Posts Tagged Evanston FD Chief Henry Dorband

History of The Evanston Fire Department – Part 79

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department


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 rebuilt Fire Station # 2, the relocated Fire Station # 3, and the new Fire Station # 5, Evanston had at last met the recommendations offered by the National Board of Fire Underwriters in 1935.

As of September 1955, all insured structures within the corporate city limits of Evanston were within 1-1/2 miles of a fire station and engine company. The five stations 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.

In 1984, at the behest of Evanston Fire Chief Sam Hicks, city council staff floated a “Fire Station Relocation Plan” designed to replace the city’s five fire stations with three new ones, to be constructed up & down the central spine of Evanston. One of the new stations was to be constructed at Willard D. Kamen Park at Asbury & South Boulevard in south Evanston, another was to be built on vacant land at the southwest corner of Lake & Ashland in central-west Evanston that had been designated as a future city park, and a third was to be constructed on the site of the abandoned Municipal Testing Lane at Ashland & Noyes in north-central Evanston.

The station at Lake & Ashland would house Engine 21, Engine 24, and Ambulance 1, the station at Asbury & South Boulevard would house Engine 22, Truck 22, and Ambulance 2, and the station at Ashland & Noyes would house Engine 23, Truck 23, and Ambulance 3, all apparatus fully staffed, and with no “jump companies.” Each of the three new fire stations would have three “drive-through” bays, modern ventilation systems, and separate facilities for female firefighters.The new station at Ashland & Noyes might have also been a regional training center.

The shift commander (F-2), a driver for Squad 21, reserve apparatus (including Squad 21), equipment storage, and EFD administrative offices would be located at the existing Fire Station # 1 at 909 Lake Street, which would become more of an auxiliary fire station. Since Station # 1 would continue to exist in some fashion, the new fire station at Lake & Ashland would likely have been designated Fire Station # 4.

The two main purposes of the Fire Station Relocation Plan were to improve average response times by relocating fire stations to the areas of Evanston that incurred the most incidents, and to staff each of the three stations with eight firefighters, so that firefighters and paramedics would arrive at the scene of an incident as a group, rather than one company alone. Sort of like a “task force.”

Staffing each fire station with eight firefighters and/or paramedics would help firefighters coordinate operations on the fireground immediately upon arrival at a fire, satisfying the “two in / two out” requirements, and allowing companies to initiate search & rescue and an offensive interior attack without delay. It was not unusual for single companies like Engine 23, Engine 24, and Engine 25 to arrive on the scene of a working fire with just three firefighters, and the company would either have to begin operations without back-up support, or else wait until additional crews arrived before initiating search & rescue and an offensive interior attack.

Residents of the 5th Ward and their representatives on the city council were thrilled with the Fire Station Relocation Plan. Under the plan, the 5th ward would finally get the emergency services it had been promised  — and then subsequently denied — when Fire Station # 5 was constructed on Central Street in northwest Evanston in 1955, instead of at the originally-proposed Perkins Woods site at Grant & Bennett that was more than a half-mile closer to the 5th Ward.

While the 5th ward was very happy to finally receive some consideration from the city, the Fire Station Relocation Plan was generally not well-received in other parts of Evanston. Once a neighborhood has a fire station, it’s hard to explain to the residents of that area how emergency services would improve by relocating their fire station further away, even if the station is being relocated to an area of the city from where the most calls for service are received. This was the case with the neighborhoods served by all five of the existing fire stations in 1984, but especially for the residents served by fire stations # 4 and # 5.

There also was the matter of the aerial-ladder truck that was to be located in the new fire station at Asbury & South Boulevard having to somehow zig-zag through the underpass at Callan & South Boulevard when responding to alarms east of the CTA tracks along South Boulevard north of Calvary Cemetery. In terms of responding to calls without delay and negotiating traffic to get there, the existing Fire Station # 2 at Madison & Custer was actually in a good location. In addition, the residents in the neighborhood of Kamen Park at Asbury & South Boulevard did not wish to exchange a park for a fire station, even though only one section of the park would be used by the fire department.

As a result, the initial plan to build a new fire station at Asbury & South Boulevard that would combine Station # 2 and Station # 4 was dropped very soon after it was proposed. Instead, Fire Station # 2 was to be remodeled and would remain where it was at 702 Madison Street, with Engine Co. 22 and Truck Co. 22 located at the station with six firefighters combined assigned to the two companies.

The dilapidated Station # 4 structure at 1817 Washington Street could not be saved, but rather than just raze it and relocate Engine Co. 24 to the new Station # 1 at Lake & Ashland as had been originally proposed, the city council decided to have Station # 4 rebuilt on the same site as the 1927 facility. Also, Ambulance 2 was to be  relocated to Station # 4, so that the firehouse would have five firefighters assigned to it instead of just three.

The main problem with keeping Station # 2 and Station # 4 where they were already located is that it meant there would be only two engine companies located north of Main Street, and that just was not acceptable to anyone. So the plan to exchange the fifth engine company for a fully-staffed third MICU ambulance and a dedicated driver for Squad 21 was dropped,

Hence, it was proposed that Engine 25 remain in service as a second engine company at the new Station # 3 at Ashland & Noyes, with unmanned but fully-equipped MICU Ambulance 3 and the unmanned Squad 21 sharing a fourth bay at Station # 3. A-3 and Squad 21 would be staffed by personnel from one of the companies from Station # 3 if needed.

Under this configuration, the new three-bay Station # 1 at 1500 Lake Street would have five firefighters (E-21 and A-1), remodeled three-bay Station # 2 at 702 Madison Street would have six firefighters (E-22 and T-22), the new Station # 3 at 2210 Ashland Avenue would have nine firefighters (E-23, E-25, and T-23, plus unmanned A-3 and S-21 in a fourth bay), and the rebuilt two-bay Station # 4 at 1817 Washington Street would have five firefighters (E-24 and A-2). The shift commander (F-2) would be located at the new Fire Station # 1 instead of at old Fire Station # 1.

At least that was the plan…  

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 59

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

Prior to 1953, Evanston operated with a mayor / city council form of government that had been established after the Village of Evanston annexed the Village of South Evanston and formed the greater City of Evanston in 1892. Under this form of governance, the chief fire marshal, the police chief, the superintendent of streets, and all other city department heads ran their respective departments as they saw fit (albeit within the confines and restrictions of the civil service system), reporting only to the city council and the mayor.

