Posts Tagged Evanston Fire Chief Albert Hofstetter

Evanston Fire Department history Part 34

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


About a month after the Boltwood School fire, at 6:30 PM on Monday evening February 7, 1927, Engine Co. 2 and Truck Co. 1 responded to a report of a fire at Lee Drugs at 901 Chicago Ave. Encountering a significant working fire upon arrival, Chief Hofstetter ordered a second alarm, and Engine Co. 1, Truck Co. 2, and CFIP Patrol No. 8 responded, with Engine Co. 3 changing quarters to Station # 1.

The off-duty platoon was ordered to report for duty and staff the reserve Robinson Jumbo pumper and provide relief for firefighters on the scene. EFD companies battled the blaze throughout the bitter-cold night and into the next morning, but the drug store was gutted, sustaining a $50,397 loss, the fifth-highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up to that point in time.  

On April 5, 1927, in the aftermath of the Boltwood School and Lee Drugs fires, Evanston voters resoundingly approved a $75,000 bond issue supporting construction of a fourth fire station in the area of Dempster & Dodge, and the purchase of two 1000-GPM triple-combination pumpers, a new “auto-buggy” for the chief, a portable high-pressure turret nozzle, and additional large-diameter nozzles and hose .

The bond issue also directed the city council to hire twenty additional firemen in 1927 and then three more in 1928. This would increase EFD membership from 61 to 84 (a 38% increase in personnel). The chief would work business hours at Fire Station # 1 but be on call at all other times, and the new fire prevention inspector  would work business hours. There would be 41 men assigned to each platoon, with minimum shift staffing set at 34 if each company was running one man short, which was permitted and was frequently the case, due to vacations, sick time, and overtime comp.  

A 1925 Lincoln Model “L“ sedan was purchased (used) at a cost of $2,000, replacing the 1917 Haynes touring car that had served as the chief’s buggy for the previous ten years. Outbidding American-LaFrance and Ahrens-Fox, Seagrave was awarded the contract for the two pumpers, agreeing to supply two 1000-GPM “standard” triple-combination centrifugal pumpers with a 50-gallon booster tank and hose reel at a cost of $24,480 ($12,240 per engine). By 1927, all fire engine manufacturers were offering the Ahrens-Fox booster system, replacing the venerable soda-acid chemical tank & red line that had been a staple of the American fire service for more than 50 years.      

As of 1927, Seagrave was offering four models of pumpers, the 300, 400, and 500-GPM “Suburbanite” that was a favorite of small-town fire departments, the 600-GPM “Special” that was often equipped with a squad body, the 750 & 1000-GPM “Standard,” and the heavy-duty 1.300-GPM “Metropolite.” The two Seagrave Standards purchased by Evanston in 1927 were the work-horses of the EFD, remaining in continuous front-line service for 25 years, and then serving as reserve apparatus for a number of years beyond that. 

On May 1, 1927, the Evanston City Council officially authorized the hiring of twenty new firemen effective November 1, 1927, to staff the two new engine companies. Engine Co. 4 was to be organized at Station # 2 and then relocated to the new Fire Station # 4 as soon as the firehouse could be completed, and Engine Co. 5  was to be organized as the second engine company at Station # 1. Engine Co. 2 and the new Engine Co. 5 would receive the new Seagrave Standard pumpers, with the new Engine Co. 4 operating with the American-LaFrance tractorized-steamer and the Seagrave chemical & hose booster pumper that had previously been assigned to Engine Co. 2. 

In addition, the Evanston City Council approved pay raises for most members of the EFD, including a $25 per month raise for the chief fire marshal and assistant chief fire marshal, a $5 per month increase for all captains, lieutenants, and motor drivers – engineers, and a $10 per month increase for the new civil service rate of “Fireman I” (defined as a fireman with a minimum of one year experience). The former rank of assistant motor driver was eliminated and combined with Fireman I, but the rank of assistant engineer was not eliminated because of the expertise required to operate the EFD’s steam fire engine (the tractorized steamer). The new position of “Fireman II” (a fireman with less than one year experience) did not receive a pay raise. Also, a new civil service position of “engineer – mechanic” was created, as one of the engineers would now be responsible for routine maintenance and repair of all fire apparatus at Station # 1. The engineer – mechanic was to be paid $7.50 more per month than the other motor driver – engineers.

On June 10, 1927, the Evanston Civil Service Board administered the entry-level exam for Fireman II, and promotional exams for captain, lieutenant, engineer – mechanic, and motor driver – engineer. It was probably the most-hectic single day of testing in the history of the civil service board up to that point in time. There was a feeling of anticipation and excitement in the Evanston Fire Department, as the number of fire stations, the number of companies, and the number of firefighters were about to grow by more than a third in  one fell swoop.       

Then on Sunday afternoon, September 18, 1927, Capt. J. E. Mersch of Engine Co. 1 was seriously injured when the Evanston police ambulance in which he was riding was struck broadside by a bus at Lake & Sheridan while he and two Evanston police officers were en route to Greenwood Street Beach on an inhalator run to aid a drowning victim. Evanston Police Officer Richard Guess was critically injured and was permanently disabled, and Capt. Mersch sustained a fractured leg and other injuries. It was feared that Capt. Mersch might not ever walk again, and at the very least he would certainly not be able to continue performing the duties of a firefighter. There were no injuries on the bus, but the drowning victim died, and the 1916 White / Erby police ambulance was demolished.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 33

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


At 1 PM on Sunday afternoon, January 9, 1927, boy scout LeRoy Kreutzer noticed smoke wafting from the Boltwood Intermediate School at the southeast corner of Dempster & Elmwood. Boltwood School served as Evanston’s lone junior high school at the time, as well as the headquarters of the Evanston chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, but the facility had previously served as Evanston Township High School for forty years, until the new ETHS campus was opened at Church & Dodge in 1924. Kreutzer pulled fire alarm box # 313 at Dempster & Elmwood, and then ran over to EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter’s residence at 1228 Sherman Avenue, awakening the chief from his Sunday afternoon nap.
Chief Hofstetter ran across the alley and met up at the front of the school with companies arriving from Station # 1, and it was quickly determined that the fire was confined to a manual arts classroom in the basement. Although the fire was contained to just the one room, EFD engine companies had difficulty getting to the fire due to heavy smoke throughout the interior of the school. Despite the heavy smoke conditions, a monkey, and several white mice located in the science lab were rescued. The truck companies attempted to ventilate the heat and smoke from the structure, but the efforts failed as a strong gust of wind entered the building and fanned the fire. The flames swept past firefighters, traveling up an interior stairway, before blowing out through second-floor windows.

