Posts Tagged Wilmette Fire Department

Evanston Fire Department history Part 24

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

The Ballad of the Lucille McQuade

On January 12, 1915, a fire was reported at the Nally livery stable, located adjacent to the Greenwood Inn (formerly known as the “French House”) at Greenwood & Hinman. The Greenwood Inn was one of Evanston’s two hotels at the time, the other being the world-famous Avenue House at Davis & Chicago. The blaze started on the 2nd floor of the stable while guests were dining in the hotel. Bessie Gallagher disobeyed police officers and ran headlong into the inferno to retrieve personal belongings, before being rescued by Evanston firefighters. She was then arrested by Evanston police and charged with disorderly conduct and failure to obey a police officer. Damage to the livery stable was estimated at $3,000, but nobody was injured and quick work by Evanston firefighters saved the hotel.  

Two weeks later, in the early-morning hours of January 28th, the EFD responded to a report of a blaze at Mrs. I. C. Danwood’s boarding house at 1925 Sherman Ave. Boarder C. C. Firman sustained fractures to both ankles when he leaped from a second floor window to escape the flames prior to the arrival of firefighters. The EFD encountered fire blowing through the roof upon arrival, and although firemen rescued the other boarders without injury to civilians or firemen, fire suppression efforts were significantly hampered when a fire hydrant stem broke off while firefighters were connecting a suction hose to the plug. Firefighters did eventually connect to a different hydrant further way, but the initial delay resulted in total loss of the house and contents to the tune of $7,000. However, the EFD did manage to save surrounding structures after taking defensive positions and setting up an elevated master stream from atop the HDA’s aerial ladder and a high-pressure stream from the Eastman “deluger” on the street, both supplied by multiple 2-1/2 inch hose lines.

On April 20, 1915, voters in the Village of Wilmette approved a $20,000 bond issue authorizing purchase of a motorized automobile fire engine, and construction of a combination police / fire station on the west-side of Railroad Avenue south of Lake Ave. The Wilmette F. D. took delivery of an American-LaFrance Type 75, 750-GPM triple-combination-pumper later in the year, and the rig was in continuous front-line service with the Wilmette Fire Department as its first-due engine for more than 25 years. The police / fire station was in service for 50 years.  

At 2 PM on Sunday, May 15, 1915, chemicals exploded in the film-developing room of the Will E. Horton camera shop in the Simpson Building on Davis Street. All three of the EFD’s engine companies went to work at this fire, but the camera shop was gutted and the C. H. Morgan grocery store next-door was heavily damaged by smoke before the blaze could be extinguished. $8,500 damage to the camera shop and the grocery store. .   

At noon on Saturday, July 3, 1915, EFD Engine Co. 2 and Motor Engine Co. 1 responded to a report of a fire on the roof of the residence of Mrs. Margaret Patterson at 529 Lee St. The blaze was apparently sparked by an errant 4th of July bottle-rocket that had gone awry. Flames quickly communicated to the roofs of houses to the west and east, and while firemen managed to extinguish the blaze before any other structures became involved in fire, the roof and second floor of the Patterson residence, and the roofs of the neighboring Robert Larimer and John W. Fellows residences were heavily damaged. Fireman William Wilbern (Engine Co. 2) suffered only minor injuries when the roof of the Patterson residence collapsed onto him while he was attacking fire in the attic from a second floor bedroom.    

EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter attended the International Association of Fire Engineers Convention in Cincinnati in September 1915, and subsequently reported to the city council that although a few fire departments were still purchasing horse-drawn steamers and aerial ladder trucks, no horse-drawn fire apparatus was displayed at the convention. He said that automobile firefighting apparatus were much improved over what was available when Evanston purchased its Robinson Jumbo in 1911, and that it was expected that horse-drawn rigs would be replaced by automobile fire trucks and engines across the country in very short order.

In addition, Hofstetter noted that a new fully-automated aerial ladder was demonstrated at the convention. Built by Ahrens-Fox on a Couple Gear chassis and combining the Dahill Air Hoist system with an 85-ft wooden aerial-ladder supplied by Pirsch, the stick could be raised by one man in just 11 seconds, Conversely, the 1907 American-LaFrance 85-ft HDA in service with the Evanston Fire Department at that time had a spring-loaded aerial-ladder that was fully-raised by a windlass, and two men were required to crank the winch.

