Posts Tagged Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan

Evanston Fire Department history Part 47

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


A new Seagrave Model J-66 canopy cab 1000-GPM / 80-gallon TCP equipped with a Pierce-Arrow V-12 engine for maximum power, and a Mars FL-8 light on the roof, two high-mounted red flashers, a Delco-Remy Twin-Blast siren, and a bell as warning devices, was placed into service at Fire Station # 1 as the new Engine No. 1 in January 1949, and what had been Engine No. 1 – one of the two 1937 Seagrave Model G-80 canopy cab 750-GPM / 80-gallon pumpers – was transferred to Station # 4, where it became the new Engine No. 4.

Engine Co. 1 continued to respond as the second engine to all structure fires and to inhalator calls city-wide, with Engine Co. 5 remaining the dedicated “high-value district” engine company. Also, the 1917 / 1930 Seagrave Suburbanite 500 GPM / 50-gallon TCP that had been running as Engine No. 4 since June 1947 was placed back into reserve at this time, as the EFD once again had both a pumper (Engine No. 6) and the city service ladder truck (Truck No. 3) in reserve. 

Also beginning in January 1949, the Evanston Fire Department no longer provided fire protection to the College Hill section of the Village of Skokie, as the Skokie Fire Department opened its long-awaited east-side Station # 2 at 8340 Hamlin Ave. The new Skokie F.D. Station # 2 was staffed mostly by full-time firefighters, operating with a brand-new 1948 American LaFrance Model 710 PJO 1000-GPM TCP. Together with its Station # 1 at 8031 Floral Avenue in downtown Skokie that was staffed mostly by full-time firefighters operating with a 1937 Pirsch 750-GPM / 60-foot aerial quad and a 1926 Ahrens-Fox 1000 GPM TCP, the Skokie Fire Department was fast becoming a significant north suburban fire department in the post-war years. 

At this point in time, the Wilmette Fire Department was partly full-time but still mostly part-time. and it was  located in a combined police / fire station built in 1915 at 831 Green Bay Road. Front-line apparatus in Wilmette’s two-bay fire station consisted of a 1942 Seagrave Model G-80 750 GPM TCP and a 1943 Seagrave Model J-66 750-GPM quad, with a 1915 American-LaFrance Model 75 750-GPM TCP in ready-reserve.   

The Winnetka Fire Department was located in a very unusual three-bay firehouse at Green Bay Road & Ash Street. The structure was built originally in 1870 as the Academy Hall school, and then it was extensively remodeled and transformed into a fire station in 1925. Like the Wilmette Fire Department, the Winnetka F. D. was partly full-time but mostly part-time in 1949, with a 1947 American-LaFrance Model 775 PGC 750-GPM TCP and a 1926 American-LaFrance Type 14 750-GPM quad in front-line service, and a 1919 American-LaFrance Type 75 750-GPM TCP in ready-reserve.

Built in 1897, the Evanston Police / Fire headquarters at Grove & Sherman was essentially condemned in 1948 due to rampant plumbing problems in the basement cell-block of the police station, and serious structural cracks in the apparatus floor of the fire station. There was also a potential fire hazard related to decomposing 19th century electrical wiring insulation buried deep inside the walls that would have required gutting the interior of the building to replace.

A new two-story Evanston Police / Fire Public Safety headquarters was constructed at the northwest corner of Lake & Elmwood during 1949, and opened for business on August 27th of that year. The old headquarters at Grove & Sherman was torn down almost immediately after the police and fire departments vacated the facility, and the lot was filled-in and leveled and used for more than 25 years as a parking lot for the Valencia theater. An 18-story high-rise office building known as One American Plaza was constructed on the site during 1975-77.

While about 20% larger than its predecessor, the new Public Safety headquarters mirrored the configuration and orientation of the old one. The Evanston Police Department occupied the east side of the facility with an address of 1454 Elmwood Avenue, and the six-bay Fire Station # 1 was located on the west side of the complex at 909 Lake Street.

A brick drill tower was built into the rear of the fire station, replacing the EFD’s old drill tower that had been constructed behind Station # 3 in 1925. The west bay was separated by a brick wall from the rest of the station, and served as the EFD‘s repair shop. The two bays located closest to the repair shop were longer than the other three bays and could easily accommodate aerial-ladder apparatus, with room to spare.

A small two-bay garage for the police ambulance and the prisoner wagon was located on the far northeast corner of the structure facing onto Elmwood Avenue, just a few steps from the EPD’s front desk, where police officers were on duty at all times and available to staff the ambulance when needed. The structure also included a basement parking garage that was used mainly by the police department for vehicle storage, and a basement handball court that was available to both Evanston police officers and firefighters.    

On September 20, 1949, EFD Capt. Ed Hanrahan (Engine Co. 1) suffered a fatal heart attack while playing handball in the basement handball court, less than a month after the station opened. Capt. Hanrahan suffered from what is known today as morbid obesity, and playing handball was part of his diet and exercise weight-reduction regimen. A 22-year veteran of the EFD, Hanrahan had served as one of Chief Hofstetter’s buggy drivers prior to being promoted to lieutenant in 1945, and was said to be one of the most popular men in the department.

Capt. Hanrahan was only 44 years old at the time of his death. He was also the fifth EFD officer age 50 or  younger to die suddenly of a heart attack since 1929, the other four being 39-year old Lt. Walt Boekenhauer (Engine Co. 4) while on vacation in July 1929, 41-year old Lt. Frank Didier (Engine Co. 2) while off-duty in September 1931, 50-year old Lt. Carl Dorband (Engine Co. 3) while sitting in front of Fire Station # 3 in May 1942, and 43-year old Lt. William Elliott (Truck Co. 1) while on his day off in January 1945.  