However, beginning in 1953, Evanston transitioned to a so-called “weak mayor” / council / city manager form of government, in which a city manager was appointed by the city council to run the city like a CEO would run a Fortune 500 company  The city manager was seen as an apolitical technocrat whose main task was efficiency. He or she was expected to “cut fat” and “do more with less.” The city manager established the annual budget for each city department, and then the department head would run the department with the city manager’s oversight. Evanston’s first full-time city manager was Bert Johnson.

In 1956, EFD Chief Henry Dorband recommended the acquisition of two new 1,000-GPM / 300-gallon triple-combination pumpers to replace the two aging 1937 Seagrave 750 / 80 TCPs that were in service as Engine 23 and Engine 24, and a new 85-foot tractor-drawn aerial ladder truck to replace the 1937 Seagrave 65-foot aerial ladder truck running as Truck 23. The city manager and city council agreed with Chief Dorband’s recommendation for the two new pumpers, but not for the new TDA. The city council authorized a budget appropriation for two new pumpers, and the city advertised for bids.

Seagrave was awarded the contract in July 1957, agreeing to supply two 70th Anniversary Series 1,000-GPM pumpers, each to be equipped with a 300-gallon water tank and an extra-large hose-bed, and powered by a V-12 engine. Seagrave’s winning bid was $43,900 ($21,950 per pumper), and while Seagrave did get the contract, both Pirsch ($44,900) and American LaFrance ($45,150) came very close. Mack’s bid was $10,000 less than Seagrave’s, but it did not meet specifications.

Unlike the six pumpers acquired by the EFD 1937-52, the new rigs were specified to have an open cab, with no rear-facing bench seating and no booster hose-line. While they had no booster line, the new Seagrave pumpers did have considerably more room in their hose beds than did the EFD’s older front-line pumpers, allowing the new rigs to carry twice as much 1-1/2 inch hose, but with the same 2-1/2 inch hose-load carried on the older pumpers.

There were two rear outlet ports on the new pumpers for pre-connecting leads of 1-1/2 inch hose line that allowed for a faster fire attack, plus room on the front bumper for a lead of soft suction supply hose pre-connected to a front intake port that could be rapidly hooked up to a hydrant. Also, the 300-gallon water tanks on the new Seagrave pumpers had significantly more capacity than did the 80 and 100-gallon tanks on the older Seagrave and Pirsch front-line pumpers and the 50-gallon tanks on the reserve 1927 Seagrave pumpers.  

The new Seagrave pumpers arrived in February 1958, and were placed into service as Engine 23 and Engine 24. The two 1937 Seagrave pumpers that had been running as Engine 23 and Engine 24 were placed into reserve at Station # 3 (Engine 27 – ex-E23) and at Station # 4 (Engine 28 – ex-E24). The 1927 Seagrave Standard pumper (Engine 27 – ex-E5) that had been in reserve at Station # 4 since 1952 did not pass its pump test in 1957, and so it was dismantled for spare parts to keep the other 1927 Seagrave pumper (Engine 26 – ex-E2) that was in reserve at Station # 5 running for a few more years.

There was no increase in the EFD’s firefighting force when the 56-hour work-week was implemented in April 1957, so a Police – Fire Cooperative Plan was concocted by City Manager Johnson in 1958 that would cross-train police officers as auxiliary firefighters. The cross-trained police officers would patrol in three station-wagon ambulances, and would respond to inhalator calls, ambulance runs, and fires, in addition to their more-traditional policing duties, like issuing parking tickets and traffic citations.

The police department had provided ambulance service in Evanston since 1897, first with a horse-drawn wagon, and then with an automobile truck beginning in 1916  The fire department provided inhalator service beginning in 1913, with Engine Co. 1 and then later Squad 21 responding to inhalator calls with the police ambulance. Prior to 1958, there was just the one ambulance, and it was parked in the police station garage and staffed when needed by two station officers. Having three police station-wagon ambulances on patrol 24/7 was definitely something new!   

Under City Manager Johnson’s plan, 17 police officers would be hired and then cross-trained as firefighters, with five or six assigned to each police patrol shift, and with at least three on duty at all times. At a fire, the police officers would help carry and position ladders, lead-out hose lines, open up hydrants, and occasionally man a 2-1/2 inch line on the exterior. Police officers would usually not be involved with roof ventilation or an interior fire-attack, because they were supposed to remain available to provide first aid and transport injured firemen to the hospital.  
Johnson maintained that hiring police officers instead of firemen and then cross-training the police officers as firefighters would more than make up for the cuts in fire department staffing that resulted from implementation of the 56-hour work-week, while also increasing revenue for the city, because the cross-trained police officers could issue parking tickets and traffic citations when they weren’t at a fire. However, unlike some municipalities that combined police and fire departments together as a single public safety department, Evanston’s firemen would NOT be cross-trained as police officers.

As one might expect, IAFF Local 742 was vehemently opposed to a plan that hired police officers to work as auxiliary firefighters instead of just hiring more firemen, but there was nothing the union could do to stop it from happening. Chief Dorband hated the plan so much he refused to implement it and abruptly retired (in lieu of being fired). 64-year old Assistant Chief James Geishecker replaced Dorband as chief fire marshal on March 31, 1958, and he did implement the plan. Chief Geishecker was a 38-year veteran of the EFD, and had been a platoon commander since being promoted to assistant chief in 1948.   

Geishecker and Dorband had joined the EFD at about the same time (Dorband in 1919, and Geishecker in 1920), and they were good friends. However, they had different priorities as chiefs. Chief Dorband had been committed to an increase in shift staffing and upgrading apparatus, equipment, and facilities, but Chief Geishecker’s passion was training, which made him the perfect choice to oversee the training of police officers as firefighters. Geishecker also had some familiarity with police operations, because his older brother Peter had been Evanston Police chief prior to his death in 1953.   

Once they were trained as firefighters, the police officers were assigned to three 1958 Chevrolet station-wagon ambulances (Car 31, Car 32, and Car 33), equipped with a stretcher, a first-aid kit, and a fire extinguisher. A fourth station-wagon ambulance (Car 34) was kept as a spare. A 1958 GMC panel truck (Squad 17) was parked in the police station garage, and was staffed by a police desk sergeant who responded to fire calls with turnout gear, barricades, rope for crowd control, and other equipment and supplies for the police officers working at the fire. 

