Posts Tagged Evanston Fire Department

Apartment fire in Evanston, 8-16-21

This from Collin Ehrlich:

Evanston Fire Dept Box Alarm 1320 Dewey

fire scene in Evanston IL

Collin Ehrlich photo

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Evanston Fire Department news

From the City of Evanston:


Evanston Fire Department Deputy Chief William Muno

Evanston Fire Department Deputy Chief William Muno

EVANSTON, IL – Chief Muno has served the residents of Evanston with pride and distinction over the past 34 years. Battalion Chief Muno’s promotion to deputy chief will be effective May 10, 2021. 

Chief Muno’s leadership in the department has been extensive, having served as a captain for 16 years and battalion chief for the last 9 years.

Bill has proven to be a dedicated member of the department, working tirelessly to improve the department’s day-to-day operations. He has provided training opportunities for fire department staff through his participation in the training committee for nearly ten years, helped our members operate more safely through his involvement with the safety committee since 1996, and has shaped departmental guidelines by serving on the Standard Operating Guideline Committee since 2016. Bill served as a paramedic preceptor, a role proven vital to helping newer paramedics develop the skills necessary to be effective in the field. Additionally, Chief Muno served as an active member of the department’s hazardous materials team for five years.

Bill’s commitment to professional development is evident in the numerous training courses, certifications, and college credits completed. Chief Muno completed the Fire Officer I and II certifications, attended numerous command classes, and completed various special operations training. Chief Muno currently holds an Associate’s Degree from Oakton College. 

Deputy Chief Muno’s vision for the fire department is to “have every member trained to the degree necessary to effectively manage the challenges presented and to benefit from modern-day advancements in the field.” 

“Chief Muno is one of the most knowledgeable people I know in the fire service,” said Fire Chief Paul Polep. “Everyone in this organization will greatly benefit with Chief Muno in this senior leadership role.”

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Apartment fire in Evanston, 12-23-20

This video was shot by Jim McCall Back in December, first on scene


thanks Steve

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Apartment fire in Evanston, 2-19-21

From Max Weingardt:

Evanston box alarm – apartment fire at 2137 W Howard St

Pierce ladder truck at fire scene

Max Weingardt photo

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House fire in Evanston, 2-19-21

From Max Weingardt:

Evanston Code 4 at 2130 Seward St

aftermath of house fire

Max Weingardt photo

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New truck for Evanston FD (more)

The EFD has taken delivery of our “new” 2006 Pierce reserve ladder truck. We are in the process of having it lettered and training with it. It will enter our reserve pool of apparatus in a few weeks. This truck will be used when one of our front line tiller trucks goes out of service for maintenance.

ormer Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District aerial ladder truck purchased by Evanston

Evanston FD photo

ormer Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District aerial ladder truck purchased by Evanston

Evanston FD photo

thanks Danny

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Evanston Fire Department history – Part 5

Final installment from Phil Stenholm 

Evanston’s first three full-time paid firefighters were hired in June 1888 at an annual salary of $480 per man. Jack Sweeting, who had been one of the part-timers since the previous December, plus newcomers Edward Murray and James Peck. This was preceded by most of the members of the part-time company resigned en masse the previous August in a dispute with Chief Harrison over the issues of financial compensation for firemen, plus poor sanitary and living conditions in the firehouse (paint shop).  This was the second job action by Evanston firefighters. The third was when Murray and Peck, two of the new full-time firemen, refused to spend 2/3 of their day patrolling the Davis Street business district in search of violations of the Fire Limits ordinance. Murray and Peck were summarily fired for insubordination, and were replaced by Andrew Carroll and W. V. Rake.

In 1893, the company moved into the new city hall at the northwest corner of Davis & Sherman, across the alley from the old paint shop, and then to the new Police/Fire Public Safety HQ facility at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman in 1897.

The company at Station #1, known as Engine Co. 1 beginning in 1895, would continue to grow over the years, so much so that it was split into two companies (Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1) in 1903. George Hargreaves was the first captain of Truck Co. 1, with nine firefighters assigned to each of the two companies by 1904. 

Meanwhile, volunteer fire companies were organized in South Evanston and in North Evanston.

The ten-man South Evanston Fire Company was organized by Christopher Molinelli, after he was appointed Village of South Evanston Fire Marshal on July 16, 1888. The Village of South Evanston was incorporated on January 14, 1873. The South Evanston Fire Company was equipped with a hand-drawn hose-cart built by Edison Salisbury & Company, and purchased by the Village of South Evanston in 1884, plus a hand-drawn hook & ladder wagon, and occupied the south end of the South Evanston Village Hall that was dedicated on September 5, 1888 at the northwest corner of Chicago & Madison.

