Archive for category Fire Department History

Riverdale Fire Department history

This from Dennis McGuire, Jr:

Found on facebook for sale: 

1952 American LaFrance pumper 
X-Riverdale, Illinois 
Now located in Canada, asking $4500 USD; #AmericanLaFrance; #RiverdaleFD; #vintagefiretruck;

from Facebook; #AmericanLaFrance; #RiverdaleFD; #vintagefiretruck;

from Facebook

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Melrose Park Fire Department history

From Mike Summa for #TBT:

For TBT – This truck belonged to the Melrose Park Fire Dept.  I know this is a Hazmat Unit, as indicated on the trailer.  The trailer is pulled by an IHC Mini Pumper.  And that is all I know.  So any information on this would be greatly appreciated.
Mike Summa; #MikeSumma; #MelroseParkFD; #TBT; #firetruck;

Mike Summa photo

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Merrionette Park Fire Department history

This from Mike Summa for #TBT:

For TBT-The Merrionette Fire Dept.’s Engine 1 (later 2603), a 1976 Seagrave 1250/500.  Shown in Blue Island at a fire muster supplying water for the water ball competition.  I do like the Chicago style light.
Mike Summa; #TBT; #MerrionettePakrFD; #MikeSumma; #vintagefiretruck; #Seagrave;

Mike Summa photo

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 72

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The concept of the “paramedic” in a non-military, civilian environment, was introduced on a limited basis in several American cities in the late 1960’s, mainly to improve life-saving care to cardiac patients. In 1972, the NBC-TV series Emergency! provided the American public with a weekly glimpse into the world of Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics, helping to spread the idea across the nation. What was unique about the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s paramedic program was that firefighters were cross-trained as paramedics. 

In the Chicago area, fire departments with a tradition of providing ambulance service were the first to train paramedics and place Advanced Life Support (ALS) Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances into service. The Niles Fire Department – which had provided ambulance service to its residents since 1946 – established a paramedic-program in 1973. The Skokie Fire Department placed two MICU ambulances staffed with paramedic firefighters into service in 1975, replacing its two 1969 Cadillac Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances.

The Chicago Fire Department, which had provided ambulance service since 1928 and had 33 Cadillac and Pontiac BLS ambulances in service in 1974, placed their first two paramedic-staffed MICU ambulances into service in July 1974, with Ambulance 41 replacing Ambulance 1 at E1/T1 and Ambulance 42 replacing Ambulance 21 at E13. Five additional CFD MICU ambulances were in service by the end of 1974, with Ambulance 43 replacing Ambulance 11 at E22, Ambulance 44 replacing Ambulance 24 at E57, Ambulance 45 replacing Ambulance 2 at E103, Ambulance 47 replacing Ambulance 7 at E108/T23, and Ambulance 16 at O’Hare Field.

The City of Evanston borrowed an MICU “demonstrator” – minus the drugs and the specialized ALS gear only paramedics would be certified to use – from the State of Illinois Department of Public Health in June 1974, and it was tested over a 60-day period by the EFD. It was a modular ambulance, meaning it was a cab & chassis with a “box” mounted on top of the chassis. Personnel from Squad 21 were assigned to the unit (known as Ambulance 1) and responded to inhalator calls and ambulances runs city-wide throughout the summer. An engine company was dispatched as a “first responder” for inhalator calls outside Station # 1’s first-due area.

Three Evanston Police Department station-wagon patrol-ambulances were still in service in 1974 and (if available) could respond to inhalator calls and ambulance runs if the EFD’s MICU demonstrator was unavailable. The police patrol-ambulances were backed-up by the three stretcher-equipped EFD station-wagons. However, the three EFD stretcher-equipped station wagons (F-3 at Station # 5, F-4 at Station # 2, and F-5 at Station # 1) were used by Fire Prevention Bureau inspectors and the training officer during business hours, and normally could be staffed by personnel from an engine company (presuming the engine company was available and in quarters) only at night, on weekends, and holidays.   

Although the fire department was testing the MICU ambulance, Evanston Mayor Jim Staples wanted police officers – NOT firefighters – to be trained as paramedics, with the Evanston Police Department – NOT the Evanston Fire Department – operating the MICUs! He wanted the ambulances to be out on the street 24/7, just like the police patrol-ambulances. 

