Posts Tagged Evanston Fire Department history

Evanston Fire Department history Part 31

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY (continued)

STATION # 2 (750 Chicago Avenue) – three-bay firehouse completed February 1903, replacing the ex-South Evanston Village Hall with one-bay firehouse that had been constructed in 1888 (Village of Evanston annexed Village of South Evanston in 1892 and formed the City of Evanston)

ENGINE Co. 2: (12)
Captain Pat Gaynor (hired 1903, promoted to Lt 1914, promoted to Capt 1924)
Lieutenant Ed McEnery (hired 1908, promoted to Lt 1918)
Engineer Max Kraatz (hired 1904, promoted to Ass’t Eng 1906, promoted to Engineer 1919)
Assistant Engineer William Richards (hired 1908, promoted to Ass’t Eng 1912)
Fireman George Gushwa (hired 1901)
Fireman John Balmes (hired 1913)
Fireman Frank Didier (hired 1916)
Fireman Lawrence Ahrens (hired 1920)
Fireman Joe Becker (hired 1920)
Fireman George Paugels (hired 1922)
Fireman William Brundage (hired 1924)
Fireman Bernie Lindberg (hired 1924)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

STATION # 3 (2504 West Railroad Avenue) – two-bay firehouse completed January 1901 

ENGINE Co. 3: (10)
Captain George Hargreaves (hired 1894, promoted to Lt 1902, promoted to Capt 1903)
Lieutenant Ed Newton (hired 1908, promoted to Lt 1924)
Motor Driver Frank Altenberg (hired as Engineer 1915, certified as MD 1918)
Assistant Motor Driver John Tesnow (hired 1911, promoted to AMD 1924)
Fireman John Wilbern (hired 1908)
Fireman Carl Dorband (hired 1916)
Fireman Henry Thoms (hired 1916)
Fireman William Elliott (hired 1924)
Fireman Mike Olk (hired 1924)
Fireman Walt Caple (hired 1925)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EFD APPARATUS (MAY 1925):

AT STATION # 1:

CHIEF’S AUTOMOBILE (“auto-buggy”): 1917 Haynes touring car equipped with two fire extinguishers (one five-gallon water can and one chemical) and some miscellaneous hand tools and equipment (ax, pry-bar, rope, lantern, megaphone, fire alarm box key and repair kit, etc). 

TRUCK No. 1: 1924 Seagrave tractor-drawn aerial-ladder truck equipped with an 85-foot wooden aerial ladder, multiple wooden hand ladders of various lengths and types, a life net, ten salvage covers, four fire extinguishers (two five-gallon water cans and two chemical), and miscellaneous hand tools and equipment (pike poles, axes, pry-bars, rope, lantern, etc)
NOTE: Replaced the 1917 Seagrave city-service truck as Truck No. 1 on September, 1, 1924, as Truck Co. 2 was organized at Station # 1 and the city service truck became Truck No. 2.  

TRUCK No. 2: 1917 Seagrave Model “E” city service truck equipped with a 50-gallon chemical tank, 150-feet of one-inch red line (chemical hose), a life net, a heavy-duty jack, multiple wooden hand ladders of various lengths and types (the tallest being a 55-foot extension ladder to be raised by four men using tormentor poles), ten salvage covers, four fire extinguishers (two five-gallon cans and two chemical), and miscellaneous hand tools and equipment  (pike poles, axes, pry-bars, rope, lantern, etc).  
NOTE: Replaced the ex-Chattanooga F. D. 1891 LaFrance / Hayes 55-foot HDA (Truck No. 1) and the 1873 Babcock double-50 gallon chemical engine (Chemical No. 1) and four horses in November 1917.

ENGINE No. 1: 1917 Seagrave 750-GPM triple-combination pumper equipped with a 50 gallon chemical tank and 150-feet of red line (chemical hose), a hose load consisting of 500-feet of three-inch, 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch, and 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch hose, two lengths of hard suction hose, several nozzles of various sizes and types, one wye and one siamese connection, hose clamps, a hydrant wrench, a cellar pipe, an Eastman Deluger, four fire extinguishers (two five-gallon cans and two chemical), one 25-foot wooden hand ladder, one 12-foot wooden hand ladder, and miscellaneous hand tools and equipment.   
NOTE: Replaced the 1911 Robinson Jumbo as Engine No. 1 in January 1918.

