Posts Tagged History of Evanston Fire Department

Evanston Fire Department history Part 74

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department


In January 1976, MICU Co. 1 (AKA “Ambulance 1”) was placed into service at Evanston Fire Station # 1, staffed by a three-man crew — including two paramedics — each shift. The seven firefighters who had been cross-trained as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975 — Roger Bush, Dave Cleland, Jim Dillon, Randy Drott, Jerry McDermott, Jim McLaughlin, and Dave Pettinger — were the first Evanston firefighters assigned to Ambulance 1. ALS gear was donated by the Washington National Insurance Company, one of Evanston’s largest employers at the time. The first Ambulance 1 (fleet # 310) was a 1975 Dodge Type II van ambulance. 

The Evanston Police Department continued to maintain its three stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon patrol ambulances through 1976, backed-up by the EFD’s two 1970 Dodge stretcher & first-aid equipped station-wagon staff cars that were replaced by Dodge sedans and Honda compact cars in 1977. Whenever possible, a police department station wagon patrol-ambulance or a fire department station-wagon auxiliary-ambulance was dispatched to relieve Ambulance 1 at the scene of any EMS incident where paramedics and the MICU were not needed.

During 1976, five more Evanston firefighters — Joe Hayes, Dave Lopina, Art Miller, Jim Potts, and Bob Wagner — were trained and certified as paramedics, so that by the end of the year, the EFD had a total of twelve certified paramedics. A second MICU — a 1976 Chevrolet Type I modular ambulance with a “box” attached to the chassis (fleet # 314) — was purchased at a cost of $35,000 and was placed in service at Fire Station # 1 in January 1977.

In November 1976, Ambulance 1 was nearly demolished and three firefighters — Jim McLaughlin, Jerry McDermott, and Phil Burns — and a nurse from St. Francis Hospital were injured, when the ambulance in which they were riding en route to a medical emergency on Dewey Avenue was struck broadside by a drunk driver at Church & Ridge, the exact same spot as the crash involving Truck Co. 2 almost exactly 50 years earlier!.

With Ambulance 1 out of service and the second MICU not scheduled to arrive until after the first of the year, the EFD borrowed an old Cadillac ambulance from the Skokie F. D. to run temporarily as Ambulance 1. This 1968 Cadillac ambulance was eventually purchased by Evanston from Skokie and was retained by the EFD even after Ambulance 1 was repaired, becoming the first Ambulance 3.

The new MICU arrived in January 1977 and was designated Ambulance 2. Capt. Bill Best, and firefighters Mike Adam, Miriam Boyle, Ken Dohm, Bob Hayden, Ben Jaremus, Don Kunita, Ernesto Martinez, Mike Whalen, and Don Williams were trained and certified as paramedics during 1977, as the EFD expanded to a force of 114. Capt. Best was the first captain certified as a paramedic.

With its three-man crew, Ambulance 1 had responded to EMS calls in Station # 1’s first-due area by itself without a support engine throughout 1976, but with staffing on the two front-line ambulances cut-back to two in 1977, an engine company was now assigned to all EMS calls as a first-responder and/or manpower company. 

After Ambulance 2 arrived and was placed in service, it was assigned first-due to all EMS calls city-wide, and  because it was not an MICU, the ex-Skokie F. D. Cadillac ambulance responded first-due to fire calls, and to EMS calls only if Ambulance 2 was not available. Even after Ambulance 1 was repaired and returned to  service at Station # 1 in the second quarter of 1977, Ambulance 2 continued to respond first-due to EMS calls, and Ambulance 1 responded first-due to fire calls.

Prior to 1980, EFD paramedics assigned to ambulances routinely worked without any restriction as firefighters at a fire, sometimes assisting a truck company ventilating the roof, or pulling a line and attacking the fire. It was only later that the ambulance crew was prohibited from engaging in fire suppression or assisting with ventilation, although they could assist an engine company hooking up to a hydrant, as long as they were available to provide EMS immediately when needed.

