Archive for October 1st, 2020

South Holland Fire Department news

From the South Holland Fire Department Facebook page:

From J. Wynsma, Village Administrator for the Village of South Holland:

The Village of South Holland is deeply saddened to report the tragic loss of Firefighter Dylan Cunningham following an underwater dive on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Dylan has been a member of the South Holland Fire Department since 2011. He started as a part-time firefighter and began serving full time in 2018. Dylan also served in the Illinois Army National Guard since 2012.

We know you have many questions, and so do we. Our efforts will bring conclusions that we will share with you in the coming days.

In the days ahead we will be doing everything we can to support the Cunningham family. We ask that you keep Dylan’s family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

South Holland FD Firefighter Dylan Cunningham

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Evanston Fire Department history

From Phil Stenholm:

100 years ago today (October 1, 1920), the Evanston Fire Department became the 387th fire department in the nation to institute a two-platoon/84-hour work-week schedule for its firemen. (Prior to this, Evanston firefighters worked a 112-hour work-week — 24 hours on duty/ 12 hours off duty, with one hour long meal breaks taken away from the firehouse).

In order to implement the two-platoon schedule, the fire-fighting force was increased to from 41 to 49 (with 24 men on each shift, plus the Chief). 14 men (seven on each platoon, with one man from each platoon assigned as the chief’s chauffeur/administrative assistant) were assigned to Truck Co. 1, twelve men each (six on each platoon) were assigned to Engine Co. 1 and Engine Co. 2, and ten men (five men on each platoon) were assigned to Engine Co. 3. Firemen now worked 24 hours on duty, followed by 24 hours off-duty, and the men were no longer permitted to take meal breaks at home or at a restaurant, as the stable facilities in the city’s three firehouses were replaced with kitchens and dining rooms. (The Evanston Fire Department was fully-motorized and all remaining EFD horses had been transferred to the Street Department or sold by March 1918).

Firemen were now permitted two weeks’ annual paid vacation leave, but no vacations were allowed between November and March. One man per company could be on vacation at any one time, and only one man per company could be absent on any given shift. Firemen absent due to illness were not paid for hours not worked, and would have to make up (pay-back) the lost day by working his day off at a later time (to be determined by the company officer). If a fireman absent due to illness on a given shift would result in the company running more than one man short, the absent firefighter would be replaced by a firefighter from the company’s opposite platoon (a firefighter could volunteer to work his day off, otherwise the company officer would select the replacement), who would cover for the absence by working his day-off and receiving an alternate day-off (to be determined by the company officer) at a later point in time when the company was back at full-strength.

In addition to authorizing reduction of the work-week from 112 hours to 84, the City Council also approved a 25-35% pay raise for all members of the EFD in 1920. The Chief Fire Marshal’s annual salary was increased 25% to $3,000 (with an additional 20% increase to $3,600 in 1921), the Assistant Chief Fire Marshal’s annual salary was increased from $1,530 to $2,100, and the annual salaries for “Captain” (company officer) and “Lieutenant” (assistant company officer) were elevated $510 per year to $1,980 and $1,920, respectively. The annual salaries for “Engineer,” “Assistant Engineer,” and “Fireman I” were upped by $480 per year, to $1,890, $1,830, and $1,800, respectively.

On March 11, 1919, five-year old Robert Oldberg died, one day after he was burned when his clothes caught fire while he was playing with matches in the basement of his home at 1024 Maple Ave. (His mother was severely burned trying to extinguish the fire). Then a year after the Oldberg child was killed, Minerva Iverson, a maid in the employ of the Walter Neilson family at 2711 Harrison Street, died from burns suffered after an alcohol stove exploded while she was curling her hair. Ten years earlier (on December 27, 1910), a six-year old girl had died from burns suffered after her clothes caught fire when she came into contact with candles on her family’s Christmas tree at 1107 Washington Street. With three deaths resulting from “careless use of fire” within ten years, Chief Hofstetter initiated a “Fire Prevention“ educational program on October 10, 1922, to correspond with U. S. President Warren G. Harding declaring October 10th as “National Fire Prevention Day“ (commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire). The educational program involved sending Evanston firemen into the city‘s schools to teach children about the danger of fire. This program would eventually be formalized as part of the EFD’s “Fire Prevention Bureau” after the FPB was created in 1929, and eventually led to educational campaigns such as “Learn Not to Burn” and “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”

In the twenty-year period between 1892 and 1912, Evanston’s population grew from 15,277 to 26,253, an increase of 65%. Then in the ten-year period between 1912 and 1922, Evanston’s population grew from 26,253 to 43,339, an increase of 80%! It was during this latter ten-year period (most especially between 1916 and 1922) that most-all of the classic hotels and apartment buildings that dot Evanston’s landscape were constructed. As might be expected, as Evanston’s population increased, the Fire Department’s work-load increased as well. For instance, just from 1921 to 1922 alone, Truck Co. 1 showed a 30% increase in alarms, Engine Co. 1 a 15% increase, Engine Co. 2 a 62% increase, and Engine Co. 3 a 24% increase.

In its report following a 1924 inspection of the Evanston Fire Departmemt, the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) recommended that the EFD acquire an aerial-ladder apparatus for Truck Co. 1 at Station # 1 (Truck Co. 1’s 1907 American LaFrance 85-ft HDA had been demolished in a traffic collision at Grove & Sherman in September 1916 and was replaced with a Seagrave automobile city-service ladder truck in November 1917), construct a fourth fire station in the vicinity of Dempster & Dodge, and organize an engine company and a ladder company at this new firehouse (Fire Station #4) with the new west-side ladder company manning the 1917 Seagrave city service truck and responding first-due to all alarms west of Asbury Avenue.