The Village of South Evanston was annexed by the Village of Evanston in 1892 thus forming the new City of Evanston. The South Evanston Fire Company was disbanded by Evanston Fire Marshal Sam Harrison on June 6th and replaced by two full-time paid fireman operating a horse-drawn hose cart. Carl Harms was the first captain at Station #2, and he spent his entire 26-year career there. Ed Densmore, a member of the South Evanston Fire Company transferred to the Evanston Fire Department after the South Evanston Fire Company was disbanded.

The Evanston Police Department also occupied the former South Evanston Village Hall from 1892 to 1897, utilizing the facility as its South Precinct under the command of former South Evanston Police Chief Henry Mersch, who was given the title of captain in the EPD. The old South Evanston Village Hall, constructed as a combination village hall/firehouse/police station-jail back when South Evanston was its own village, was razed and rebuilt as a more-traditional (and useful) three-bay firehouse on the same site during 1902. It was completed in February 1903. 

The North Evanston Fire Company was organized and accepted for service with the Evanston Fire Department on October 1, 1888, as water-mains were extended into North Evanston. Unlike the Village of South Evanston, North Evanston was part of the Village of Evanston after being annexed by the Village of Evanston section by section over a number of years. It was never a separate incorporated village. The 13-man North Evanston Fire Company was strictly a volunteer/auxiliary unit that was created mainly to provide fire protection for the Central Street business district. They we’re equipped only with a hand-drawn hose cart stored at the C&NW RR Central Street train depot The company could not go very far.

The North Evanston Fire Company was disbanded on January 31, 1901, when Hose Co. 3, a horse-drawn hose cart and three full-time paid firefighters was organized at the brand new Fire Station # 3 at 2504 West Railroad Avenue (later known as Green Bay Road).  None of the members of the North Evanston Fire Company joined the EFD when the company was disbanded as the company consisted mainly of merchants and wealthy squires who would have had no interest in a firefighting career. S. C. “Carl” Harrison, Jr, the son of Chief Sam Harrison, was the first captain assigned to Station # 3. Carl Harrison would later serve as Chief Fire Marshal, from December 14, 1905 until March 9, 1914. 

The full history starts HERE, then Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

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Evanston Fire Department history – Part 2

More Evanston Fire Department history from Phil Stenholm:

On May 2, 1875, the EFD responded to an early-morning blaze at the First Presbyterian Church at Lake & Chicago  Although firemen arrived promptly, the structure was lost, mainly because of a communication mix-up between firefighters at the scene and the engineer on duty at the Waterworks engine-house. Firefighters believed water-pressure was being increased when they heard what they thought was an acknowledgment from the Waterworks engineer (it was actually a whistle from a C&NW RR train), so by the time a messenger was sent on horseback to the engine-house, the church was destroyed.

Later that month, a telegraph connection was established between the village hall and the Waterworks. Even with improved communication (telephones replaced the telegraph in the 1880s), the fire at the First Presbyterian Church was not to be the only instance where poor communication between firefighters and a Waterworks engineer would give a black eye to the EFD. Meanwhile, the First Presbyterian Church was rebuilt on the same site, only to be destroyed by fire again in February 1894.

The Evanston Fire Department was legally established by ordinance on May 25, 1875 and took effect on May 29th, once it was published in the newspaper. The ordinance was only a technicality, however, as the origin of the fire department certainly was January 7, 1873, the night the Village Board of Trustees accepted the Pioneer Fire Company for service. 

The C. J. Gilbert Hose Company was organized in January 1875 and after a six-month period of evaluation was accepted for service by the village board in August 1875, joining Pioneer Hose Company No. 1 as one of Evanston’s two volunteer hose companies.

The Pioneers and the Gilberts were each assigned one hand-drawn, two-wheeled, one-axle hose cart (one built by Silsby, the other by G. W. Hannis), 1000 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose, an assortment of nozzles, related tools and equipment. Gilbert Hose Company foreman William Gamble, a local grocer, served as village Fire Marshal from November 1876 to May 1878. Pioneer Fire Company foreman (and butcher) W. R. “Bob” Bailey served as Fire Marshal from May 1878 to July 1883. Bailey’s Meat Market & Ice House was one of the shops destroyed in the Willard Block fire of 1872.

From January 1875 to April 1881, the Evanston Fire Department consisted of just the two volunteer hose companies. All of the apparatus, equipment, and gear were owned by the village. Both companies maintained their apparatus and held their respective monthly meetings on the first floor of the village hall. Each company gave its own Firemen’s Ball each year, the Pioneers on St. Patrick’s Day, and the Gilberts on New Year’s Eve. Which was the better party has been lost to antiquity.