ENGINE No. 4 (RESERVE): 1911 Robinson Jumbo 750-GPM triple-combination pumper equipped with a 50-gallon chemical tank, 150 feet of one-inch red line (chemical hose), a hose load consisting of 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch and 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch hose, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, several nozzles of various sizes and types, one wye and one siamese connection, hose clamps, a hydrant wrench, two salvage covers, four fire extinguishers (two five-gallon water cans and two chemical), one 35-ft wooden hand ladder, one 25-foot wooden hand ladder, and miscellaneous tools and equipment.  
NOTE: Placed into reserve at Fire Station # 1 in 1918 as the EFD’s lone reserve automobile apparatus, this rig was the EFD’s first automobile fire engine  — and only the second triple-combination pumper ever built — and it ran as “Motor Engine No. 1” at Station # 1 from November 1911 to January 1918.   

EVANSTON POLICE AMBULANCE: 1916 White / Erby ambulance equipped with a stretcher, first aid gear, and an inhalator was kept in the bay east of the firehouse. Two police station officers and one fireman from Station # 1 (if available) would be detailed to staff the police ambulance and respond to inhalator calls city-wide. A second reserve inhalator was kept at Station # 1 and could be loaded onto any rig in the firehouse — Engine No. 1, Reserve Engine  No. 4, the chief’s automobile, or even the city service ladder truck — if the police ambulance was not available.   

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

AT STATION # 2:

ENGINE No. 2: 1906 American LaFrance Metropolitan 700-GPM steamer pulled by a 1918 Seagrave Model “J” one-axle tractor, equipped with two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, hose clamps, a hydrant wrench, two fire extinguishers (one five-gallon water can and one chemical), a shovel, and a load of coal   
NOTE: The EFD’s last three horses were taken out of service on February 23, 1918, and then the steamer was out of service for about a month after that while it was being modified (“tractorized”) at the Seagrave factory in Columbus, OH.  

HOSE No. 2: 1917 Seagrave 300-GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper equipped with a 50-gallon chemical tank, 150-feet of one-inch red line (chemical hose), a hose load consisting of 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch and 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch hose, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, several nozzles of various sizes and types, one wye and one siamese connection, hose clamps, a hydrant wrench, a cellar pipe, four fire extinguishers (two five-gallon cans and two chemical), one 25-foot wooden hand ladder, one 12-foot wooden hand ladder, and miscellaneous hand tools and equipment.
NOTE: Replaced the 1902 Seagrave combination chemical-engine / H&L / hose tender and two horses in January 1918 as the second apparatus assigned to Engine Co. 2. Even though it was essentially the hose-wagon and chemical engine for the tractorized-steamer, it was known as Truck No. 2 prior to September 1924 because that is what the Seagrave combination truck it replaced was called in the horse-drawn era.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

AT STATION # 3:

ENGINE No. 3: 1917 Seagrave 300-GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper equipped with a 50-gallon chemical tank, 150 feet of one-inch red line (chemical hose), a hose load consisting of 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch and 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch hose, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, several nozzles of various sizes and types, one wye and one siamese connection, hose clamps, a hydrant wrench, a cellar pipe, four fire extinguishers (two five-gallon water cans and two chemical), one 25-foot wooden hand ladder, one 12-foot wooden hand ladder, and miscellaneous hand tools and equipment.
NOTE: Replaced the 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan 600-GPM steamer (Engine No. 3) and the 1885 Davenport H&L / hose-tender (Truck No. 3) and four horses at Station # 3 in January 1918.
 

Tags: , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 30

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY 

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.    

EVANSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT – MAY 29, 1925 (THE EFD’S GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY)

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 FIRE MARSHAL:
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. 

CHIEF’S DRIVERS: (2) 
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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 29

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

LEARN NOT TO BURN!  

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.   

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 28

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

Pat Gaynor, Marriage Counselor 

It was looking like another tough winter for the Evanston Fire Department in 1920, as the EFD battled four fires in a 24-hour period over Sunday and Monday, January 4th and 5th.

