Archive for April 5th, 2016

Retired CFD Battalion Chief Chief Joseph V. Murray

Excerpts from the

When the alarm sounded to fight a blaze at Chicago’s Our Lady of Angels School, Joe Murray felt dread. It was his old grade school. He knew its hallways, stairs and classrooms as well as he knew the inside of his home. The firefighter saw mushrooming smoke as he neared the building at Iowa and Avers. He knew things were very bad.

The 1958 fire killed 92 children and three nuns. Grief settled on Humboldt Park as it seemed that every block had victims who never got a chance to grow up.

John Raymond and others who made it out of the school consider Joe Murray a hero. “He pulled out kids as fast as he could,” said Raymond, who was about 11 at the time. “At first he was grabbing them and putting them behind him, so they could climb down the ladder.”

But when the heat began to build, Mr. Murray knew a flashover was coming. “He started grabbing them, and he said most of the times he grabbed the boys, because he could see the white shirts, reaching in and throwing them down to the ground,” Raymond said.

“Some of the firefighters were trying to catch them with nets,” he said, “but there were just too many of them.”

Mr. Murray’s super-human efforts, which were honored in 2008 by survivors, are described on a website dedicated to the memory of the Our Lady of Angels fire. He “climbed a ladder to one of room 210’s windows, and began pulling children out. It was difficult to get them out, though, because they were so tightly packed at the windows. He then climbed inside the room and continued to shove children out onto the ladder.

“Fire had been pouring in through the transoms above the doors, and was now burning all across the ceiling, dropping lower and lower in the room.

“Suddenly, he could sense that the room was nearing flashover and headed back out the window. On his way out, he grabbed two children next to the window and tossed them out ahead of him. He felt badly about that, but it was their only chance to live.

“Just as he got out onto the ladder, the room flashed over, sending flames shooting out all the windows with a roar.”

Mr. Murray, 88, who died on March 24, is buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery within 100 feet of the section where many Our Lady of Angels victims were laid to rest.

“When my mom died, that’s the area they chose,” said their daughter, Mary Gersch Marchlewski.

Mr. Murray’s life was full, happy and accomplished. He had 11 children with his wife, Rosella, whom he loved from the time he first saw her at a roller rink in 1947.

He retired as battalion chief of Battalion No. 11 after a nearly 40-year-career in which he was honored several times for heroism. He came from a firefighting family. His father was a division marshal.

But the school conflagration left him with a mark as real as a burn scar. “He had constant nightmares after that, terrible nightmares” Marchlewski said. “Every year, at the anniversary [of the fire], the nightmares would come back.”

In 1963, he aided a 2-year-old girl who drove a half-inch screw into her head when she fell on a radiator handle. “He sent a guy down the block to the hardware store to get a fine saw blade” to free her, Marchlewski said. The girl recovered after surgery.

In 1966, he was honored for extricating a firefighter from the debris of a roof collapse that trapped him near flames.

In the mid-1980s, Marchlewski said, he grew concerned about a chief who didn’t show up for work at the firehouse. When Mr. Murray and firefighters did a check at his home, they rescued him from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

He is also survived by his other daughters, Susan, Kathleen, Jayne, Patti Jo and Charlene; his sons, Michael, Timothy and James; 39 grandchildren; and 30 great-grandchildren. His wife and two sons, Joe and John, died before him. Mr. Murray was buried in his Knights of Columbus tuxedo.

thanks Dan


American LaFrance history

This from Mike Summa:

Here is a photo that I took in the early 1990s at a parade in Beecher, Illinois.  The cab is a Spartan on an ALF chassis.  The sign on the roof says, “Pioneer ’90 Series.”  1250 GPM top mount.  The bumper sign reads, “ALF Factory Service Center University Park.”  The destination of this is anybody’s guess.  Hope you enjoy,
Mike S.
American LaFrance Pioneer 90 Series fire engine demo

American LaFrance Pioneer 90 Series fire engine demo with Spartan cab. Mike Summa photo

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Fire Prevention & Safety Grant Application Period Opens

Excerpts from

The application period for the 2015 Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grants opened April 4.

FEMA’s goal is to award 100 grants totaling $34M.

FEMA officials urge agencies that are planing to apply for this round of funding to read the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) thoroughly as it contains the key programmatic updates and application requirements for all eligible applicants.

The prevention category focuses on:

  • General education/awareness
  • Code enforcement/awareness
  • Fire and arson investigation
  • National/state/regional programs and studies

Activities in firefighter safety research and development include:

  • Clinical studies
  • Technology and product development
  • Database system development
  • Dissemination and implementation research
  • Preliminary studies

Find more details on the Fire Prevention & Safety Grants website.

The application period closes on May 6 at 5 p.m. ET.

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Oak Lawn Fire Department history

This from Mike Summa:

Here is a photo of an early Oak Lawn truck.  Again, I’m sorry that I have no specs on it.  I know that it’s on a Pierce Arrow chassis.  If anybody knows anything more about it, please feel free to advise.  Thank you, hope you enjoy.
Mike S.
Oak Lawn FD history

Oak Lawn Engine 24. Mike Summa photo

Here are a few more hosts from the database … with differing specs

Oak Lawn FD history

Oak Lawn Engine 24 – 1988 Spartan Monarch/Pierce 1250/300 55′ quint. Larry Shapiro photo

Oak Lawn FD history

Oak Lawn Engine 24 – 1988 Spartan/Pierce 1250/400 75′ quint. Karl Klotz photo

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