility housing the Fire Prevention Bureau, training classrooms, administrative offices, and equipment storage.

The plan was readily accepted by the city council, but 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 fire department’s new headquarters met similar delays, so the EFD’s administrative offices were located in a cramped second-floor office in leased commercial space on Dodge Avenue for several years.

Fire Station #2, the former headquarters station, was not rebuilt but it did undergo a major interior renovation in the 1990’s, and then Station #3 and Station #5 were completely rebuilt on their previous sites (Station #3 in 2004 and Station #5 in 2010), with Station #5 expanded from a former two-bay firehouse to a new three-bay facility.


Tags: ,

Evanston Fire Department history

This from Phil Stenholm:

100 years ago today (February 21, 1918), the last three horses were retired from service with the Evanston Fire Department as the EFD became fully motorized. (This was five years before the Chicago Fire Department retired its last horse and became full-motorized).

The Evanston Fire Department utilized horses to pull its apparatus for nearly 35 years. Horses could pull firefighting apparatus at a speed of approximately 10-12 miles per hour (depending on the size and weight of the apparatus, weather, road, and traffic conditions, and the number of horses used), although the speed would decrease as the distance to be traveled increased and the horses became fatigued. Then once on the scene of a fire, the horses would be uncoupled from their apparatus and kept warm or cool (as necessary)–and out of harm’s way while firefighters battled the blaze.

Firemen were responsible for the care and feeding of the horses, although horses that were ill or injured would be examined and treated by a veterinarian. Fire department horses were kept in service for ten to 15 years (sometimes a bit longer), depending on the horse’s age and general health. Horses used by the Evanston Fire Department were usually transferred to the Street Department when no longer able to meet the demands of pulling firefighting apparatus.

The Evanston Fire Department’s horses were treated with the respect and dignity normally accorded to a friend or family member. When firefighters from the Evanston Fire Department won a muster in Blue Island in 1902, “Bob” and “Dan” (the horses pulling the hose wagon) were given the same “hero’s welcome” as the firefighters when the hose wagon returned to Evanston. .

In 1912, the Evanston Firemen’s Benevolent Association staged a fund-raising performance of “The Still Alarm” (a popular melodrama of the era) at the Evanston Theater. Members of the Evanston Fire Department were featured in the play, including EFD horses “Sharkey” and “Buttons.” (With a predilection for biting the buttons off the clothing of anyone who might come near, “Buttons” was an unusually talented horse. He could actually open a water-faucet by himself, and he performed this trick in the play).

The Evanston Fire Department first employed horse-power to pull its firefighting apparatus in November 1883, after the Village Board of Trustees purchased a horse named “Dave” from a farmer in Indiana to pull the new four-wheeled fire patrol/hose wagon. (Prior to 1883, all EFD fire-fighting apparatus was hand-drawn).

Four additional horses were acquired for the Fire Department in 1884-85, after the formerly hand-drawn Babcock chemical-engine was converted to horsepower and after the Village of Evanston purchased a hook & ladder wagon from the Davenport Fire Apparatus Co. The horses were kept in a stable at the EFD’s engine house (an old wood-frame remodeled paint shop located at the northwest corner of Sherman Avenue and the north alley of Davis Street) that was acquired for the use of the Fire Department in 1883.

When the combination engine house/stable was placed in service in November 1883, the Evanston Fire Department became a part-time paid fire department (it had previously been 100% volunteer). So the Village of Evanston employed a full-time “police/fire officer” (combination village nightwatchman/fire apparatus caretaker) to live at the fire house. The duties of the police/fire officer included the feeding and general care of the Fire Department’s horses. A three-man full-time paid Fire Department was established on June 5, 1888, and each man was responsible for one of the firefighting apparatus (Hose 1, Chemical 1, or Truck 1) and the horses used to pull it.

After the Village of South Evanston was annexed by the Village of Evanston (and the City of Evanston was formed) in 1892, the Evanston Fire Department was expanded and more horses were needed. A one-horse one-axle hose cart (Hose 2) was placed in service at the Fire Department’s “Engine Hose No. 2” at the old South Evanston Village Hall at 750 Chicago Avenue (the Evanston Police Department also established a “South Precinct” at this facility after annexation), and the number of horses assigned to pull the fire patrol/hose wagon at Engine House No. 1 was increased from one to two. (By doubling the horsepower assigned to Hose 1, the speed of the apparatus was increased and the Fire Department’s response to alarms was improved).

Engine House No. 1 was relocated into the new City Hall at the northwest corner of Davis & Sherman (across the alley to the south from the old paint shop) in 1893, and a steam fire engine (an 1895 Ahrens “Metropolitan” 2nd size steamer) was placed into service in March 1895. But because no additional horses were acquired to pull the steamer, the very useful Babcock chemical-engine was taken out of service and placed into reserve as its horses were reassigned to the steamer. .

After a disastrous fire at the home of prominent Evanstonian Harvey Hurd in August 1899 where there was a delay in getting water onto the fire, the City Council acquired two additional horses for the Fire Department and the EFD placed the chemical-engine back into service. By this time “Engine House No. 1” (now known as Fire Station #1) had been relocated again, this time from City Hall into the new Police/Fire public safety headquarters at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman.

Five more horses were added to the Fire Department (for a total of 14) in 1901, as a two-horse four-wheeled hose-wagon replaced the one-horse single-axle hose cart at Station #2, a two-horse four-wheeled hose wagon was placed in service at new Fire Station #3 at 2504 West Railroad Avenue (later known as “Green Bay Road”) in North Evanston, and a two-horse buggy was purchased for the Chief Fire Marshal (as the Chief was now assigned a “buggy driver”).

Two more horses were added (for a total of 16) in 1903 when a Seagrave combination truck (light-duty hook & ladder and chemical engine) was placed in service at rebuilt Fire Station 2 (the three-bay firehouse was constructed on the site of the former South Evanston village hall/firehouse/police station), and another horse was added (bringing the total to 17) in 1906 when a new three-horse steam fire engine (an American-LaFrance “Metropolitan” 700 GPM steamer) was placed into service as Engine No. 1 at Fire Station #1. (The older Ahrens steamer was kept in reserve without manpower or horsepower 1906-11).

In the Summer of 1907, the hose wagons at Stations #2 and #3 (Hose 2 and Hose 3) were taken out of service and the horses that had been assigned to the two hose wagons were reassigned to the new American-LaFrance four-horse aerial-ladder truck that was placed into service at Station #1. The old Truck 1 (1885 Davenport H&L) was moved to Fire Station #3 (becoming Truck 3), and hose boxes with a capacity for 850-feet of hose-line were added to the Seagrave combination truck at Station #2 and to the Davenport H&L now at at Station #3.

The Evanston Fire Department had 19 horses in service (the most it would ever have) starting on February 15, 1911, when two more horses were acquired so that the old two-horse Ahrens steamer could be placed back into service at Station #2.

But the EFD’s horse-drawn era was on borrowed time.

As early as July 1909, the Evanston City Council had expressed an interest in the possibility of purchasing a gasoline-powered fire engine for the Fire Department. Gasoline-powered automobile fire apparatus were first used in the U. S. in 1906, and by 1909 it was becoming increasingly clear that the fire engine of the future would be motor-driven rather than horse-drawn.

Automobile fire apparatus were cheaper to operate than horse-drawn apparatus (horses needed to be fed every day, even when a fire department received no alarms, while automobile apparatus only needed gas and oil when they were in use), and automobile fire trucks were two or three times faster than horse-drawn apparatus and wouldn’t get tired and slow-down en route to a fire like horses sometimes would (thereby improving a fire department’s “response time,” and reducing or eliminating the need to construct additional fire stations to cover the outlying areas of a city).