At 9:19 AM on Sunday, companies from Station # 1 responded to the C. M. Haugen residence at 1462 Oak Avenue and encountered a fire in the basement, caused when sparks from the furnace ignited woodwork. The companies knocked the blaze down fairly quickly and determined that the fire did not communicate further. Two hours later and just back in quarters from the previous alarm, Station # 1 companies responded to a report of a fire at the L. H. Kashgarian residence at 1423 Elmwood Avenue, after sparks from the chimney ignited the roof. Truck Co. 1 arrived and laddered the roof, and Engine Co. 1 quickly extinguished the blaze with an 1-1/2 inch line.

Early the next morning (Monday), Engine Co. 2 and Truck Co. 1 responded  to 904 Michigan Avenue, where sparks from an unattended fireplace in the second-floor apartment of C. W. Hopkins ignited nearby furniture and sent smoke throughout the structure. Truck Co. 1 safely evacuated all of the building’s residents and began ventilation efforts while Engine Co. 2 worked to extinguish the blaze, but not before the Hopkins apartment was gutted. While companies were at the Michigan Avenue alarm, Engine Co. 1 followed by Engine Co. 3 responded to a report of a fire at an apartment building owned by E. Pulfrey at 939 Ridge Court, after sparks from the chimney ignited the roof. Engine Co. 1 pulled a 35-foot ground ladder and placed it into position before leading out a 2-1/2 inch line with an 1-1/2 inch hose lead in an effort to contain the blaze to the roof. Unfortunately, the flames communicated to apartments on the second floor before they were finally contained. The total combined damage amount for the four fires that weekend was $11,500.    

Two weeks later, on Saturday night January 17th into Sunday morning January 18th, the EFD battled two working fires within twelve hours.

The first one was reported in the basement of the residence of Arabelle Outlaw at 1800 Dodge Avenue at 9:15 PM on Saturday. It was caused by an overheated furnace, and the flames worked their way up from the basement to the first and second floors. Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1 eventually extinguished the blaze, but the house was a total loss. At 9 AM Sunday morning, Engine Co. 3 and Truck Co. 1 responded to a report of a fire at the residence of Professor N. E. Simonsen at 2243 Orrington Avenue, after sparks from the chimney ignited the roof. The fire communicated to a second floor bedroom before it could be extinguished by EFD crews.The total combined damage estimates from the Outlaw and Simonsen fires was $6,000.    

On Sunday, March 28, 1920, a tornado roared through Chicago and the northern suburbs.Twenty homes in the area of Central Street & Lincolnwood Drive in Evanston were destroyed or severely damaged, although there were no injuries reported. Meanwhile, in Wilmette, martial law was declared and two companies of Illinois militia were deployed after 100 structures were destroyed or severely damaged in the village’s central business district. 

On Sunday night, May 9, 1920, companies from Station # 1 responded to a barn fire at the Wilson farm at the end of Emerson Street at the North Shore Channel, probably the most isolated location in Evanston at that point in time There was no Emerson Street bridge over the canal in those days, and the nearest fire hydrant was 1,000 feet away from the property at Leland Avenue. Engine Co. 3 responded on a second alarm and provided an additional 2-1/2 inch line, but the flames claimed a second barn and many hogs and chickens before the blaze was finally extinguished. The farm’s horses and cows were saved by firefighters from Truck Co. 1.   

So finally it’s a quiet summer day, June 25, 1920, and Lt. Pat Gaynor is riding a streetcar en route home for a 12-hour furlough after a 24-hour tour of duty at Fire Station #3, where Gaynor is the assistant company officer. The veteran firefighter observes a commotion at the South Boulevard “L”station, where a large crowd has gathered and is standing and watching while a man — James McGowan — beats a woman — wife Laura McGowan — about the head with the butt end of a revolver. McGowan had first tried to shoot his wife, but the gun apparently jammed. No stranger to danger and trained to save lives no matter the personal risk, Lt. Gaynor leaped off the street car, ran to the “L” station, and single-handedly disarmed the man. Gaynor then protected the wife-beater from the the angry and suddenly very brave crowd that became a lynch-mob. Evanston police arrived and arrested James McGowan, while his wife was transported, unconscious, to St. Francis Hospital. She survived and the couple eventually reconciled their differences, and credit Lt. Gaynor with saving their marriage.       