The Chevrolet station-wagon ambulances were replaced by International-Harvester Series-C Travelall ambulances in 1961, and new Chevy, Ford, Rambler, Dodge, or Plymouth station-wagon ambulances were placed into service every two or three years after that, until the EFD took-over ambulance service in 1976.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 58

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Thanks to relentless lobbying efforts by IAFF locals like Chicago’s Local 2 and Evanston’s Local 742, a bill was passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Gov.William Stratton in 1957 that mandated a 56-hour work-week for full-time Illinois firefighters. Henceforth, three platoons would be required to staff shifts, instead of the two platoon schedule that had been the operating standard since October 1920, when Evanston  became the 387th community in the U. S. to implement an “enlightened” two-platoon schedule and an 84-hour work-week for its firefighters.

Although they worked a two platoon / 84-hour work week in the years 1920-42, Evanston firemen were working a 67.5 hour work-week prior to the implementation of the 56-hour work-week in 1957. An earlier bill signed into law in 1942 had mandated an extra day off (known as a “Kelly Day”) for full-time Illinois firemen after every seven days worked, which cut the average work-week from 84 hours to 73.5 hours. Then after extensive lobbying by Local 742, the Evanston City Council in 1948 granted Evanston firemen an extra day off after every four days worked (matching Chicago’s schedule), which cut the average work-week from 73.5 hours to 67.5 hours.

Prior to 1957, 48 Evanston firemen had been assigned to each of the two platoons, and with nine men from each platoon on a Kelly Day every shift, the maximum shift staffing was 39 if all companies were running at full strength, or a minimum of 31 if all companies were running a man short. With a third platoon added, Kelly Days were no longer needed, so that freed-up 18 slots for the new platoon, but 21 additional men would be needed to maintain company and shift staffing at pre-1957 levels.

It was a state law, so the city council had no choice but to accept the 56-hour work-week for Evanston firemen. However, the aldermen refused to add any additional manpower to the EFD. Therefore, beginning on April 1, 1957, the 96 men that had been assigned to two platoons were spread over three platoons, with 32 men assigned to each of the three platoons instead of 48 assigned to each of two platoons, and with maximum shift staffing cut from 39 to 32, and minimum shift staffing cut from 31 to 29. This left just three men to cover for absences on each shift, instead of the eight extra men (one on each company) under the two-platoon system. It would be left up to EFD Chief Henry Dorband to decide how the 32 men would be deployed each shift. 

Because they were first-due to the downtown “high value district,” Truck Co. 21 and Engine Co. 21 were always staffed with a minimum of four men, but if a shift was at minimum staffing (29) because of absences due to vacations, overtime comp payback, injuries, and/or illnesses, the other six companies could operate with a three-man crew. With only three extra men instead of eight assigned to each shift to cover for absences, three-man crews on the engines and trucks located in stations outside the “high-value district” would now be the norm rather than the exception.

Squad 21 – the busiest company in the EFD in 1956 — was taken out of front-line service and placed into unmanned ready-reserve status at Station # 1 when the three-platoon system was implemented. Ten of the 14 men that had been assigned to Squad 21 were reassigned to Truck Co. 23 as Engine 23 and Truck 23 became separate companies at Station # 3, and the other four men from the squad were reassigned to Truck Co. 21 and Engine Co. 21, as the platoon commanders’ drivers were now assigned administratively to Truck Co. 21, and the fire equipment mechanics were assigned to Engine Co. 21.

Squad 21 was now staffed by personnel from Engine Co. 21 or Truck Co. 21 when needed for inhalator calls, and by a fire equipment mechanic when dispatched to a special rescue or a working fire. If both Engine Co. 21 and Truck Co. 21 were out of quarters and the fire equipment mechanic was not available, an engine or truck company from one of the other stations would be directed to transfer (change quarters) to Station # 1, and be ready to man Squad 21 if needed. 

The truck company districts were also changed at this time, as Truck Co. 23 was now first-due north of Foster Street, Truck Co. 22 was first-due south of Greenleaf Street, and Truck Co. 21 was first-due between Greenleaf and Foster (including the downtown “high-value district” and Northwestern University’s south campus area).

One additional assistant chief and eleven additional captains were required to staff three platoons, so there was a mass promotion on April 1, 1957, as Capt. Jim Mersch was promoted to assistant chief (platoon commander), and firemen Ted Bierchen, Robert Brandt, Harold Cowell, Roy Decker, Harold Dorband, Tom Hanson, Harry Meginnis, Victor Majewski, Hjalmar Okerwall, Joe Schumer, and Dave Tesnow were promoted to captain. The new captains were assigned to various companies, with no more than four assigned to any one platoon. Capt. Lester Breitzman (commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau) was also promoted to assistant chief at this time. 

The EFD now had a chief, four assistant chiefs, 24 captains, and 71 firemen, with eight captains and 21 firemen staffing five engine companies and three truck companies on each platoon, plus the three platoon commanders and their drivers, the chief and his three drivers, and an assistant chief and two firemen (inspectors) assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau.

For the first year of the 56-hour work-week, Evanston firemen on the three platoons worked a schedule of two 10-hour shifts (8 AM to 6 PM), followed by two 14-hour shifts (6 PM to 8 AM), followed by two days off. Then beginning in 1958, the “10-10-14-14-OFF-OFF” schedule was replaced with the more-familiar “24 ON / 48 OFF” schedule (24 hours on duty, followed by 48 hours off duty) that still remains in effect today. Evanston firemen would also now receive a three-week annual paid vacation instead of two weeks.

Firefighters battled a blaze at The Orrington Hotel in January 1958, the first significant hotel fire in Evanston’s history, and the first major fire since the implementation of the three platoon schedule. The alarm was answered with a ”high value district” response of three engine companies and one truck company, with two additional trucks, a fourth engine, and Squad 21 (manned by the platoon mechanic) responding on the second alarm. While crews from Engine 21, Engine 22, and Engine 23 attacked the blaze “surgically” with 1-1/2 inch hand lines, the truck companies evacuated guests, ventilated heat and smoke, and performed salvage duties.