Evanston Police Chief William McHugh was apoplectic, saying there was no way his police department wanted any part of the new emergency medical service (EMS). Crime was on the rise in Evanston, gang activity was starting to become a problem, and the police department was hard-pressed just to provide rudimentary “throw-and-go”style ambulance service, without having to commit personnel and resources to a sophisticated new program.
Mayor Staples’ idea was politely considered, and then with approval of the Evanston City Council, City Manager Ed Martin assigned the the new EMS paramedic program to the fire department. Seven firefighters — Roger Bush, Dave Cleland, Jim Dillon, Randy Drott, Jerry McDermott, Jim McLaughlin, and Dave Pettinger — were trained and certified as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975. Although the fire department had not been the primary provider of ambulance service in Evanston over the years, firefighters knew all about saving lives. The EFD had been responding to inhalator calls since 1913!

In addition to establishing the new EMS program, the face of the Evanston Fire Department was changing in other ways as well. On November 26, 1973, the Evanston City Council agreed to appropriate funds to purchase a new 1,000-GPM pumper with a 300-gallon water tank. Only two bids were received; one from Howe ($43,242), and one from Pirsch ($47,721). Howe was awarded the contract, with an expected delivery date of one year. The pumper would feature an International-Harvester cab. 

On January 21, 1974, the city council authorized funds to purchase a second pumper with the exact same specifications, and Howe once again was awarded the contract by offering to supply the second pumper for $44,575 (slightly higher than its bid for the first pumper, but still below the Pirsch bid), but with the understanding that the price would go up substantially if the contract was not signed by February 5th. The city council wasted no time, and the contract was signed immediately.

The two new Howe – International pumpers were to replace the two 1958 Seagrave 1000 / 300 open cab pumpers at Station # 3 and Station # 4. On the orders of Chief Beattie, both of the Howe rigs were painted “safety yellow,” had rear-facing jump seats so that firefighters would no longer need to ride on the tailboard, were equipped with electronic sirens to be set in manual mode to reduce noise pollution, and had only one rear discharge port for a 1-1/2 inch pre-connect line, instead of the two rear discharge ports and two 1-1/2-inch pre-connects that had been standard on EFD pumpers since 1958. By eliminating one of the pre-connected attack lines, there would be more room in the hose-bed for larger-diameter hose.

Instead of a second rear discharge port and a second 1-1/2-inch pre-connect hose line, Chief Beattie specified that the new pumpers have a top-mounted booster reel (sometimes called a red line) that could be led-out quickly at a car fire, trash fire, brush fire, or gas wash, and in some cases even at a structure fire. EFD pumpers had not been ordered with booster reels since the Pirsch pumpers in 1952, something Chief Beattie believed was a mistake.  

Besides the new pumpers, the Evanston Fire Department also added a 1974 Dodge van (fleet # 341) for use as a utility vehicle, replacing the 1956 International-Harvester pick-up truck. Located in the shop bay at Fire Station # 1, the van could be used by EFD mechanics to run errands or to respond to a repair job at a fire, on the road, or at one of the four outlying fire stations, as well as to transport manpower and supplies to and from a large fire or other major incident. As with the two new Howe pumpers, Chief Beattie ordered the van be painted “safety yellow.”

Also in 1974, the WWII-era DUKW amphibious vehicle (F-7) that had been in service with the EFD since 1964 and the rescue trailer acquired from the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1954 were taken out service. Some of the equipment and gear carried in the trailer was placed in storage at Station # 1, in the event that it might be needed for a tornado, flood, airplane crash, or some other disaster or mass casualty event. A 17-foot Boston Whaler (the new F-7) with an outboard marine engine and a boat trailer were purchased to replace the DUKW as the EFD’s Lake Michigan rescue vehicle, with a trailer hitch installed on the new van so that it could tow the boat & trailer to the Church Street Boat Ramp if it was needed.

The first of the new Howe – International pumpers arrived in November 1974 and was placed in service at Station # 3 as the new Engine 23 (fleet # 326), and the second Howe – International pumper arrived in May 1975 and was placed in service as the new Engine 24 (fleet # 324) at Station # 4. The 1958 Seagrave pumper that had been running as Engine 23 was placed into reserve at Station # 3 as Engine 26, and the 1958 Seagrave pumper that had been running as Engine 24 was sold at auction.; #EvanstonFD; #FireTruck

photographer unknown

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Orland Fire Protection District history

This from Mike Summa for #TBT:

For TBT-The Orland FPD.’s Truck 6004, a 1987 Spartan/Darley 1500/0/55′.  As seen just delivered and lettered.
Mike Summa; #MikeSumma; #TBT; #Spartan; #firetruck; #Darley; #Snorkel