In October 1920, the Evanston Fire Department became the 387th fire department in the nation to institute a two-platoon / 84-hour work-week schedule for its firemen. In order to implement the two-platoon schedule, the firefighting force was increased from 41 to 49, with 24 men on each shift, plus the chief. Fourteen men (seven on each platoon, with one man from each platoon assigned as the chief’s chauffeur / administrative assistant) were assigned to Truck Co. 1, twelve men each (six on each platoon) were assigned to Engine Co. 1 and Engine Co. 2, and ten men (five on each platoon) were assigned to Engine Co. 3.

Firemen now worked 24 hours on duty, followed by 24 hours off-duty, and the men were no longer permitted to take meal breaks at home, at a restaurant, or lunch counter, as the stable facilities in the city’s three firehouses were replaced with kitchens, pantries, and dining rooms. Firemen were permitted two weeks’ annual paid vacation leave, but no vacations were allowed between November and March. One man per company could be on vacation at any one time, but only one man per company could be absent for any reason on any given shift. Firemen absent due to illness weren’t paid for hours not worked, and would have to make up (pay-back) the lost day by working on a day off at a later time, a date to be determined by the company officer.

If a fireman absent due to illness on a given shift would result in the company running more than one man short, the absent firefighter would be replaced by a firefighter from the company’s opposite platoon, who would cover for the absence by working his day-off and receiving an alternate day-off, to be determined by the company officer at a later point in time when the company was back at full-strength. A firefighter could volunteer to work his day off, otherwise the company officer would select the replacement. .    

In addition to authorizing reduction of the work-week from 112 hours to 84 and hiring eight new firemen, the city council also approved a 25-35% pay raise for all members of the EFD in 1920. The Chief Fire Marshal’s annual salary was increased 25% to $3,000 (with an additional 20% increase to $3,600 in 1921), the assistant chief’s annual salary was increased from $1,530 to $2,100, and the annual salaries for a captain (company officer) and a lieutenant (assistant company officer) were elevated $510 per year to $1,980 and $1,920, respectively. The annual salaries for engineer and motor driver, assistant engineer and assistant motor driver, and fireman, were upped by $480 per year, to $1,890, $1,830, and $1,800, respectively.

Because Evanston’s three firehouses no longer had stable facilities, it was no longer possible to keep the 1895 Ahrens Metropolitan steamer and its 1901 four-wheeled hose wagon in reserve. Even though ex-EFD horses were pulling street department wagons and were available to be temporarily transferred back to the EFD when needed, there was no place to stable the horses at the fire stations, even for a short period of time. So the last two remaining EFD reserve horse drawn rigs were finally scrapped. 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 27

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

THE GODFATHER OF FIRE STATION # 2 
 
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). 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 26

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

THE SEAGRAVE CONNECTION 

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).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 25

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

MOTORIZATION 

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:

FOR FIRE STATION # 1:

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).              

FOR FIRE STATION # 2:

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).  


FOR FIRE STATION # 3:

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. 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 23

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

Aw, Heck!   

On the evening of February 23, 1914, the Evanston Fire Department responded to one of the worst fires in the city‘s history up until that point in time, a spectacular blaze at Heck Hall dormitory on the lakefront campus of Garrett Bible Institute. Most of Evanston’s multi-story hotels and apartment buildings were constructed in the years 1916-23, so at five stories, Heck Hall was the tallest building in Evanston in 1914, and it was one the few structures in the city at that time where the EFD’s 85-ft aerial ladder was actually needed for something other than as an elevated master stream. 

Several thousand spectators gathered as the top floor was engulfed in flames, with embers falling as far away as Dempster Street. Firefighters led 92 students to safety, getting the students and themselves out of the building just before the upper floors collapsed, with charged hose-lines left behind under the rubble. The EFD‘s three-year old Robinson automobile pumper — Motor Engine No. 1 — broke down with a damaged transmission while en route to the fire, so with the first-due engine company unable to respond and with the two horse-drawn steamers coming from further away, any chance to control the blaze while it was still possible to do so was probably doomed from the start. 

