Archive for December 10th, 2013

Franklin Park Fire Department apparatus history (part 3)

This is the 3rd and final part of Harry Pederson’s retrospective on the Franklin Park Fire Department fleet. This post highlights cars for chief officers and staff. The previous post, part 2,  featured fire suppression units, and the first post highlighted ambulances.

Part 3 staff vehicles

Franklin Park Fire Department apparatus Franklin Park Fire Department apparatus Franklin Park Fire Department apparatus Franklin Park Fire Department apparatus Franklin Park Fire Department apparatus Franklin Park Fire Department apparatus Franklin Park Fire Department apparatusFranklin Park Fire Department apparatusFranklin Park Fire Department apparatus

thanks Harry


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Waukegan Fire Department history (part 3)

Part 3 of the Waukegan Fire Department history, courtesy of the Waukegan Fire Department.

1930’s and 1940’s

The 1930’s and 1940’s brought new challenges to the Waukegan Fire Department as Waukegan struggled first with the economic difficulties of the Depression and later saw its resources challenged during wartime. Despite these difficulties, the department continued to be an innovator.  In 1935, the Waukegan Fire Department pioneered inhalator-resuscitator work in addition to traditional fire service duties.  On June 26, 1936, the firemen joined the International Association of Firefighters and were issued the charter as IAFF Local 473.

Another serious fire occurred on December 16, 1943 that destroyed a portion of the east side of the one hundred block of North Genesee Street. Later, the Hein’s Store would be built on this site.

1950’s and 1960’s

 The post war boom brought new growth to Waukegan and the fire department. On September 28, 1952, Mayor Robert E. Coulson, Chief Norman Litz and the council dedicated the West Side Fire Station located at 216 N. Lewis Ave. An estimated 3,000 people attended the event. Also dedicated was a new $16,000 Seagrave pumper. Later that year, on October 5, 1952, Chief Litz unveiled the city’s new Seagrave 85-foot aerial ladder truck, which was purchased at a price of $37,000.

The Central station was remodeled again in 1954. Four years later, the building was deemed obsolete in due to space restrictions and hazardous in its location of fire lines that ran through the congested streets of the business district.  In 1962, the Central Fire Station moved from Madison Avenue to the city hall with facilities that faced West Street.

In June of 1955, the Old Clock Tower at the Courthouse burned. Shortly thereafter, a fire prevention ordinance established a dedicated fire prevention bureau for the department.  In 1958, the Nitro Chemical Plant located at 740 Market Street was gutted by fire. Waukegan firemen fought the fire in brutally cold conditions. It took almost 11 hours to gain control of the stubborn fire.

Three captains, 11 lieutenants, one master mechanic, and 46 firemen staffed the Waukegan Fire Department, in 1959. The department’s rolling equipment included two rescue squad cars, an emergency truck, four pumpers, one 85-foot aerial truck, one 65-foot aerial truck, and the chief’s car. Firemen were on duty 56 hours a week and responded to approximately 600 calls that year.  The Illinois Bell Telephone Company transmitted fire alarms through its attended machine-switching central offices in its fireproof central offices in Waukegan’s business district.

In 1960, a fire at the Johns Manville plant caused an estimated $6 million in damage. Other notable fires of that decade include the Commercial Hotel Fire in 1965, two fires at the Piggly Wiggly Store in 1964 and 1965, and the Sahs Warehouse Fire in 1966.

In 1966, the department responded to 1,530 calls with approximately the same number of firemen and equipment as seven years earlier. As the city grew, so did its fire department. In 1969, the North Side Fire Station was constructed at the corner of Golf Road and Jackson Street. In that same year, the Waukegan Tannery was rocked by an explosion and tremendous fire necessitating all available apparatus and manpower.


In 1972, Lt. Dale Adams established the Waukegan Fire Department Bomb Team under the direction of Fire Commissioner Edward R. Pavelick. Initial training for the new team was conducted by the New York Police Department and later through the FBI at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

Commissioner Pavelick also established and introduced the first EMT-Paramedic program to protect the citizens of Waukegan during medical emergencies.  The WFD was the second public safety agency in the state to offer this service.  Waukegan’s new EMT’s were graduates of the first paramedic training class offered in Illinois.