Mke Summa photo; #MikeSumma; #TBT; #Spartan; #firetruck; #Darley; #Snorkel

Mike Summa photo

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Mokena Fire protection District history

This from Mike Summa for #TBT:

For TBT-This was the Mokena FPD.’s Squad 1514, a 1975 Ford F/Pierce Rescue.
Mike Summa; #TBT; #MokenaFPD; #MikeSumma; #firetruck

Mike Summa photo

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Robbins Fire Department history

This from Mike Summa for #TBT:

For TBT-This was the Robbins Fire Dept.’s Engine 2943, a 1973 Seagrave 1250/500 (X York Center)
Mike Summa; #MikeSumma; #TBT; #RobbinsFD; #Seagrave

Mike Summa photo

and from our files; #TBT; #RobbinsFD; #Seagrave; #BillFreidich

Bill Friedrich photo; #TBT; #RobbinsFD; #Seagrave; #larryshapiro;; #Seagrave; #TBT; #Seagrave; #YorkCenterFPD

Larry Shapiro photo

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 71

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Two major fires occurred in Evanston within about a month of each other in early 1974. The Evanston Fire Department battled an extra alarm fire in the service department of the Humphrey Chevrolet automobile dealership at 635 Chicago Avenue on a Sunday afternoon in January 1974, and then a very large fire at the Marblecast Company warehouse at 1920 Ridge Avenue on a Saturday night in February.

Located at the northeast corner of Chicago & Keeney, Humphrey Chevrolet’s main garage door opened onto Keeney Street, and it was through this entrance that firefighters attacked the flames. Very much like the Moto-Port fire in 1956 and the Holiday Lincoln-Mercury fire in 1968, this blaze involved vehicles, gasoline, and other flammables located inside a commercial garage, producing thick black smoke that poured out of the garage and permeated the neighborhood.

Crews from Engine 22 and Squad 21 initially attacked the fire with hand-lines, before being forced to back-out when conditions in the interior worsened. Engine 24 took the hydrant at Hinman & Keeney and supplied water for Engine 22 and Squad 21. Engine 21 and Engine 23 responded on the second alarm and led-out multiple 2-1/2 inch hose-lines, with Engine 21 pumping from the hydrant at Chicago & South Boulevard, and Engine 23 pumping from the one located on the east-side of Chicago Avenue half a block north of Keeney. The service department was gutted and several vehicles were destroyed before the flames were extinguished. The estimated loss from this fire was $160,000.

About a month after the Humphrey Chevrolet fire, the EFD responded to a report of a fire at the Marblecast warehouse. Located in the former Bowman Dairy building, the blaze was initially attacked from the interior with hand-lines manned by the first-arriving engine companies, while Truck 21 ventilated the roof. F-2 ordered a second alarm, bringing Engine 25, Engine 22, and Truck 22 to the scene, with second alarm companies ordered to protect the Fields Cadillac automobile dealership exposure to the north.

Mutual aid was requested from Wilmette, and Engine 202 responded to EFD Station # 1 to provide coverage for the city, as Engine 24 — the last remaining EFD engine company available — was dispatched to the fire. Despite a valiant effort by the engine companies, the fire had gained too much headway to allow firefighters to knock it down, so crews were ordered out of the building and the fight went defensive.

With Truck 21 working on the east side and Truck 22 operating from the C&NW RR freight siding on the west side, the EFD’s two ladder trucks provided elevated master streams that were played through the roof after it collapsed, as well as 35-foot and 50-foot ground ladders used to access the roof of the Fields Cadillac automobile dealership. The general manager of the auto dealership as well as several employees responded from home and moved a number of Caddies out of the showroom and service department.

A full Code 10 was ordered by Chief Beattie, calling in firefighters from the two off-duty shifts, many of them responding from a party hosted by IAFF Local 742. The two reserve engines and the reserve truck were manned by off-duty crews arriving at Stations 3, 4, and 5, while other firefighters were shuttled to the scene in EFD station wagons and the International pick-up truck.

The auto dealership to the north was saved but the warehouse was gutted, with an estimated property loss loss of $543,000, the sixth-highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point time. Only the fires at the American Hospital Supply Corporation ($1.9 million loss in October 1963), the Rolled Steel Corporation ($1.4 million loss in January 1970), Bramson’s clothing store ($1.2 million in October 1971), the Northwestern University Technological Institute ($620,000 loss in December 1940), and Hines Lumber Yard ($545,000 loss in March 1971) sustained a higher property loss.