The Evanston City Council’s Fire Committee made a fact-finding trip to Michigan in February 1910 to examine a gasoline-powered automobile fire engine–a Webb/Oldsmobile “combination” (pump & hose) pumper–that was in service in Lansing. Following the trip, the Fire Committee recommended Evanston purchase an “auto engine” for the Fire Department, and the City Council concurred. The question was left to voters in the form of a $10,000 bond issue referendum, and the bond issue was approved in April 1910 by a vote of 1,089 to 879 (55% in favor/45% opposed).

Even though the bond issue was approved in the Spring of 1910, the City Council took more than a year to purchase the truck. Aldermen wanted a so-called “triple-combination pumper” (pump, hose, and soda-acid fire suppression equipment all in one vehicle), so as to eliminate as many horses as possible.

The only bid received was from the Robinson Fire Apparatus Manufacturing Company–along with Howe and Webb, one of the leading manufacturers of automobile “combination pumpers” (pump and hose only) at the time, but there was some concern within the City Council that Robinson may not be able to meet the required specifications, since the company had never built a triple-combination pumper before. (The first triple-combination pumper ever built was placed into service on December 1, 1909, by the Monhagen Hose Company of Middletown, N. Y. The experimental prototype rig was manufactured by a New Jersey firm known as the “Tea Tray Company,” on an American Mors truck chassis).

Evanston Chief Fire Marshal Carl Harrison and the three members of the City Council’s Fire Committee visited the Robinson factory in St. Louis in February 1911. The visit was apparently a positive one, because on May 16, 1911, the City Council signed a contract with Robinson, agreeing to pay the Missouri company $9,000 for a triple-combination automobile pumper equipped with a 2nd size (approximately 700 GPM) triple-cylinder piston-pump, a 50-gallon soda-acid chemical tank with hose reel (the soda-acid chemical system being an automated version of the horse-drawn chemical engines of the 19th century), and two 25-foot extension ladders. The Evanston Index newspaper enthusiastically described the “auto truck” fire engine as “an entire fire department in itself!”

Known as the Robinson “Jumbo” (Robinson’s other impressive-sounding models included the “Invincible,” the “Whale,” the “Monarch,” the “Vulcan,” and the “Master”), the apparatus was powered by a six-cylinder 110-horsepower Buffalo marine engine, and featured a front-end hand-cranked starter, a right-side steering wheel, rear-wheel chain-drive two-wheel mechanical brakes, and solid rubber tires. (In spite of their “bumpy” ride, solid-rubber tires were considered safer and more reliable than pneumatic tires at the time). The hose-bed was polished teak (just like the deck of a sail-boat). Additionally, two ten-foot sections of hard-suction hose were strapped to the sides of the truck (each resting just above the front fenders, behind the headlights). Also, several kerosene lanterns (some with a clear lens, some with a colored lens) were hung from the outside of the apparatus, and a bell was mounted in front of the steering wheel on top of the cowl. (Sirens were not placed on Evanston fire apparatus until January 1927). As was common for the time, the truck had no windshield.

The “Jumbo” built for the City of Evanston was displayed at the International Association of Fire Engineers (IAFE) Convention in Milwaukee in September 1911, and the fire engine impressed many convention visitors. (Most had never seen a triple-combination automobile pumper before, since the Evanston “Jumbo” was one of the first triple-combination pumpers ever built).

Evanston Mayor Joseph E. Paden and Aldermen John W. Branch, Howard M. Carter, and James R. Smart traveled to Milwaukee on September 20th to meet with Robinson representatives and arrange for delivery of the apparatus to Evanston.

The fire engine arrived in Evanston during the first week of October 1911, and was road-tested over a three-day period starting on October 3rd. A Robinson engineer drove the five-ton “Jumbo” up and down the streets of Evanston, reaching a top-speed of 35 MPH.

Riding along on the test-drive were three members of the Evanston City Council (Aldermen Branch, Carter, and Changelon), and two engineers from the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU), Dr. F. A. Raymond and Kenneth Lydecker. The road-test was terminated early due to an overheated crankcase bearing, only the first of many mechanical problems to dog the Jumbo.

The Robinson “Jumbo” (officially rated at 750 GPM) passed capacity and pressure pump tests supervised by engineers from the NBFU at Becker’s Pond (now known as “Boltwood Park”) on Monday, October 23, 1911, successfully pumping 750+ gallons of water per minute at 110 pounds per square-inch through two 2-1/2” hose-lines fitted with 1-1/4” nozzles. The apparatus was accepted by the Evanston City Council on November 14th, and went into service as “Motor Engine No. 1” ten days later. Four new men were hired, including a civilian “Motor Driver” who had been specially trained at the Robinson factory in St. Louis. (A “Motor Driver” was defined as a combination chauffeur/mechanic/engineer).

The arrival of the “auto truck” allowed the City of Evanston to transfer four horses previously used by the Fire Department to the Street Department and transfer a steam fire engine (the EFD’s oldest engine, an 1895 Ahrens “Metropolitan” 600 GPM steamer) to Station #3 from Station #2. So by January 1912 (and for the first time ever), an engine company operating an automobile pumper or a steam fire engine was in service at each of Evanston’s three fire stations.

Because the Robinson “Jumbo” was so much faster than horse-drawn apparatus, Truck Co. 1 (operating at the time with a four-horse 1907 American LaFrance 85-ft HDA) was combined with Engine Co. 1 as a 15-man company (ten men on duty at any one time) known as “Motor Engine Co. 1,” and all personnel assigned to Station # 1 (except for a teamster and a tillerman assigned to drive the aerial-ladder truck and another man assigned as the chief’s “buggy driver”) rode to alarms aboard the “auto truck.”

In January 1916, fire gutted Rosenberg’s department store at 820 Davis St. Two Chicago F. D. engine companies assisted, and both of the CFD companies (Engine Co. 102 & Engine Co. 110) sent to Evanston were equipped with modern gasoline-powered automobile pumpers–Engine No. 102 a brand-new Seagrave, and Engine No. 110 a 1912 Webb that had previously been assigned to Engine Co. 102. With EFD Motor Engine No. 1 (the Robinson “Jumbo”) also working at the scene, it was a chance for Evanston officials to compare the performance of the three rigs under “game” conditions.

2,000 spectators gathered at Fountain Square, as Evanston and Chicago firemen fought the blaze late into the night. (Steve Redick was there but forgot to bring his camera). All three of the automobile pumpers ran out of gas after the EFD’s reserve fuel supply (120 gallons) was exhausted, but more gasoline was eventually located at a nearby garage. EFD Capt. Ed Johnson (Motor Engine Co. 1) was seriously injured at this fire, but eventually recovered and returned to duty. The $58,700 loss set a new mark (at the time) for the 2nd-highest loss from fire in Evanston’s history.

At the time that the Robinson engine was under consideration by the Evanston City Council in 1910, none of the companies that would later become the leaders in the production of automobile fire engines were manufacturing triple-combination pumpers. However, once Seagrave, American-LaFrance, and Ahrens-Fox began to produce reliable and durable automobile triple-combination pumpers, the temperamental “hot rod” manufactured by Robinson could not compete, and the company went out of business. And once the company was out of business, spare parts could only be obtained by salvaging parts from other Robinson rigs (if any could be located…).

In December 1914 the City of Evanston purchased an Overland roadster (at a cost of $800) for the Chief Fire Marshal, and by February 1918 the EFD was fully-motorized.