The nine-story hotel sustained $75,000 in damage, but all guests were evacuated safely, the fire was knocked-down quickly, and as much property as possible was protected from smoke and water. It was a textbook performance by the EFD. Chief Dorband’s decision to transfer manpower from Squad 21 to Truck 23 when the three platoon schedule was implemented in April 1957 was controversial at the time, but clearly having three truck companies at the fire within ten minutes helped mitigate what could have been a disaster.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 57

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



The Evanston Fire Department battled two major fires just north of the downtown “high value district” in 1956. The first blaze gutted Orchid Cleaners at 1811 Benson Avenue in January, and the second swept through the Motoport garage at 1851 Benson Avenue in September. Although the two fires occurred a block apart and within eight months of each other, they were not related.

Evanston firefighters worked for the better part of a day to extinguish the stubborn fire at Orchid Cleaners. Companies from Station # 1 were on the scene within three minutes, but could not knock the blaze down. A second alarm was struck bringing in additional companies, and the off-duty platoon was eventually called-in to provide relief for the men working at the fire, and to staff reserve apparatus. Damage was estimated at $75,000.

A combination parking garage and service station, the Motoport was located on the site of what had previously been the Flossy Dental Supply Company (destroyed by a fire in 1926), at the southeast corner of Benson & Emerson. Downtown Evanston merchants and their employees could park at the Motoport while at work, and residents living in the area who wanted a secure place to park could leave their vehicles in the garage overnight. Attendants were on duty 24/7, and could service a vehicle while it was there.

The blaze began as a vehicle fire inside the garage, before communicating to the structure itself. At the height of the blaze, thick black smoke poured from the building, as the gasoline pumps, the service bay, and one car after another caught fire. Because of the threat of explosion, the vehicles parked inside could not be saved. Train service on the nearby CTA Evanston line had to be temporarily halted because motormen could not see past the smoke. Damage to the Motoport and the vehicles parked inside was estimated at $150,000, making it the fourth highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that time.

Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Mullaney saw the Motoport fire on the local TV news, and offered to send the CFD’s two chemical rigs that were designed to extinguish gasoline fires to help quell the blaze. EFD Chief Dorband declined the offer, however, because by the time it was received the fight had already gone defensive, and nothing could be saved.

The Chicago FD had provided assistance to Evanston on numerous occasions going back to 1883, but as of 1956, the CFD had not been requested / invited to respond into Evanston since the N. U. Technological Institute conflagration in 1940, when three CFD engine companies assisted the EFD.

While the Evanston Fire Department had provided assistance to Wilmette, Skokie, Winnetka, Morton Grove, and Lincolnwood on many occasions over the years, EFD chief officers held a low opinion of the neighboring suburban fire departments, and had not requested mutual aid from any fire department other than Chicago’s since 1906.

“Civil Defense” became a part of many U. S. fire departments in the 1950’s, and to that end, the Evanston Fire Department took delivery of a fully-stocked rescue trailer and a U. S. government-surplus WWII-era Willys MB Jeep from the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA)  in 1954.

Painted white with a blue roof, the rescue trailer was equipped with sophisticated radiation detection equipment, radiation proximity suits, gas masks, dozens of fully-stocked first-aid kits, collapsible canvas gurneys, asbestos blankets, body bags, sand bags, shovels, hand tools, flashlights, a battery-powered two-way short-wave radio, and other gear that might be useful if a nuclear bomb was dropped on Chicago. The equipment carried in the trailer could also be useful in response to a mass casualty event like a tornado. The trailer was kept in ready-reserve at Fire Station # 1 for twenty years, but fortunately it was never needed.

Painted “CD blue,” the jeep was equipped with a trailer hitch and was supposed to pull the rescue trailer, but the trailer and its contents proved too heavy for the little jeep to pull. The jeep was used for a couple of years as a utility vehicle by the EFD mechanics, and then was transferred to the Evanston Community Golf Course in 1957, where it was used for several years by the golf course ranger.

Needing a more-powerful vehicle to pull the rescue trailer, the City of Evanston received a grant from the FCDA and purchased an International-Harvester R-140 pick-up truck in 1956. The pick-up was painted fire engine red, with red & green warning lights salvaged from one of the old dismantled Seagrave rigs. The only identification on the vehicle were the iconic CD stickers on the doors and tail-gate. It was not equipped with a siren or a radio, so it did not have a radio call-sign. 

Because the rescue trailer was in actuality pulled only once a year when it was part of the North Evanston Fourth of July parade, the pick-up truck was mainly used by EFD mechanics to run errands, by the drillmaster when conducting training exercises, and to transport firefighters, air bottles, gasoline cans, rock salt, sand bags, barricades, beverages, sandwiches, and other supplies from Fire Station # 1 to the scene of a fire or other major incident. It served as the EFD’s utility vehicle for 18 years.

In addition to the Civil Defense vehicles received in 1954-56, the EFD also took delivery of four new staff cars, including a Chevrolet Nomad station wagon and a Chevrolet Bel-Air sedan in 1955, a Chevrolet 210 station-wagon in 1956, and a Ford Fairlane station-wagon in 1957. One of the Chevy station wagons (F-2) was assigned to the platoon commanders, the other Chevy wagon (F-3) and the Chevy sedan (F-4) were assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau, and the Ford station-wagon (F-1) was assigned to Chief Dorband.

Assistant Chief William Murphy retired in November 1956, after 29 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department. Capt. Lester Breitzman replaced Chief Murphy as commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau, and Fireman George Beattie was promoted to captain, replacing Capt. Breitzman as a company officer. New firemen hired in the latter half of 1955 and through the conclusion of 1956 included Richard Brunk and Donald Melzer (August 1955), LeRoy Dullin (September 1955), James Marsh (March 1956), Frederick Nelson (November 1956), and Howard Lindeman (December 1956).

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 56

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



As of 1955, 70% of Evanston’s firefighters had less than ten years’ experience. This compares to only 10% with less than ten years’ experience in 1940. With a younger fire department, advances in medicine, and the prevention and treatment of disease, only two off-duty deaths occurred in the EFD from heart attacks and other illnesses after 1950. Fireman Clarence Wahle (Truck Co. 22) died in 1955, and Captain George Croll (Fire Prevention Bureau) passed away after a lengthy illness in 1960. 

