Posts Tagged Evanston Fire Department Chief Fire Marshal Carl Harrison

Evanston Fire Department History – Part 21

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

The Changing Face of Evanston

The geographical face of Evanston changed significantly in the years 1907-12. The North Shore Channel sanitary canal was constructed during those years, and the Evanston City Council mandated elevation for most of the railroad tracks located within the Evanston city limits.

Built by the Sanitary District of Chicago, the purpose of the North Shore Channel was to connect Lake Michigan at Wilmette Harbor to the north branch of the Chicago River at approximately Foster & Sacramento. By using water-flow from Lake Michigan, sewage could be flushed south from Wilmette and Evanston to a sewage reduction plant located at Howard Street. This meant that raw sewage would no longer be dumped into Lake Michigan off-shore of Evanston and Wilmette, thus helping to prevent typhoid fever and cholera outbreaks that had plagued the two North Shore suburbs from time-to-time over the years.    

Meanwhile, the two railroads operating in Evanston at the time – the Chicago and North Western (C&NWRR) and the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul (CM&StP, or simply “The Milwaukee Road”) — were required to elevate their main-line tracks and build viaducts at certain locations from Howard Street to the Wilmette border. 

The C&NWRR freight tracks – known as the Mayfair Division — did not require elevation south of Church Street, because those tracks were used to switch freight cars at manufacturing plants and warehouses located in west and southwest Evanston. Also, the Milwaukee Road tracks — which are now the CTA tracks — were only elevated as far north as Church Street at that time, after the CM&StPRR agreed not to run its trains north of downtown Evanston.    

At 1 AM on Friday, April 26, 1912, the EFD responded to a report of a structure fire at Church & Dodge, and by the time companies arrived, they found multiple residences ablaze. The fire began in an unfinished residence belonging to Renaldo Roberti at 1819 Church Street, before communicating to the William Marion residence to the east at 1817 Church St. Marion’s daughter Pearl jumped from a second floor window into the arms of neighbor Emil Pavel, who had just carried his wife and daughter to safety from their residence at 1715 Dodge Ave. Evanston firefighters saved the Pavel residence, but flames claimed the Frank Kuzik residence at 1717 Dodge Avenue, the Lewis Titus residence at 1809 Church Street, and the Ludwig Veiter residence at 1807 Church Street, in addition to the Roberti and Marion residences.

High winds hampered firefighters battling the conflagration, but they did manage to prevent the flames from extending any further north and east, and were able to extinguish the blaze without any injuries to civilians or to firemen. This was the first time all three EFD engines —the Robinson motor engine, the American-LaFrance Metropolitan steamer, and the Ahrens Metropolitan steamer – were pumping at the same fire. The total aggregate damage to the residences was $11,250.

The Ebenezer A. M. E. church was firebombed in 1903 and two houses and a barn were destroyed by a blaze in the so-called “Italian settlement” at Dewey & Payne in 1911, but the 1912 multi-structure conflagration at Church & Dodge was by far the worst fire to date in the 5th ward. The 5th ward was home mainly to immigrants and African Americans at that time, and it was the poorest and most politically isolated ward in the city, without a significant business district, with no high-value residential properties, no university, and no border with the City of Chicago to give its aldermen the power to make common cause with aldermen from the other wards.

Without the leverage of the other six wards, the 5th was pretty much on its own when fighting political battles within the city council, and so when EFD Chief Carl Harrison recommended in 1912 that a fourth fire station be built at Emerson & Ashland – the bull’s eye center of the 5th ward at that time —  there was no appetite for it in the city council, beyond that of the two 5th ward aldermen.      

About a month later, on May 29, 1912, the entire Evanston Fire Department along with Chicago F. D. engine companies 70 and 112 battled an early-morning blaze at the Bogart Building at 1306 Sherman Ave. Firefighting efforts continued until well into the afternoon, as Evanston and Chicago firemen worked to extinguish the stubborn blaze. The Workers Cooperative Grocery store and the North Shore Creamery located on the first floor as well as apartments located on the second and third floors were gutted. The $16,700 in total damage made it one of the ten worst fires in terms of property loss in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.   

During the Summer of 1913, a mechanical resuscitator known as the “Lung Motor” was placed into service at Fire Station # 1, and it was an instant success. The invention had been demonstrated at Evanston Hospital the previous October, and the Lung Motor was so successful that the Evanston Fire Department received a $25 award from the Life Saving Devices Company of Chicago as the “Top Life Savers in the Nation” at the end of 1913!

The EFD also responded to a number of mutual-aid requests for the Lung Motor received from other North Shore suburbs, and even occasionally responded with the Lung Motor to the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago.

