Archive for category Historic fire apparatus

Zion Fire Department history

Found online:

vintage Pirsch fire engine

antique Pirsch fire engine data

thanks Danny

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Park Ridge Fire Department history (more)

Excerpts from the Journal-topics.com:

In nearly 50 years of reminiscing about his hometown of Park Ridge with fellow members of the Park Ridge Historical Society, a favorite topic for Ralph R. Bishop was his adventures with the Lil’ Pirsch fire truck, first bought by the city in 1921.

His father, Ralph E. Bishop, was fire chief when the city bought the pumper, built by Nash. The original chassis turns 100 this year, but by 1932 the department decided it needed to be rebuilt to replace the hard tires and wooden spokes on the wheels, and double the water tank capacity from 250 gallons to 500 gallons. The makeover, by Peter Pirsch & Sons, based in Kenosha, WI, gave it a new name, the Lil’ Pirsch, and an official age based on the 1932 parts.

Ralph and his brother Emmett grew up in a fire department family so he learned to help care for it, to drive it, and to nurse it through fires when service stations were few and far between. He also repaired Model T. Fords.

Eventually, when the Pirsch was ready to retire from active fire service, it was sold to the Drake Funeral Home. People still saw it in local parades, and Bishop often was asked to drive it.

Park Ridge FD 1921 Pirsch fire engine

Park Ridge Historical Society photo

Drake eventually moved it to Memphis, TN. He had offered to sell it to Bishop at the time, but Bishop had had no place to keep it. He tried later to buy it, but the price went up. It ended up owned by the Memphis Fire Department, on display in their museum.

The Park Ridge Historical Society wondered whether Memphis would be willing to sell the pumper back to Park Ridge. For eight years, society archivist Brian Lazzaro and Bishop worked to prove it was the same truck. Bishop still had paperwork to identify the truck including part numbers and photos.

They finally persuaded Memphis to sell the truck to the Historical Society. The purchase price was $20,000, and there will be an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 in restoration repairs to get it running.

Lazzaro and his son drove down last year to bring it back to Illinois on a flatbed truck. One of their first stops when they got back was to visit Des Plaines, where Ralph and his wife Ramona had recently relocated from Park Ridge. Ralph came out with his walker, wearing his mask and a smile on his face. The Pirsch arrived with a Park Ridge flag pinned on the side. It was a nice present for his 93rd birthday.Park Ridge FD restored 1932 Pirsch fire engine

The Bishops donated a lot of memorabilia to the historical society and the fire department archive including a diary of the pumper’s first year in service. 

COVID health restrictions over the 2020 summer shut down most public fundraisers and limited access to the Park Ridge History Center. Despite that stumbling block, the Historical Society has raised about $10,000 online from members, friends, and local businesses at www.parkridgefiretruck.com. Memorials can be designated on the list. Help is still needed. Donations also can be mailed to the PRHS by mail to: 721 N. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge, IL 60068.

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Historic 5-11 alarm fire in Chicago, 4-7-71

From the collection of Steve Redick:

old photos collected from a 5-11 Alarm fire at 1531 Michigan, 4-7-71

vintage Chicago FD Snorkels at fire scene

photographer unknown

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Bloomington FIre Department history … 1928 Ahrens-Fox N-S-4

Excerpts from wsj.com:

former Bloomington IL Fire Department 1928 Ahrens Fox fire engine

Betsy Hansen photo

Bob McMahon, a retired University of Southern Maine economics professor living in the Villages, Fla., talks about his 1928 Ahrens-Fox N-S-4 fire truck.

former Bloomington IL Fire Department 1928 Ahrens Fox fire engine

Betsy Hansen photo

When my wife, Linda, and I retired some years ago, we joined the volunteer fire department in Pownal, Maine. That’s when I got into old firetrucks. I have always loved mechanical things. At one time, I owned a 65-foot steam tugboat. I collected old sawmill machinery for a while, and my wife and I once had five firetrucks. The 1928 Ahrens-Fox, built in Cincinnati, Ohio, is the last of those, and the best.  

I got this one in 2004. Andy Swift, who owns Firefly Restoration in Maine does museum-quality firetruck restorations. I dealt with him on another truck, and one day he called me and said, “I got this truck you should have.” He specializes in Ahrens-Fox trucks, and for some reason he did not want to tackle this project. The truck was missing a lot of parts and it wasn’t running. I bought it, poked at it for a while, and when we moved to Florida, I had it shipped here so I could continue working on it.