On Saturday night, January 8, 1916, fire gutted Rosenberg’s Department Store at 820 Davis St. As was the case at the Heck Hall fire two years earlier, two Chicago F. D. engine companies assisted. This time, both of the CFD companies sent to Evanston — Engine Co. 102 and Engine Co. 110 — were equipped with modern gasoline-powered automobile pumpers. Engine 102 had a brand-new Seagrave, and Engine 110 had the 1912 Webb that previously was 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 automobile pumpers under “game” conditions.

Two thousand spectators gathered at Fountain Square, as Evanston and Chicago firemen fought the blaze well into Sunday morning. All three of the automobile pumpers ran out of gas after the EFD’s reserve fuel supply of 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 for the 2nd-highest from a fire in Evanston’s history up to that point in time.

The American-LaFrance horse-drawn 85-foot windlass-operated aerial-ladder truck (HDA) with a four-horse hitch that was purchased by Evanston in 1907 for $6,700 was in service for only nine years. It was demolished in a collision with an Evanston Street Railway Company streetcar at Grove & Sherman while responding to an alarm on Hinman Avenue in the early-evening hours of September 18, 1916. Two firemen — Dan McKimmons and Orville Wheeler — were thrown to the ground when the rig tipped over and were seriously injured in the crash.

The Evanston Street Railway Company claimed the crash was unavoidable and refused to accept responsibility for the accident, and so the City of Evanston began civil litigation to force the ESRC’s insurance company to pay for a new HDA. Unfortunately, the City of Evanston had somehow neglected to insure the HDA, so winning the court case was the only way the city could pay for a new one without a significant emergency appropriation or a voter-approved bond issue.  

While waiting for the lawsuit to be settled, the Evanston City Council came up with a plan to sell two of the four horses that had been assigned to pull the demolished HDA, and use the money to lease a relatively new hook & ladder truck (without an aerial-ladder) @ $60 per month from the Chicago sales office of American LaFrance. This two-horse H&L — which had previously been in service in Peru, Indiana — was in excellent condition, and it ran as EFD Truck No. 1 for about six months while it was being advertised for sale.

American LaFrance sold the ex-Peru rig to the fire department of Toronto, Ontario, in March 1917. The EFD then leased an 1891 LaFrance / Hayes 55-ft aerial ladder truck with a three-horse hitch known as the “Lucille M. McQuade” that had been in service for 25 years as Chattanooga Fire Department Truck No. 1. The Chattanooga F. D. had just recently purchased an automobile 75-foot TDA from American-LaFrance, and the old HDA was traded-in as part of the deal. This early vintage of HDA was peculiar in that the tillerman rode – BELOW – the aerial-ladder!

Receiving the ex-Chattanooga HDA with a three-horse hitch as the replacement for the ex-Peru H&L with a two-horse hitch required the EFD to find another horse, so the venerable 1873 Babcock double-50-gallon chemical engine was taken out of front-line service and its horse was transferred to the HDA. The EFD returned the Lucille McQuade to American-LaFrance and the three horses that had been used to pull it were retired after a new automobile city service ladder truck arrived from Seagrave in November 1917. It was part of the $30,000 bond issue passed by Evanston voters in April 1917 that fully-motorized the EFD.

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Electric substation fire in Wilmette 4-30-21

This from Max Weingardt:

Wilmette transformer explosion/fire 4/30/21

smoke from electric substation fire in Wilmette

Max Weingardt photo

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Evanston Fire Department History – Part 16

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

The Big Stick

On Sunday, December 23, 1906, Isaac Terry was killed instantly when an explosion rocked the Northwestern Gas Light & Coke Company works at Clark & Maple after Terry inadvisedly dumped burning ashes into an oil and coal pit. The pit was 45 feet across and 15 feet deep, with 80,000 gallons of oil in the well. 

Initial firefighting efforts were hampered when the horses pulling Engine 1’s hose-wagon became frightened and ran away immediately upon arriving at the scene after one of the many explosions thundered from the pit, with the horses and the hose cart eventually ending up at Greenwood Boulevard and the lakefront where the fully loaded hose wagon overturned.   