An explosion and fire in a laboratory at the Union Thermoelectric Company at 2001 Greenleaf Street in May 1955 resulted in a $104,000 loss. There were no workers in the lab at the time of the explosion. The fire was knocked-down fairly quickly by firefighters, but there was considerable damage to the company’s valuable equipment. The $104,000 loss was the fifth highest loss from fire in Evanston’s history up to the point in time, behind only the Northwestern University Technological Institute, Boltwood School, Marshall Field & Company warehouse, and Mark Manufacturing Company fires.

Engine Co. 23 and the reserve truck were relocated from Station # 5 to the new Station # 3 and Engine Co. 25 was relocated from Station # 1 to Station # 5 on Saturday, September 3, 1955. Reserve Engine 26 — one of the two 1927 Seagrave Standard 1000-GPM pumpers — was relocated to Station # 5 at this same time. EFD Chief Henry Dorband led a “noisy” parade down Central Street from Station # 5 to Station # 3, followed by a dedication ceremony that featured speeches by the mayor, the city manager, and the two aldermen from the 7th ward. It was the pinnacle of Chief Dorband’s career. 

With Engine Co. 25 relocated to Station # 5, the 11th and 12th men previously assigned to Engine 25 when it was at Station # 1 were transferred to Squad 21. Thus, Engine Co. 25 was now a ten-man company, with five men on each platoon, one man on a Kelly Day every day, four men scheduled to work the shift, and a minimum three-man crew if a man was absent. Conversely, Squad 21 was now a 14-man company, with seven men on each platoon, one man on a Kelly Day every day, one man each shift assigned as the platoon commander’s driver, five men scheduled to ride the squad, and a minimum four-man crew if a man was absent.    

With the opening of the new Station # 3, all insured structures in Evanston were finally within 1-1/2 miles of an engine company and within 2-1/2 miles of a truck company, meeting the NBFU standards of the day. The two intersections furthest from a fire station were Church & Fowler and Foster & Grey, both 1-1/2 miles from the nearest fire station. Both intersections were in the 5th ward and within the square half-mile bounded by Simpson Street on the north, Church Street on the south, the North Shore Channel on the west, and the C&NW RR Mayfair Division tracks on the east, an area that would incur more residential structure fires than any other square half-mile in Evanston over the next thirty years.

Once it was relocated to the new Fire Station # 3, Engine Co. 23 became a combination engine / truck company (what would be called a “jump company” today), manning Engine 23 for fire calls and minor fires in Station # 3’s district, and staffing Truck 23 for fire calls in Station # 5’s district. The company at Station # 3 did not normally respond to alarms south of Emerson Street. Truck Co. 21 was the first-due truck in Station # 1’s and Station # 3’s districts, and Truck Co. 22 was the first due truck in Station # 2’s and Station # 4’s districts. Truck Co. 22 would transfer (change quarters) to Station # 1 whenever Truck 21 was at a working fire.

Four of the five engine company first-due areas changed in September 1955. Engine Co. 22 was still first due east of Asbury and south of Greenleaf, but Engine Co. 21 was now first-due between Greenleaf and Emerson east of Asbury, and between Dempster and Emerson west of Asbury; Engine Co. 23 was first due north of Emerson and east of Dodge up to the canal, and then east of Prairie Avenue up to the Wilmette border; Engine Co. 24 was first-due west of Asbury and south of Dempster; and Engine Co. 25 was first due north of Emerson and west of Dodge up to the canal, and then west of Prairie up to the Wilmette border.

All of the engine companies except Engine 23 had a “second engine” district that was larger than their first-due area. There was still a three engine response to the downtown “high-value district” bounded by Lake – Oak – Clark – Hinman, and a three engine / two truck response to schools during school hours, hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement homes.

Engine Co. 24 would transfer (change quarters) to Station # 1 if Engine 21 was at a working structure fire north of Church Street, and Engine Co. 25 would transfer to Station # 1 if Engine 21 was at a working structure fire south of Church Street. Anytime four engine companies were out of service at the same time, the remaining engine company would immediately transfer to Station # 1, if it wasn’t already there. If Engine Co. 23 was the last remaining engine company in service, it would man the engine and transfer to Station # 1, and leave the truck behind at Station # 3.  

Squad 21 (typically with a five-man crew, or a minimum of four men if a member was absent) responded to all fire calls, inhalator calls, and specialized rescues city-wide. Squad 21 was equipped with four military-type searchlights, an inhalator, a portable gas-powered generator, fans, power tools, portable floodlights, salvage covers, two portable turret nozzles, pry bars, axes, sledge-hammers, and an oxygen-acetylene cutting torch, as well as a 100-gallon booster tank and hose-reel. The rig also had a 1000-GPM pump, but it did not have a hose bed and carried no hose load. 

F-2 (the platoon commander and his driver) responded to all fire calls and other significant incidents, and was the back-up inhalator unit. F-1 (Chief Dorband and his driver) responded to working fires and other major incidents, and if the chief was on duty, he could cover an alarm if F-2 was unavailable. F-3 (Fire Prevention Bureau Assistant Chief William Murphy) investigated explosions and any fire of suspicious origin, as well as all major fires. One firefighter was assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau during business hours as Chief Murphy’s administrative assistant and fire code enforcement inspector.   

Squad 22 (the 1924 Seagrave high pressure turret / hose truck) was kept in ready-reserve at Fire Station #1, and could be manned and driven to a fire if requested by a chief officer. Also, the two reserve 1927 Seagrave pumpers – Engine 26 at Station # 5 and Engine 27 at Station # 4 – were fully-equipped, and could be staffed by off-duty personnel and be temporarily placed into service to cover the city in the event of a major fire. In addition, one reserve inhalator was kept at Station # 1 and another was kept at the Evanston Police station, in the event that both Squad 21 and F-2 were unavailable to respond to an inhalator call. 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 55

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



All three of Evanston’s new fire stations were completed and placed into service during 1955; Station # 5 at 2830 Cental Street on January 25th, Station # 2 at 702 Madison Street on March 12th, and Station # 3 at 1105 Central Street on September 3rd.