A “General Alarm” was sounded, as all on duty AND off-duty EFD firemen were ordered to the scene. The blaze was out of control, with the very real possibility that the flames could jump over the alley and threaten homes (including Chief Hofstetter’s house!) located to the east of the school as well as the Dempster Street business district. After two firemen barely escaped when part of the roof collapsed, Chief Hofstetter ordered all personnel inside to evacuate, and the fight went “defensive.”

With the EFD seemingly helpless to stop the firestorm, Chief Hofstetter requested assistance from the Chicago Fire Department. The Chicago F. D. had responded into Evanston on numerous occasions in the past, in each case assigning no more than two engine companies. However, this fire was larger and more threatening than any other previous Evanston blaze, and the Chicago Fire Department — with 1st Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Jerry McAuliffe in command at the scene — ended up sending six engine companies, two truck companies, a high-pressure wagon, and a water tower to Evanston.

At least two traffic collisions were blamed on the chaos resulting from so many fire trucks and spectators pouring into the neighborhood. At the height of the blaze, engines were pumping from various hydrants located within a six square-block area. Reportedly 20,000 spectators (about 1/3 of Evanston’s total population at the time!) gathered to watch the conflagration. Off-duty Evanston police officers were summoned to help with traffic and crowd control. 

Thanks in large part to the great assistance provided by the Chicago Fire Department, the fire was brought under control. Although Boltwood School was gutted, the homes located across the alley and the Dempster Street business district were saved. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries. Damage was estimated at $308,500, by far the highest-loss recorded in an Evanston fire up to that point in time. Two new District 65 junior high schools were subsequently constructed to replace Boltwood; Nichols in South Evanston, and Haven in North Evanston (with Haven initially being K-8, as it also replaced Cranston Elementary School).     

In the aftermath of the Boltwood fire, the competence of the Evanston Fire Department was called into question. The city council conducted an investigation, and quickly discovered some things they probably should have already known. The EFD of 1927 was simply a small town fire department operating in a city of 60,000 people, it was substantially undermanned and under-equipped and lacked “big water” capability, and that therefore a disaster like that of the Boltwood School fire was inevitable. 

Evanston voters were presented with a $75,000 bond issue in the city election of April 5, 1927. The bond issue passed, resulting in many improvements in the EFD:

1. Twenty (eventually 23) additional firefighters were hired within a year
2. A fourth fire station was constructed
3. Two new engine companies were organized;
4. Two 1000-GPM pumpers were purchased
5. A portable high-pressure turret nozzle was acquired 
6. A Fire Prevention Bureau was established

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 30

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


May 29, 1925, was the 50th anniversary of the Evanston Fire Department, which is to say the EFD was legally established by town ordinance on that date in 1875. More specifically, the Evanston Village Board passed “An Ordinance Concerning the Fire Department of the Village of Evanston” at the village board meeting on Tuesday night, May 25, 1875, but by law it did not become legal and take effect until it was published in the weekly Evanston Index newspaper on Saturday, May 29.

However, the “Fire Department Ordinance” did not really change anything, other than to make the Evanston Fire Department official and legal. The day-to-day work of Evanston firefighters was no different on May 29, 1875, than it was a week, a month, a year, or even two years earlier. In reality, the actual founding date of organized firefighting in Evanston was Tuesday, January 7, 1873, when the Pioneer Fire Company of Evanston was chartered with the State of Illinois and accepted for service by the Evanston Village Board.    


PERSONNEL (59 firefighters / two platoons) 
NOTE: Assistant chief or captain was the company officer, and the lieutenant was the assistant company officer and worked the opposite platoon from the assistant chief or captain.  

STATION # 1 (809 Grove Street) – four-bay firehouse (plus a fifth bay for the police ambulance) completed March 1897 as Police / Fire Headquarters, the EFD relocated here from three-bay firehouse at city hall at northwest corner of Davis & Sherman (city hall was built in 1893)  

Chief Albert Hofstetter (hired 1901, promoted to Lt 1903, promoted to Capt 1914, then was appointed chief two hours after being promoted to Capt)
NOTE: Chief was technically always on duty, although he spent evenings and Sundays on-call at home. When at home, he responded only to confirmed working fires and other significant incidents or situations requiring his presence. 

Fireman John Wynn (hired 1920)
Fireman Frank Sherry (hired 1924)
NOTE: Chief’s drivers were assigned administratively to Truck Co. 1. When at a fire, the chief’s driver was responsible for communication from the scene of the incident, either by driving to & from the nearest fire station, or by use of a nearby telephone if available, or by telegraph from the nearest Gamewell fire alarm box. 