Chief George Beattie retired in January 1976 after 29 years of service, 28-year veteran Assistant Chief Ed Pettinger retired a month later, and Capt. Richard Schumacher and Capt. John Becker were promoted to  assistant chief (platoon commander). Meanwhile, 35-year EFD veteran Assistant Chief Willard Thiel — the EFD’s training officer since 1958 — was appointed acting chief by City Manager Ed Martin while the city manager and city council began a nation-wide search for a new fire chief. Chief Thiel was chosen to be acting chief only because he said he had no interest in becoming chief, and that he would retire as soon as a new chief was named.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 73

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department


On May 1, 1975, the Evanston City Council accepted bids for a new 1,000 / 300 triple-combination pumper, with the exact same specifications as the two Howe pumpers purchased a year earlier. The new pumper would replace the 1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 TCP (Engine 25) that was originally Squad 21 before being rebuilt as a TCP by General Body in 1966. Mack came in with the low bid of $53,725, beating out FWD Seagrave, Pirsch, and several other apparatus manufacturers for the contract. As expected, EFD Chief George Beattie specified that the new Mack pumper be painted “safety yellow,” just like the two Howe pumpers delivered in 1974 and 1975.

In addition, Chief Beattie received a new Plymouth sedan (fleet #301) in 1975 that was painted red instead of “safety yellow,” with the chief’s 1973 Plymouth station wagon transferred to the platoon commanders as the new F-2 after a light bar was installed on the roof replacing the portable “Kojak light.” The former F-2 (1971 Dodge station wagon) was transferred to the Fire Prevention Bureau to be used by the newly-created fire investigation unit (arson squad) that would be staffed each shift by a trained fire investigator, with one of the two FPB captain’s positions eliminated after Capt. Joe Thill retired and was not replaced.  

Also, as part of the contract resulting from the firefighters strike of February 1974, the average work-week for firefighters was reduced from 56 hours to 54 hours, with two new positions created in the EFD in 1975 that increased  total membership from 100 to 102. One fireman would now be assigned each shift to cover for a fireman absent while on a “short day” (formerly known as a “Kelly Day”), with three firemen on each shift covering for vacations and sick leave. As a result, the de facto EFD minimum shift staffing was reduced from 28 to 27, with six three-man companies (the five engine companies plus Truck 22), two four-man companies (Truck 21 and Squad 21), and the shift commander (F-2).     

Eighteen new firefighters were hired in 1974-75, including Samuel Boddie, Art Miller, Bill Betke, Jim Potts, Dave Lopina, Bob Hayden, Mike Adam, Don Gschwind, Thomas Simpson, Joe Hayes, Bob Wagner, Keith Filipowski, Ken Dohm, Tom Kavanagh, Milton Dunbar, Ward Cook, Jim Keaty, and Donald Williams. Also, Fireman James “Guv” Whalen was promoted to captain, firemen Harry Harloff and Ken Perysian retired after 23 years of service, and several other firefighters resigned.  

On Wednesday, May 28, 1975, the Evanston Fire Department responded to a report of a fire in the rear storage yard of the Rust-Oleum Corporation at 2301 Oakton Street. A second alarm was struck immediately upon arrival of the first companies, and a MABAS box was eventually pulled, the first time the EFD had requested a MABAS box since the system was implemented in 1968.

At the peak of the fire, 19 2-1/2-inch hand lines, two deluge nozzles, one multi-versal, one ladder pipe from Truck 22, one street jack, and one deck gun from Squad 21 supplied streams that were played onto the storage yard and nearby exposures, as numerous 55-gallon drums full of paint exploded and were sent hundreds of feet into the air. Evanston police temporarily evacuated some of the residences to the east and north. 

A 200,000-gallon water storage tank located at the southwest corner of Cleveland & Hartrey was supplied by a 24-inch feeder main that extended south from Church Street. The storage tank fed a 1,000-GPM pump owned by Rust-Oleum and operated by their company fire brigade, as well as the standard ten-inch and twelve-inch residential mains in the neighborhood. Engines from the Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Morton Grove, and Winnetka fire departments pumped water from numerous hydrants located to the east and north of the fire, including one hydrant at the dead-end of Cleveland Street at the C&NW RR Mayfair Division tracks 1/4 mile north of Rust-Oleum.

The conflagration was eventually surrounded, drowned, contained, and extinguished, but not before causing $775,000 in damage, making it the fourth highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time. Only the fires at the American Hospital Supply Corporation (October 1963), the Rolled Steel Corporation (January 1970), and Bramson’s clothing store (October 1971) cause greater damage. If nothing else, the Rust-Oleum fire was certainly the most spectacular fire in Evanston’s history!