While waiting for its new quarters to be completed, Engine Co. 23 and the reserve truck were temporarily relocated from Fire Station # 3 on Green Bay Road to the new Station # 5 in northwest Evanston, as Station # 3 was closed on January 25th. It its final days as a working firehouse, the aging apparatus floor was supported from below by wooden beams that were set-up temporarily in the basement. Because Engine Co. 23 needed to move out of Station # 3 ASAP, Engine Co. 25 remained at Station # 1 for most of 1955, and did not relocate from Station # 1 to Station # 5 until the new Station # 3 was completed in September. 

Chief Dorband, the Fire Prevention Bureau, and Truck Co. 22 were relocated from Station # 1 to the new Station # 2 on Madison Street on March 12th, and the two assistant chiefs assigned as platoon commanders at Station # 1 were relieved of company officer responsibilities and were provided with a Chevrolet station-wagon (known as “F-2”) and a driver at this time. As such, the platoon commanders were now akin to a Chicago F. D. battalion chief. Chief Dorband only responded to working fires. If he was off-duty, his driver based at Station # 2 would pick him up at his residence at 1424 Wesley Avenue and drive him to the fire.

The Evanston Fire Department was increased from 88 men to 100 on April 1, 1955, as Peter Erpelding, David Henderson, Roger Lecey, Roger Schumacher, Joseph Burton, Patrick Morrison, Robert Pritza, Richard Ruske, Donald Searles, Frank Sherry Jr, and Richard Zrazik were hired, and Edward Pettinger returned from a leave of absence. Firemen James Wheeler and William Windelborn were promoted to captain, replacing the two platoon commanders as company officers.   

Squad 21 continued to respond to all inhalator calls and special rescues, but beginning on April 1st, it also responded to ALL fire calls – not just working structure fires — city-wide with a four-man crew, or at least three-men if a man was absent. Squad 21 did not have a company officer, so the platoon fire equipment mechanic was normally in charge of the crew. In 1956, Squad 21 responded to more than 400 calls, which was 25% more than the busiest engine company (Engine Co. 24)!   

While the rig had a 1000-GPM pump, a 100-gallon water tank, and a booster hose reel mounted atop its body, Squad 21 did not have a hose bed or standard hose load, so it could not run as an engine company. However, it could respond to a minor fire in a pinch, or initiate a limited fire-attack with its booster after arriving at a structure fire if no engine company was on the scene.

Engine Co. 21, Truck Co. 21, Engine Co. 25, Squad 21, Engine Co. 22, and Truck Co. 22, were twelve-man companies, with six men assigned to each platoon, and Engine Co. 23, and Engine Co. 24 were ten-man companies, with five men assigned to each platoon. However, the driver for the platoon commander (F-2) was assigned administratively to Squad 21, and the driver for the Chief Fire Marshal (F-1) was assigned administratively to Engine Co. 22, so Squad 21 and Engine Co. 22 actually had one less man available each shift than the other twelve-man companies.  

One man each shift was on a Kelly Day, so the actual company staffing each shift was five men on Engine Co. 21, Truck Co. 21, Engine Co. 25, Squad 21 (including F-2 driver), Engine Co. 22 (including F-1 driver), and Truck Co. 22, or four men if the company was running a man short, and the actual company staffing each shift on Engine Co. 23 and Engine Co. 24 was four men, or three men if the company was running a man short. The truck company always took the extra man from the engine company if the truck company was down a man but the engine company at that station was at full-strength. 

There was a platoon commander assigned to each shift, and in addition, one man each shift was assigned as the driver and radio operator for the platoon commander (F-2), and one man each shift was assigned as the driver and administrative assistant for the chief (F-1). The buggy-drivers were also the EFD’s photographers. Also, one man was assigned as a fire prevention inspector and administrative assistant to the FPB chief (F-3). 
As of April 1, 1955, the maximum aggregate shift staffing in the Evanston Fire Department was 39 if all companies were at full strength, and the absolute minimum staffing was 31 if all companies were running a man short at the same time. Companies typically ran at full-strength November – March when vacations were not permitted, and then would sometimes run a man short in the spring, summer, and early autumn, when vacations were permitted, and when overtime comp days accrued during the winter months could be spent.  

The 39-man maximum / 31-man minimum restored EFD shift staffing to the years 1933-42, back before the first Kelly Days were implemented. Along with acquiring new apparatus and constructing new fire stations, restoring shift staffing to pre-World War II levels had been one of the three main goals of Chief Dorband’s modernization plan.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 54

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The second part of Chief Dorband’s modernization plan was implemented after the second bond issue passed in April 1953, setting the stage for three new fire stations to be constructed at a combined cost of $775,000 during 1954-55. 

In its most-recent inspection of the EFD in 1935, the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) had recommended that Truck Co. 2 be relocated from Station # 1 to a new Station # 2 in South Evanston that would have space for an aerial-ladder truck, establishment of a third truck company in a new Station # 3 in North Evanston that would have space for an aerial-ladder truck, and the relocation of Engine Co. 5 from Station # 1 to a proposed fifth fire station to be built in the area of Grant & Central Park in northwest Evanston. Chief Dorband followed the NBFU recommendations to the letter when planning the new fire stations.

The new Station # 2 was built as a two-story three-bay “headquarters” station with space for a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck and EFD administrative offices, on the southwest corner of Madison & Custer, one block west of the old Station # 2. The former Station # 2 at 750 Chicago Avenue was sold to a private party and converted into an automobile dealership, before becoming a restaurant about twenty years later.

The new one-story three-bay Station # 3, with one bay long enough to eventually house a tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck, was constructed on a vacant lot owned by the Metropolitan Sanitary District and leased to the City of Evanston on the east-side of the North Shore Channel, a block west of Evanston Hospital and a mile from the Northwestern University campus, at the northeast corner of Central Street and what had been Cooper Avenue pre-canal construction in 1908, about a mile east of the old Station # 3. The former Station # 3 at 2504 Green Bay Road was sold and converted into a photography studio.

However, the construction of Fire Station # 5 would prove to be a bit more complicated.

Chief Dorband’s modernization plan called for Station # 5 to be built on top of what used to be Bennett Avenue, between Perkins Woods and Lincolnwood Elementary School. The portion of Bennett Avenue that ran between Grant and Colfax streets had been closed when Perkins Woods was established as a Cook County Forest Preserve in the 1920’s, but the right-of-way was still owned by the city. Station # 5’s first-due area would include all of northwest Evanston, plus a large chunk of the 5th Ward, including the area north of Church Street and west of the C&NW RR Mayfair Division freight tracks.