While the Lung Motor was initially placed aboard the speedy Robinson auto-truck at Station # 1, inhalator runs were taking the motor engine out of service too much. So when an automobile police ambulance replaced the horse-drawn police ambulance in the bay located east of Fire Station # 1 in May 1916, a new joint police-fire policy began at that time which directed a fireman from Station # 1 to be detailed to ride with two police station officers in the police ambulance when responding to Lung Motor (inhalator) calls, thus keeping the motor engine available to respond to fires. 

The first automobile Evanston police ambulance was built by William Erby & Sons on a White Motor Company chassis, and it was in service for eleven years before being demolished in a collision with a bus in September 1927. At that point, the inhalator was moved back to EFD Engine Co. 1. Then beginning in 1952, the inhalator was placed aboard the EFD’s new rescue truck (Squad 21), and inhalators were assigned to all five engine companies beginning in 1959. 

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Evanston Fire Department History – Part 20

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The arrival of the auto truck fire engine in the fourth quarter of 1911 allowed the City of Evanston to transfer four horses previously used by the fire department to the street department, and place a steam fire engine into service at Fire Station # 3.

Because the Robinson Jumbo was so much faster than horse-drawn apparatus, Truck Co. 1 was combined with Engine Co. 1 as a 15-man company known as Motor Engine Co. 1, and all personnel assigned to Station # 1 — except for a teamster and a tillerman assigned to drive the aerial-ladder truck and another man assigned as the chief’s buggy driver — rode to alarms aboard the auto truck. The auto-truck responded to all still alarms city-wide, and it was so much faster than horse-drawn apparatus that it often would beat Engine Co. 2 or Engine Co. 3 to an alarm in their own still district! 

After a minor overhaul and a new paint job, the 1906 American-LaFrance Metropolitan 700-GPM second-size steamer and its engineer and assistant engineer were transferred from Station # 1 to Station # 2, the 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan 600-GPM second-size steamer and its engineer and assistant engineer were transferred from Station # 2 to Station # 3, and a lieutenant and three firefighters were transferred from Station # 1 to Station # 3.

So beginning on January 2, 1912, while the number of firefighters remained 34, the number of companies in service with the EFD was reduced from four to three: the new 15-man Motor Engine Co. 1 at Station # 1 that combined Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1 into one company, the nine-man Engine Co. 2 at Station # 2, and the new nine-man Engine Co. 3 now in service at Station # 3 that replaced the former three-man Truck Co. 3. 

Carl Harrison was Chief Fire Marshal, as he had been since December 14, 1905. His office was at Fire Station # 1.   

At Station # 1, Assistant Chief Jack Sweeting was company officer of Motor Engine Co. 1 and he was also in charge of the EFD when the chief was absent, Capt. George Hargreaves was 1st assistant company officer, Lt. Al Hofstetter was 2nd assistant company officer, temporary civilian employee Earnest Erickson was motor driver, and Arthur McNeil was assistant motor driver. 

At Station # 2, Capt. Carl Harms was company officer of Engine Co. 2, Lt. John Watson was the assistant company officer, William Sampson was the engineer, and Max Kraatz was assistant engineer. 

At Station # 3, Capt Thomas Norman was company officer of Engine Co. 3, Lt. Ed Johnson was assistant company officer, J. A. “Dad” Patrick was the engineer, and William Richards was the assistant engineer. Patrick was the first engineer assigned to the Ahrens steamer when it was placed into service in 1895, and he continued to follow the machine as it moved from station to station during the course of his 24-year career with the EFD.   

Motor Engine Co. 1 was a two-piece company, operating with the new 1911 Robinson Jumbo 750-GPM triple combination pumper known as Motor Engine No. 1 and the 1907 American-LaFrance 85-foot HDA with a four-horse hitch still known as Truck No. 1. One fireman was assigned as the driver of the chief’s 1906 two-horse buggy, and the formerly horse-drawn 1873 Babcock double 50-gallon chemical engine was now attached as a trailer behind the auto-truck, which together with the 50 gallons of soda acid carried by the auto-truck, provided up to 150 gallons of chemical fire suppression almost immediately upon arrival at a fire.  

Engine Co. 2 continued to be a two-piece company, but now operating with the newer 1906 American LaFrance Metropolitan 700-GPM second-size steamer (ex-E1) with a three-horse hitch now known as Engine No. 2 and the 1902 Seagrave combination truck & hose tender with a two-horse hitch that was still known as Truck No. 2, 

Engine Co. 3 was also now a two-piece company, operating with the older 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan 600-GPM second-size steamer (ex-E2) with a two-horse hitch now known as Engine No. 3 and the 1885 Davenport H&L and hose tender with a two-horse hitch that was still known as Truck No. 3.   

There were also two hose wagons and 2,500 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose-line kept in reserve, one wagon at Station # 1 and the other at Station # 2, each loaded with 1.250 feet of hose. To help protect the city’s water mains, the Holly high-pressure water works would now be used to increase pressure in the mains only in the case of a large conflagration and/or if one or more of the EFD’s three engines was out of service.  