The entire Evanston Fire Department, most of the Wilmette Fire Department — who responded to the blaze aboard their brand new Seagrave combination truck — and two engine companies from the Chicago Fire Department battled the conflagration until 8 PM, with firefighters pouring nearly a million gallons of water onto the inferno. Chicago F. D. Truck Co. 25 changed quarters to Evanston Fire Station # 1 at the height of the blaze.    

A couple of months later, on Saturday February 23, 1907, at 2:30 AM, fire destroyed the garage of Edwin F. Brown at Milburn Street & Sheridan Road. The garage was only worth $3,000, but three luxury automobiles — two valued at $5,000 each and one valued at $2,500, — a gasoline engine, a pool table, a sailboat, and miscellaneous tools and furniture were also destroyed, for a total aggregate loss from fire of $20,000, the seventh highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.    
Two weeks later, Evanston firefighters had to contend with hazardous chemicals caused by spontaneous combustion of phosphorous while battling a blaze at the Northwestern University Science Hall. The next day, the Evanston City Council appropriated funds to purchase a horse-drawn, 85-foot windlass-operated aerial-ladder truck (HDA) with a four-horse hitch from American-LaFrance, something that had been recommended by Chief Carl Harrison just two weeks earlier. Costing $6,700 and financed with a down-payment and three installment payments made each year 1908-10, the truck was placed into service with Truck Co. 1 at Fire Station # 1 after it arrived in July 1907 (and after the west bay of Station # 1 was lengthened to accommodate the new truck).  

Because the city council declined to appropriate funds to acquire the four new horses needed to pull the HDA, Hose 2 and Hose 3 were taken out of front-line service and placed into reserve, and the four horses that had been used to pull the two hose carts were reassigned to the new HDA. At this point in time (1907), mostly only large cities had aerial ladder trucks in service, and even then, only half of the Chicago Fire Department’s 32 truck companies operated with aerial-ladder trucks.      

To replace the hose carts at Station # 2 and Station # 3, the 1885 Davenport H&L (ex-Truck 1) was transferred from Station # 1 to Station # 3, and hose boxes with capacity for 850 feet of 2-1/2 inch line and a 150-ft lead of 1-1/2 line were installed on both the Seagrave combination truck at Station # 2 and on the Davenport H&L now at Station # 3. Hose Co. 3 was re-designated as Truck Co. 3 at this time, as the EFD now had one engine company and three truck companies in service, with two of the trucks equipped with enough hose to allow the companies at Station # 2 and at Station # 3 to attack fires using direct pressure (plug pressure). 

Evanston Fire Department manpower stood at 30 by the summer of 1907, with nine men (the assistant chief, a lieutenant, an engineer, two assistant engineers, and five firemen) assigned to Engine Co. 1, nine men (a captain, a lieutenant, and seven firemen) assigned to Truck Co. 1, six men (a captain, a lieutenant, and four firemen) assigned to Truck Co. 2, three men (a captain and two firemen) assigned to Truck Co. 3, two chief’s buggy drivers (one primary and one relief), and the chief, with the 29 line firefighters working a 112-hour work week (24 hours on / 12 hours off, with meal breaks taken away from the firehouse, either at home or in a nearby restaurant). So 19 or 20 men were usually on duty at any one time, although men were coming & going constantly.   

The aerial ladder wasn’t needed very often, but on July 4, 1908, Truck 1’s stick was extended to the roof of the First Congregational Church at Lake & Hinman to help suppress a blaze caused by errant fireworks. Chief  Harrison ordered soda-acid chemicals from the Babcock chemical engine and from the Seagrave combination truck to be used to extinguish the blaze, rather than water supplied from the ALF Metropolitan steamer or from direct plug pressure, so as to minimize water damage to the sanctuary.  

The summer of 1908 was unusually hot and dry, and the EFD responded to a record 28 calls over the first five days of August. Firefighters were going out constantly, and on August 5th three alarms were received within a five-minute period, the most serious being a blaze that heavily damaged the C&NW RR platform at Davis Street. Five days later, Evanston firefighters saved the Weise Brothers planing mill and lumber yard on Dodge Avenue after a large prairie fire communicated to a pile of lumber.  