Voters approved a bond issue in April 1917 that led to the purchase of a fleet of automobile fire fighting apparatus from the Seagrave Company (total cost of $28,800), including one Model “E” city service ladder truck (equipped with an array of ladders including a 55-foot ground-based extension-ladder instead of an aerial-ladder, pike poles & axes, salvage covers, fire extinguishers, a heavy-duty jack, a life net, and a chemical tank & hose reel), one 750 GPM triple-combination pumper (a definite upgrade over the “Jumbo”), two chemical & hose 300 GPM booster-pumpers (originally specified in the advertisement for bids as chemical & hose wagons only, Seagrave threw-in the 300-GPM “booster-pumps” at no additional charge), and one Model “K” front-drive one-axle truck tractor (used to motorize the previously horse-drawn 1906 American-LaFrance “Metropolitan” 2nd-size steamer at Station #2).

The original Motorization Plan in 1916 included the acquisition of a four-wheel tractor to pull the 1907 American-LaFrance 85-ft HDA, but the truck was demolished in a collision with an Evanston Railway Company street car at Grove & Sherman in September 1916, and so an automobile city service truck was substituted for the tractor. The EFD did lease a 25-year old used (ex-Chattanooga F. D.) 1892 LaFrance/Hayes 65-ft HDA until the arrival of the new Seagrave city service truck in November 1917, but the EFD would operate without an aerial ladder apparatus for seven years, until September 1924 when a new Seagrave 85-ft TDA was placed in service at Station #1.

As a result of “motorization,” all of the EFD’s remaining horse-drawn rigs were scrapped over a three-month period (November 1917 – February 1918), and the horses used to pull the apparatus were transferred to the Street Department or sold. The EFD staged a parade through Evanston in March 1918 (on the first decent day of the Spring) to show off the new Seagrave rigs. No word on whether the old fire horses were watching.

As part of the Motorization Plan, Evanston’s fire-fighting force was increased from 39 to 41 in 1918. Motor Engine Co. 1 was reorganized at this time, with Engine Co. 1 (under the command of Capt. Tom McEnery and operating with the new triple-combination pumper) and Truck Co. 1 (under the command of Capt. Ed Johnson and operating with the new city-service ladder truck) were once again separate companies at Station #1 (as had been the case prior to 1912), Engine Co. 2 (under the command of Capt. Carl Harms and operating with both the tractorized-steamer and one of the new chemical & hose booster-pumpers) remained in service at Station #2, and Engine Co. 3 (under the command of Capt. George Hargreaves) remained in service at Station #3 with the other new chemical & hose booster-pumper. (Engine Co. 3 operated with just the 300-GPM booster-pumper through 1937).

Initially, the plan was to keep the Robinson “Jumbo” in service (moving it to Station #3 from Station #1) after the arrival of the Seagrave apparatus. However, because Seagrave added 300-GPM pumps to the chemical & hose wagons and because of the Jumbo’s history of mechanical problems, the difficulty in locating spare parts, and excessive vibration when operating at full-throttle, Chief Fire Marshal Albert Hofstetter (Carl Harrison’s successor) decided to remove the Robinson engine from front-line duty after only six years of service and have Engine Co. 3 operate with just the 300-GPM booster-pumper.

The Robinson “Jumbo” was kept in reserve as the EFD’s only spare automobile apparatus until 1929, when it was transferred to the Street Department for use as a utility truck. (Evanston’s Street Department operated with mostly-hose-drawn wagons throughout the 1920’s and into the 1930’s, so ANY automobile truck–even an old fire engine–was considered a useful upgrade).

By replacing horsepower with automotive power, the Evanston Fire Department was able to greatly improve its “response time” to alarms, and exchange the higher maintenance costs associated with the care and feeding of horses with the lower maintenance costs associated with autombiles.

In 1920, the City of Evanston replaced the stable facilities (stalls, tack rooms, and hay lofts) in the fire stations with kitchens, pantries, and dining rooms for the firemen, as firefighters now took their meals in the firehouse instead of at home or at a restaurant.

Meanwhile, the much-beloved animals (“Speed,” “Major,” “Buttons,” “Sharkey,” “Bob,” “Dan” and others) that gave horsepower to the Evanston Fire Department spent their last years pulling garbage wagons and utility carts for the City of Evanston Street Department.

Tags: , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history

From Phil Stenholm:

120 years ago today…

“Lincoln Avenue” is what Main Street was called at the time Evanston annexed South Evanston in 1892. By 1894, the street name still hadn’t been changed. The Lincoln Avenue schoolhouse was the only school in South Evanston at the time. It was located at the southeast corner of Lincoln & Benson (Main & Elmwood), the future site of Central School, and consisted of the original school building (a three-story brick structure–two floors plus attic, with a full basement), and an attached annex (wood-frame & brick) that was built in 1890. This incident occurred on the first day of Spring (Wednesday, March 21, 1894) at 10:20 AM.




– Chicago Herald, March 22, 1894. ____________________________________________________________________

Fire destroyed the school, but all of the children were rescued, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Evanston fire fighters (Sam Harrison and George Hargreaves in particular) and an expressman named Sam Mack. Mack was passing by the school en route to the Lincoln Avenue C&NW RR depot when he noticed smoke pouring from the school’s windows, and children crawling out onto a second floor ledge. Mack calmly directed the children to jump into his arms to escape the flames, repeating the drill until the arrival of the Evanston Fire Department. Chicago F. D. Engine Co. 70 assisted Evanston fire fighters in quelling the blaze. (The EFD would return the favor the following August, responding to a request from the citizens of Rogers Park to help fight a large fire involving several buildings at Clark & Greenleaf… The City of Chicago had recently annexed Rogers Park, but had not yet extended its water-mains to the neighborhood).

The Lincoln Avenue schoolhouse fire would stand for more than ten years as the single worst fire in Evanston’s history, until the Mark Manufacturing Company fire of December 1905. In the aftermath of the Lincoln Avenue schoolhouse fire, the EFD was given virtual carte blanche to improve its operations. Chief Harrison successfully lobbied for acquisition of a “fire alarm telegraph” (with placement of fire alarm boxes on street corners) to provide citizens with the means to report a fire quickly. (In the case of the Lincoln Avenue schoolhouse fire, a citizen ran three blocks to report the fire in person at Fire Station # 2).

At a cost of $4,000, a “Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph” (initially with 20 fire alarm boxes) was installed in Evanston over a period of three months between November 1894 and February 1895. By 1905, 37 boxes were in service, and by 1935 there were 51 boxes in service. The fire alarm boxes and telegraph system were replaced by a network of 80 police/fire “emergency telephones” (manufactured by Western Electric) in 1958.


12 Church & Benson
14 Chicago & University
15 Maple & Foster
16 Foster & West Railroad (later known as “Green Bay Road”)
18 Ridge & Noyes
21 Emerson & Ashland
23 Dewey & Noyes (intersection obliterated by canal construction in 1908)
25 Dewey (later known as “Eastwood”) & Central
27 Livingston & Grosse Point Avenue (later known as “Prairie Avenue”)
28 Harrison & McDaniel
31 Maple & Lake
32 Wesley & Grove
34 Asbury & Crain
35 Washington & Asbury
37 Oakton & Custer
41 Hinman & Davis
42 Chicago & Dempster
46 Forest & Lee
47 Judson & Keeney
48 Forest & Greenwood

In addition to providing to the public the means to report a fire, the fire alarm telegraph also had another function. Members of the Fire Department (normally a company officer or the chief’s “buggy driver”) could communicate updates and “progress reports” from the scene of an incident to the chief’s residence, the city’s fire stations, and/or the police switchboard. Messages could be sent (via telegraph) both ways, so that a fire fighter monitoring a particular alarm box could be advised of another alarm elsewhere in the city or other important information.