TRUCK Co. 1: (12) 
Assistant Chief Ed Johnson (hired 1902, promoted to Lt 1909, promoted to Capt 1914, promoted to Ass’t Chief 1918)
Lieutenant Carl Windelborn (hired 1910, promoted to Lt 1923)
Fireman Walt Boekenhauer (hired 1915)
Fireman Michael Garrity (hired 1918)
Fireman Henry Dorband (hired 1919)
Fireman Jerry Moriarty (hired 1919)
Fireman George Thompson (hired 1919)
Fireman Martin Jasper (hired 1920)
Fireman Fred Godeman (hired 1920)
Fireman William Rohrer (hired 1923)
Fireman John Lee (hired 1924)
Fireman Ed Voight (hired 1924)
NOTE: In addition to being company officer of Truck Co. 1, Assistant Chief Johnson was in charge of the EFD whenever Chief Hofstetter was absent from the city or otherwise unavailable

TRUCK Co. 2: (10)
Captain Tom McEnery (hired 1902, promoted to Lt 1914, promoted to Capt 1918)
Lieutenant Henry Tesnow (hired 1914, promoted to Lt 1924)
Fireman John Gaynor (hired 1912)
Fireman Anthony Steigelman (hired 1915)
Fireman John Schippman (hired 1918)
Fireman John Lindberg (hired 1920)
Fireman Herman Peters (hired 1923)
Fireman Dominic Bartholome (hired 1924)
Fireman Joe Donahue (hired 1924)
Fireman Fred Korn (hired 1924)

ENGINE Co.1: (12)
Captain J. E. Mersch (hired 1905, promoted to Lt 1914, promoted to Capt 1920)
Lieutenant Dan McKimmons (hired 1911, promoted to Lt 1924)
Motor Driver John Wilen (hired as Asst Motor Driver 1918, promoted to MD 1924)
Assistant Motor Driver John Monks (hired 1911, promoted to AMD 1918)
Fireman William Wilbern (hired 1901)
Fireman John M. Mersch (hired 1906)
Fireman Ed Fahrbach (hired 1916)
Fireman Jim Geishecker (hired 1918)
Fireman Herman Windelborn (hired 1920)
Fireman Harry Jasper (hired 1920)
Fireman John Linster (hired 1924)
Fireman Herman Godeman (hired 1924)


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Evanston Fire Department history Part 29

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


On March 11, 1919, five year-old Robert Oldberg died, one day after he was burned when his clothes caught fire while he was playing with matches in the basement of his home at 1024 Maple Ave. His mother was severely burned trying to extinguish the fire. Then, a year after the Oldberg child was killed, Minerva Iverson, a maid in the employ of the Walter Neilson family at 2711 Harrison Street, died from burns suffered after an alcohol stove exploded while she was curling her hair. Ten years earlier — on December 27, 1910 — a six year-old girl had died from burns suffered after her clothes caught fire when she came into contact with candles on her family’s Christmas tree at the Rostowski residence at 1107 Washington Street. 

With three deaths resulting from “careless use of fire” within ten years, Chief Albert Hofstetter initiated a fire prevention educational program on October 10, 1922, to correspond with National Fire Prevention Day, which had been declared by U. S. President Warren G. Harding a year earlier to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. The EFD’s educational program involved detailing one member from each company to go into Evanston schools and teach children about the danger of fire. This program would eventually be formalized as part of the EFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau after the FPB was created in 1929, and eventually led to educational campaigns such as “Learn Not to Burn” and “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”   

At 6:20 AM, Saturday morning, December 16, 1922, and while on routine patrol, Evanston police officers William Lanning and Arthur Sievers discovered a fire at the prestigious Evanston Country Club at 1501 Oak Avenue. The Evanston Fire Department was alerted, and flames were shooting 35 feet into the air as companies from Station #1 arrived. Engine Co. 2 responded on a second alarm, as Chief Hofstetter ordered the opposite platoon to be called in. The first off-duty firefighters to arrive at Station #1 placed the Robinson engine into service as Engine Co. 4 so that Engine Co. 3 could respond to the fire, and all remaining off-duty personnel who arrived at Station #1 walked three blocks west down Grove Street to the fire. Three EFD engines were still pumping at noon, but the clubhouse was destroyed. However, firefighters did save structures to the north on Grove Street. The $83,500 loss from this fire was the second-highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time, second only to the Mark Manufacturing Company fire in December 1905. The country club was subsequently rebuilt on the same site, and was sold to the City of Evanston in 1941 at which point it became the new city hall, replacing the previous city hall that had stood at the northwest corner of Davis & Sherman since 1893.  

In the period between 1892 and 1912, Evanston’s population grew from 15,277 to 26,253, an increase of 65 percent. Then in the ten year period between 1912 and 1922, Evanston’s population grew from 26,253 to 43,339, an increase of 80 percent! It was during this latter ten-year period — most especially between 1916 and 1922 — that most of the classic hotels and apartment buildings that dot Evanston’s landscape were constructed. As might be expected, when Evanston’s population increased, the fire department’s workload increased as well. For instance, just from 1921 to 1922 alone, Truck Co. 1 showed a 30% increase in alarms, Engine Co. 1 a 15% increase, Engine Co. 2 a whopping 62% increase, and Engine Co. 3 a 24% increase.

In its report following a 1924 inspection of the Evanston Fire Departmemt, the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) strongly recommended that the EFD acquire an aerial-ladder apparatus for Truck Co. 1 at Station # 1, construct a fourth fire station in the vicinity of Dempster & Dodge, and organize an engine company and a ladder company at this new firehouse, with the new west-side ladder company manning the city service truck and responding first-due to all alarms west of Asbury Avenue. Although the EFD did acquire an aerial-ladder apparatus and did organize a second truck company in 1924, the proposed firehouse in the vicinity of Dempster & Dodge was not constructed at that time. Thus, when the new truck company was organized, it was placed into service at Station # 1. In fact, both of the EFD’s truck companies would run out of the same fire station for the next 30 years, until the new Fire Station #2 was placed into service in March 1955.

Truck Co. 2 — later known as Truck Co. 22 — was organized at Fire Station # 1 on September 1, 1924. Ten firemen (eventually twelve) were hired to staff the new truck company. As recommended in the 1924 NBFU report, the city service truck was assigned to Truck Co. 2, while Truck Co. 1 received a brand new tractor-drawn 85-foot aerial ladder truck (TDA), purchased from the Seagrave Corporation for $16,500. Tom McEnery — who had been company officer of Engine Co. 1 since being promoted to captain in 1918 — was the first captain assigned to Truck Co. 2. At that same time, Capt. J. E. Mersch was transferred from Engine Co. 2 to Engine Co. 1, and Lt. Pat Gaynor was promoted to captain and replaced Mersch as company officer of Engine Co. 2.