In 1979, an unprecedented number of members retired from the department including Joseph Regis, Lt. John Kink, Richard Repp, Charles Ahlstrom, James Poirier, Sgt. Charles Dicig, Sgt. William Worth, Lt. Roy Hampson, Lt. James Hushour, Captain Louis Milewski, Lt. Joe Musick, Captain George Hull, and Jack Evans. These 13 members left the department with a combined 367 years of fire service experience.


One of the worst tragedies in Waukegan’s history was a fire that occurred on Christmas morning in 1984 at the Karcher Hotel on Washington Street and claimed the lives of nine people.  Faulty wiring was thought to have caused the fire.

For the second time in their  history, the Waukegan Fire Department mourned the loss of a brother firefighter who died in the line of duty. On December 29, 1985, Lt. Franklin Mercer lost his life while battling a house fire at 721 McAlister Street. Lt. Mercer had been operating a hose line on the second floor. Lt. Mercers joined his company in an aggressive interior attack after there was a report that children were trapped in the building.  He died as a result of multiple injuries sustained when he fell through a floor that was weakened by the fire.  At his funeral, representatives from 63 public safety agencies attended to honor his service. Lt. Mercer was survived by his wife Paula and two children.

In 1986, Chief Richard Kamerad established the “Vital Link” program to allow citizens and businesses to provide donations for the fire departments paramedic program.


In a spectacular daytime fire, the 96,000 square foot Waukegan Warehouse building was completely gutted by a maliciously-set fire on June 17, 1991.

Chief Charles Perkey purchased a new ladder truck and two new engines for the department from Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company in 1995.

In 1997, Chief Charles R. Perky, Deputy Chief John E. Terlap, Mary William Durkin, and members of the City Council dedicated the new Fire Station #2 at 4505 McGaw. In 2000, the same administrative team dedicated Fire Station #5 3221 N. Green Bay Road.


On what will be known as 9-11, the department joins other city agencies in maintaining a high state of readiness by adding additional companies and bomb technicians to protect the residents of Waukegan while the scope of the terrorist attacks was being defined. After the attack on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, members of the Waukegan Fire Department attended memorial services in New York to honor those killed in the attacks. Immediately after 9-11, members of IAFF Local 473 along with other members of the department raised over $70,000 over a two-day period with a “pass the boot drive”. The money was donated to the families of the 343 FDNY members who were killed in the line of duty.

In October of 2002, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) held their official memorial service at Madison Square Garden. Representatives from WFD were among the 55,000 uniformed firefighters in attendance.

A maliciously set fire at the Cub Foods store on September 3, 2001 caused $1 million in damage. Firefighter David Rigney sustained a fractured leg while performing assigned duties during the incident. The new Seagrave heavy rescue Squad 1 is dedicated into service on December 27, 2004.

On October 27, 2004, a hidden fire that went undetected for over an hour caused the total loss of the historical Academy Theatre. The Academy had begun as a silent movie house in the early 1900’s.

The fire department receives a new ladder truck from the Pierce Manufacturing Company. The truck is equipped with a 105-foot ladder, hose and pump. It is placed into service in February 2007.

In 2007, the 113 members of the fire department answered 9407 calls for assistance, the most ever in their 158 years of history serving the residents of Waukegan.


As regards their history, there are many friends of the Waukegan Fire Department over the years that have given time, talent, or just plain kindness to our members. We offer a special recognition and thanks to Mrs. Bess McClure who over several decades sent letters, cards, and small gifts (great cookies) to WFD members. To recognize her kindness and caring for the men and women of our department, in 2003, Rescue 3 was dedicated in her honor. In later years, Jack Kruse, Jim McGrain, and Jeff Lynch who were all especially close with Bess, took extra good care of her as she did us. Following her passing in 2006, Bess was further honored by the members of IAFF Local 473 who established a scholarship in her name.


Waukegan Fire Department history Part 1

Waukegan Fire Department history Part 2

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