Shortly after the Fire Alarm Telegraph was placed in service, the Evanston City Council purchased an Ahrens 2nd-size 600 GPM steamer with a two-horse hitch from the American Fire Engine Company. The rig was christened “City of Evanston No. 1” and was placed into service at Station # 1 in April 1895, just two months after installation of the fire alarm telegraph was completed. A second steamer (a 700 GPM 2nd size “Metropolitan” steamer with a three-horse hitch built by American-LaFrance) was placed into service in 1906.

Former Waterworks engineer J. A “Dad” Patrick was hired as the Fire Department’s “Engineer” in 1895, and Edward Mersch was hired as the “Assistant Engineer” in 1896. (Mersch would later serve as Chief 1901-1905). A knowledgeable engineer was worth his weight in gold in the “steam era.” The position of “Engineer” was the second highest-paid member of the EFD (second only to the Chief) in the years prior to World War I. In fact, as late as 1904, the salary of Engine Co. 1’s assistant engineer was as much as the salary of its company officer!

“Civil Service” was mandated & established for City of Evanston employees in 1895. Only five members of the ten members of the EFD (Jack Sweeting, George Hargreaves, Carl Harms, Edwin Whitcomb, and J. A. Patrick) qualified under Civil Service. (The position of Chief was exempt from Civil Service). Just like being on active duty in the military, all firemen were on duty at all times, although each man was permitted to take meal breaks away from the firehouse each day, and an occasional furlough at home.

A Fire & Police headquarters was constructed at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman in 1897. Fire Station # 1 (at 807 Grove Street) featured four large bays for apparatus, with an adjacent fifth bay used as a garage for the police ambulance. The facility was abandoned in the summer of 1949, and the structure was razed. The land was used for more than 25 years as a parking lot for the Valencia Theatre, before one of one of Evanston’s first high-rise office buildings (originally known as “One American Plaza”) was built on the lot in the 1970’s (with construction of the 18-story structure beginning in December 1975, before being completed in 1977).

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

Evanston Fire Department history

From Phil Stenholm:

105 years ago today…

The Village of Evanston annexed the Village of South Evanston (forming the greater City of Evanston) in 1892. The proponents of the annexation argued that if the two villages did not unite and form “a strong city of our own,” that separately they were both almost certain to be annexed by the City of Chicago. This domino theory was soon given further credence, as the Village of Rogers Park (South Evanston’s neighbor to the south) was annexed by Chicago in 1893.

After Chicago annexed Rogers Park, some of the residents of South Evanston (led by 3rd Ward Alderman Pat O’Neill) insisted that the brand-new unified City of Evanston should also allow itself to be annexed by its larger and more powerful neighbor to the south. The rationale was that a large city such as Chicago could provide significantly better city services (such as police and fire protection) than a smaller city like Evanston could. This was especially important to the wealthier residents of South Evanston, who felt that because they paid a larger share of property taxes, that they should receive better municipal services. Chicago did, in fact, attempt to annex Evanston in 1894, but Evanston voters declined the offer, and it appeared that the annexation issue was laid to rest. However, the issue was unexpectedly resurrected 15 years later.

On Thursday, March 11, 1909, at 12:30 PM, the Evanston Fire Department responded to an attic fire at the “Villa Celeste,” the palatial South Evanston home of P. Leonard (“Guy”) McKinnie, located at 721 Sheridan Road. Directing operations at the scene, Chief Fire Marshal Carl Harrison–as was his usual practice–initially ordered fire fighters to attack the fire in the attic with soda-acid from one of the chemical-engines. By using only chemicals (soda-acid), Chief Harrison hoped to minimize water-damage to the rest of the house. But because the fire was entombed within the walls and ceilings, firemen were unable to locate and extinguish the seat of the blaze.

Fire fighters soon found themselves utilizing water-flow from some 3,000 feet of hose-line (two 2-1/2” lines from Engine 1, one 2-1/2” line directly from a nearby hydrant, and a line from the chemical apparatus) in a vain effort to suppress the fire in the attic and 3rd floor. With the fire department using 2-1/2” hose-lines, water damage to property located on the lower floors became a problem. All firemen were busily engaged in fire suppression and ventilation efforts, so neighbors enlisted the aid of children from nearby Lincoln School to assist the McKinnies in removing their priceless art collection and valuable antique furniture from the lower floors.

As minutes turned into hours, it was becoming increasingly obvious to everyone present that fire fighters were making absolutely no headway. Frustrated, homeowner McKinnie demanded that Chief Harrison send for the steam fire engine (old “City of Evanston No. 1”) kept in reserve at Fire Station # 2 on Chicago Avenue. McKinnie even offered to dispatch a livery-team of his own to Station # 2 to bring the steamer to the scene. Harrison refused, explaining to McKinnie that lack of water was not the problem.

For six hours, the men of the EFD struggled mightily to contain the blaze. However, the flames encroached further into the ceilings and walls, and by nightfall the “Villa Celeste” was gutted. Six Evanston fire fighters suffered injuries while battling the blaze:

Chief Carl Harrison – finger severed when cut by glass shards
Assistant Chief Jack Sweeting – smoke inhalation
Fireman William Hofstetter – hand laceration
Fireman Ed Johnson – foot injury
Fireman John Wilbern – smoke inhalation
Fireman William Wilbern – smoke inhalation/bruised when struck by debris.

As a coup de grace, the stubborn blaze rekindled at about 11:30 PM (five hours after the EFD had left the scene). Fire fighters dutifully returned, and spent another hour pouring water into the ruins. The final damage estimate was $40,000. Chief Harrison would later say “… dozens of engines couldn’t have saved the house … the only way to extinguish the fire would have been to submerge the house into the lake …” (Which Harrison probably would have done if it had been an option!)

The fire was extinguished, but controversy simmered and boiled. Guy McKinnie and other wealthy South Evanston residents asserted that Evanston should (once again) invite itself to be annexed by Chicago. However, James Horan, chief of the Chicago Fire Department, threw cold water onto the idea. Chief Horan candidly explained that some outlying areas of Chicago had no fire protection, and that if annexed, Evanston would be mainly ignored until other more-pressing needs were addressed. Horan claimed that major fire protection improvements were needed at the Stock Yards, and that Chicago also needed a high-pressure waterworks in the downtown “high value” district.

Talk of annexation died as fire protection in South Evanston was upgraded in 1911. Three fire fighters were transferred to Fire Station # 2, and two new horses were acquired (bringing the total number of horses in service with the Evanston Fire Department at this point to 19 … the most it would ever have), allowing the Ahrens steamer to be placed into front-line service at Station # 2 on February 15th. (“Truck Co. 2” became “Engine Co. 2” at this time).

Chief Horan’s analysis of Chicago’s fire protection needs would be proven tragically (and ironically) correct. Horan and 20 other Chicago firemen were killed when a wall collapsed onto them while they were fighting a fire at the Stock Yards on December 22, 1910.

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

Evanston Fire Department History

This from Phil Stenholm:

100 years ago today…

On the evening of February 23, 1914, the Evanston Fire Department responded to one of the worst fires in the city‘s history (up until that point in time), a spectacular blaze at Heck Hall dormitory on the lakefront campus of Garrett Bible Institute.