Over the years, some 30 different people helped me restore this truck. It is not terribly expensive entertainment because I did most of the work myself, and I can eventually sell it. Today, it runs beautifully and it pumps water. It is an amazing machine. There are really two kinds of old firetrucks, the kind that carry a lot of water because they were intended for rural areas where there were no hydrants, and trucks used in cities and towns that could connect to hydrants. This one is a city truck. It has a four-piston pump cast out of bronze—a beautiful casting—and it was built to pump a thousand gallons a minute.

Ahrens-Fox also built their own engines. This one has a 998 cubic inch six-cylinder, with pistons as big as coffee cans. The engine has huge torque, but I think the truck only gets about 4 miles per gallon.

I was able to ascertain that this was originally owned by the fire department in Bloomington, IL who had it for 30 years. I have driven it in parades, and twice it won the Best In Show award at the Florida Antique Bucket Brigade firetruck. 

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Naperville Fire Department history

From Steve Redick for #TBT:

A classic advertisement I found in my archives

Naperville FD Ahrens Fox pumper

click to download

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Tinley Park Fire Department history

This from Mile Summa for #TBT:

For TBT-Tinley Park Squad 202, a 1966 Ford P-200 step van.  Amazing how a relatively simple van like this evolved into today’s huge, fully loaded squads.
Mike Summa
Tinley Park FD history

Mike Summa photo

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Evanston Fire Department history

From Phil Stenholm:

HISTORY OF EVANSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT SQUAD 21

Prior to 1952, the Evanston Fire Department had no squad. EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter wanted to place a squad into service back in the 1930’s, but budget cuts stemming from the Great Depression put that on hold. And so the EFD’s specialized fire-ground support and rescue equipment (including inhalator since 1913) were stored at Fire Station #1 and would be loaded onto an engine and transported to the scene of an incident only when needed.   

1. The First Squad was a 1952 Pirsch 1000-GPM / 100-gallon pumper-squad. One of five rigs purchased by Evanston from Pirsch 1951-52, this was the original Squad 21 from 1952-65, and while it had a 1000-GPM pump, it had no hose bed but there was a “red-line” booster hose reel and 100 gallons of water on board that could be used to extinguish a minor fire. This rig was initially staffed by two firefighters and responded to about 100 inhalator calls city-wide per year from 1952-1959 and to working fires and specialized rescue calls when requested. Inhalators were placed into service with all five engine companies in 1959, so Squad 21 was staffed by just one firefighter (usually the shift mechanic) and responded only to working structure fires and specialized rescue calls when requested 1959-62. It was placed back into front-line service in January 1963 as a four-man company when Truck Co. 23 was taken out of service. It ran as a manpower & rescue company from that point onward, responding to all fire calls (not just working fires) and specialized rescue calls city-wide. It was also the primary inhalator company for Station #1 (keeping Engine 21 available for alarms in the downtown high-value district). Without a hose bed, the 1000-GPM pump was essentially wasted. The original squad body was removed and replaced with a new pumper body in 1966, after-which it ran as Engine 22 from 1966-70 and then as Engine 25 from 1970-76. It was retired and gutted for spare parts in 1980 (there were two other 1952 Pirsch pumpers still in reserve through 1983) and then it became playground equipment at Kamen Park at Asbury & South Blvd. 

Evanston Fire Department history

Bill Friedrich photo

2. The SS-1 of the Evanston Fire Department was a 1965 International / General Body pumper-squad. This rig replaced the 1952 Pirsch pumper-squad so that the Pirsch could be converted into a triple-combination pumper (see above). The work-horse of the Evanston Fire Department between 1966-76, this “Frankenstein” rig was constructed by General Body Co. at their Chicago factory using an International cab & chassis like the ones used by City of Evanston garbage trucks back at that time. General Body (makers of the legendary CFD Autocar squads, the Oscar Mayer “Wienermobile,” bookmobiles, and other specialty vehicles) fabricated the body and put it all together. Included on this rig was a split hose-bed with two leads of pre-connected 1-1/2 hose-lines designed for rapid fire-attack, a heavy-duty front bumper-mounted winch (used mainly to haul vehicles out of Lake Michigan and fire trucks out of snow drifts), extendable quartz lights, and a high-pressure deck gun master-stream nozzle. This version of Squad 21 was staffed by four firefighters and responded to all fire calls (not just working fires) and specialized rescue calls city-wide, as well as to inhalator calls and minor fires (vehicle, trash, prairie, etc) in Station #1’s district.  It was, by far, the busiest company in the EFD the years it was in service, and so new firefighters were often assigned to Squad 21 so they could gain a lot of experience as quickly as possible.    