In addition, four firemen were promoted to lieutenant in 1923-24. Lt. Harry Schaefer (Truck Co. 1) — whose son Harry Jr would later serve with the EFD, retiring as an assistant chief in 1967 — died of a cerebral hemorrhage while off-duty in June 1923, and Lt. William Ludwig (Engine Co. 1) retired in 1924 after twenty years of service with the EFD. Firemen Carl Windelborn and Ed Newton were promoted to lieutenant, with Windelborn replacing Lt. Schaefer and Newton replacing Lt. Ludwig. Firemen Dan McKimmons and Henry Tesnow were promoted to lieutenant when TrucK Co. 2 was organized on September 1, 1924, with McKimmons replacing Lt. Gaynor on Engine Co. 1, and Tesnow assigned as the assistant company officer of Truck Co. 2.      

Just as the two truck companies had different rigs, they also had different responsibilities. Operating with the EFD’s lone aerial ladder truck until 1937 and then with the only 85-ft aerial truck until 1952, Truck Co. 1 was first-due to all alarms east of Asbury Avenue, an area that included the downtown “high-value district,” the Northwestern University campus, both hospitals, most of the city’s churches and apartment buildings, and all of the hotels and movie theaters.

Operating with the city service truck  from 1924-1937 and with a 65-ft aerial-ladder truck 1937-1952, Truck Co. 2 was first-due to all alarms west of Asbury Avenue, an area consisting mainly of single-family residences and factories. Both of the truck companies responded to alarms received from hospitals and schools during school hours. When Truck Co. 2 was placed in in service in 1924, the chemical & hose booster pumper that ran with the tractorized steamer as the second piece of Engine Co. 2 at Station # 2 became known as Hose No. 2. Previously, it was called Truck No. 2 out of force of habit, because the Seagrave combination truck that ran with the steamer at Station # 2 in the horse-drawn era prior to motorization was designated Truck No. 2. 

Also in September 1924, the Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol (CFIP) began to respond to all working fires in Evanston. Patrol No. 8 had been established at 3921 N. Ravenswood Avenue in 1922, and it was the first-due CFIP salvage squad to Evanston. Patrol No. 8 was disbanded on January 1, 1933 due to budget cuts related to the Great Depression, and the City of Evanston’s contract with the CFIP was terminated at that time. The CFIP was dissolved in 1959, with many of its members joining various local Chicago-area fire departments, most notably the Skokie F. D., which ended up with a former CFIP officer as its new chief, and an ex-CFIP salvage truck as its Squad 1.   

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 27

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

Shortly before noon on Thursday, January 10, 1918, the brand-new Seagrave 750-GPM TCP got its baptism of fire at George Wilson’s boarding house at 818 Church Street. Working in bitter-cold, firefighters had difficulty locating the seat of the blaze as the flames migrated into the rafters, but the new engine came through like a champ, and extinguished the flames with only $1,000 in damage.   

Nine days later, an overheated chimney at the J. A. Lamson rooming house at 2006 Sherman Avenue interrupted Saturday morning breakfast. Twenty four female Northwestern University music students were alerted by Evanston firefighters who pounded on the front door and advised the surprised residents that their domicile was on fire, and that they might want to evacuate. Flames communicated from the chimney to the upper floors before firefighters could quell the blaze. Damage was estimated at $7,000 to the structure and its contents before the two-alarm fire could be struck out.

On Easter Sunday afternoon, March 31, 1918, Evanston firefighters responded to the rare two simultaneous working structure fires, one at the Church of God at 1504 Simpson Street, and the other at the Mears-Slayton lumber yard at Chicago Avenue & Howard Street. Truck Co. 1 raised its extension ladder and Engine Co. 3, using a 1-1/2 inch hose lead connected to a 2-1/2 inch line, quickly extinguished a fire on the roof of the church caused by sparks from an overheated chimney. Meanwhile, firemen from Engine Co. 2 led-out a line and quickly knocked-down the blaze at the lumber yard caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette. Engine Co. 1 remained in quarters, available to respond to a third alarm, should one be received. Quick and expert work by Evanston firefighters saved both the church and the lumber yard, with minimal damage to both properties.      

Moving ahead six months to Monday evening September 22, 1918, employee John Doose accidentally backed his truck over a gas lantern, sparking a blaze in the rear garage of the Moehring Grocery Store at 1936 Maple Ave. The flames communicated to rear porches of the apartments located above the store, but firefighters from Station # 1 knocked them down with two lines before other nearby structures could become involved. There were no injuries and only $2,000 damage in what could have been a much worse outcome.   

In October 1918, the Spanish Influenza pandemic swept through Evanston. Among the dead were two Evanston firemen, Richard Luchs and Nicholas Knepper. Luchs, a rookie firefighter with just five months on the job, died on October 15th. Knepper, a seven-year veteran of the EFD, died on October 17th. Meanwhile, the only member of the Evanston Fire Department to serve in the Great War in Europe — Fred Koch — came home in January 1919 without a scratch, and then after getting off the train in Chicago, he proceeded to chase and capture an armed suspect after the robbery of a jewelry store at 18th Street & State.      

The Evanston Fire Department responded to 149 fires — mostly chimney fires –during the first two months of 1919, compared to a total of 160 fires over the first seven months of 1918. Alarmed by the number of fires sparked by overheated chimneys, Chief Albert Hofstetter speculated that the uptick in chimney fires may stem from the increased use of a cheaper bituminous soft coal that produces more soot. The chief advised Evanston property owners to be more diligent in keeping their chimneys, furnaces, and fireplaces clean and clear of coal dust and ash, but fires caused by coal dust would remain the #1 cause of residential structure fires in Evanston for many years to come.    

Two significant fires occurred in North Evanston over the first few days of spring in 1919. The first blaze broke-out at 11:30 AM on Monday, March 31st, in a commercial structure located at the southwest corner of Harrison Street & West Railroad Avenue. The Mebane Drug Store and the Currey & Company children’s apparel factory  were gutted. Flames communicated to another adjacent structure located on the south side of Harrison Street to the west, with $15,000 in aggregate damage before the conflagration could be contained. Automobiles parked in the Modern Garage located to the south at 2534 West Railroad Avenue were saved by a firewall, and garage employees attacked the blaze with fire extinguishers while Evanston firefighters from Station # 3 were leading out. 