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Evanston Fire Department history Part 46

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


On June 10, 1947, the pump on Engine No. 4 broke-down during a routine annual pump test and could not be repaired. The 1917 Seagrave 750-GPM pumper had been in nearly-continuous front-line service for more than 29 years – as Engine No. 1 1918-37, and then as Engine No,. 4 since 1938 — and because its frame and chassis had extensive corrosion and rust damage, it was not likely to survive much longer, even with a new pump.

With the gravitas of a long-time chief of the Evanston Fire Department, Albert Hofstetter requested and received an audience with the mayor and the city council. Chief Hofstetter explained that replacing the pump on a 29-year old rusted-out fire engine would be a waste of money, maintained that the safety of all Evanstonians was at risk, and convinced the aldermen to immediately issue an emergency appropriation in the amount of $18,000 to purchase a new triple-combination pumper.  

Seagrave (naturally) won the bid, and the EFD’s lone spare pumper – the 1917 Seagrave chemical & hose booster pumper that had been rebuilt at the Seagrave factory in 1930 as a 500-GPM Suburbanite TCP with a 50-gallon booster tank — was temporarily placed back into front-line service at Station # 4, thereby leaving the EFD without a spare pumper for the 18 months it would take Seagrave to build the new rig. Meanwhile, the Seagrave engine with the broken pump was dismantled for spare parts to help keep the other two 1917 Seagrave rigs running, and then the frame & chassis and whatever else was left of the relic were sold for scrap.      

In 1948, downtown Evanston was a vibrant area with many high-end stores that provided a significant commercial tax base for the city. The downtown area was anchored by three large department stores,  Wieboldts’s at 1007 Church Street, Lord’s at 1611 Orrington Avenue, and Marshall Field & Company at 1700 Sherman. While the Evanston Field’s store was a smaller suburban version of the company’s world-famous headquarters store that occupied an entire city block at State & Washington in Chicago’s Loop, it was considered to be the most exclusive department store on the North Shore. 

Just a few days before Christmas in December 1948, the Marshall Field warehouse at 1224 Emerson Street was gutted by fire. Four engine companies, two truck companies, and a number of men from the off-duty platoon battled the stubborn blaze for hours, attempting to salvage as many of the valuable goods as possible, while at the same time working to contain and extinguish the flames without injury to firefighters. It probably would have been useful if Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol No. 8 on Ravenswood Avenue was still in service and responding to fires in Evanston to provide dedicated salvage work, but unfortunately that arrangement had ended in January 1933.  

The Marshall Field warehouse fire occurred during the period of time when the EFD had no reserve pumper, so Engine Co. 4 operating with its four-man crew plus additional manpower from the off-duty platoon, and another eight off-duty men staffing the reserve 1917 Seagrave city service truck, provided a modicum of fire protection to the city from Station # 1 while the rest of the EFD was fighting the fire. At the behest of Field’s president Hughston M. McBain, Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan ordered the CFD’s Main Fire Alarm Office to immediately dispatch whatever assistance the Evanston Fire Department might request to help extinguish the fire.  

The CFD wasn’t needed, but the estimated $177,430 loss to the Marshall Field & Company warehouse and its contents was the third-largest loss from fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time, with only the Northwestern University Technological Institute inferno in December 1940 and the Boltwood School conflagration in January 1927 incurring a higher loss.

With the new more-favorable state pension law now in effect, there were a slew of retirements involving very senior members of the EFD in 1948, as 46-year veteran 1st Assistant Chief Tom McEnery, 40-year veteran Capt. Ed McEnery (Tom’s brother), 38-year veteran 3rd Assistant Chief Carl Windelborn, and 28-year veteran Lt. Harry Jasper all retired at about the exact same time 

Assistant Chief J. E. Mersch remained commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau and by virtue of seniority automatically became 1st Assistant Chief Fire Marshal with the retirement of Chief McEnery. Capt. Henry Dorband was promoted to Assistant Chief and replaced Chief McEnery as both company officer of Truck Co. 1 and a platoon commander, and Capt. Jim Geishecker was promoted to Assistant Chief and replaced Chief Windelborn as company officer of Truck Co. 2 and a platoon commander.

Also in 1948, Lt. Ed Hanrahan was promoted after having scored first on the 1947 civil service test for captain, and was assigned as company officer of Engine Co. 1, Lt. William Murphy scored second on the test, was promoted to captain, and was assigned as company officer of Engine Co. 5, and firemen Lincoln Dickinson, Ronald Ford, William Owens, and Fred Schumacher were promoted to lieutenant.

Besides the loss of a number of veteran EFD officers to retirement in 1948, firemen John Monks (38 years of service), John Lindberg (28 years), John Anderson (21 years), and Lou Knockaert (21 years) also retired in 1948, and Fire Equipment Mechanic Norman Fochs (21 years of service) and firemen Dominic Bartholme (25 years), John Gleeson (21 years), Ted Thompson (21 years), and Walter Janz (20 years) retired in 1949.

30 men – mostly all veterans of World War II – passed the entry-level civil service test for fireman and were hired over the three-year period 1946-49 to replace the many veteran firefighters who had retired or died, and so the Evanston Fire Department suddenly got a lot younger.

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