Several thousand spectators gathered as the top floor was engulfed in flames, with embers falling as far away as Dempster Street. Fire fighters led 92 students to safety, getting the students and themselves out of the building just before the upper floors collapsed, with charged hose-lines left behind under the rubble. The EFD‘s three-year old automobile pumper (Motor Engine No. 1 – a 1911 Robinson “Jumbo” 750 GPM TCP) broke down with a damaged transmission while en route to the fire, so there wasn’t much chance to control the blaze anyway.

The Evanston F. D. requested help from the Chicago Fire Department, and two CFD companies (Engine Co. 79 & Engine Co. 102) responded to the scene. Engine Co. 102 was operating with the CFD‘s first gasoline-powered automobile fire engine (a 1912 Webb 650 GPM combination pumper), but even with the assistance of the big city boys, Heck Hall was completely destroyed, with the loss estimated at $50,000.

To all appearances, the eight-year tenure of Evanston Fire Chief S. C. “Carl” Harrison Jr had been characterized by innovation and modernization, with implementation of a formal training program, a 20% increase in the fire fighting force, and the acquisition of a more-powerful steam fire engine, an aerial-ladder truck, an automobile triple-combination pumper, and a “Lung Motor” (mechanical resucitator). But the Harrison regime was also seen by Evanston Mayor James Smart as increasingly erratic and eccentric. After an uncharacteristically poor performance by the Evanston Fire Department at the Heck Hall dormitory fire, Mayor Smart abruptly fired Harrison.

A few days later, Harrison announced he was running for alderman of the 4th ward against Smart political ally James Turnock. This announcement precipitated a ferocious editorial in the *Evanston Press* by publisher Albert Bowman, accusing Harrison of alcoholism. Harrison lost the election, and swore out a complaint against Bowman for “criminal libel.” Meanwhile, Carl Harrison’s father (Justice of the Peace and former EFD Chief Sam Harrison) was working behind the scenes in an attempt to influence new Mayor Harry Pearsons to reinstate his son as Chief. (Pearsons declined). The criminal libel charge against Albert Bowman was later dismissed by a Cook County grand jury.

Carl Harrison was replaced by Albert Hofstetter, and he would serve as Chief for more than 36 years, until his death at the age of 70 in September 1950. Hofstetter joined the Fire Department in 1901, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant at the age of 23 in February 1903. He was promoted to Captain on March 14, 1914, and two HOURS later was appointed “Chief” by Mayor Smart. So Hofstetter’s two-hour tenure as “Captain” was followed by 36+ years as Chief (spanning World War I, the Roaring 20’s, the Great Depression, WWII, and the onset of the Korean War). His 49 years as a member of the Evanston Fire Department is the all-time record for length of service with the EFD.


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

Evanston Fire Department history

This post is from Phil Stenholm:

Today (January 9th) is the 87th anniversary of one of the most significant fires in Evanston’s history. It’s significant because it involved a well-known landmark, it incurred the highest dollar-loss of any fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time, and it called attention to deficiencies in the Fire Department previously ignored that led to a substantial upgrading of the EFD within a matter of months.

At this particular point in time (January 9, 1927), the Evanston Fire Department had 61 members, including the Chief and two 30-man platoons (working 24 hours on & 24 hours off, with a minimum staffing of 30 men per shift November-March, and a minimum of 25 men per shift March-November when each company could run “one man short”). The manpower was further divided into five companies (three engine companies and two truck companies) located in three fire stations (one engine company in each of the three stations, with both truck companies at Station # 1). There was also one firefighter on each platoon who served as the Chief’s chauffeur and administrative assistant.

Engine Co. 1 operated with a 1917 Seagrave 750 GPM TCP, Engine Co. 2 ran as a two-piece company (1906 American LaFrance 700 GPM Metropolitan steamer pulled by a 1918 Seagrave Model “K” one-axle tractor and a 1917 Seagrave 300 GPM chemical & hose booster pumper), and Engine Co. 3 ran with a 1917 Seagrave 300 GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper (the twin of Engine Co. 2?s hose truck), providing Evanston an aggregate potential GPM flow of 2,050 among the three engine companies.

Truck 1 was a 1924 Seagrave 85-ft TDA (the EFD’s only aerial-ladder truck at the time), and Truck 2 was a 1917 Seagrave Model “E” city service truck equipped with a variety of rescue gear (including a “life net”), truck tools, and ground-based ladders, the tallest of which was a 55-ft extension ladder that required four men to raise. Truck Co. 1 was first-due to alarms east of Asbury (covering an area that included the downtown Davis Street “high-value” district, the Northwestern University campus, all of the city’s hotels, both hospitals, and most-all of Evanston’s churches and apartments buildings), and Truck Co. 2 was first-due to alarms west of Asbury Ave. (In its mosr recent inspection of the Evanston Fire Department, the National Board of Fire Insurance Underwriters had recommended a fourth fire station be built at Dempster & Dodge, with a new engine company–Engine Co. 4–to be organized at the new station, and with Truck Co. 2 to be relocated from Station # 1 to the new Station # 4).

There was also one reserve apparatus (Engine 4 – the 1911 Robinson “Jumbo” 750 GPM TCP that was Evanston’s first automobile fire engine) at Fire Station #1 that was staffed by an off-duty crew in the case of a large fire where all five front-line companies were working at the scene. (With the exception of the 1906 American LaFrance steamer–which was converted to a so-called “travtorized-steamer,” all of the Evanston Fire Department’s horse-drawn apparatus (including an aerial-ladder truck, a steamer, a combination truck, a chemical engine, and two hose carts) had been junked in February 1918 when the EFD was fully motorized, leaving the EFD with just the one reserve rig).

At 1 PM on Sunday afternoon, January 9, 1927, boy scout LeRoy Kreutzer (who was also a “junior reporter “ for the Evanston News-Index) noticed smoke wafting from the Boltwood Intermediate School at the southeast corner of Dempster & Elmwood. Boltwood School served as Evanston’s lone junior high school at the time, as well as the headquarters of the Evanston chapter of the Boy Scouts of America. The facility had previously served as Evanston Township High School for forty years, until the new ETHS campus was opened at Church & Dodge in 1924.

Kreutzer pulled fire alarm box # 313 at Dempster & Elmwood, and then ran around the corner and alerted EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter, who was taking a nap at his residence at 1228 Sherman Ave. Evanston fire fighters arrived and quickly determined that the fire was confined to a manual arts classroom in the basement. Although the fire was contained to the one room, EFD engine companies had difficulty getting to the fire due to heavy smoke throughout the interior of the school. Despite the heavy smoke conditions, a monkey and several white mice located in the science lab were rescued.

The truck companies attempted to ventilate the heat and smoke from the structure, but the efforts failed as a strong wind entered the building and fanned the fire. The flames flashed-over and swept past fire fighters, traveling up an interior stairway, before blowing out through the second-floor windows. A “General Alarm” was sounded, as all on duty AND off-duty EFD firemen were ordered to the scene. The blaze was out of control, with the very real possibility that the flames could jump over the alley and threaten homes (including Chief Hofstetter’s house) located east of the school. After two firemen barely escaped when part of the roof collapsed, Chief Hofstetter ordered all personnel inside to evacuate, and the fight went defensive.

With the EFD seemingly helpless to stop the firestorm, Chief Hofstetter requested assistance from the Chicago Fire Department. The Chicago F. D. had responded into Evanston on numerous occasions in the past, in each case assigning no more than two engine companies. However, this fire was larger and more threatening than any other previous Evanston blaze, and the Chicago Fire Department (with Chief Jerry McAuliffe in command at the scene) ended up sending eight engine companies, two truck companies (both responding with aerial-ladders), and a water tower.