On Friday, April 11, 1919, an electrical short sparked a blaze at the Covenant Methodist Church at 2123 Harrison Street, located just two blocks west of the previous fire. The fire was quickly knocked-down with chemicals and one 1-1/2 inch line, but not before $18,000 in damage to the sanctuary, mostly from smoke and water.  

Station # 3 was known back then as the “slow” firehouse, so two major fires occurring within about two blocks and ten days of each other and both happening so close to Station # 3 was very unusual.   

In 1919, two long-time members of the Evanston Fire Department called it a career. Captain Carl Harms retired after 26 years of service, and Jones Albert “Dad” Patrick retired after 24 years of service. Lt. J. E. Mersch was subsequently promoted to captain and replaced Harms as company officer of Engine Co. 2, and Fireman William Ludwig was promoted to lieutenant and replaced Mersch as assistant company officer of Engine Co. 1. 

Known as the Godfather of Fire Station 2, Carl Harms remarkably spent his entire 26 year career at Station # 2. For all we know, he might not even have known where the other two fire stations were located (just kidding). He was appointed to the Evanston Fire Department by Chief Sam Harrison in 1893, just a year after the Village of South Evanston was annexed by the Village of Evanston to form the City of Evanston. Within a year he was the senior man at Station # 2, and he was one of only five members of the EFD to successfully pass the first civil service test in 1895. (The five who didn’t pass the test were fired). He was promoted to captain and company officer of Hose Co. 2 in 1900, and he remained company officer at Station # 2 as the company morphed over the years, first into a truck company in 1903, and then into an engine company in 1911.  

J. A. Patrick was hired as the Evanston Fire Department’s first engineer in 1895, responsible for operating and maintaining the EFD’s new steam fire engine. Prior to joining the fire department, Patrick was superintendent of the water works, so he gave up a very good job with the water department to join the fire department. As engineer, he was the second-highest paid member of the EFD, second only to the chief. To Patrick, the 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan streamer was his baby. Whenever it was in service and wherever it was in service, no matter if it was at Station # 1, Station # 2, or Station # 3, “Dad” was that steamer’s proud papa (and engineer). 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 26

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The Evanston Fire Department was fully motorized after voters approved a $30,000 bond issue in April 1917 that led to the purchase of five pieces of automobile firefighting apparatus. One Model “E” city service ladder truck — equipped with a rather unwieldy 55-foot ground-based extension-ladder instead of an aerial-ladder, one 750-GPM triple-combination pumper, two chemical & hose 300-GPM booster-pumpers, and one Model “K” front-drive, one-axle truck tractor which motorized the previously horse-drawn American LaFrance Metropolitan steamer, were purchased from the Seagrave Company at a cost of $28,800, and were placed into service over a four-month period November 1917 – March 1918.  

The first Seagrave rig to arrive was, as promised, the city service truck, which almost immediately replaced the ex-Chattanooga F. D. LaFrance / Hayes 55-foot HDA that Evanston was leasing from American LaFrance. Seagrave company rep Michael Shafer rode along as the city service truck was shipped by rail from Columbus, Ohio to Evanston during the last week of November, and then Shafer remained in Evanston for the next two months providing driver training, teaching pump operations, and being available in case any of the new rigs might encounter mechanical issues while being placed into service.

The city service truck’s first major fire was one of the ten worst fires in Evanston’s history up until that point in time It was a $30,000 blaze in the early-morning hours of December 30, 1917, at the Evanston Strand Theater at 1560 Sherman Avenue. Two men were seen running from the movie palace a short time prior to the fire being discovered, but arson could not be proven because of the extensive fire & smoke damage.  It was the second fire at the Strand in two years. The first occurred on February 13, 1916, and it was clearly accidental, sparked by an electrical short in the orchestra pit, and the EFD was able to knock it down quickly with chemicals. There was minimal damage. Located next-door to the Evanston Police station and around the corner from Fire Station # 1, the Evanston Strand Theater would later be rebuilt as the Valencia Theater, one of three splendid Balaban & Katz movie theaters that operated in Evanston for many years. The others were the Varsity and the Coronet.     

The next of the new Seagrave apparatus to arrive were the three pumpers. A 750-GPM triple-combination pumper and two chemical & hose 300-GPM booster pumpers, but not before they were misplaced somewhere on a railroad siding in Chicago for several days in January during the Great Blizzard of ’18. Once they were located and sent onward to Evanston, the rigs had their pumps tested at Becker’s Pond – now known as Boltwood Park – under the supervision of Seagrave’s Michael Shafer and EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter. All three easily passed their pump tests, with the pumps on the two 300-GPM booster-pumpers actually rated at 325 GPM. The three rigs were quickly placed into service. The 750-GPM pumper replaced the Robinson Jumbo as Engine No. 1 at Station # 1, one of the two chemical & hose booster-pumpers replaced the 1902 Seagrave combination truck / hose-tender as Truck No. 2 at Station # 2, and the other chemical & hose booster-pumper replaced the 1885 Davenport H&L / hose tender as Truck No. 3 at Station # 3.     

With the exception of the 1906 American LaFrance Metropolitan 700-GPM steamer and its three horses, all remaining horse-drawn apparatus were scrapped and the horses either retired, sold, or transferred to the street department as the new Seagrave automobile pumpers were placed into service in January 1918. On February 21, 1918, the EFD’s last three horses were retired and the horse-drawn American LaFrance Metropolitan steamer was sent to the Seagrave factory to be ‘tractorized‘, with a front-drive, one-axle Model “K” tractor permanently connected to the steamer. The tractorized-steamer was returned to the EFD in March and placed back into service as Engine No. 2 at Station # 2.       

