Archive for October 5th, 2020

Fatal fire in Chicago, 10-3-20

Excerpts from

A 64-year-old man was found in a basement apartment after firefighters extinguished a blaze shortly before 1:30 a.m. Saturday at a home a the 1600-block of South Homan Avenue, in Chicago. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Four people were also displaced as a result of the fire, police said. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it appeared to be accidental.

Chicago Fire Department officials will hand out free smoke detectors and fire prevention literature at 10 a.m. Saturday near the scene of the blaze.


Evanston Fire Department history

From Phil Stenholm:

The “Fire Department Modernization Plan” proposed by Chief Henry Dorband (and approved by Evanston voters in 1951 and 1953) led to the construction of three new fire stations (each completed in 1955).

With the completion of the three new fire stations, Evanston had (at long last) finally met the recommendations offered by the National Board of Fire Underwriters way back in 1935.

1. New Fire Station #5 (a two bay one-story firehouse) at 2830 Central Street was completed on January 25, 1955, and Engine Co. 23 and the reserve truck (Truck 23) were temporarily relocated there from the old Station #3 at 2504 Green Bay Road (which was immediately closed and sold to a private party).

2. New Fire Station #2 (“Fire Department Headquarters” – a three bay two-story firehouse) at 702 Madison Street was completed on March 12, 1955, at which time Engine Co. 22 and the Fire Prevention Bureau (an Assistant Chief, two inspectors, and one staff car — a 1946 Ford sedan replaced by a Chevrolet station wagon in 1956) relocated there from the old Station #2 around the corner at 750 Chicago Avenue (which was immediately closed and sold to a private party), and Truck Co. 22 was relocated there from Station #1 (where it had been since it was organized in September 1924). The Fire Chief (“F-1”) & his “buggy driver” (administrative assistant/chauffeur/photographer) and the chief’s staff car (a 1951 Mercury sedan, replaced by a Ford station wagon equipped with a stretcher and first-aid gear in 1957) also relocated to the new Station #2 from Station #1 at this time.

3. The new Station #3 opened on September 3, 1955, at which point Engine Co. 23 and the newly-organized Truck Co. 23 (manning what had been the EFD’s reserve aerial ladder truck) relocated there from their temporary quarters at the new Station #5, and Engine Co. 25 was relocated to Station #5 from Station #1 (where it had been since it was organized in November 1927).

So as of September 1955 when the new Fire Station #3 was completed, all insured structures within the corporate city limits of Evanston were within 1-1/2 miles of a fire station (and engine company), with five engine companies (minimum staffing three men) — one at each of the five stations, three truck companies (minimum staffing of four men for Truck Co. 21 and three men for the other two trucks) — one at Station #1, one at Station #2, and one at Station #3, one squad (with a two-man crew) that responded to inhalator calls (about a 100 per year back then), working fires (about one or two a week), and special rescues (once or twice a month) at Station #1, a platoon chief (shift chief) and his 1955 Chevrolet station-wagon at Station #1, and the chief’s buggy-driver (and the chief’s staff car) at Station #2 on duty each shift.


ENGINE 21 – 1952 Pirsch Model 44-S 1000-GPM w/80-gal booster tank & red-line hose-reel
NOTE: Reserve in 1968 & scrapped in 1984
ENGINE 22 – 1949 Seagrave 1000-GPM w/80 gal booster tank & red=line hose-reel
NOTE: Reserve in 1966 & then sold to a private party as a “parade piece” in 1971
ENGINE 23 – 1937 Seagrave Model “G” 750-GPM w/50 gal booster tank & red-line hose-reel
NOTE: Reserve in 1958… motor from the other ’37 Seagrave “G” (E-24) was transferred to this rig in 1966, then rig was scrapped in 1970
ENGINE 24 – 1937 Seagrave 750-GPM Model “G” w/50 gal booster tank & red-line hose-reel
NOTE: Gutted/salvaged for parts for its twin “G” (E23) before being Junked in 1966
ENGINE 25 – 1952 Pirsch Model “44-S” 1000-GPM w/ 100-gal booster tank & red-line hose-reel
NOTE: Reserve in 1970, scrapped in 1984
TRUCK 21 – 1951 Pirsch 85-ft TDA
NOTE: Reserve in 1969, scrapped in 1980
TRUCK 22 – 1952 Pirsch 85-ft TDA
NOTE: Was heavily refurbished/modernized in 1969 and got a 1968 Pirsch/GMC tractor (ex-Aurora, Colorado F.D.) in 1982 soon after it went into reserve… was scrapped in 1990
TRUCK 23:- 1937 Seagrave “Service Aerial” 65-ft MMA w/80-gal booster tank & red-line hose-reel
NOTE: Reserve in 1963, scrapped in 1970
SQUAD 21 – 1952 Pirsch 1000-GPM squad-pumper w/100-gal booster tank & red-line hose reel but no hose bed and four top-mounted searchlights) –
NOTE: Squad body was removed & was replaced by a conventional pumper body in 1966, and it was assigned to Engine Co. 22 1966-70 and then to Engine Co. 25 1970-76 – then reserve in 1977-79 before becoming playground equipment in park at Asbury & South Blvd.