The two horses that had formerly been assigned to pull Engine Co. 1’s hose cart and the two horses that had been assigned to pull the Babcock double 50-gallon chemical engine were initially transferred to the street department, although one of the horses that was sent to the street department was returned to the fire department in 1913 when the chemical engine was decoupled from the motor engine and converted to a one-horse rig with a two-man crew that responded primarily to minor fires and Gamewell box alarms in Station # 1’s still district.    

Evanston firemen were still working a 112-hour work week in January 1912, working 24 hours on duty, followed by a 12-hour furlough. So sometimes a firefighter would work 8 AM to 8 AM followed by 12-hours off duty, and his next 24-hour shift would run from 8 PM to 8 PM followed by 12-hours off duty. So a fireman got to sleep at home once every three nights.

The Evanston City Council granted pay raises to all Evanston firemen in 1912, except the chief. So EFD annual salaries in 1912 were $1,620 (chief), $1,200 (assistant chief), $1,140 (engineer and motor driver),  $1,080 (captain), $1,020 (lieutenant, assistant engineer, and assistant motor driver), and $960 (fireman).     

There were not yet kitchens in Evanston firehouses in 1912, so a fireman was still permitted to take his meal breaks away from the firehouse, either at home if he lived close to the firehouse, or at a nearby restaurant or lunch counter. Or the fireman could bring a lunch pail or a brown bag and eat at the firehouse. Evanston firemen also received two weeks paid vacation each year, but there was no paid sick leave or time & a half overtime pay. Only one man could be on vacation from each fire station at any one time, with vacations only allowed March to November.  

With a 112-hour work week, one out of every three firemen was on his 12-hour furlough at any one time, so routine staffing in 1912 actually was ten men at Station # 1, six men at Station # 2, and six men at Station # 3. Each company could run one man short, so no fewer than 19 men could be on duty at any one time, or there could be as many as 22, or even 23 if you count the chief. A 35th man was added to the EFD in June 1912 whose job was to provide vacation coverage at Fire Station # 1, which increased minimum on duty EFD staffing to 20. 

The chief was technically on duty at all times, but he typically spent nights and Sundays at home. The chief’s buggy driver would transport the chief to and from his residence, and the buggy driver could respond to the chief’s residence and then drive him directly to a working fire from his home. Otherwise, the assistant chief — who was also company officer of Motor Engine Co. 1 — was in charge of most routine incidents that occurred while the chief was at home. 

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History of the Evanston Fire Department – Part 13

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

The Unlucky 13th 
December 13, 1905, was the first day on the job for new Evanston Fireman George McKimmons. And at the weekly city council meeting the previous evening, Mayor John Barker had appointed Carl Harrison, company officer of Hose Co. 3 and the son of former EFD Chief Sam Harrison, the new Chief Fire Marshal of the Evanston Fire Department, replacing Norman Holmes.

Harrison accepted the appointment, but because he did not wish to begin his tenure as Fire Marshal on the “unlucky 13th,” he requested that he not assume his new post until Thursday, December 14th. Thus, Assistant Chief Jack Sweeting would be acting chief for one more day. Little did anyone know that it was to be the darkest day in the history of the Evanston Fire Department.

Located at 1900 Dempster Street, the Mark Manufacturing Company was Evanston’s largest employer in 1905, with a work-force of 1,000. Established in 1901 by Cyrus Mark and his sons, Clayton and Anson, the company — a subsidiary of the Youngstown Steel & Tube Company — manufactured wrought-iron pipe. The company’s plant actually consisted of several different buildings, including the pipe mill, the engine house, a warehouse, and several smaller buildings and sheds.   

At 12:50 PM on Wednesday, December 13, 1905, the Evanston Fire Department was notified of a fire at the Mark Manufacturing Company plant. Crude oil leaking from a pipe in the mill’s socket room had ignited, and the 200 employees in the building were safely evacuated. Mark employees battled the blaze with the company’s own fire fighting equipment while the EFD was en route. 

Upon arrival at about 1 PM, firemen from Station # 1 encountered heavy fire inside the pipe mill. Because the plant was located on the outskirts of town, water-pressure was low, and direct-pressure from hydrants was not effective. The fire was much too large for the chemical-engine to be useful, and the fire department’s lone steam fire engine — the 600 GPM ”City of Evanston No. 1” — could supply only two, 2-1/2” hose-lines.

With few options available, Assistant Chief Sweeting ordered Truck Co. 1 to make entry and attack the fire through the front door on the north side of the building, and Engine Co. 1 to play a second stream through a door at the southeast corner of the building, from a position in the alley between the plant’s pipe mill and engine house.