At least two traffic collisions were blamed on the chaos resulting from so many fire trucks and spectators pouring into the neighborhood. At the height of the blaze, engines were pumping from various hydrants located within a six square-block area. Reportedly 20,000 spectators (about 1/3 of Evanston’s total population at the time) gathered to watch the conflagration. Off-duty Evanston Police officers were summoned to help with traffic and crowd control.

Thanks to the great assistance provided by the Chicago Fire Department, the fire was brought under control. Although Boltwood School was gutted, the homes and businesses across the alley were saved. Three fire fighters suffered minor injuries. Damage was estimated at $308,500, by far the highest-loss recorded in an Evanston fire up to that point in time. Two new junior high schools were constructed to replace Boltwood, Nichols in South Evanston, and Haven in North Evanston (with Haven initially being K-8, as it also replaced Cranston Elementary School).

In the aftermath of the Boltwood fire, the competence of the Evanston Fire Department was called into question. The City Council conducted an investigation, and quickly discovered some things they probably should have already known… that the EFD of 1927 was simply a small town fire department operating in a city of 60,000 people… that it was substantially undermanned and under-equipped… and that therefore a disaster like that of the Boltwood School fire was inevitable.

Evanston voters were presented with a $75,000 bond issue in the city election of April 5, 1927. The bond issue passed, resulting in many improvements in the EFD:

* 23 additional firemen were hired, bringing the force up to 84, with 41 men on each platoon and with a minimum staffing of 41 per shift November-March and a minimum of 34 men on duty per shift March-November (when each company could run one man short per shift); Note that present shift staffing in the Evanston Fire Department is back to where it was the day of the Boltwood School fire, the main difference being that the EFD did not provide ambulance service in 1927;

* Two new engine companies were organized, bringing the total number of companies in service to seven (five engine companies and two truck companies);

* A portable deluge nozzle and two new 1000 GPM pumpers with 50-gallon booster tanks were purchased;

* A fourth fire station was constructed to cover southwest Evanston, although it was built at 1817 Washington Street (not at Dempster & Dodge as had been recommended by the NBFU), and Truck Co. 2 was not moved to Station # 4, instead remaining at Station # 1 for another 28 years before being relocated to rebuilt Station # 2 at 702 Madison Street in southeast Evanston in March 1955;

* A “Fire Prevention Bureau” was established.

Engine Co. 4 (later known as “Engine Co. 24”) was organized at Fire Station # 2 at 750 Chicago Avenue in November 1927. Ten men were assigned to Engine Co. 4 (five on each platoon). The company was provided with equipment and apparatus (the tractorized-steamer and the chemical & hose booster-pumper) formerly used by Engine Co. 2. Patrick Gaynor (formerly captain of Engine Co. 2) was the first captain of Engine Co. 4. The company moved into brand-new Station # 4 at 1817 Washington Street on December 30, 1927. To help dedicate the new facility, Capt. Gaynor staged a professional boxing match on the apparatus floor of the firehouse. It was the first Evanston fire station designed and built especially for automobile apparatus (a garage rather than a barn), with a kitchen and a dining room part of the original blueprint.

Engine Co. 5 (later known as “Engine Co. 25”) was organized at Fire Station # 1 at 807 Grove Steeet in November 1927, on the same day that Engine Co. 4 was organized at Fire Station # 2. Twelve men were assigned to Engine Co. 5 (six men on each platoon) . This company was assigned one of the new Seagrave “Standard” 1000 GPM pumpers (the other was assigned to Engine Co. 2), and was the designated “high-value district” (downtown Evanston) engine company for many years until it was relocated to new Fire Station # 5 in nNortwest Evanston in 1955. Henry Tesnow was the first captain. Capt. John E. Mersch was initially assigned (on paper) as the commander of Engine Co. 5, but he suffered a disabling leg injury in September 1927 when the police ambulance in which he was riding was hit broadside by a bus while he and two police officers were en route with the inhalator to aid a drowning victim at Greenwood Street Beach. In May 1928, after he was discharged from the hospital, and after it was determined that he could no longer work as a fireman, Capt. Mersch was appointed to the newly-created position of “Fire Prevention Inspector.” He was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief in 1932, and he would continue to serve as both Fire Prevention Inspector and Chief of the Fire Prevention Bureau until his death at the age of 67 in October 1950 (45 years of continuous service with the EFD).

The “Fire Prevention Bureau” (FPB) was established (by ordinance) on February 9, 1929. The ordinance assigned the following duties and responsibilities to the FPB:

1. Prevent fires through education;
2. Regulate the storage and use of explosives and flammables;
3. Regulate installation and maintenance of automatic fire alarms and extinguishers;
4. Ensure maintenance and regulation of fire escapes;
5. Ensure means and adequacy of exit in case of fire involving:
a. factories
b. schools
c. hotels
d. lodging houses & rooming houses
e. asylums and sanitariums
f. hospitals
g. churches
h. assembly halls
I. theatres
j. amphitheatres
k. any other establishment where persons work and/or congregate;
6. Investigate the cause, origin, and circumstance of fires.

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

Evanston Fire Department history (more)

Another historic perspective provided by Phil Stenholm about the Evanston Fire Department:

The Evanston Fire Department (EFD) has been providing ambulance service to the City of Evanston since 1976, athough Evanston firefighters had been responding to “inhalator calls” since 1913.

The Evanston Police Department (EPD) was the ambulance provider pre-1976, running a horse-drawn police ambulance out of its HQ station as far back as the 1890?s.

The EPD acquired an automobile ambulance in 1916 (it was quartered in a bay just to the east of the firehouse at 807 Grove Stree), and then beginning in 1958, the EPD implemented the so-called “Police-Fire Cooperative Plan,” where Evanston Police officers were cross-trained as firefighters.

The cross-trained cops patroled in station-wagons (Car 31, Car 32, and Car 33, they were called at the time), each equipped with a stretcher, an inhalator, first-aid supplies, fire extinguishers, axes, and turnout gear. These two-man Police units responded to inhalator calls, ambulance runs, and fires, in addition to their other police-related activities. (The station-wagons were very soon cut-back to one-man units and new Police Officers were no longer cross-trained as firefighters, but the EPD did continue to provide ambulance service with its three patrol station-wagons).

In addition to the three EPD station-wagons, the Evanston Fire Department maintained three stretcher-equipped staff cars: F-5 (Training Officer) at Station #1, F-1 (Chief’s Buggy) at Station #2, and F-3 (Fire Prevention Inspector) at Station #5, that were used as back-up ambulances (when they weren’t in use eleswhere) in case none of the EPD patrol ambulances were available.

In the Summer of 1974, the Illinois Department of Health loaned an MICU to the Evanston Fire Department for a 90-day trial. The EFD did not have any paramedics at that time and the MICU was not equipped with ALS gear, but it did give the EFD a chance to be the city’s primary ambulance service for a while.

Everybody was favorably impressed (especially the Police Officers, who wanted no part of being ambulance attendants), and the Evanston Fire Department Paramedic Program commenced at St Francis Hospital in 1975, with an eye toward implementing Paramedic & Fire Eepartment ambulance service in 1976.

However, Evanston Mayor Jim Staples wanted the ambulance service to remain in the hands of the Police Department (Staples liked the idea of having ambulances “on the street” 24/7 instead of parked in a firehouse), but even he changed his mind after Police Chief William McHugh said that the EPD was busy enough just dealing with the sky-rocketing crime rate in the city, without having to continue to provide ambulance service, too.