Chief Carl Harrison somewhat belatedly requested help from the Chicago Fire Department, and CFD Engine Co. 79 and Engine Co. 102 responded to the scene to assist Evanston firefighters. Engine Co. 102 was operating with the CFD‘s first gasoline-powered automobile fire engine — a 1912 Webb 650-GPM combination pumper, but even with the assistance of the big-city boys, Heck Hall was completely destroyed, with the loss estimated at $50,000. 

To all appearances, the tenure of Evanston Chief Fire Marshal Carl Harrison had been characterized by innovation and modernization, with implementation of a formal training program, a 20% increase in the firefighting force, and the acquisition of a more-powerful steam fire engine, an aerial-ladder truck, an automobile triple-combination pumper, and a “Lung Motor” mechanical resuscitator. But the Harrison regime was also seen by Evanston Mayor James Smart as increasingly erratic and eccentric. After an uncharacteristically poor performance by the Evanston Fire Department in front of thousands of spectators at the Heck Hall fire, Mayor Smart abruptly fired Harrison, just like an owner of a professional football team might fire a coach who just lost a big game.  

Mayor Smart tapped 34-year old Albert Hofstetter to replace Harrison, and Hofstteter would serve as chief fire marshal of the EFD for more than 36 years, until his death at the age of 70 in September 1950. Hofstetter had just turned 21 when he joined the Evanston Fire Department in March 1901, and he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was assigned as assistant company officer of Engine Co. 2 at the age of 23 in February 1903. He was promoted to captain on March 14, 1914, and two HOURS(!) later was appointed chief fire marshal by Mayor Smart. So Hofstetter’s two-hour tenure as a captain was followed by 36+ years as chief, spanning World War I, the Roaring 20’s, the Great Depression, WWII, and the onset of the Korean War. His 49 years as a member of the Evanston Fire Department is the all-time record for length of service with the EFD, as is his 36 years as chief, and it’s very unlikely that either of the two records will ever be broken. 

Meanwhile, a few days after being dismissed as chief of the EFD, Carl Harrison announced he was running for alderman of the 4th ward against Smart political ally James Turnock. This announcement precipitated a ferocious editorial in the Evanston Press newspaper by publisher Albert Bowman, accusing Harrison of alcoholism. Harrison lost the election, and swore out a complaint against Bowman for criminal libel.

While the public drama unfolded, Carl Harrison’s father — Justice of the Peace and former Evanston F.D. Chief Sam Harrison — was furiously working behind the scenes in an attempt to influence new Mayor Harry Pearsons to reinstate his son as chief of the EFD. However, Pearsons declined Sam’s request, and to make matters worse for the Harrison clan, the criminal libel complaint against Albert Bowman was summarily dismissed by a Cook County grand jury.

Along with Albert Hofstetter’s promotion to captain on March 14th and then his almost immediate elevation to chief, a number of other promotions occurred within the EFD that day that would affect the EFD for decades to come.

Specifically, Lt. Ed Johnson (Engine Co. 3) was promoted to captain and was assigned to Motor Engine Co. 1, and firemen Tom McEnery, J. E. Mersch, and Pat Gaynor were promoted to the rank of lieutenant, with McEnery replacing the deceased Lt. John Watson as assistant company officer of Engine Co. 2, Mersch replacing Hofstetter as assistant company officer of Motor Engine Co. 1, and Gaynor replacing the newly-promoted Ed Johnson as assistant company officer of Engine Co. 3.

The Hofstetter Boys: 

Ed Johnson: Joined the Evanston Fire Department in 1902, and he was the “man in the middle” who survived the tragic wall collapse at the Mark Manufacturing Company fire in December 1905 that killed Evanston firemen George Stiles and William Craig. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1909, and after being promoted to captain on March 14, 1914, he was promoted to assistant chief in 1918 when Assistant Chief Thomas Norman retired. Johnson served 30 years with the EFD, before dying of a heart attack while being driven home from work by another fireman on October 22, 1932. Coincidentally, besides being 1st Assistant Chief Fire Marshal under Chief Hofstetter 1918-32, Ed Johnson was also Hofstetter’s brother-in-law.