The next day — May 29, 1975 — the Evanston Fire Department celebrated its centennial. Although May 29, 1875, was the date that the EFD was legally established by ordinance, the actual genesis of the village fire department was January 7, 1873, when the 60-man volunteer Pioneer Fire Company of Evanston was accepted for service by the village board. 

The purpose of the fire department ordinance of May 29, 1875 was not to create a firefighting force. The Pioneer Fire Company — renamed “Pioneer Hose Co. No. 1” in December 1874 when the Holly High-Pressure Waterworks was placed into service — already existed, and had existed for more than two years. Rather, the  real purpose of the ordinance was to legally describe the method by which additional volunteer fire companies could be organized and accepted for service with the village going forward, since by May 1875 the C. J. Gilbert Hose Company was already in the process of being organized, chartered, and trained.

Once the C. J. Gilbert Hose Company was ready to be accepted for service, the ordinance needed to describe the relationship between the two hose companies. They might be rivals, but they could not be competitors. They had to work together for a common purpose. Also, the ordinance legally installed the fire marshal as chief of the fire department, with the two hose companies plus any other companies that might eventually be organized and accepted for service officially and legally under the command and direction of the fire marshal.  

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 72

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


The concept of the “paramedic” in a non-military, civilian environment, was introduced on a limited basis in several American cities in the late 1960’s, mainly to improve life-saving care to cardiac patients. In 1972, the NBC-TV series Emergency! provided the American public with a weekly glimpse into the world of Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics, helping to spread the idea across the nation. What was unique about the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s paramedic program was that firefighters were cross-trained as paramedics. 

In the Chicago area, fire departments with a tradition of providing ambulance service were the first to train paramedics and place Advanced Life Support (ALS) Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances into service. The Niles Fire Department – which had provided ambulance service to its residents since 1946 – established a paramedic-program in 1973. The Skokie Fire Department placed two MICU ambulances staffed with paramedic firefighters into service in 1975, replacing its two 1969 Cadillac Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances.

The Chicago Fire Department, which had provided ambulance service since 1928 and had 33 Cadillac and Pontiac BLS ambulances in service in 1974, placed their first two paramedic-staffed MICU ambulances into service in July 1974, with Ambulance 41 replacing Ambulance 1 at E1/T1 and Ambulance 42 replacing Ambulance 21 at E13. Five additional CFD MICU ambulances were in service by the end of 1974, with Ambulance 43 replacing Ambulance 11 at E22, Ambulance 44 replacing Ambulance 24 at E57, Ambulance 45 replacing Ambulance 2 at E103, Ambulance 47 replacing Ambulance 7 at E108/T23, and Ambulance 16 at O’Hare Field.

The City of Evanston borrowed an MICU “demonstrator” – minus the drugs and the specialized ALS gear only paramedics would be certified to use – from the State of Illinois Department of Public Health in June 1974, and it was tested over a 60-day period by the EFD. It was a modular ambulance, meaning it was a cab & chassis with a “box” mounted on top of the chassis. Personnel from Squad 21 were assigned to the unit (known as Ambulance 1) and responded to inhalator calls and ambulances runs city-wide throughout the summer. An engine company was dispatched as a “first responder” for inhalator calls outside Station # 1’s first-due area.

Three Evanston Police Department station-wagon patrol-ambulances were still in service in 1974 and (if available) could respond to inhalator calls and ambulance runs if the EFD’s MICU demonstrator was unavailable. The police patrol-ambulances were backed-up by the three stretcher-equipped EFD station-wagons. However, the three EFD stretcher-equipped station wagons (F-3 at Station # 5, F-4 at Station # 2, and F-5 at Station # 1) were used by Fire Prevention Bureau inspectors and the training officer during business hours, and normally could be staffed by personnel from an engine company (presuming the engine company was available and in quarters) only at night, on weekends, and holidays.   

Although the fire department was testing the MICU ambulance, Evanston Mayor Jim Staples wanted police officers – NOT firefighters – to be trained as paramedics, with the Evanston Police Department – NOT the Evanston Fire Department – operating the MICUs! He wanted the ambulances to be out on the street 24/7, just like the police patrol-ambulances. 