Initially, the plan was to overhaul the Robinson Jumbo after the arrival of the Seagrave apparatus. Then it would be kept it in front-line service as Engine No. 3 at Fire Station # 3 with one of the new Seagrave chemical & hose 300-GPM booster pumpers running as the second piece of the company, a rig known in the horse-drawn era prior to 1918 as Truck No. 3. However, due to its history of mechanical problems, the difficulty in locating spare parts, and excessive vibration when operating at full-throttle, Chief Hofstetter decided to remove the Jumbo from front-line duty after only six years of service. It was placed into reserve at Station # 1 as the EFD’s lone reserve automobile apparatus to be known henceforth as Engine No. 4. As a result, the new Seagrave chemical & hose 300-GPM booster pumper that had been assigned to Station # 3 ostensibly as the company’s chemical engine & hose-truck instead became Engine No. 3, and ran as North Evanston’s first-due pumper for the next twenty years!   

The Robinson Jumbo was the EFD’s only spare automobile apparatus until August 1929, when it’s pump and chemical tank were disconnected and it was transferred to the street department for use as a utility truck. The street department was still using mostly horse-drawn wagons in the 1920s, so any kind of automobile – even an old fire engine — was a welcome addition to the fleet.

Meanwhile, the tractor-drawn steamer was retired from front-line service and placed into reserve in 1930 after the EFD sent the steamer’s 1917 Seagrave chemical & hose 300-GPM booster pumper back to the Seagrave factory in Ohio to be rebuilt as a 500-GPM triple-combination pumper with a 50-gallon (water) booster tank. The tractor-drawn steamer would remain the EFD’s lone reserve apparatus until 1938, although the Robinson Jumbo was available to be temporarily returned to the EFD from the street department to run as the tractor-drawn steamer’s hose truck anytime the reserve steamer was placed into front-line service.

Evanston’s firefighting force was increased to 41 in 1918, with three, nine-man engine companies and one, 13-man truck company in service. Because Evanston firefighters were working a schedule of 24 hours on / 12 hours off, 2/3 of the manpower was on duty at any one time, so effectively the three engine companies were staffed with six men, and the truck company was staffed with eight or nine, with one man from Truck Co. 1 detailed as the chief’s buggy-driver.

Assistant Chief Thomas Norman retired after 22 years of service with the EFD in 1918, and Capt. Ed Johnson was promoted to assistant chief, Lt. Tom McEnery wqs promoted to captain, and firemen Harry Schaeffer and Ed McEnery (Tom’s brother) were promoted to lieutenant. In addition, Earnest Erickson – the Robinson company engineer who was hired as a temporary civilian motor driver in 1911 and then ended up spending the next six years of his life driving, operating the pump, and repairing (mostly repairing) the Jumbo — was summarily dismissed from the EFD after Engine Co. 1 Assistant Motor Driver Arthur McNeil (finally!) passed the civil service exam for motor driver.

Frank Altenberg – who had been hired as an engineer and assigned to the steamer at Station # 2 in 1916 after William Sampson retired with a disability pension — also was able to qualify as a motor driver and was assigned to Fire Station # 3. Because no Evanston firemen were able to pass the civil service exam for assistant motor driver, Fireman John Monks was appointed temporary assistant motor driver and moved back & forth between Station # 1 and Station # 3 as the relief driver for McNeil and Altenberg.

Unlike Frank Altenberg, none of the other three EFD steamer engineers – J. A. “Dad” Patrick, Max Kraatz, and William Richards – were able to qualify as motor drivers, so all three were assigned to Fire Station # 2,  with Patrick the engineer, and Kraatz and Richards the assistant engineers. Besides operating the American LaFrance Metropolitan tractor-drawn steamer (Engine No. 2), the trio were also responsible for maintaining the 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan steamer that was moved to from Station # 3 to Station # 2 and placed into reserve as Engine No. 5.   

Motor Engine Co. 1 was reorganized at this time, with Truck Co. 1 under the command of Assistant Chief Ed Johnson and Engine Co. 1 under the command of Captain Tom McEnery once again operating as separate companies at Station #1 as had been the case prior to 1912. Engine Co. 2 under the command of Capt. Carl Harms remained in service at Station #2, and Engine Co. 3 under the command of Capt. George Hargreaves remained in service at Station #3. The assistant company officers were J. E. Mersch (Engine Co. 1), Harry Schaeffer (Truck Co. 1), Ed McEnery (Engine Co. 2), and Pat Gayner (Engine Co. 3).

With automobile apparatus now in service at all three fire stations, and with two separate companies now in service at Station # 1, the EFD’s response to alarms also changed. Instead of Motor Engine Co. 1 responding to all alarms city-wide with one of the two horse-drawn engine companies, Truck Co. 1 now responded to all alarms city-wide, following the first-due engine company, either Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 2, or Engine Co. 3. The three engine company districts were established as Greenleaf Street to Foster Street (Engine Co. 1), south of Greenleaf Street (Engine Co. 2), and north of Foster Street (Engine Co. 3).

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 25

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


During 1916, Evanston’s firefighting force was increased to 39, as four additional firemen were assigned to Station # 1. The Evanston Fire Department was also growing increasingly experienced, as 18 of the 39 members of the EFD (46%) had 10+ years of  experience by this point in time, including all of the chiefs and company officers. Annual EFD salaries in 1916 ranged from $1,800 (Chief Fire Marshal) to $1,200 (Assistant Chief Fire Marshal) to $1,140 (Captain, Motor Driver, and Engineer) to $1,080 (Lieutenant, Assistant Motor Driver, and Assistant Engineer) to $1,050 (Fireman I) to $840 (Fireman II).

The National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) conducted an inspection of the Evanston Fire Department in 1916, and issued its report in October. The NBFU advised the City of Evanston to either completely motorize its fire department immediately, or else build a fourth fire station to provide fire protection for the west-side of the city. Failure to do one or the other would almost certainly result in significantly higher fire insurance premiums for Evanston property owners and businesses.    

EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter enthusiastically supported the NBFU’s recommendation, claiming that complete motorization of the fire department would both cut maintenance costs by 50% – AND – improve response times to areas of the city not in close proximity to a fire station.