Company officers included the foreman who was the company commander, a 1st assistant foreman, a 2nd assistant foreman, a 3rd assistant foreman, a secretary, and a treasurer. All company officers were elected annually by the members of the company, and new members were allowed to join only after receiving the approval of company members. Most of the members of the two companies were Evanston merchants or their employees.

Pioneer Hose Company, No. 1 was considered one of the elite hose companies in Illinois, and frequently competed in musters with other fire companies. The Pioneers had fancy uniforms featuring navy blue caps, red flannel shirts with black trim and a number “1” on the front, and black belts with white trim. They took their pick of new equipment acquired by the village, and usually got their “man” installed as the village fire marshal. Conversely, the C. J. Gilbert Hose Company, formed by a cadre of renegade outcasts from the Pioneer Fire Company, did NOT participate in state musters, did NOT have fancy uniforms, and were considered the “poor step-brothers” of the EFD.

As in many volunteer fire departments of the day, Evanston’s two hose companies were friendly rivals, and each enjoyed nothing better than blasting the other with water after extinguishing a “good fire.” They also would race each other to be first on scene, first with water on the fire, and first to extinguish the flames. Unfortunately, the Village Board of Trustees would sometimes play one company off against the other, by appointing one company’s foreman as the village fire marshal, or by distributing new equipment to one company but not to the other. And the Gilberts were usually the ones that got the short end of the pike pole.

Although fires in Evanston were rare, and big fires even more rare, the Pioneers and the Gilberts did have their moments, especially during the night of January 2, 1879. At 9 PM, firefighters responded in bitter cold (supposedly minus-20 degrees) to a report of a fire at Dempster Hall dormitory on the campus of Northwestern University. Constructed in 1854, Dempster Hall was one of the oldest structures in the village. Three hours later, the vacant residence hall stood gutted, and firefighters were frozen and exhausted. students were on Christmas Vacation at the time.

There was no rest for the weary, however, as the Pioneers and the Gilberts responded to another reported fire at 2 AM, this time at the Northwestern Gas Light & Coke Company (the “gasworks”) at Clark & Maple. Coal sheds, several tons of coal, and 20 barrels of tar were destroyed before firefighters quelled the conflagration. The companies then turned the hose streams on each other. Fortunately, today’s Evanston firefighters are not so childish…

Two more significant fires occurred during early 1879, both on the West Ridge in the vicinity of Church & Wesley. The first destroyed the home of Northwestern University Professor Kistler — where firefighters lost the house but saved the furniture and library, and the other destroyed the palatial domicile of real estate king Charles Browne, the founder of North Evanston, although firemen once again saved the furniture and library, as well as two nearby homes. The fires of ‘79 caused much agitation within the EFD, as both companies demanded some form of financial compensation, as well as additional equipment (play-pipes and hose) and clothing (coats, gloves, and boots) from the village trustees.

The village board did subsequently acquire coats, gloves, and boots, but not enough for both of the companies. The trustees gave EFD Chief Bob Bailey, one-time foreman of Pioneer Hose Company No. 1, the job of allocating the gear, and (surprise!) all of it went to the Pioneers. As one might imagine, the Gilberts were not happy campers. The trustees then acquired a new play-pipe, and this time the Pioneers offered to stage a muster with the Gilberts at the town picnic on July 4th, with the winner to take possession of the new appliance. The Gilberts refused, probably because they did not want to establish the precedent of competing with the Pioneers for gear and equipment, so the Pioneers kept the play-pipe.

By failing to compete with the Pioneers at the picnic however, the Gilberts became a town joke. In an attempt to restore their dignity, the Gilberts challenged the Pioneers to a muster later that summer. The two companies agreed to meet (or “muster”) on the afternoon of August 21, 1879.

Several hundred enthusiastic spectators lined University Place on a very hot summer Thursday afternoon. Gambling was rampant, with several side-wagers amongst the firemen themselves. Despite completing the run in 63.5 seconds  and besting their own state record, the Pioneers were disqualified by the judges on a technicality. The Gilberts were awarded the upset victory. The Pioneers protested, claiming the local judges either did not understand state tournament rules, had been bribed, or both, but the Gilbert victory stood.