Evanston Fire Department history

Bill Friedrich photo

3. The Pie Truck – a 1977 Chevrolet / Penn Versatile Van. Known by Evanston firefighters as the “pie truck,” this third version of Squad 21 replaced the 1965 International / General Body squad, mainly because the amount of specialized HazMat, rescue equipment, and dive-team gear added by the EFD in the 1970s exceeded what could be carried on a pumper-squad. Also, Squad 21’s manpower was reassigned to the two MICU ambulances that were placed into service 1976-77, so Squad 21 became an unmanned “jump rig” that was staffed by manpower from Station #1 only when needed  at a working fire, HazMat incident, specialized rescue, dive team call, etc. Thus Squad 21 was no longer the SS-1 of the EFD. It was later reassigned as the Dive Team support truck.  

Evanston Fire Department history

Larry Shapiro photo

4. The Gladiator : A 2006 Spartan Gladiator / Marion “walk-in” heavy-rescue squad. Like the Chevrolet / Penn van that came before it, this newer version of Squad 21 is a “jump rig” at Station #1 and is staffed only when needed, but the 2006 version of Squad 21 can carry  much more equipment than could the Chevy. Besides an air cascade, heavy-duty winch, portable power & lights, and lots of room for specialized equipment and gear, the 2006 Squad 21 also features rehab facilities for extended incidents.   

Evanston Fire Department history

Larry Shapiro photo

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Evanston Fire Department history (more)

More Evanston Fire Department history and apparatus details from Phil Stenholm:

1924 Seagrave 85-ft TDA (Truck 1) at Fire Station #1 on Lake Street circa 1950 :

1924 Seagrave 85' aerial in Evanston IL

Bill Friedrich collection

The five new Pirsch rigs (Truck 21, Truck 22, Engine 21, Squad 21, and Engine 25) lined-up L-R at Fire Station #1 on Lake Street circa 1952: 

Evanston Fire Department history - vintage Peter Pirsch & Sons fire engines

Bill Friedrich collection

1951 Pirsch 85′ TDA (Truck 21 1951-68 and then Reserve Truck 23 1969-79) at Fire Station #3 on Central Street when it was the reserve truck in the 1970’s:

Evanston FD Reserve Truck 23

Bill Friedrich photo

1952 Pirsch 85-ft TDA (Truck 22 1952-79) after it was refurbished in 1969: 

Evanston FD Truck 22

Bill Friedrich photo

1968 Pirsch Senior 100-ft TDA as Truck 22 in the 1980’s (was Truck 21 1969-79) 

Evanston FD Truck 22

Bill Friedrich photo

1968 GMC / Pirsch tractor (ex-Aurora,CO) pulling refurbished 1952 Pirsch 85-ft ladder & trailer (Reserve Truck 23 in the 1980’s) 

Evanston FD Truck 21

Bill Friedrich photo

 

1949 Seagrave 1000 GPM pumper (was Engine 21 1949-1952, then Engine 22 1952-66, then Reserve Engine 26 at Station #5 1966-70)  It was sold to a private individual (Stuart Trock) for use as a party & parade vehicle in 1970 (it was only 21 years old when it was sold). It was was kept in very good condition by Trock and it was in the Evanston 4th of July Parade every year back in the 1970’s and 80’s. 

Evanston Fire Department history

Warren Redick photo

1937 Seagrave 750 GPM pumper (one of two identical pumpers purchased by  Evanston at that time after voters passed a bond issue). It was Engine 3 (later Engine 23) 1938-57 and then it was Reserve Engine 27 at Station #3 1958-70.

Evanston Fire Department history

Warren Redick photo

1937 Seagrave Service 65-ft aerial-ladder truck that was a front-line rig (Truck 2) at Station  #1 1937-1952, and then it became Truck 23 at Station #3 1955-62 (in front-line service), before finally going into reserve (still known as “Truck 23”) 1963-69.  

Evanston Fire Department history

Warren Redick photo

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Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District history

Found on Flickr 

Pirsch ad featuring Lisle-Woodridge

Lisle-Woodridge FPD history

click to download

thanks Keith

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2-11 Alarm fire in Chicago, 1-18-94

This from Dennis McGuire, Jr. for #TBT:

Flash back to January 18th, 1994 when the high reached only 11 below zero, following a morning low of minus 21 and yielding a daily average temperature of minus 16. On Chicago’s south side, fire companies were battling a 2-11 in a 4 story apartment building at 8049-59 S St. Lawrence.

Firefighters battle fire in frigid weather

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

More photos HERE

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