Alderman H. E. Chandler proposed that Evanston place automobile firefighting apparatus in service at all three fire stations ASAP, and the city council responded on February 20, 1917, by authorizing the issuance of $30,000 in bonds to pay for full motorization of the EFD, pending approval by voters in the upcoming election. The bond issue was subsequently approved by Evanston voters on April 3rd, and the city immediately advertised for bids.  

Chief Hofstetter listed the automobile firefighting apparatus to be purchased:


1. A city service ladder truck equipped with a 55-foot ground-based rapid extension ladder that could be raised by four men using tormentor poles, ten other ladders of various types and lengths including pompier ladders and roof ladders, salvage covers, pike poles, axes, rope, and buckets, a 50-gallon chemical tank with a red-line hose reel, six hand extinguishers of various types, a heavy-duty jack capable of lifting ten tons, and a life net, replacing the ex-Chattanooga F. D. horse-drawn 1891 LaFrance / Hayes 55-ft HDA (Truck 1) that was being leased from American-LaFrance and the horse-drawn 1873 Babcock double 50-gallon chemical engine (Chemical 1);  

2. A 750-GPM triple-combination pumper equipped with one 35-foot ground ladder and one 25-foot ground ladder, a 50-gallon chemical tank with a red-line hose-reel, and six hand fire extinguishers of various types, replacing the 1911 Robinson Jumbo triple-combination pumper (Motor Engine 1) that was to be transferred to Station # 3 and replace the horse-drawn 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan 600 GPM second-size steamer (Engine 3).              


1. A one-axle tractor to be welded to the 1906 American-LaFrance Metropolitan 700-GPM second-size steamer (Engine 2) after removal of the steamer’s three-horse hitch;

2. A chemical engine & hose truck equipped with one 35-foot ground ladder and one 25-foot ground ladder, a 50-gallon chemical tank with a red-line hose reel, and six hand fire extinguishers of various types, replacing the horse-drawn 1902 Seagrave chemical engine & ladder combination truck / hose tender (Truck 2).  


1. A chemical engine & hose truck equipped with one 35-foot ground ladder and one 25-foot ground ladder, a 50-gallon chemical tank with a red-line hose reel, and six hand fire extinguishers of various types, replacing the horse-drawn 1885 Davenport H&L / hose-tender (Truck 3).

The twelve horses that were still in service with the EFD in 1917 were to be retired, sold, or transferred to the street department as soon as the automobile apparatus were placed into service, although two, horse-drawn rigs – the 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan steamer and one of the 1901 four-wheeled hose wagons — would be kept in reserve, albeit with no EFD horses left to pull them.

In the event that one or both of the reserve horse-drawn rigs would need to be placed into service, it was understood that former EFD horses in service with the street department would be temporarily transferred back to the EFD. For that same reason, the stables and hay lofts located in the three fire stations would need to be maintained for as long as horse-drawn apparatus remained in reserve.     

Only two companies – American-Lafrance and Seagrave – offered bids, and on May 1st the Evanston City Council announced that the Seagrave Corporation had been awarded the contract, with a winning bid of $28,800. With the left-over funds, a new chief’s buggy — a 1917 Haynes touring car — was purchased, and the 1914 Overland roadster was sold.   

As part of its bid, Seagrave offered to install 300-GPM “booster pumps” (as they were called) on the two chemical & hose trucks free-of-charge, and — as was common practice at the time — assign a company engineer to Evanston to provide driver training, instruction in vehicle maintenance and pump operations, and be available 24 / 7 to make any mechanical adjustments or repairs that might be needed as the rigs were being placed into service. Replacing the leased HDA (Truck 1) was deemed the highest-priority, so Seagrave promised to build the city service truck first. The estimated delivery date was November 1917, with the other rigs to be delivered somewhat later.

As to why Evanston opted to buy a city service truck instead of an aerial-ladder truck, the master-plan had been to eventually purchase an automobile tractor for the 1907 American-LaFrance 85-foot HDA, but then it was demolished in September 1916. Granted a ground-based 55-foot extension-ladder was very heavy and required more manpower to raise than was the case with an aerial ladder of a similar length, an extension ladder cost about 50% less than an aerial ladder, and it just would not have been possible to fully motorize the EFD in 1917 for $30,000 if a new tractor-drawn aerial ladder truck (TDA) was part of the order. 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 24

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

The Ballad of the Lucille McQuade

On January 12, 1915, a fire was reported at the Nally livery stable, located adjacent to the Greenwood Inn (formerly known as the “French House”) at Greenwood & Hinman. The Greenwood Inn was one of Evanston’s two hotels at the time, the other being the world-famous Avenue House at Davis & Chicago. The blaze started on the 2nd floor of the stable while guests were dining in the hotel. Bessie Gallagher disobeyed police officers and ran headlong into the inferno to retrieve personal belongings, before being rescued by Evanston firefighters. She was then arrested by Evanston police and charged with disorderly conduct and failure to obey a police officer. Damage to the livery stable was estimated at $3,000, but nobody was injured and quick work by Evanston firefighters saved the hotel.  

Two weeks later, in the early-morning hours of January 28th, the EFD responded to a report of a blaze at Mrs. I. C. Danwood’s boarding house at 1925 Sherman Ave. Boarder C. C. Firman sustained fractures to both ankles when he leaped from a second floor window to escape the flames prior to the arrival of firefighters. The EFD encountered fire blowing through the roof upon arrival, and although firemen rescued the other boarders without injury to civilians or firemen, fire suppression efforts were significantly hampered when a fire hydrant stem broke off while firefighters were connecting a suction hose to the plug. Firefighters did eventually connect to a different hydrant further way, but the initial delay resulted in total loss of the house and contents to the tune of $7,000. However, the EFD did manage to save surrounding structures after taking defensive positions and setting up an elevated master stream from atop the HDA’s aerial ladder and a high-pressure stream from the Eastman “deluger” on the street, both supplied by multiple 2-1/2 inch hose lines.