Planned as a long and narrow one-story one-bay residential-style firehouse set-back several hundred feet from the street, the single apparatus bay would be located on the south-side of the facility, with driveway access onto Grant Street. The living quarters would feature a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a bunk-room, a bathroom with a shower, a captain’s office, a large storage room, and a watch-desk with a radio and a telephone, separated into two sections by a long hallway. The parking area and front door would be accessed from the Colfax Street side. The station would carry a street address of 2700 Colfax St.

However, the Lincolnwood School PTA objected to the proposed site, arguing that a fire station located that close to the school would pose a danger to the children if the fire engine was responding to an emergency call while the children were coming to or going home from school. The city council agreed, but Chief Dorband was furious, pointing out that the aldermen had readily approved construction of the new Fire Station # 1 on Lake Street in 1949, even though it was located just a half-block from St. Mary’s School.

With the Perkins Woods site taken off the table, a city playground-park at the northeast corner of Simpson & Bennett (now known as Porter Park) was presented by Chief Dorband as the next-best alternative, especially since the lot was already owned by the city, and was located even closer to the 5th ward than Grant & Bennett. However, citizens living in the area objected to the idea of replacing their park with a fire station. Also, the site was located nearly two miles from some areas within the “High Ridge” neighborhood northwest of Crawford & Gross Point Road.

Getting desperate, the city council next focused on a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Central Park Avenue and the south alley of Central Street that was for sale at a reasonable price, and with a footprint just large enough for a Chicago FD-style, two-story, one-bay firehouse. However, Northminster Presbyterian Church leaders objected to the Central Park Avenue site, because they said having a fire station on their block would potentially disrupt Sunday morning church services, Wednesday evening prayer meetings, and choir practice

With a voter mandate to build a new fire station in northwest Evanston and possessing the funds needed to construct it, but with seemingly no place to put it, the city council reluctantly purchased a lot costing $25,000 in a business district on the south side of Central Street at Reese Avenue. The lot cost more than what the aldermen wanted to spend, but the footprint was large enough for a two-bay firehouse. While the Central Street site was a half-mile further away from the 5th ward than the Perkins Woods site would have been, it was well-suited to provide fire protection to northwest Evanston, all the way up to Crawford & Old Glenview Road.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 53

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The civil service rank of lieutenant was eliminated from the EFD in 1954, as the position was now called “captain II,” while the former rank of captain was now called “captain I.” The captain II position had a slightly higher salary than lieutenant, and a lieutenant would need to have served at least one year in the position before he could be promoted to captain II. A captain II would be automatically elevated to captain I after one year.

Five of the seven EFD lieutenants – Leonard Bach, Herb Claussen, George “Bud” Hofstetter, George Jasper, and Willard Thiel — were promoted to captain II immediately, but because they had been promoted to lieutenant on January 1, 1954, and had less than one year experience as a lieutenant, Lt. Harry Schaeffer Jr and Lt. Richard Schumacher had to wait until January 1, 1955, to receive their promotions to captain II. Therefore, Harry Schaeffer Jr and Richard Schumacher were the last EFD lieutenants. All future promotions would be directly from fireman I to captain II.

The Evanston Fire Department battled two significant “storefront” fires in 1953-54.

The first was at the Suburban Surgical Supply Company store at 604 Davis Street, on March 2, 1953. Because the fire was in the downtown “high-value district,” the initial response was three engine companies and one truck company. A second alarm brought in a fourth engine company, a second truck company, and Squad 21. Firefighters confined the flames to the structure of origin. However, the store was gutted, and the damage estimate was a hefty $100,000, tying this fire with the Tapecoat (1951) and Evanston Country Club (1922) fires for the fifth-highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.

The second fire occurred in September 1954, at the A & P supermarket at 2106 Central Street in North Evanston. Engine Co. 23 was first on scene, and encountered a light haze of smoke in the interior of the store. The second engine company and the truck company arrived and followed Engine Co. 23 into the store. While the companies were probing for the origin of the smoke, the ceiling partially collapsed.

Everybody got out alive, but Capt. Ron Ford, Capt. Herb Claussen, and firemen Arnold Windle, Dave Tesnow, and Ted Bierchen were injured and transported to local hospitals. A second alarm and a call-back of the off-duty platoon were ordered, with the off-duty platoon called-back mainly to replace the injured men. While the fire wasn’t necessarily spectacular, the A & P did sustain an estimated $70,000 loss from fire, smoke, and water damage, not to mention a narrow escape for Evanston firefighters.

Released in October 1954 and now legally in the public domain, the Evanston Fire Department starred in an Encyclopedia Britannica educational short film produced under the auspices of renowned educator Dr. Ernest Horn of the University of Iowa. Called simply “The Fireman,” the plot was somewhat similar to the one in the classic 1903 Edwin S. Porter silent film melodrama “The Life of an American Fireman,” and it featured a number of Evanston firefighters and some of the new Pirsch rigs in action. The film didn’t win an Academy Award, but it was shown in schools around the country.


Rookie fireman “Tom Briggs” (not his real name, but if his real first name is Tom and he is in fact a rookie completing his first year on the job, then it has to be Tom Kostopoulos) arrives for work at Station # 1 and stands morning inspection with his fellow firefighters. Chief “Jim” Dorband (actually it’s EFD Chief Henry Dorband) is satisfied and dismisses the men. Fireman Tom is assigned as tillerman on one of the aerial-ladder trucks by duty officer “Captain Drake” (not his real name, but it would appear to be platoon drillmaster and Engine 25 Capt. Ed Fahrbach).

Under the supervision of Captain Drake and Chief Dorband, Fireman Tom and the other men participate in a training drill, where Tom and another man climb Truck 21’s aerial-ladder to the roof of the fire station and demonstrate how the the hose roller works, another fireman pretends to be overcome from smoke and is carried down a ladder and “resuscitated” by use of an inhalator, and another jumps into a life net from atop the drill tower.