On December 31, 1880 (New Year’s Eve), the Pioneers and Gilberts engaged in a far more difficult contest, the second blaze to strike the opulent home of prominent village resident John H. Kedzie in seven years. As was often the case in cold weather, many firemen missed the alarm because they couldn’t hear the fire-bell with their windows closed. Those who did respond fought a long, hard battle against flames buried within the walls of the home, saving the furniture, but ultimately losing the house. Harry Housel, one of the members of Pioneer Hose Company No. 1, contracted a respiratory infection either during or shortly after this fire, an infection that eventually lead to his death by “consumption” (tuberculosis) at the age of 24 in April 1882, after the Pioneer Hose Company had disbanded.

The Kedzie fire seemed to light a fuse inside the fire companies, leading once again to demands for financial compensation and improved clothing and equipment for Evanston’s firefighters. After their pleas were ignored, the two hose companies resigned en masse on May 23, 1881. The era of volunteer firefighting in Evanston would end with a whimper.

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Evanston Fire Department history – Part 1

From Phil Stenholm:

The Big Bang of the Evanston Fire Department

And in the beginning, there was the Pioneer Fire Company of Evanston… 

Evanston’s first fire company was the 63-man volunteer “Pioneer Fire Company of Evanston,” organized during the first week of January 1873, and accepted for service with the Village of Evanston at the Village Board meeting of January 7th.

The Pioneer Fire Company pre-dates ALL other organized fire-fighting outfits in Evanston. It even pre-dates the Evanston Fire Department itself! (The EFD was not officially and legally established by ordinance until May 1875).

The Pioneer Fire Company was formed in response to two big fires that occurred in Evanston in 1872.  

The first (and worst) blaze destroyed 18 businesses and residences in the Willard Block (located on the north side of Davis Street, between Sherman and Benson) in the early morning hours of Monday, October 14, 1872 (just over a year after the Great Chicago Fire). Despite heroic work by an ad hoc citizen “bucket brigade” (relaying water from a nearby well to a privately-owned 50-gallon hand-operated “garden pumper”), the conflagration was stopped only after Town Board President C. J. Gilbert ordered buildings at both ends of the block dismantled to remove potential fuel for the fire. The $49,300 in damage would stand as the highest loss from an Evanston fire until the Lincoln Avenue schoolhouse fire of March 1894.

Then on December 20th (a scant two months after the Willard Block fire), three residences on Hinman Avenue were destroyed by fire. Once again, a citizen “bucket brigade” could not stop the flames. However, within two weeks, Evanston would have a fire marshal, and an organized fire brigade.

Evanston’s first fire marshal was Colonel Wesley Brainerd.

A native of Rome, N. Y., Col. Brainerd was a prominent civil engineer and had been an officer in the Engineer Brigade of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. He was wounded by a sniper’s bullet while supervising deployment of a pontoon bridge over the Rappahannock River at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. Although Col. Brainerd had no background as a firefighter (he was brought to Evanston to construct sidewalks), he was appointed the first Fire Marshal of the Village of Evanston on January 1, 1873. 

The Fire Marshal was primarily responsible for enforcing the new “Fire Limits” ordinance, but he also helped to organize the Pioneer Fire Company. Col. Brainerd resigned his post as Fire Marshal in June 1873, at which time he left Evanston to continue his career as a civil engineer. He died on August 19, 1910, at the age of 77. (His papers are in a special collection at the University of Tennessee). Pioneer Fire Company foreman and fire insurance agent Joseph Humphrey replaced Col. Brainerd as Fire Marshal in the Summer of 1873.

The first firehouse was the Evanston Village Hall (a two-story wood-frame structure, located at the southwest corner of Orrington Avenue and the south alley of Church Street). The first-floor was altered to accommodate the fire company, as the two front windows were removed and replaced with double-doors. A room was made available for company meetings, and a bell was purchased to alert the company’s members when there was a fire.

The Pioneer Fire Company’s first apparatus were a hand-drawn Babcock hook & ladder wagon equipped with a ladder, pike-poles, axes, buckets, and rope, and a hand-drawn Babcock double 50-gallon self-acting chemical-engine.

The Babcock chemical-engine was all the rage in 1872, as the new invention was demonstrated at universities, conventions, and state and county fairs. Since it was manufactured in Chicago, the Chicago Fire Department acquired several in the aftermath of its infamous fire. The Babcock chemical-engine was advertised as “a fire extinguisher on wheels” and that’s essentially what it was, providing up to 100 gallons of soda-acid fire suppression almost immediately upon arrival at a fire.

Chemical fire suppression was gradually replaced by the so-called “booster” system — a water tank & auxiliary pump with a pre-connected hose-lead — after its invention by Ahrens-Fox President Charles H. Fox in 1913, but chemical fire suppression was the main-stay “first responder” of the American fire service for more than 40 years.

