Archive for April 14th, 2022

Of interest … Washington Park Fire Department

Excerpts from

Six months after a massive fire burned down the Washington Park firehouse, a fire department on the east coast donated two trucks to help. The side of the firetrucks read like a passport. Each logo is a sign of every stop on their journey to their new home in Washington Park.

One red and white and blue, both firetrucks were donated by the Elk Lake Fire Department roughly 900 miles away in Pennsylvania.

The trucks will be repainted to show off their new home’s name, but they plan to keep part of the old station’s logo as a thank you.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 70

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Long-time Assistant Chief Ed Fahrbach retired in July 1972 after 43 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department. He was sixth longest-serving member of the EFD at the time of his retirement, behind only Albert Hofstetter (49 years), Tom McEnery (46 years), J. E. Mersch (45 years), Michael Garrity (44 years), and Jim Geishecker (44 years). Chief Fahrbach’s father — Edward G. Fahrbach — served as an Evanston firefighter 1916-40.  

Hired in 1929, Chief Fahrbach was promoted to lieutenant in 1944, to captain in 1949, and then to assistant chief (platoon commander) when the EFD went to the three platoon schedule in 1958. He was also a platoon drillmaster in the 1950’s. Chief Fahrbach was the only Evanston fireman hired prior to the Great Depression who was still on the job in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, his golden years didn’t last very long, as he died in 1973, just a year after he retired.

Chief Fire Marshal Jim Wheeler retired in ill health in 1973 after 27 years of service, only two years after he was appointed chief. Chief Wheeler’s father and brother also served with the EFD, with his brother Chester retiring at the same time as Assistant Chief Fahrbach in 1972. For a period of about a year after Jim was appointed chief and before Chester retired, Chester was one of Jim’s buggy drivers. After retiring from the EFD, Chester became a Police / Fire communications operator. 27-year EFD veteran Assistant Chief George Beattie replaced Chief Wheeler as chief fire marshal in September 1973.

Several other veteran Evanston firefighters retired in 1973, including Capt. George “Bud” Hofstetter (Engine 23) after 32 years of service, Capt. Vic Majewski (Truck 22) after 31 years of service, and Fireman Ernie Bouchard after 26 years of service. Also, Capt. Len Driskell (Engine 24) and Fireman Neal Smithwick retired on disability pensions in 1973.

Capt. Ed Pettinger was promoted to assistant chief fire marshal and replaced Ed Fahrbach as a platoon commander in 1972, and Capt. Sanders “Sam” Hicks was promoted to assistant chief fire marshal and replaced George Beattie as a platoon commander in 1973. Chief Hicks was the EFD’s first African American chief officer. Also, firemen Don Melzer, Bill Currie, Fred Nelson, and Don Sherrie were promoted to captain in 1973. Capt. Currie was IAFF Local 742 chapter president at the time of his promotion, having succeeded Michael Lass after Lass resigned in September 1971 to take a position with the IAFF as Illinois field rep.

New firefighters hired in 1973 were Jim Cox, Jim Dillon, Lou LoBianco, Dave Busch, Roger Bush, Dave O’Malley, Benjamin Phillips, Jim Hayes. and Bob Marti, Also, Faith Seiler was hired as the chief’s secretary, a new position created to replace the chief’s buggy drivers who had served as administrative assistants to the chief since 1901. Faith Seiler transferred to the Evanston Police Department in February 1974 and was replaced by June Eastman. In addition, long-time Fire Prevention Bureau administrative assistant Eleanor Franzen retired in 1972. Shirley Breitenstein replaced Eleanor Franzen, and then Sandra Waas replaced Shirley Breitenstein about a year later.

Jim Wheeler and George Beattie were hired off the same civil service list in 1946, but they had rather different styles as once they became the chief fire marshal. Chief Wheeler was a traditionalist and didn’t change anything once he was appointed chief, but Chief Beattie had a number of new ideas that he proposed and then implemented after becoming chief. Probably the most significant immediate change was reassigning his buggy-drivers to the Fire Prevention Bureau, where they would work shifts as inspectors and photographers instead of as chief’s drivers and administrative assistants. To that end, a new 1973 Plymouth station wagon was purchased for Chief Beattie, so that the chief now had a “take home” car and would no longer need a driver.

The only emergency lights on the chief’s new vehicle were red lens covers over the high-beam headlights, and a magnetic “Kojak light” that could be connected to the cigarette lighter and then placed on the roof when responding to an emergency. Also, the chief would no longer automatically respond to working fires. He would be notified about the incident by the Police / Fire Communications center, and then he would decide whether to respond to the incident or allow the platoon commander to remain in charge.

To improve the visibility of fire apparatus, Chief Beattie ordered all new EFD vehicles purchased to be painted in non-traditional “safety yellow.” Also, to reduce noise pollution, electronic sirens were to be installed on all new EFD vehicles, and the sirens were to be placed in manual mode and used only in short bursts when approaching intersections, pedestrians, and/or traffic congestion. 

Probably the most radical idea proposed by Chief Beattie was the creation of a new Emergency Medical Services Bureau, with firefighters volunteering for the program being cross-trained as paramedics and then staffing Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances. Once the program was implemented, the plan was for the MICU ambulances to replace stretcher and first-aid equipped police station wagon patrol cars backed-up by stretcher and first-aid equipped EFD station wagon staff cars that had been providing ambulance service in Evanston since 1958.

Until such time as MICU ambulances could be acquired and firefighters could be cross-trained as paramedics, Chief Beattie ordered engine companies responding to inhalator calls to use EFD station wagons whenever possible, in order to reduce wear and tear on the increasingly more expensive EFD pumpers, and to have a vehicle with a stretcher available at the scene in case the police ambulance was delayed or had to be diverted to a police emergency. The main problem with this plan was that while the engine company was at an inhalator call or returning to quarters from an inhalator call, the engine was not available to respond to a fire until the company was physically back in quarters. This same problem would become an issue several years later, when ambulances were sometimes staffed by engine or truck “jump companies.”

As one might expect, given the long history and tradition of the Evanston Fire Department there was a bit of resistance and push-back from some of the more veteran members of the EFD against Chief Beattie’s ideas, but they were all eventually implemented. Only the “safety yellow” fire engines equipped with electronic sirens did not ultimately stand the test of time. 

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Elwood Fire Protection District history

This from Mike Summa for #TBT:

For TBT-The Elwood FPD’s chief’s car, a late 80’s or early 90’s Chevy Caprice.  I thought the graphics on this car was interesting. Was this pre-wrap or was this hand painted.? You tell me?
Mike Summa; #MikeSumma; #TBT; #ElwoodFPD;

Mike Summa photo

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