Archive for April, 2012

The color of fire trucks (part 5)

Four fire departments in Lake County, MABAS Division 4, have had non-red fire apparatus over the years. To date, only the Fox Lake Fire Department and the Winthrop Harbor Fire Department maintain fleets that are not red, red & white, or red & black.

The fire department at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in North Chicago used to run apparatus that was either solid lime green or that later had a white roof. The military has since changed over to white over red … with the exception of some ARFF and other airport assigned units.

Great Lakes Naval Training Center Fire Department

The Great Lakes Fire Department used to run with this 1994 KME Renegade that was assigned to Engine 1911. It had a 1,250-GPM pump and carried 750 gallons of water. There were also two 50-gallon foam tanks on-board. The federal government purchased many of these units over a period of several years in the 1990s and deployed them at bases throughout the world. Several years ago, KME completed a contract to recondition most of these engines. Great Lakes currently has a 1997/2010 Renegade engine at their station 2. Larry Shapiro collection

When the Lake Zurich Rescue Squad and the Lake Zurich Fire Department were separate entities, the rescue squad ran ambulances and a small squad unit. When they purchased this unit in 1979, there was federal funding provided to help with the cost. One stipulation though was that the squad had to be painted white over lime green, which at the time was considered a matter of safety with regards to the visibility of the unit.

Lake Zurich Rescue Squad

Squad 955 with the Lake Zurich Rescue Squad was a small quick-response squad built by E-ONE in 1979 on a GMC K35 chassis. Larry Shapiro collection

The Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District purchased two Mack CF engines; one in 1968 and the other in 1975. Both were painted white.

Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District Mack CF engine

Round Lake Engine 638 was one of two CF Mack engines that they purchased. This was built in 1975 and had a 1,000-GPM pump with 500 gallons of water. Larry Shapiro collection

The Waukegan apparatus has always been red or red and white with a few exceptions. In 1979, they purchased a DOT spec’d small squad just like the one that was bought by the Lake Zurich Rescue Squad. Additionally, they purchased a 1969 Ward LaFrance Model P80 engine on an Ambassador chassis that was white over lime green which was typical of the Ward LaFrance units being shipped during that era. They went on to purchase three more units from Ward LaFrance in 1976 and  1977, all of which were white over red.

Waukegan Fire Department Ward LaFrance Ambassador engine

The first of five Ward LaFrance units that was purchased by the Waukegan Fire Department was this 1969 Model P80 Ambassador Series engine with a 1,250-GPM pump and 1,000-gallons of water. Larry Shapiro collection

Other posts in this series can be found by entering Color of fire trucks in the search field.


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Random Apparatus Updates

Karl Klotz submitted two images

Crete Fire Department Brush 704 2011 Ford F350 250-250

Crete Brush 704 is a 2011 Ford F350 with a 250-GPM pump and 250 gallons of water. Karl Klotz photo

Beecher FPD Engine Co 404 2012 Pierce Arrow XT PUC 1500/1000

Beecher Fire Protection District Engine 404 is a 2012 Pierce Arrow XT PUC with a 1,500-GPM pump and 1,000 gallons of water. Karl Klotz photo

Also, according to Karl:

Beecher’s former Engine 404 (Pierce Saber) went to the Grant Park FPD and will be in service after some paint work.

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New Radio System for Northwest Central Dispatch

An article in the Journal & Topics Online site discusses a new radio system for agencies handled by Northwest Central Dispatch.

Mt. Prospect trustees recently approved an intergovernmental agreement with Northwest Central 911 System for the financing of the purchase of radios in the amount of $837,468.27.

Funding for the radios will come from the Capital Improvement Fund.

… the 12-year system used by police and fire has become outdated and is no longer supported by the vendor, Motorola. The new system will consolidate all member agencies into one system.

The original six member agencies of NWCD were Mt. Prospect, Elk Grove Village, Arlington Hts., Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Prospect Hts police. Since 1998, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Streamwood, Inverness and Rolling Meadows joined NWCD.

The article can be found HERE.

thanks Chris

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Narrowband Radio Switch Deadline Looms

How narrowbanding will affect your scanner listening:

Narrowbanding, required by Jan 2013, will reduce transmission widths to 12.5 KHz efficiency technology (about 11 KHz total deviation above and below the center frequency) as opposed to the 25 KHz efficiency technology currently allowed. Once an agency is narrowbanded, a transmission’s “volume level” or modulation will sound too low on a receiver that is still set to listen to that frequency as a standard FM channel because half of what the scanner wants to hear is no longer there. On older scanners, like the first generation trunk trackers, there is nothing you can do about that, as there is no narrowband setting. But newer scanners will have a narrowband setting called NFM mode.  By switching that frequency to NFM you will “perk up” the volume of that frequency to the range you are used to.