In January 1909, the Evanston City Council approved a pay raise for 27 of the 30 members of the Evanston Fire Department, including a $10 per month increase for the chief, a $5 per month increase for the assistant chief, and a $2.50 per month increase for all other members of the department except for the engineer and the two assistant engineers.    

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Evanston Fire Department History – Part 12

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

By the Summer of 1903, Evanston’s population stood at 21,621, not including the turkeys Capt. Carl Harrison was raising in the basement of Fire Station #3. 

Meanwhile, two fires within four days of each other in March 1904 resulted in close calls for three Evanston firefighters. In the early morning hours of March 10  Capt Jack Sweeting was overcome by smoke while battling a blaze at the Blanchard flats at Grove & Oak, and wass rescued by Capt. Carl Harms and fireman William Pruter. Then a few minutes later, Harms suffered broken ribs when he fell through the floorboards and landed in the basement. Four days later, “blind pig” proprietor Mary Kelly and her daughter jumped out of a second floor window and into the arms of a passing citizen as fire swept through her residence (tavern) at 503 Chicago Ave. Rookie fireman William Ludwig was found unconscious inside the tavern, before being pulled to safety by other firefighters. All injured men recovered and returned to duty.  

Two months later, a late night fire swept through the B. B. Noyes coal & feed store at 1003 Church Street. The fire had to be attacked from the exterior using multiple hose lines — including three lines supplying water to the new Eastman Deluger — because of the fear that coal and grain dust might explode. While firefighters were able to eventually contain the blaze to the structure of origin, water pressure was increased in mains to more than two times normal residential pressure, causing damage to plumbing in some Evanston residences.

The city council received complaints from several prominent Evanston residents who criticized the fire department’s tactics (use of direct plug pressure), but Chief Mersch explained that unless and until additional steam fire engines were acquired and placed into service, the use of plug pressure and increasing pressure in water mains to fight fires must continue. 

Chicago Fire Department Captain Norman Holmes (company officer of CFD Truck Co. 20) replaced Ed Mersch as chief of the Evanston Fire Department in May 1905, after Mersch was fired by Mayor John Barker. Holmes served as chief of the EFD for only seven months, however, before taking a job in the private sector as Fire Marshal of Sears, Roebuck & Company. Chief Holmes’ tenure with the Evanston Fire Department was marked by controversy, and his leaving so soon after his appointment probably had as much to do with the hostile reception he received in Evanston as it had to do with an opportunity to work for Sears.

The problem Holmes had as chief had nothing to do with his competence. Rather, South Evanston residents saw former Chief Ed Mersch as one of their own, and felt that he had been fired for purely political reasons (which was probably true). Though it was Mayor Barker who had sacked Mersch, the residents of South Evanston directed their anger and resentment toward Holmes, making life very difficult for the new chief. Soon after his arrival, a group of South Evanstonians initiated legal action to have the appointment overturned, on the grounds that Holmes had not been an Evanston resident for one year before the appointment.

This issue was resolved when it was decided by a court that the one-year residency rule only applied to individuals running for political office, and not to political appointees. But even with the court ruling in his favor, Holmes had had enough of Evanston politics. Meanwhile, another member of the EFD left for greener pastures, as veteran fireman (and chief’s buggy-driver & secretary) Edwin Whitcomb was appointed chief of the Kewanee Fire Department in October 1905. 

One notable improvement implemented by Holmes before he resigned was the introduction of 1-1/2 inch hose lines and smaller nozzles, which were used extensively by the Chicago Fire Department when he was a company officer there. The smaller-diameter hand lines were easier to carry and would help reduce water damage to property when fighting smaller interior fires.

Holmes also lobbied for the establishment of the new civil service rank of Assistant Chief Fire Marshal, whose duties would include company officer of Engine Co. 1 as well as acting chief if the Fire Marshal was absent from the city or otherwise unavailable. Capt. Jack Sweeting was promoted to the new rank of assistant chief in July 1905.   