Training over, the exhausted men relax in the station, but only briefly. A voice over a speaker in the firehouse suddenly announces “Alarm! – Third & Main… Alarm! – Third & Main.” Firefighters put on their game faces, slide down the pole to the first floor, and the Pirsch rigs roll out of Station # 1, headed west on Lake Street, with the men probably wondering, “Where the heck is Third & Main?”

After making several right turns, we see Truck 21 going southbound on Hinman Avenue, but then F-1 (Chief Dorband) and the Pirsch parade somehow end up at 2160 Isabella Street, on the Evanston / Wilmette border! Smoke can be seen wafting from the residence, and firefighters waste no time and go right to work, as Engine 21 and Engine 25 lead-out. One of the pumpers hooks-up to the hydrant at the southwest corner of Isabella & Green Bay Road, while Truck 22’s main is extended to the roof in the rear of the structure.

Long story short, Fireman Tom and Captain Drake wearing SCBA run into the house, little Judy’s kitten is rescued, the fire is extinguished, the companies pick-up, and the men return to quarters. The End.

The Evanston Fire Department rarely missed an opportunity back in the day to have firefighters hone their skills by drilling at a house about to be demolished, and that would appear to have been the case in this film. The ground on which the house was located would soon become part of a grocery store parking lot.

Encyclopedia Britannica released another educational short film called “The Policeman” in November 1954. With interior scenes shot inside the Evanston police station and exterior scenes filmed in Highland Park, “The Policeman” follows HPPD “Officer Barnes” and his partner in Car 91 on the mean streets of Highland Park, recovering an abandoned stolen bicycle, writing a traffic ticket, and finding a missing child. Officer Barnes is presented as a regular human being in the film, eating breakfast with his wife and kids prior to leaving for work, and then returning home to his family after the completion of his shift.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 50

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



At a cost of $13,000, two-way FM radios were purchased and placed into Evanston fire stations and on-board most EFD vehicles in June 1952. Paid for with funds from the 1951 bond issue, the new radio system initially had some problems with “bleed-over” interference from a local taxi cab company, but the problem was soon resolved by Motorola engineers assigned to the project.

The 20-series prefix was first used by the Evanston Fire Department after the radios were installed,in 1952, to help lessen confusion with other fire departments that were sharing the same radio frequency at that time, as well as other fire departments that might be added at a later date. 

Thus Engine 1 became Engine 21, Truck 2 became Truck 22, Engine 5 became Engine 25, etc. The new combination pumper / rescue squad was designated “Squad 21,” and EFD Chief Henry Dorband used the radio call-sign “F-1,” the same call-sign he had been using on the Evanston Police radio frequency since he got his new two-way radio-equipped Mercury automobile 1951.

The Evanston Fire Department ended up on the same radio frequency as the Wilmette, Winnetka, Northfield, Glencoe, and Highland Park fire departments. While radio repeaters were used on the Chicago Fire Department’s Main and Englewood radio frequencies, they were not employed on the radio frequencies used by north suburban fire departments, so sometimes a radio transmission from one of the fire departments on the frequency might inadvertently interfere with the radio transmission of another fire department on that same frequency.

The Evanston Police Department’s base-station radio-transmitter received the FCC-assigned call-sign KSA580 when it was placed into service in 1951, and the Evanston Fire Department’s base-station radio-transmitter received the FCC-assigned call-sign KSC732 when it was placed into service in 1952.

The base-station radio-transmitter at Station # 1 was known as “KSC732 – the desk,” or simply “732 – the desk.” The radio-transmitter at Station # 2 was KSC733, the radio-transmitter at Station # 3 was KSC734, and the radio-transmitter at Station # 4 was KSC735. The radio-transmitter at Fire Station # 5 received the FCC-assigned call-sign KSD841 when the station opened in 1955.

The EFD’s radio system was tested twice a day, once at 0800 hours, and then again at 2000 hours, with each station having to acknowledge receipt of the test by stating its FCC-assigned call-sign. A radio test could be delayed if one or more companies were en route to a call, or even canceled if a major incident was in  progress. 

Each EFD company officer was responsible for keeping track of the current status of all of the other companies of the same type (engine or truck). For example, the officer of Engine Co. 24 would need to know whether or not Engine Co. 23 was in service or out of service, because it could change Engine Co. 24’s first-due or second-engine response area. Company officers would have to acknowledge over the radio whenever another company’s status changed. If acknowledging from a fire station, the station’s FCC-assigned call-sign — or sometimes just the last three numbers of the call-sign — was used.

Both the police and fire department base radio consoles were initially located in a room on the second floor / south side of the police station, in close proximity to the stairway that led from the police station to Fire Station # 1. The radio consoles were later relocated to a room on the first floor / northeast side of the police station, next to the police complaint desk and on the far opposite side from Station # 1.  

Both the police and fire department radios were operated by civilian communication operators who were under the supervision of a police sergeant. Technically, half of a communication operator’s salary was paid by the police department, and half was paid by the fire department. Prior to 1975, communication operators were exclusively male, and in some cases were retired police officers or retired firefighters. Multi-tasking, speaking clearly, and having a good memory was useful. Typing skill was absolutely NOT a requirement.

All fire calls, inhalator calls, and details were broadcast over the EFD radio, with communication operators usually announcing fire and inhalator calls, automatic alarms, car fires, trash fires, etc, and a firefighter at the desk at Station # 1 typically announcing a non-emergency engine or truck company detail, such as a residential lock-out, a gas-wash, or an odor investigation.

A four-second long horn-type alert-tone was broadcast immediately prior to announcing a fire call, inhalator call, or detail, as well as for the twice-daily radio test. This horn tone was unique to the EFD and was activated by pushing a button similar to a doorbell. It couldn’t be stopped once it was started, and it covered all voice transmissions that might be in progress. There were only two activation buttons for the horn, one located in the Evanston Police radio room, and the other at the desk at Fire Station # 1. 

The communication operator did not assign EFD companies to a call. Rather, the communication operator would simply announce the call-type and location twice, and then state the time and the EFD’s radio call-sign. Then the radio system would turn into a party-line conference call. Companies that were due to respond were expected to acknowledge receipt of the call over the radio, and it was up to the platoon commander to make sure that the proper companies had acknowledged and were responding.

This somewhat arcane aboriginal dispatch procedure that dated back to 1952 was not changed until 1982!

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