There was also an unmanned “ready-reserve” Chicago F. D. – style high-pressure wagon (equipped with a mounted turret nozzle, other high-pressure nozzles of various types and sizes, an extensive quantity of large-diameter hose, and the reserve inhalator) known as “Squad 22” (a 1924 Seagrave tractor formerly used to pull Truck 1’s aerial ladder trailer 1924-51 and now fitted with a body salvaged from a 1917 Seagrave pumper that was junked in 1952) at Station #1, and two reserve engines, both 1927 Seagrave “Standard” 1000 GPM w/50-gal booster tanks and red-line hose reels, Reserve Engine 27 (ex-E25) at Station #4 and Reserve Engine 26 (ex-E22) at Station #5.
NOTE: The EFD had no reserve aerial-ladder truck for more than seven years, until Truck Co. 23 was taken out of service and its manpower was transferred to Squad 21 (as Squad 21 became as fully-staffed four-man minimum company in January 1963).

The five stations, apparatus, and 100 firefighters (at any one time) served Evanston well for many years, providing average response times in the 2-to-3 minute range, with no response time (normally) longer than four minutes.

Then in 1984, the City Council staff (kind of out of the blue) floated a plan to replace the city’s five fire stations with three new ones. (I have it on good authority that it was actually the Fire Department’s idea).

The plan was to consolidate the ambulance crews, engine companies, and truck companies (with at least eight fire fighters and/or fire fighter/paramedics at each station), to provide more manpower for “first responders” arriving at the scene of a fire or medical emergency, and to improve response times to areas of the city that incurred the most incidents (although unfortunately also having the collateral damage of increasing response times to some parts of the city that had much fewer incidents).

But what was the genesis of this plan? Why demolish five fire stations (three of which were less than 30 years old and another just 35 years old) and replace them with three new ones (you might ask)?:

Well, it was kind of political.

See, the extreme west side of the 5th Ward (the census tracts surrounding Church & McDaniel) was 1-1/2 miles from Stations #1, #4, and #5, the furthest distance from a fire station of any intersection/neighborhood in the city (at that time). Certainly within NBFU (ISO) standards, but still furthest away.

And it wasn’t like the the EFD did not respond to that area very often. It was a high-volume fire & medical activity area (both in terms of working residential structure fires and EMS calls), and having the nearest fire station (albeit three of them) 1-1/2 miles away jacked up the average response times for the EFD as a whole, which was a problem for the Evanston Fire Department (it had seen its ISO rating dropped from three to four in 1977) as well as for the people who lived there (about 100% African-Americans) and their alderman.

So the Rand Corporation was hired by the Evanston City Councin 1986 to conduct an analysis of the Evanston Fire Department’s response times, and Rand determined (by advanced statistical analysis) that the EFD’s – AVERAGE – response time would be decreased if its – WORST – response times (which were to the heavy fire & EMS traffic area around Church & McDaniel) were decreased, and to do that the five existing fire stations should be replaced by three new stations to be located up & down the central spine of Evanston (one to be built at Willard D. Kamen Park at Asbury & South Boulevard in South Evanston, another to be located on vacant land at Lake & Ashland in central-west Evanston, and a third to be constructed on the site of the abandoned Municipal Testing Lane at Noyes & Ashland in north-central Evanston).

Each of the three new stations were to be either three-bay (#1 & #2) or four-bay (#3) “drive-thru” stations with modern state-of-the art ventilation & electrical systems. With all reserve apparatus to be stored at the old Station #1 at 909 Lake Street, only staffed front-line in-service apparatus would be located in the three fire stations.

Engine Co, 21, Engine Co. 24, and Ambulance 21 (eight firefighters) would be relocated to the new Station #1 at Lake & Ashland, Engine Co. 22, Truck Co. 22,. and Ambulance 22 (eight firefighters) would be relocated to the new Station #2 at Asbury & South Blvd, and Engine Co. 23, Truck Co. 23, Ambulance 23, Squad 21 (with a dedicated driver), and Shift Chief F-2 (ten firefighters) would be relocated to the new Station #3 at Ashland & Noyes.