A frequency being monitored in NFM mode that receives a standard FM transmission might sound odd to you. It might sound clipped or lack full vocal range since it is not receiving the complete modulation of that signal. Something else to be aware of is the wideband setting on scanners or WFM mode. WFM should not be confused with the current standard (FM). WFM is an even wider flavor of FM used only by broadcasters. A FM transmission being received in WFM will sound quieter. And a NFM transmission being received in WFM mode will sound extra, extra quiet.

It is possible that not all agencies operating on a specific frequency that you monitor will narrowband at the same time. If that is the case, your listening may become a bit of a roller coaster for the rest of the year but hopefully more like the Whizzer than the Eagle. But some transmitters that you are used to hearing at a certain powerhouse volume are going to lose their punch. A smaller bandwidth coupled in some cases with less ERP (effective radiated power) will result in some dispatch centers simply no longer sounding as clear to you. Hopefully those agencies will still have good coverage within the area they are responsible for.

One benefit to the changeover is that conforming to the new standard has motivated some dispatch centers to add a repeater. In those cases, if you are close enough hear the repeater; you’ll also be able to hear the rig traffic.  Some repeaters will pop up on the channels you are already listening to, while other newly allocated repeater pairs will go live.

Joining the Chicago Area Radio Monitoring Association is a great way to find out about new developments in the world of Chicagoland fire radio. Joining is as simple as signing up for their free Yahoo Group. There is a link to that and to their frequency database (called profiles) on the CARMA website at An excellent list of the current face of Chicagoland fire radio is available at

Happy monitoring!


Live Fire/Emergency Radio Stereo Mix

Chicago & 36 neighboring counties

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New area ambulances

The Medtec Flickr site has three recent postings of ambulances being delivered in the area for Roselle, Libertyville, and Orland Park.

new Medtec ambulance for Roselle

A new Medtec Type I ambulance for Roselle. Medtec composite

new Medtec Type III ambulance for Libertyville

New Medtec Type III ambulance for Libertyville. Medtec composite

new Medtec Type III ambulance for Orland FPD

New Medtec Type III ambulance for Orland Park. Medtec composite

thanks Martin

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Narrowband Radio Switch Deadline Looms

An article found at looks into the high costs of the switch to narrowband radio frequencies and some concerns about the coverage that will come with it.

A federal mandate requiring emergency service providers to switch to narrowband radio frequencies is costing many departments hundreds of thousands of dollars and could result in a 30 percent reduction in coverage area.

Failure to meet the Jan. 1 deadline, set by the Federal Communications Commission, could result in a $16,000 daily fine, said Paul Maplethorpe, treasurer/comptroller for the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.

“I’ve been a communications technician since 1978,” Maplethorpe said. “Based on my experience, it (the switch) will not provide any benefits and will cause a 20 to 30 percent loss of range.”

Danvers Fire Chief Glen Rosecrans said his department is buying repeaters for its trucks to combat the range reduction. Repeaters retransmit radio transmissions through the truck’s higher wattage radio. A repeater system can run about $3,000 per truck.

The FCC mandate, requiring licensees to switch from 25 kHz radio systems to 12.5 kHz channels, was announced in 1995 and is designed to be a more efficient use of VHF and UHF land and mobile bands, allowing more channels to become available. Most radios purchased in the past six to eight years are capable of narrowband and just need to be reprogrammed at a cost of between $40 and $75 per radio.

The entire article can be found HERE.

thanks Dennis

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South Holland firefighter killed in motorcycle crash


Dwight Ligon Jr….24, of South Holland, died Wednesday when the motorcycle he was driving slammed into a vehicle near the intersection of 152nd and Halsted streets in Harvey about 8 p.m., …

He had just been sworn in as a part-time South Holland firefighter last week, a goal toward which he had worked for more than a year. His death is a huge loss to the department, South Holland Deputy Fire Chief Brian Kolosh said.

“Before he was in the academy he was helping out at the station,” Kolosh said. “He was doing station duties and coming to fire scenes and helping us clean up and learned what we do.”

The article can be found HERE.

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Vintage CFD Fire Photos

More historic fire photos from Chicago.

Chicago Fire Department history extra alarm 4-11 fire in 1964

Chicago Fire Department history extra alarm fire in 1963 Museum of Science & Industry

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New CFD academy engine

Here are two shots of the new CFD Academy Engine. The rig was back at Spartan for some work prior to delivery.
Chicago Fire Department Spartan Crimson engine

New Spartan ERV (Crimson) engine for the Quinn Fire Academy. Brian Cummings photo

Chicago Fire Department Spartan Crimson engine

Side view of the new engine for the Quinn Fire Academy. Brian Cummings photo

thanks to Brian Cummings from Marshall,MI

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Elk Grove Village TRT Squad

Another image from Scott Peterson – Elk Grove Village Technical Rescue 8

Elk Grove Village Fire Department Special Teams Squad unit

1999 Ford pickup pulling a 2001 Wells Cargo trailer. Scott Peterson photo

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