During the 1960’s, IAFF Local 742 grew increasingly militant under the dynamic leadership of Michael Lass. Lass joined the EFD in 1963, and was promoted to Captain in 1970. However, his real talent was as a union operative. Capt. Lass resigned from the EFD in 1971, giving up a promising career as a fire officer to take a full-time job as IAFF Illinois field representative. Capt. William Currie, a 20-year veteran of the EFD, succeeded Lass as president of Local 742, but the union was no less militant under Capt. Currie than it had been under Capt. Lass.

At 6 AM on Thursday, February 28, 1974, just a few days after the Marblecast fire, 88 members of Local 742 led by Capt. Currie went on strike, the first significant job action by Evanston firemen since eleven of the twelve members of the part-time paid EFD resigned en masse in a dispute with Chief Sam Harrison in 1888. Requesting an immediate 10% pay raise and a reduction in their work-week, Evanston firefighters struck only after the City of Evanston refused to negotiate.

With 88 members of the Evanston Fire Department plus their families, friends, and citizens sympathetic to the cause walking picket lines in front of the five fire stations, EFD chiefs, police officers who had been cross-trained as auxiliary firefighters in 1958, and other assorted “volunteers” from various city departments were ordered to man the fire stations. Two police officers were assigned to each of the three police station wagon ambulances, as the Evanston PD responded to inhalator calls without EFD support. The Village of Skokie agreed to allow its fire department to provide mutual aid to Evanston, but only in the event of a working fire.

The City of Evanston requested and received an emergency court injunction to stop the strike, but only after another judge refused to grant one. Members of Local 742 returned to work at 11 AM on Saturday, March 2nd, the strike having lasted 53 hours. No significant fires occurred during the strike. Despite some in city government claiming the city had won, the Evanston City Council recognized Local 742 as the collective bargaining entity for Evanston firefighters, and directed City Manager Ed Martin and the city attorney to negotiate with the union. As a result, Evanston firefighters received a significant pay raise, and the average work-week was reduced from 56 to 54 hours.

In the year prior to the strike (1973), annual salaries for “topped out” members of the Evanston Fire Department ranged from $20,600 (Chief) to $17,880 (Assistant Chief) to $15,192 (Captain) to $13,848 (Fire Equipment Mechanic) to $13,008 (Fireman I). By 1977, annual salaries for “topped out” members of the EFD had increased to $29,000 (Chief), $23,952 (Assistant Chief), $19,788 (Captain), $18,660 (Fire Equipment Mechanic), and $17,256 (Fireman I), in each case an increase of anywhere from 30% – 40% over the four-year period. This increase is made even more significant when combined with a reduction in the average work-week from 56 to 54 hours during the same period of time.

Reducing the work-week was accomplished by the return of the “Kelly Day” (henceforth to be known as a “Short Day”), a concept that had been phased-out when the three-platoon system and 56-hour work-week were implemented in April 1957. Beginning in 1975, each Evanston firefighter working a shift would receive an extra day off every twelve weeks (a five-day mini-vacation after every 27 days worked). To provide the three additional men needed to cover short days (one extra man on each platoon), one of the two captain’s positions in the Fire Prevention Bureau was eliminated, and the EFD was increased from 100 to 102 members.

The “Collective Bargaining Bill” was signed into law by Illinois Governor James Thompson on December 10, 1985. In addition to providing collective bargaining rights for Illinois firefighters, the bill also made strikes by firefighters illegal. However, Evanston firefighters won collective bargaining rights in 1974 because they were willing to risk their careers by going out on strike after the city refused to negotiate, which in subsequent  contracts helped lead to more substantial pay raises, a further reduction in the work-week, and improvements in working conditions. 

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Midlothian Fire Department history

This from Mike Summa for #TBT;

For TBT-This was Midlothian’s Truck 2704, a 1967 Seagrave 1250/300/? midship aerial.  This truck was remounted in 1990 unto a Pierce Dash.
Mike Summa
#FireTruck;; #MikeSumma; #TBT; #vintagefiretruck; #MidlothianFD; #Seagrave

Mike Summa photo; #MikeSumma; #TBT; #vintagefiretruck; #MidlothianFD; #Seagrave; #Pierce; #Dash; #FireTruck

Mike Summa photo

And from our files:; #TBT; #vintagefiretruck; #MidlothianFD; #Seagrave; #Pierce; #Dash; #FireTruck; #larryshapiro;

Larry Shapiro photo

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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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