Evanston’s chemical-engine was taken out of service and kept in “mothballs” for almost ten years after the high-pressure waterworks was placed in service in January 1875, before being converted into a horse-drawn apparatus and returning to front-line duty in 1884. The rig was refurbished in 1902 and remained in front-line service as the second-section of Truck Co. 1 until November 1917 nearly 45 years after it was built .   

Unlike the Babcock chemical-engine, the Babcock H&L was not converted to a hose-drawn rig, and so it was scrapped when Evanston’s hand-drawn fire fighting apparatus were replaced by horse-drawn apparatus in 1883.

The Pioneer Fire Company included many prominent citizens, including several Civil War heroes, a doctor, a judge, and a banker who would later serve as U. S. Secretary of the Treasury. Although a volunteer entity, membership in the Pioneer Fire Company was considered a privilege and an honor. Not everyone who applied for membership was accepted. The company held meetings at the village hall on the first Thursday evening of each month, and company officers scheduled occasional surprise “practice drills” for company members.

The first such drill was held at the Northwestern Gas Light & Coke Company (the “gasworks”) on February 22, 1873, as Pioneer Fire Company officers set tar on fire and waited for the company to respond. They responded all right, but it was reported in the Evanston Index that “some firemen are exceedingly bitter over going to a practice fire on such a cold day.” (Note that at the next monthly meeting, the fine for insubordination was doubled!).

Actual fires were rare during the years 1873-1874. However, the company did battle a major blaze at the M. Bates Iott furniture store plus seven adjacent businesses in the Judson Block (south side of Davis Street, west of Sherman) on October 15, 1873. Aggregate damage totaled $14,650. Although firefighters were able to salvage much of Iott’s property, some of the salvaged goods were stolen by looters. Because Evanston’s two police officers were also members of the Pioneer Fire Company, there was no law enforcement presence outside the store to protect the goods from opportunistic thieves. Subsequently, the Village Board of Trustees would mandate that Evanston police officers could not serve as firefighters.

A sophisticated high-pressure waterworks was placed in service in Evanston in January 1875. Christened the C. J. Gilbert Waterworks in honor of the esteemed Village Board President and leader of the so-called “Waterworks Party”, it was built by the Holly Company of Lockport, New York, at a cost of $111,241.68. The project was funded by the sale of municipal bonds in the amount of $83,850 approved by Evanston voters in the elections of 1873 and 1874, and special assessment taxes collected from property owners as water mains and fire hydrants were extended into the various neighborhoods of the village. Because of the cost, no town as small as Evanston had ever built a Holly high-pressure waterworks before.

The Holly Company’s high-pressure waterworks was a technological marvel. The engine house was constructed at the northeast corner of Lincoln Street & Michigan Avenue (later known as Sheridan Road), and the crib, intake pipes, and rotary strainer were located in Lake Michigan 500 feet off-shore. The high-pressure rotary pump, designed by Burdsall Holly, was capable of pumping 3,000,000 gallons of water every 24 hours for general residential use and allowed water-pressure in the mains to be increased two or three times above normal “residential pressure” in the event of a fire so that firefighters would require only direct pressure (or “plug pressure”) to extinguish a blaze. Steam fire engines were not needed. A larger Holly engine & pump capable of pumping 12,000,000 gallons per 24 hours was acquired and installed in 1897.

The Pioneer Fire Company was reorganized as a 30-man hose company and changed its name to Pioneer Hose Company No. 1 in December 1874, as Evanston’s new Holly high-pressure waterworks was about ready to be placed in service.

The Holly waterworks system was officially tested and accepted by the Village of Evanston on January 21, 1875, as firefighters from Pioneer Hose Company No. 1 manning hose lines with one-inch diameter nozzles were able to simultaneously throw four streams of water between 104 – 117 feet into the air (using direct-pressure from hydrants), and then using a single 1-1/2-inch diameter nozzle were able to throw a single stream 153-1/2 feet into the air. Then using a 1-3/4-inch diameter nozzle with a three-hose lead from three hydrants, they were able to throw a single stream of water 217 feet into the air. Water pressure was measured at 100-110 psi at the engine house on Lincoln Street, and at 80-90 psi at the hydrants located on Church Street and Davis Street more than a mile from the pumping station.

Unfortunately, increasing water pressure during fires eventually led to broken and collapsed water-mains sometimes DURING a fire!  Therefore, beginning in 1912 plug pressure was used only rarely. There also was a problem with anchor-ice sometimes clogging the intake pipes during the coldest days of winter, causing the high-pressure pump to be less-effective. 

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As seen around … Evanston

Pierce Arrow XT fire engine

Tri State – USFiR Photography

thanks Tyler


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