With 8-10 firefighters at each station There would no longer be any three-man fire stations (three-man firehouses were a concern to some of the EFD brass at that time), – AVERAGE – response times would decrease (VERY important to the EFD brass), and the actual typical response times to the 5rh ward (especially to the areas around Church & McDaniel) would improve significantly.

However, political opposition quickly torpedoed the proposed station in South Evanston (where residents did not want to lose park land), as well as the one in North Evanston (where residents in the “High Ridge” area of northwest Evanston — the neighborhood north & west of Crawford Avenue & Gross Point Road — did not wish to suffer a minimum 5-1/2-to-six minute response time to fire and medical emergencies in their neighborhood, which was sure to be the case if the closest fire station was located at Noyes & Ashland).

But political opposition to the proposal to rebuild & relocate Fire Stations #2 and #3 really didn’t matter to the City Council, because the most-important political issue behind the plan was improving EFD response times to fire & EMS calls in the area of the 5th Ward surrounding Church & McDaniel (as well as to other parts of the 5th Ward in general).

So somewhat surprisingly (or maybe not), the City Council agreed to tear down and rebuild the city’s oldest firehouse (dilapidated Fire Station #4) at 1817 Washington Street, and tabled any further discussion of building new fire stations indefinitely. The new Station #4 was rebuilt on the site of the original Station #4 during 1989, at a cost of $643,000.

Although rebuilding Fire Station #4 was not recommended by the Rand Corporation, two of the study’s other recommendations were implemented.

First, a third ambulance was placed into front-line service in 1989 (although it only occurred as part of the controversial “jump company” plan), and then Truck Co. 21 was relocated from Fire Station # 1 to Fire Station # 3 in 1990 (becoming the reborn “Truck Co. 23”).

With a rebuilt firehouse in service in southwest Evanston, and Truck Co. 21 relocated to Station #3, new Evanston Fire Chief James Hunt (who had come to Evanston from out-of-state) proposed in March 1993 that instead of rebuilding Fire Station #1 at Lake & Ashland (which would be less than a mile north of rebuilt Fire Station #4 on Washington Street) as has been recommended in the Rand Corporation study, that it should be relocated & rebuilt a half-mile further north, on Emerson Street (sufficiently north of Fire Station #4 to justify the relocation, but also just as close to Church & McDaniel as a new fire station at Lake & Ashland would have been), and that the former Fire Station #1 at 909 Lake Street be (as had been planned back in 1984) ) converted into a “headquarters” facility (housing the Fire Prevention Bureau, training classrooms, administrative offices, and equipment & apparatus storage).

But no other fire stations were to be relocated. Only Fire Station #1. And there would be only one (not two) engine companies assigned to the proposed new Fire Station #1 (not two, as has been recommended by Rand).

Chief Hunt was hailed as a “political genius” by community leaders in the 5th ward when he made this proposal. “Where was he five years ago?!!” one leader said, amazed.

There was some initial push-back from business owners in downtown Evanston as well as from powerful & wealthy residents of the east part of the 1st Ward (near the lakefront) because relocating Station #1 from Lake & Elmwood to Emerson & Wesley in the 5th Ward would mean somewhat longer response times to fire and medical emergencies in their neighborhood, but (apparently) not wanting to be labeled as racists or uncaring business people, they acquiesced.

So with political opposition no longer a roadblock, the plan was readily accepted by the City Council.

However, the new three-bay Fire Station #1 (constructed on the site of a former gas station at 1332 Emerson Street) was not actually completed for almost five years (February 1998), after unexpectedly high construction costs nearly doubled the project’s price-tag (from $1.2 to $2.2 million).

Plans to convert the old Fire Station #1 to the Fire Department’s new headquarters met similar delays, so the EFD’s administrative offices were located in a cramped second-floor office in leased commercial space on Dodge Avenue for several years in the 1990’s.

Meanwhile, Fire Station # 2 underwent a major renovation (but was not rebuilt or relocated), and both Fire Station #3 and Fire Station #5 (which was expanded from two to three apparatus bays) were rebuilt on the same site as the previous firehouses, and the plan to store all reserve apparatus (truck, engines, and ambulances) at the former Fire Station #1 was dropped and the apparatus bay doors were bricked-up.

So needless to say, the new Fire Station #1 (maybe not in terms of size, but at least WHERE it was built) as well as the other four rebuilt or renovated fire stations were not recommended by the Rand Corporation study.

The decisions were mostly (if not entirely) political.


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New aerials for Chicago (more)

From Facebook:

another new aerial in Chicago – FDE-370 new Truck 17 

New E-ONE aerial assigned to Chicago FD Truck 17

thanks Danny

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