Tom McEnery: Joined the Evanston Fire Department in 1902, and after being promoted to lieutenant on March 14, 1914, he was promoted to captain in 1918, and then to assistant chief in 1924. He served 46 years with he EFD — second only to Al Hofstetter’s record 49 years — and retired as a platoon commander in 1948. Tom’s brother Ed retired as a captain on the same day as his brother in 1948, after serving 40 years with the EFD.

John E. Mersch: Not to be confused with his cousin John M. Mersch, who served 40 years with the EFD 1906-46, J. E. (as he was known within the EFD) joined the Evanston Fire Department in 1905, and after being promoted to lieutenant on March 14, 1914, he was promoted to captain in 1920 and was assigned to Engine Co. 2 when veteran Capt. Carl Harms retired after 27 years of service with the EFD — all 27 years at Station # 2! Mersch was company officer of Engine Co. 1 in September 1927 when he suffered a disabling leg injury after the police ambulance in which he was riding was struck broadside by a bus at Lake & Sheridan while he and two police officers were responding with the inhalator to Greenwood Street Beach to aid a drowning victim. Unable to continue working as a firefighter and unwilling to petition for a disability pension, Mersch was appointed by Chief Hofstetter to the new position of fire prevention inspector in 1928. Mersch would continue to take civil service promotional exams, and was promoted to the rank of assistant chief in 1932. He ultimately served 45 years with the EFD — the final 22 years single-handedly running the Fire Prevention Bureau — before dying of a heart attack behind the wheel of his staff car at the age of 67 while leading the annual Fire Prevention Week parade up Orrington Avenue in October 1950, just a little over two weeks after the death of Chief Hofstetter. Besides his cousin, several other members of the Mersch family served with the EFD, not including one who was a member of the Village of South Evanston Volunteer F.D. prior to the annexation of South Evanston by Evanston in 1892. Additionally, Peter Mersch was chief of the South Evanston Police Department prior to annexation.

Pat Gaynor: Joined the Evanston Fire Department in 1903, and served 31 years with the EFD before retiring in 1934 to join his family’s monument business near Calvary Cemetery. Pat’s brother John also served as an Evanston firefighter during the same period of time, before retiring into the family business in 1936. After being promoted to lieutenant on March 14, 1914, Gaynor was promoted to captain in 1924, and he became the first-ever company officer of newly-organized Engine Co. 4 at Station # 2 in November 1927. Fire Station # 4 opened at 1817 Washington Street in December 1927 and Engine Co. 4 relocated there from Station # 2 at that time, and so Capt. Gaynor took charge of the new Station # 4. Not satisfied with a conventional meet & greet open house with an offering of coffee and cake for the distinguished guests, Gaynor used his juice as boss of the new firehouse to arrange for a professional boxing match on the apparatus floor on New Year’s Eve to help dedicate the new facility. 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 22

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment aboutHistory of Evanston Fire Department

Pensions and White Elephants 

52-year old Assistant Chief Fire Marshal J. E. “Jack” Sweeting died of stomach cancer on Christmas Day 1912, after 25 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department. Sweeting had joined the EFD in 1887 back when it was still a part-time paid fire department, and he was one of the three men appointed as full-time paid firemen in 1888. He was also the first fireman promoted to the rank of captain (in 1895), and the first promoted to the rank of assistant chief (in 1905). He spent his entire career at Fire Station # 1, serving as company officer of Motor Engine Co. 1 at the time of his death.  

Capt. Thomas Norman — company officer of Engine Co. 3 — was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief Fire Marshal in 1913 and replaced Sweeting as company officer of Motor Engine Co. 1, and Capt George Hargreaves was transferred from Station # 1 to Station # 3 at that time.  

The Evanston Firemen’s Pension Fund was chartered with the State of Illinois in January 1913, and the first pensions were granted in January 1916 after the EFPF became fully funded. Fireman Mathew Maxwell (Engine Co. 3), who retired after 20 years of service, and Engineer William Sampson (Engine Co. 2), who was awarded a disability pension, were the first Evanston firefighters to receive pensions.