Although the EFD did acquire an aerial-ladder apparatus and did organize a second truck company in September 1924, a proposed Fire Station #4 in the vicinity of Dempster & Dodge was not constructed at that time.

So Truck Co. 2 (later known as “Truck Co. 22”) was organized at Fire Station # 1 on September 1, 1924. Ten new firemen (eventually twelve) were hired to staff the new truck company. As recommended in the 1924 NBFU report, the 1917 Seagrave city service truck (formerly Truck 1) was assigned to Truck Co. 2, while Truck Co. 1 received a brand-new tractor-drawn 85-foot aerial-ladder truck (TDA), purchased from the Seagrave Corporation for $16,500. Thomas McEnery was the first captain assigned to Truck Co. 2. (Tom McEnery would retire as 1st Assistant Chief Fire Marshal in 1948 after 46 years of service, the second-most years of service by an individual in the history of the EFD).

Just as the two truck companies had different rigs, they also had different responsibilities. Truck Co. 1 (operating the EFD’s lone aerial-ladder truck) was first-due to all alarms east of Asbury Avenue (an area that included the downtown “high-value district,” the Northwestern University campus, both hospitals, most of the city’s churches and apartment buildings, and all of the hotels and movie theatres), while Truck Co. 2 (operating the city service truck 1924-1937, and a 65-ft aerial-ladder truck 1937-1952) was first-due to all alarms west of Asbury Avenue (an area consisting mainly of single-family residences and factories). Both of the truck companies responded to alarms received from schools during school hours and hospitals.

Also In September 1924, the Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol (CFIP) began to respond to all “working fires” in Evanston. Patrol No. 8 (established at 3921 N. Ravenswood Avenue in 1922) was the first-due CFIP salvage squad to Evanston. Patrol No. 8 was disbanded on January 1, 1933 due to budget cuts related to the Great Depression, and the City of Evanston’s contract with the CFIP was terminated at that time. The CFIP was dissolved in 1959, with many of its members joining various local Chicago-area fire departments, most notably the Skokie F. D. (which ended up with a former CFIP officer as its new chief, and an ex-CFIP salvage truck as its “Squad 1”).

Sirens were installed on Evanston Fire Department apparatus in January 1927, after the city service truck (Truck No. 2) had been nearly demolished in a traffic collision at Church & Ridge while responding to a plane crash on the canal bank near Noyes & Ashland on October 9, 1926. (The aircraft was a photographic observation plane flying over a Northwestern-Notre Dame football game at brand-new Dyche Stadium). The occupants of the downed aircraft escaped unharmed, but three Evanston fire fighters (Captain Tom McEnery and firemen John Lindberg and Anthony Steigelman) were injured in the collision.

For the three months that the city service truck was in the repair shop, Truck Co. 2 was deployed as a second engine company (“Engine Co. 4”) at Fire Station # 1, manning the old 1911 Robinson “Jumbo“ pumper. Chief Al Hofstetter apparently liked having a second engine company in service at Station # 1, because when the time came to place two additional companies into service in November 1927, the Chief made sure a second engine company at Station # 1 was one of them.

Pneumatic tires were installed on all EFD rigs (replacing the older hard rubber tires) after Engine No. 1’s front wheel, axle and drive-shaft were damaged in a collision with a “pot-hole” on Bridge Street in 1928. The Metropolitan Sanitary District (owner of the bridge) was sued for $4,000 to recover the cost of the repairs.

Major fires occurring during the 1920’s included one at the clubhouse of the Evanston Country Club at 1501 Oak Avenue in December 1922 ($80,000 loss), one at the Evanston Boot Shop ($30,000 damage) at 919 Chicago Avenue the SAME NIGHT (January 7, 1925) as another at the Swanson Brothers shoe store at 1904 Central Street ($50,000 loss at this second blaze , with the fire extinguished by Chicago F. D. engine companies 102 and 79), one at the Lynch-Clarisey Oil Company storage yards (involving 170,000 gallons of fuel) at Main Street & the C&NW RR Mayfair Division tracks in February 1925, one at the Flossy Dental Supply Company at 1851 Benson Avenue in November 1926 ($46,326 loss), one at Boltwood Intermediate School (the original Evanston Township High School) at Dempster & Elmwood in January 1927 ($308,500 loss, the highest-loss from a fire in Evanston’s history to that point in time), one at the Lee drug store at 901 Chicago Avenue in February 1927 ($50,397 loss), and one at Thompson’s Restaurant at 618 Davis Street in December 1929 ($57,274 loss).

A number of active members of the Evanston Fire Department died while off-duty during the 1920’s. Lt. Harry Schaeffer Sr. (Truck Co. 1), whose son Harry Jr. would later serve with the EFD (and retire as an Assistant Chief Fire Marshal), died of a cerebral hemorrhage in June 1923, Fireman (and chief’s chauffeur) Orville Wheeler, whose two sons, James and Chester, would later serve with the EFD (James retired as the Chief Fire Marshal in 1973), died of pneumonia in July 1924 (six weeks before he would have been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant), Fireman Clinton Claypool (Engine Co. 3) died of spinal meningitis in January 1925, Fireman Fred Michelau (Truck Co. 1 ) drowned while on vacation in Michigan in August 1928, and Lt. Walter Boekenhauer (Engine Co. 4) died of a heart attack suffered while on vacation in July 1929.


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