On December 13, 1905, two Evanston firemen were killed while battling a fire at the Mark Manufacturing Company plant at 1900 Dempster St. Then a little over a year later, on Sunday, December 23, 1906, a workman was killed in an explosion at the Northwestern Gas Light & Coke Company (“gasworks”) at Clark & Maple. The man (Isaac Terry) made the fatal mistake of dumping burning ashes into a tar and coal pit. The fire that followed the explosion required eight hours and nearly a million gallons of water to extinguish, as the EFD was assisted by the Wilmette Fire Department (responding aboard their brand-new horse-drawn Seagrave  “combination truck”) and two Chicago engine companies.

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Wilmette Fire Department history

E-ONE Cyclone 100' MM tower ladder

from Frank Weglowski

thanks Dennis

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House fire in Wilmette, 12-17-19

Photos from Tim Olk of Wilmette firefighters at the scene of a recent fire

fire chief helps roll hose

Tim Olk photo

E-ONE tower ladder with lines off at fire

Tim Olk photo

aftermath of house fire

Tim Olk photo

aftermath of house fire

Tim Olk photo

Firefighters in PPE

Tim Olk photo

E-ONE tower ladder with lines off at fire

Tim Olk photo

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Wilmette Fire Department open house

The Wilmette FD had an open house Saturday morning (5/18/19). This included several antique apparatus and an opportunity to showcase new Engine 27 for residents followed by ceremoniously pushing it into the station.

Engine 27 is a 2019 Pierce Dash CF PUC so 32569. It has a 1500-GPM pump, 750 gallons of water, and a foam cell which has either a 20 or 30-gallon capacity. This engine was outfitted with a 35-foot ground ladder and will run as Engine 26 if the tower ladder is out of service. It will go into service at Station 27, and the 2017 2013 E-ONE engine will become a reserve piece.

Wilmette FD Fire Chief Ben Wozney

Larry Shapiro photo

Wilmette FD Engine 27 2019 Pierce Dash CF PUC

; Wilmette FD Engine 27; Pierce Dash CF PUC

active and retired firefighters push new fire engine into the station

Larry Shapiro photo

active and retired firefighters pose with new fire engine

Larry Shapiro photo

Wilmette sold the reserve tower ladder and has an engine currently for sale.


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Wilmette Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

A 67-year-old Arlington Heights man died Saturday after an accidental boat explosion in Wilmette Harbor. The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified the man as Mitchell Z. Sroka.

The private boat exploded at about 8 a.m. at the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club. A second man, a 74-year-old Arlington Heights resident, was hospitalized with injuries that are not life-threatening. The injured man was standing on the dock when the boat exploded. The body of the man who was killed was recovered by divers. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The boat was tethered to a fueling dock when it exploded but was not being fueled at the time of the fire and the fueling station was not damaged. It is unclear what started the fire. The boat was half-submerged and expected to be removed by a salvage company. Police said the explosion appears to be accidental.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which handles watercraft incidents, is investigating.

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New buggy for Wilmette

Found online …

Wilmette FD Battalion 26

New unit for Wilmette FD Battalion 26

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Wilmette Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Ben Wozney

Ben Wozney named as chief of the Wilmette Fire Department.

Wilmette officials announced Ben Wozney, a fire department veteran named deputy chief just last year, will take over for retiring Chief Mike McGreal when the latter retires Aug. 2.

Wozney, who joined the department as a firefighter and paramedic in 1995. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2010 and duty chief in 2015 before being named deputy chief in 2016. He has served as director of the MABAS Division III water rescue team, overseeing a team of 86 divers from area fire departments.

As deputy chief, he has been responsible for managing the daily operations of the department’s staff and has worked with McGreal on the department’s strategic plan and employee development.

Wozney is a graduate of New Trier High School, holds a bachelor of arts in psychology, and is also the recipient of the executive scholar award from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School for Nonprofit Management. 

McGreal was hired in 1988 as a firefighter and paramedic and was promoted to lieutenant in 2000, before serving as fire marshal in 2001 then being promoted to deputy chief in 2007. During his tenure, he was a site peer assessor for the Center for Fire Accreditation International, and as an instructor and committee member for the Northern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy.

thanks Dan

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