Although firemen from Truck Co. 1, led by Lt. Thomas Norman on the north side of the pipe mill were driven-back while attempting to make entry, Fireman Thomas Watson was overcome by smoke and gas and had to be rescued by other fire fighters. The crew at the southeast corner of the building (Engine Co. 1, led by acting assistant company officer George Stiles) was able to direct its stream through an open doorway onto the seat of the fire. 

At about 1:15 PM, Stiles told one of his men — rookie firefighter George McKimmons — that the hose-lead was too short, and that he should go out front and pull up the slack. With McKimmons 30 feet away at the north end of the alley, and with Engine Co. 1 pipemen Stiles, Edward Johnson, and William Craig playing their stream through the southeast door of the pipe mill from a location inside of a storage shed adjacent to the alley, an explosion from the interior of the pipe mill caused the south wall to totter. Seeing that the wall was unstable, Stiles yelled for the crew to evacuate.

As Stiles, Craig, and Johnson came around the corner of the alley, a second more-powerful explosion occurred, and the east wall collapsed onto them. Craig, in front of the other two, was buried under the collapsed wall. Johnson, in the middle, was struck by falling debris, but was not buried. Stiles, at the rear of the column, was buried under burning debris.  

George McKimmons called to the other firemen working in front, and Assistant Chief Sweeting and Truck Co. 1 (Lt. Norman and firefighters Jack Eckberg, Walter Hubert, William Ludwig, and Joseph Steigelman), along with Engine Co. 1 teamster George Gushwa, hurried to the rubble with the other hose line. As their fellow firemen poured water onto them to protect them from the intense heat, Eckberg and McKimmons were able to extricate Craig within five minutes. He was pulled out — alive, but disoriented — and reportedly asked McKimmons, “Where are we going?”

Evanston Police officers W. J. Schultz and John Keane transported Craig to St. Francis Hospital in the police ambulance. While en route, Craig was asked if he was hurt, to which he supposedly replied, “Not much.” However, Craig died shortly after arrival at the hospital. 

After rescuing Craig, firemen spent another few minutes extricating Stiles. He was located lying face-down with two large pulley-wheels around his neck, unconscious from a severe head injury. Stiles was transported by other firefighters aboard Engine Co. 1’s hose wagon to St. Francis Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

William Craig, a native of Knoxville, Illinois, was 35 years of age, and had just returned to the Evanston Fire Department the previous summer after spending four years as a dining car conductor on the Illinois Central Railroad. He had originally joined the EFD on January 31, 1901, but left after less than a year. Craig was survived by his wife, child, mother, father, and sister.

George Stiles was 32 years old, and had served nearly five years with the EFD. Like William Craig, Stiles also joined the fire department on January 31, 1901. He was to have been promoted to lieutenant in January 1906. He was survived by his wife of 11 years (Caroline), a nine-year old daughter (Stella), a seven-year old son (Howard), his mother, and a sister.

In addition to the deaths of William Craig and George Stiles, three other Evanston firemen were seriously injured; Thomas Watson suffered burns, bruises, and smoke and gas inhalation, and was reported “critical and near death” upon arrival at St. Francis Hospital; Edward Johnson sustained lacerations to the back of his head and severe bruises to his hands and knees when struck by the wall; and Jack Eckberg suffered burns and bruises while working to extricate Craig and Stiles. Another fireman — Joseph Steigelman — was spared serious injury when he was struck on the helmet by a falling brick.

With two firemen dead and three others injured, firefighting efforts were furthered hampered by freezing temperatures, high winds, and a damaged valve on the steam fire engine. The Chicago Fire Department was summoned, and eventually extinguished what was left of the blaze amidst the rubble and ruins. Superstitious Carl Harrison (The Man Who Would be Fire Marshal) arrived sometime after the wall collapsed, maintaining he was only there as a spectator. 

The Mark Manufacturing Company sustained $115,000 damage; the pipe mill was destroyed, the engine house was severely damaged, much machinery and stock were lost, and several freight cars located on a railroad siding on the west-side of the plant were heavily-damaged or destroyed. The $115,000 loss was the highest amount recorded in an Evanston fire until Boltwood Intermediate School was destroyed by fire ($308,500 loss) on January 9, 1927. And no more Evanston firefighters were killed in action for almost 80 years — until the afternoon of July 22, 1985, when Marty Leoni died after he was trapped on the second floor of a residence following an apparent backdraft explosion at a house fire at 1927 Jackson Ave.

George McKimmons, the rookie fireman whose first day on the job was December 13, 1905, served two tours of duty with the Evanston Fire Department, eventually leaving for good in 1915 to join the Chicago Fire Department. After being promoted to the rank of Captain, McKimmons organized CFD Truck Co. 44 at Engine Co. 55’s house at Sheffield & Diversey in 1928. His brother Dan was an Evanston fireman for 31 years, retiring as a lieutenant in 1943.

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