The first ambulance (a 1975 Dodge van MICU with ALS equipment donated by Evanston’s own Washington National Insurance Company) was placed into service at Station #1 in January 1976.

Ambulance 1 was initially staffed by three firefighters (two paramedics and one paramedic trainee), as manpower assigned to Squad 21 was reduced to just a driver. Ambulance 1 responded to all EMS calls anywhere in the city, responding alone to calls in Station #1?s stil district, and with a support engine in other areas.

Once on the scene, the senior paramedic on-board had to determine if the call was BLS or ALS. If it was an ALS call Ambulance 1 would handle it, but if it was determined to be BLS, a police station-wagon ambulance or one of the auxiliary Fire Department station-wagon ambulance would be dispatched to relieve Ambulance 1 and make the transport, so that Ambulance 1 could go back into service ASAP.

During 1976 the City Council approved the purchase of a second MICU ambulance for the Fire Department, and plans were made to staff the two ambulances with two-man crews (both paramedics), and take Squad 21 completely out of service.

In November 1976 Ambulance 1 was nearly demolished in a traffic collision (ambulance was struck broadside by a drunk driver) at Church & Ridge while en route to a call on Dewey Avenue (the three firefighters on-board and a nurse from St. Francis Hospital on a ride-along were injured), and because Ambulance 2 was on order but had not yet arrived, the Skokie Fire Department loaned one of its old Cadillac ambulances to the Evanston F. D.

It wasn’t an MICU, but the Cadillac did run as Ambulance 1 until the new Ambulance 2 arrived a few days later, and then Evanston decided to keep the Cadi as a reserve ambulance. (Evanston purchased the ambulance from Skokie).

The Evanston Fire Department’s second ambulance (Ambulance 2) was placed into service in January 1977, and both Ambulance 1 (the Skokie Cadillac ambulance) and the new MICU modular ambulance were in service at Station #1.

Both ambulances were ALS-equipped and staffed with two paramedics, but Ambulance 2 took all “first-call” EMS runs, and (because it wasn’t an MICU vehicle) Ambulance 1 responded to fire calls, and to EMS calls only if Ambulance 2 was unavailable.

The original Ambulance 1 (the 1975 Dodge van MICU) was eventually repaired and went back into service during 1977. The response plan did not change, however, as Ambulance 2 still took all first- call EMS runs.

The Cadillac ambulance then became Ambulance 3, an unmanned BLS unit that was staffed only when a third ambulance was needed. (ALS gear was purchased for Ambulance 3 in 1978).

Two new Ford modular MICUs were added in 1980, the new Ambulance 1 and the new Ambulance 2. The Cadillac ambulance and the ’75 Dodge van MICU were junked, and the old Ambulance 2 (1977 Dodge modular MICU) became Ambulance 3.

At this point Ambulance 1 and Ambulance 2 were split-up, with Ambulance 1 assigned to Fire Station #1, and Ambulance 2 assigned to Fire Station #2. The border separating the two districts was Dempster Street (same as the border separating Truck 21 and Truck 22). Ambulance 3 was located at Station #1, and was staffed when needed by personnel from Truck Co. 21 (presuming Truck 21 was available)

Within a year both front-line ambulances were back together at Station #1, with A-1 first-due east of Asbury, and A-2 first-due west of Asbury, and Amubulance 3 went to Station #2 and was staffed by personnel from Truck Co. 22 when needed.

The arrangement was altered again in 1982, when the two ambulances began to alternate responses (that was actually my suggestion), with A-1 taking a call, then A-2 would take the next one, then A-1, then A-2, etc. This way, an ambulance crew would know which ambulance was “on the bubble” for the next run, and the one that wasn’t could take a bit of a break. (The two ambulances were very busy back then, and presumably still are)

Ambulance 3 was moved back to Station #1 at this time, staffed when needed by personnel from Truck Co. 21 (which always had two paramedics on-board in case it needed to man A-3).

In 1986, Ambulance 2 was moved to Station #4, and Ambulance 1 was now first-due to calls in Station 1 and Station 3 areas, and Ambulance 2 responded first-due to calls in Stations 2, 4, and 5 areas, with Ambulance 3 in ready-reserve at Station #1. The EFD command staff believed that the two front-line ambulances should be separated to provide faster paramedic response city-wide.

In furtherance of this desire, the “jump company” plan was implemented in 1989. Engine companies 21, 22, and 25 were designated “jump companies,” meaning they were four-man crews with two paramedics among the four, operating as a “two-piece company” (an engine and an ambulance). Engine 23 and 24 no longer responded to EMS calls, and Truck Co. 21 no longer was responsible for manning the third ambulance.

The “jump company” plan did not work out at all, because the three “jump” engine companies would go out of service for long periods of time while on runs, leaving the city with inadequate engine coverage during those periods.

So the “jump company plan” (mostly) went away the next year, as Amblance 21 and Ambulance 22 went back to two-paramedic units at Station #1 and Station #2 respectively, the five engine companies went back to being engine companies, and Truck 21 was relocated to Station #3 (becoming the reborn Truck Co. 23), with Ambulance 23 also now at Fire Station #3 and available to be manned (when needed) by personnel from Station #3.

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

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.

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

Evanston Fire Department history

This from Phil Stenholm:

Evanston Fire Department – The Origin of the Companies

Organized as a part-time (paid) fire company – July 28, 1883
Accepted for service – November 6, 1883
Established as a full-time (paid) company – June 5, 1888
Designated “Engine Co. 1” – June 1895
Re-designated “Engine Co. 21”- 1952

Organized as full-time (paid) hose company at Station #2 – June 6, 1892
Designated “Hose Co. 2” – January 1900
Re-designated “Truck Co. 2” – February 15, 1903
Re-designated “Engine Co. 2” – February 15, 1911
Re-designated “Engine Co. 22” – 1952

Organized as “Hose Co. 3” at Station #3 – January 31, 1901
Re-designated “Truck Co. 3” – July 1907
Re-designated “Engine Co. 3” – January 2, 1912
Re-designated “Engine Co. 23” – 1952

TRUCK Co. 21
Organized as ”Truck Co. 1” at Station #1 – February 15, 1903
Combined with Engine Co. 1 – January 2, 1912 Reorganized as “Truck Co. 1” – November 1917
Re-designated “Truck Co. 21” – 1952
Relocated to Station #3 and re-designated “Truck Co. 23” – 1990

TRUCK Co. 22
Organized as “Truck Co. 2” at Station #1 – September 1, 1924
Re-designated “Truck Co. 22” – 1952
Relocated to Fire Station #2 – March 12, 1955

Organized as “Engine Co. 4” at Station #2 – November 1927
Relocated to Station # 4 – December 31, 1927
Re-designated “Engine Co. 24” – 1952

Organized as “Engine Co. 5” at Station #1 – November 1927
Re-designated “Engine Co. 25” – 1952
Relocated to Station # 5 – September 3, 1955

TRUCK Co. 23
Organized as “Truck Co. 23” at Station #3 – September 3, 1955
Disbanded (personnel used to organize Squad Co. 21) – January 1, 1963
Truck Co. 21 relocated to Station #3/re-designated “Truck Co. 23” – 1990

SQUAD Co. 21
Apparatus placed in service (staffed only when needed) – September 1952
Organized as “Squad Co. 21” at Station #1 – January 1, 1963
Disbanded (apparatus staffed only when needed) – 1977


Organized – January 4, 1873
Chartered – January 6, 1873
Accepted for service – January 7, 1873 Designated “Pioneer Hose Company, No. 1” – December 1874
Disbanded (by mass resignation) – May 23, 1881