Additionally, the widow and minor children of deceased EFD Lt. John Watson (Engine Co. 2), who died of an accidental overdose of aspirin in January 1914 — he had suffered from constant back pain since being injured in a fall at a house fire in 1911 — began to receive a survivor’s pension at that same time. However, the widow and eight surviving children of Jack Sweeting were denied a survivors pension, because the assistant chief made the mistake of dying a week before the pension fund was legally chartered.

In his 1913 report to the city council, EFD Chief Carl Harrison recommended complete motorization of Fire Station # 1, which would allow the seven horses still in service there to be transferred to the street department, retired, or sold. Harrison recommended the city purchase an automobile tractor for the aerial-ladder truck, an automobile double 50-gallon chemical engine to replace the 40 year horse-drawn Babcock chemical engine, and an automobile for the chief.

The city council declined to appropriate the funds needed to purchase a tractor for the aerial ladder truck or an automobile chemical engine, but the aldermen did appropriate $800 for an “auto-buggy” horseless carriage for the chief, and an Overland roadster was placed into service in 1914, replacing the chief’s horse-drawn buggy and Barney the horse. 

While Harrison seemed to be 100% on board with motorization of the fire department — or at least replacing Fire Station # 1’s horse-drawn rigs with automobiles, just a week after submitting his annual report to the city council, a bolt broke loose and damaged four of the six cylinders of the Robinson motor-engine, putting the rig into the repair shop for a month. An exasperated Harrison told the city council that fire departments would probably always need to maintain horses, because automobile fire apparatus were just too unreliable. 

That said, when its Robinson motor engine was in service, the Evanston Fire Department was a favorite source of assistance to other North Shore towns and villages during the 1910’s. The EFD made several jaunts into Wilmette during this era, most notably to a conflagration involving a bank, a restaurant, and a grocery store on Railroad Avenue on August 3, 1916.

And could there be a more unlucky date than October 31, 1913? It was Halloween in Wilmette, and while the village slept, a fire broke out at 514 Linden Avenue, the residence of prominent civil engineer Grafton Stevens. Mr. Stevens escaped safely, but Mrs. Stevens could not get out. So her husband ran back inside to save her, but he also became trapped by the flames. Despite the heroic rescue efforts of Wilmette and Evanston firemen, the couple perished in the inferno.

The Jumbo’s finest hour would come on the morning of Tuesday, December 30, 1913, as Motor Engine Co. 1 raced up Railroad Avenue to the Village of Winnetka — flying past the Wilmette Fire Department’s horse-drawn combination truck while both were en route to the blaze — in response to a call for assistance received from the Winnetka Volunteer Fire Department. A fire at the Winnetka Merchandising Company had trapped residents in apartments located above the store. On scene just a few minutes after the call for assistance was received, members of EFD Motor Engine Co. 1 deployed the auto engine’s two, 25-foot ground ladders to help rescue five of the residents, before the Jumbo’s powerful 750-GPM pump helped extinguish the flames.

The Jumbo also performed yeoman duty at several of Evanston’s larger fires of the period, including one at the Bogart Building in 1912, another at Rosenberg’s department store in January 1916 (where it pumped through the night into the next day), and another at the Evanston Strand Theatre in December 1917.

The Robinson Fire Apparatus Manufacturing Company had a reputation for building custom fire engines that were fast and powerful, but also somewhat cranky and delicate. The engine delivered to Evanston was mostly the latter. To say that the Jumbo was a “white elephant” would not be an exaggeration. But even though it had more than its share of mechanical problems and spent a lot of time in the repair shop, there is no disputing its speed and power when it was operating on all cylinders.

At the time that the Robinson engine was under consideration by the Evanston City Council in 1911, none of the companies that would later become the leaders in the production of automobile fire engines were manufacturing triple-combination pumpers. However, once Seagrave, American-LaFrance, and Ahrens-Fox began to produce reliable and durable automobile pumpers, the temperamental hot rod manufactured by Robinson could not compete, and the company went out of business. And once the company was out of business, spare parts could only be obtained by salvaging parts from other Robinson rigs. That is, if any could be located… 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,