On April 20, 1915, voters in the Village of Wilmette approved a $20,000 bond issue authorizing purchase of a motorized automobile fire engine, and construction of a combination police / fire station on the west-side of Railroad Avenue south of Lake Ave. The Wilmette F. D. took delivery of an American-LaFrance Type 75, 750-GPM triple-combination-pumper later in the year, and the rig was in continuous front-line service with the Wilmette Fire Department as its first-due engine for more than 25 years. The police / fire station was in service for 50 years.  

At 2 PM on Sunday, May 15, 1915, chemicals exploded in the film-developing room of the Will E. Horton camera shop in the Simpson Building on Davis Street. All three of the EFD’s engine companies went to work at this fire, but the camera shop was gutted and the C. H. Morgan grocery store next-door was heavily damaged by smoke before the blaze could be extinguished. $8,500 damage to the camera shop and the grocery store. .   

At noon on Saturday, July 3, 1915, EFD Engine Co. 2 and Motor Engine Co. 1 responded to a report of a fire on the roof of the residence of Mrs. Margaret Patterson at 529 Lee St. The blaze was apparently sparked by an errant 4th of July bottle-rocket that had gone awry. Flames quickly communicated to the roofs of houses to the west and east, and while firemen managed to extinguish the blaze before any other structures became involved in fire, the roof and second floor of the Patterson residence, and the roofs of the neighboring Robert Larimer and John W. Fellows residences were heavily damaged. Fireman William Wilbern (Engine Co. 2) suffered only minor injuries when the roof of the Patterson residence collapsed onto him while he was attacking fire in the attic from a second floor bedroom.    

EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter attended the International Association of Fire Engineers Convention in Cincinnati in September 1915, and subsequently reported to the city council that although a few fire departments were still purchasing horse-drawn steamers and aerial ladder trucks, no horse-drawn fire apparatus was displayed at the convention. He said that automobile firefighting apparatus were much improved over what was available when Evanston purchased its Robinson Jumbo in 1911, and that it was expected that horse-drawn rigs would be replaced by automobile fire trucks and engines across the country in very short order.

In addition, Hofstetter noted that a new fully-automated aerial ladder was demonstrated at the convention. Built by Ahrens-Fox on a Couple Gear chassis and combining the Dahill Air Hoist system with an 85-ft wooden aerial-ladder supplied by Pirsch, the stick could be raised by one man in just 11 seconds, Conversely, the 1907 American-LaFrance 85-ft HDA in service with the Evanston Fire Department at that time had a spring-loaded aerial-ladder that was fully-raised by a windlass, and two men were required to crank the winch.

On Saturday night, January 8, 1916, fire gutted Rosenberg’s Department Store at 820 Davis St. As was the case at the Heck Hall fire two years earlier, two Chicago F. D. engine companies assisted. This time, both of the CFD companies sent to Evanston — Engine Co. 102 and Engine Co. 110 — were equipped with modern gasoline-powered automobile pumpers. Engine 102 had a brand-new Seagrave, and Engine 110 had the 1912 Webb that previously was assigned to Engine Co. 102. With EFD Motor Engine No. 1 (the Robinson “Jumbo”) also working at the scene, it was a chance for Evanston officials to compare the performance of the three automobile pumpers under “game” conditions.

Two thousand spectators gathered at Fountain Square, as Evanston and Chicago firemen fought the blaze well into Sunday morning. All three of the automobile pumpers ran out of gas after the EFD’s reserve fuel supply of 120 gallons was exhausted, but more gasoline was eventually located at a nearby garage. EFD Capt. Ed Johnson (Motor Engine Co. 1) was seriously injured at this fire, but eventually recovered and returned to duty. The $58,700 loss set a new mark for the 2nd-highest from a fire in Evanston’s history up to that point in time.

The American-LaFrance horse-drawn 85-foot windlass-operated aerial-ladder truck (HDA) with a four-horse hitch that was purchased by Evanston in 1907 for $6,700 was in service for only nine years. It was demolished in a collision with an Evanston Street Railway Company streetcar at Grove & Sherman while responding to an alarm on Hinman Avenue in the early-evening hours of September 18, 1916. Two firemen — Dan McKimmons and Orville Wheeler — were thrown to the ground when the rig tipped over and were seriously injured in the crash.

The Evanston Street Railway Company claimed the crash was unavoidable and refused to accept responsibility for the accident, and so the City of Evanston began civil litigation to force the ESRC’s insurance company to pay for a new HDA. Unfortunately, the City of Evanston had somehow neglected to insure the HDA, so winning the court case was the only way the city could pay for a new one without a significant emergency appropriation or a voter-approved bond issue.  

While waiting for the lawsuit to be settled, the Evanston City Council came up with a plan to sell two of the four horses that had been assigned to pull the demolished HDA, and use the money to lease a relatively new hook & ladder truck (without an aerial-ladder) @ $60 per month from the Chicago sales office of American LaFrance. This two-horse H&L — which had previously been in service in Peru, Indiana — was in excellent condition, and it ran as EFD Truck No. 1 for about six months while it was being advertised for sale.

American LaFrance sold the ex-Peru rig to the fire department of Toronto, Ontario, in March 1917. The EFD then leased an 1891 LaFrance / Hayes 55-ft aerial ladder truck with a three-horse hitch known as the “Lucille M. McQuade” that had been in service for 25 years as Chattanooga Fire Department Truck No. 1. The Chattanooga F. D. had just recently purchased an automobile 75-foot TDA from American-LaFrance, and the old HDA was traded-in as part of the deal. This early vintage of HDA was peculiar in that the tillerman rode – BELOW – the aerial-ladder!

Receiving the ex-Chattanooga HDA with a three-horse hitch as the replacement for the ex-Peru H&L with a two-horse hitch required the EFD to find another horse, so the venerable 1873 Babcock double-50-gallon chemical engine was taken out of front-line service and its horse was transferred to the HDA. The EFD returned the Lucille McQuade to American-LaFrance and the three horses that had been used to pull it were retired after a new automobile city service ladder truck arrived from Seagrave in November 1917. It was part of the $30,000 bond issue passed by Evanston voters in April 1917 that fully-motorized the EFD.

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Evanston Fire Department history

From Phil Stenholm:


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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