C. J. GILBERT HOSE COMPANY (volunteer) Organzied/Chartered – January 1875
Accepted for Service – August 6, 1875
Disbanded (by mass resignation) – May 23, 1881

EVANSTON HOOK & LADDER COMPANY (volunteer) Organized/Chartered – September 7, 1880
Accepted for Service – April 21, 1881
Disbanded (by Fire Marshal) – July 28, 1883

Orrganized – July 16, 1888
Disbanded (by Fire Marshal) – June 6, 1892
(Served with Village of South Evanston Fire Department prior to annexation of Village of South Evanston by Village of Evanston in 1892)

NORTH EVANSTON FIRE COMPANY (volunteer/auxiliary) Organized – October 1, 1888
Disbanded (by Fire Marshal) – January 31, 1901

So Truck Co. 22 (as it presently exists) was not actually organized until 1924. What is confusing about the bench is that Hose Co. 2 was re-designated Truck Co. 2 1902-1911 because the company operated with a 1902 Seagrave combination truck (light-duty H&L/chemical-engine/hose wagon) during that period of time, and then Truck Co. 2 was re-designated Engine Co. 2 in 1911 when the 1895 Ahrens steamer (the old Engine 1 that had been in reserve since 1906) was placed into service at Station #2 when sufficient manpower was finally hired to staff it.

Likewise, Hose Co. 3 was re-designated Truck Co. 3 in 1907 when the 1884 Davenport H&L (ex-Truck 1) was placed into service at Station #3, and then the company was re-deginated Engine Co. 3 in 1912 when the 1895 Ahrens steamer was placed into service at Station #3 (as the 1911 Robinson 700-GPM TCP was placed into service with Engine Co. 1 and the 1906 American LaFrance 700 GPM steamer formerly in service with Engine Co. 1 was moved to Station #2).


STATION #1 (807 Grove Street):

ENGINE 1 : 1911 Robinson 700-GPM TCP (automobile)
TRUCK 1: 1907 American-LaFrance 85-ft HDA (four horses)
CHEMICAL 1: 1873 Babcock double 50-gal chemical-engine (two horses)
CHIEF’S BUGGY (two horses)

STATION #2 (750 Chicago Avenue):

ENGINE 2: 1906 American LaFrance 700 GPM steamer (three horses)
TRUCK 2: 1902 Seagrave combination truck (H&L and chemical-engine), with hose box installed in 1907 (two horses)

STATION #3 (2504 West Railroad Avenue):

ENGINE 3: 1895 Ahrens 600 GPM steamer (two horses)
TRUCK 3 : 1884 Davenport H&L, with hose box installed in 1907 (two horses)

(The hose wagons at Stations 2 & 3 were taken out of service in 1907 when the trucks at those stations had hose boxes installed, providing four horses for the new aerial-ladder truck).

1918 APPARATUS (after motorization):


ENGINE 1: 1917 Seagrave 750 GPM TCP

TRUCK Co. 1:
TRUCK 1: 1917 Seagrave city-service H&L (no aerial-ladder)

ENGINE 4 (reserve): 1911 Robinson 750-GPM TCP

1917 Haynes automobile

ENGINE Co. 2 (two-piece company):
ENGINE 2: 1918 Seagrave tractor pulling 1906 American LaFrance 700 GPM steamer
TRUCK 2: 1917 Seagrave 300-GPM TCP

ENGINE 3: 1917 Seagrave 300-GPM TCP
NOTE: The 1907 American LaFrance 85-ft HDA that had been in service as Truck 1 was demolished in a collision with an Evanston Railway Co. street car at Grove & Sherman in 1916, and it was not replaced (the city had neglected to insure it for its replacement value). When the bond issue to motorize the Fire Dept. was originally framed in 1916 (prior to the H&L crash), the EFD was going to acquire a tractor for the H&L (justr as it did for 1906 American LaFrance steamer), but ended up getting a city-service truck (with no aerial ladder) instead.

The city purchased a Seagrave 85-ft TDA in 1924 after an NBFU inspection report said they had to have one. (This was the same report that recommended Station #4 be constructed at Dempster & Dodge).

The new Seagrave TDA became Truck 1, and the former Truck 1 (the 1917 Seagrave city-service truck) became Truck 2 as Truck Co. 2 was organized at Station #1 in September 1924. As I mentioned, Truck Co. 2 was supposed to be relocated to Station #4 on the west-side, but it never was.

NOTE: Two 1927 Seagrave Standard 1000-GPM TCP were purchased, Fire Station #4 was constructed, and the EFD was expanded from 61 to 82 firemen, after Evanston voters approved a bond issue in 1927 (following the Boltwood School fire in January) and the two new engines went into service as Engine 2 and Engine 5 (as Engine Co. 4 and Engine Co. 5 were organized), with Engine Co. 2’s former apparatus (plus furtniture, kitchen utensils, and personnel) going to the new Station #4.

Engine 4 (the tractorized steamer that was Engine 2 1918-27) was taken out of service in 1930 when the 300-GPM booster-pumper that ran with the steamer had a new 500-GPM pump installed at the Seagrave factory in Ohio.

Two Seagrave 750-GPM pumpers (the new Engine 1 & Engine 3) and one Seagrave 65-ft service aerial-ladder truck (the new Truck 2) were purchased after 1937 bond issue was passed by Evanston voters, with the old Engine 1 (1917 Seagrave 750-GPM TCP) going to Station #4 at that time.

A Seagrave 1000-GPM TCP was placed into service as Engine 1 in 1949, with the old Engine 1 (1937 Seagrave 750-GPM TCP) going to Station #4.

And then the Pirsch fleet was acquired in 1951-52 (Truck 1 in ’51, the other four in ’52), with the old Truck 1 tractor being converted to a Chicago FD-style high-pressure wagon (with large-diameter hose and a turret nozzle mounted mid-ship). This rig was known as Squad 22 while it was in service (1952-65).

The 1937 Seagrave 65-ft service aerial ladder truck (ex-Truck 2) was placed into serice as Truck 23 in 1955, but the company was disbanded and personnel was transferred to Squad 21 (which then went into full-service as a regular company) at the end of 1962 after the city council refused to appropriate funds to buy a new ladder truck for Station #3.

Two Seagrave 1000-GPM TCP open-cab engines (Engine 23 and Engine 24) were placed into service in 1958, replacing the two 1937 Seagrave 750-GPM TCPs which were then placed into reserve.

The Squad 21 rig (1952 Pirsch) was replaced in 1966. The city purchased an extra International-Harvester garbage truck chassis for the Fire Dept, and the chassis was sent to the General Body Co. in Chicago to be built as a squad-engine. A pump, water tank, and squad body was installed with hose beds (there were no hose beds on the ’52 Pirsch squad), as well as a turret nozzle, and a front-bumper mounted winch.

Squad 21 was the SS1 of the Evanston Fire Dept while it was in service in 1960’s and 70’s. It was first-due on just about everything, handling inhalator calls, car fires and trash fires, and engine details in Station 1’s still district, it went to all fires anywhere in the city, responded to pin-in extrication calls, and its manpower operated the DUKW (F-7) for rescues on Lake Michigan. It was going all the time.

The old Squad 21 (1952 Pirsch) had its squad body removed and replaced with a new standard pumper body in 1966 (its pump had almost never been used because it only carried a hose reel), and it was in front-line service for quite a long time as an engine, first as Engine 22 1966-70, and then as Engine 25 1970-76. Last time I was in Evanston (which was a few years ago) it was playground equipment in the park at the northwest corner of Asbury & South Blvd.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,