Archive for February 23rd, 2014

Full Still Alarm Fire in Riverside, 2-22-14

This from Eric Haak:

At 1715 hrs Saturday afternoon, the Riverside Fire Department had a working fire in an apartment building at 2916 S. Harlem.  Companies arrived to fire blowing out the first floor windows of a two-unit apartment.  The fire was contained to the first floor unit and was quickly brought under control.

firemen battle apartment building fire

Eric Haak photo

firemen battle apartment building fire

Eric Haak photo

Seagrave quint at fire scene

Eric Haak photo

firemen battle apartment building fire

Eric Haak photo


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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.


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Palatine Rural FPD wants tax hike

The Daily Herald has an article about a tax increase request from the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District.

The head of the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District said a drop in local property values is the reason the district is asking for a .05 percent tax hike on the ballot March 18.

Chief Hank Clemmensen said the fire district’s financial situation is grim. “Last year we lost $300,000 in tax revenue from the previous year,” Clemmensen said. He said the district only took in $3.33 million from taxes, meaning the lost revenue was around 9 percent.

Clemmensen said almost all of the fire district’s income is from property taxes. He said the assessed valuation of the fire district dropped 8.1 percent, from $445 million in 2011 to $409 million in 2012. If property values stay at around $400 million, the tax hike would net the district $200,000 more per year, which Clemmensen said will be used to keep the district operating.

Should the initiative fail, the chief said they will likely be unable to maintain their current staffing levels, meaning fewer firefighters going out on fire calls. He said currently the district has five firefighters on duty at all times so three people can operate the fire engine and the other two can drive either the ambulance or the 3,000-gallon water tender truck, depending on the call.

Clemmensen said the district’s policy is if two firefighters enter a burning building for a search or rescue there must be two firefighters standing by outside. He said if the tax hike fails, firefighters who leave will not be replaced, and the district may have only four on-duty firefighters at one time.

“In the old days when a fire department lost money it was because people left the community, so calls for service went down,” Clemmensen said. “But my calls have gone up.” The chief said the district still has approximately 17,000 people in about 17 square miles, an area that includes two thirds of Inverness and most of the unincorporated area in Palatine Township.

If the tax hike passes, a homeowner whose property has a $100,000 assessed value would pay an additional $50 in taxes to the fire district.

Another financial consideration is that the district’s 19 firefighters are scheduled to have 2 percent salary hikes in 2013 and 2014. Negotiations for the next labor contract will begin in the fall. The chief said the last time the fire district asked taxpayers for additional funding was in 2005 when voters approved a 0.1 percent tax increase. He said they wouldn’t be asking again if it wasn’t necessary. 

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