Evanston Police Chief William McHugh was apoplectic, saying there was no way his police department wanted any part of the new emergency medical service (EMS). Crime was on the rise in Evanston, gang activity was starting to become a problem, and the police department was hard-pressed just to provide rudimentary “throw-and-go”style ambulance service, without having to commit personnel and resources to a sophisticated new program.
Mayor Staples’ idea was politely considered, and then with approval of the Evanston City Council, City Manager Ed Martin assigned the the new EMS paramedic program to the fire department. Seven firefighters — Roger Bush, Dave Cleland, Jim Dillon, Randy Drott, Jerry McDermott, Jim McLaughlin, and Dave Pettinger — were trained and certified as paramedics at St. Francis Hospital during 1975. Although the fire department had not been the primary provider of ambulance service in Evanston over the years, firefighters knew all about saving lives. The EFD had been responding to inhalator calls since 1913!

In addition to establishing the new EMS program, the face of the Evanston Fire Department was changing in other ways as well. On November 26, 1973, the Evanston City Council agreed to appropriate funds to purchase a new 1,000-GPM pumper with a 300-gallon water tank. Only two bids were received; one from Howe ($43,242), and one from Pirsch ($47,721). Howe was awarded the contract, with an expected delivery date of one year. The pumper would feature an International-Harvester cab. 

On January 21, 1974, the city council authorized funds to purchase a second pumper with the exact same specifications, and Howe once again was awarded the contract by offering to supply the second pumper for $44,575 (slightly higher than its bid for the first pumper, but still below the Pirsch bid), but with the understanding that the price would go up substantially if the contract was not signed by February 5th. The city council wasted no time, and the contract was signed immediately.

The two new Howe – International pumpers were to replace the two 1958 Seagrave 1000 / 300 open cab pumpers at Station # 3 and Station # 4. On the orders of Chief Beattie, both of the Howe rigs were painted “safety yellow,” had rear-facing jump seats so that firefighters would no longer need to ride on the tailboard, were equipped with electronic sirens to be set in manual mode to reduce noise pollution, and had only one rear discharge port for a 1-1/2 inch pre-connect line, instead of the two rear discharge ports and two 1-1/2-inch pre-connects that had been standard on EFD pumpers since 1958. By eliminating one of the pre-connected attack lines, there would be more room in the hose-bed for larger-diameter hose.

Instead of a second rear discharge port and a second 1-1/2-inch pre-connect hose line, Chief Beattie specified that the new pumpers have a top-mounted booster reel (sometimes called a red line) that could be led-out quickly at a car fire, trash fire, brush fire, or gas wash, and in some cases even at a structure fire. EFD pumpers had not been ordered with booster reels since the Pirsch pumpers in 1952, something Chief Beattie believed was a mistake.  

Besides the new pumpers, the Evanston Fire Department also added a 1974 Dodge van (fleet # 341) for use as a utility vehicle, replacing the 1956 International-Harvester pick-up truck. Located in the shop bay at Fire Station # 1, the van could be used by EFD mechanics to run errands or to respond to a repair job at a fire, on the road, or at one of the four outlying fire stations, as well as to transport manpower and supplies to and from a large fire or other major incident. As with the two new Howe pumpers, Chief Beattie ordered the van be painted “safety yellow.”

Also in 1974, the WWII-era DUKW amphibious vehicle (F-7) that had been in service with the EFD since 1964 and the rescue trailer acquired from the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1954 were taken out service. Some of the equipment and gear carried in the trailer was placed in storage at Station # 1, in the event that it might be needed for a tornado, flood, airplane crash, or some other disaster or mass casualty event. A 17-foot Boston Whaler (the new F-7) with an outboard marine engine and a boat trailer were purchased to replace the DUKW as the EFD’s Lake Michigan rescue vehicle, with a trailer hitch installed on the new van so that it could tow the boat & trailer to the Church Street Boat Ramp if it was needed.

The first of the new Howe – International pumpers arrived in November 1974 and was placed in service at Station # 3 as the new Engine 23 (fleet # 326), and the second Howe – International pumper arrived in May 1975 and was placed in service as the new Engine 24 (fleet # 324) at Station # 4. The 1958 Seagrave pumper that had been running as Engine 23 was placed into reserve at Station # 3 as Engine 26, and the 1958 Seagrave pumper that had been running as Engine 24 was sold at auction.; #EvanstonFD; #FireTruck

photographer unknown

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 71

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Two major fires occurred in Evanston within about a month of each other in early 1974. The Evanston Fire Department battled an extra alarm fire in the service department of the Humphrey Chevrolet automobile dealership at 635 Chicago Avenue on a Sunday afternoon in January 1974, and then a very large fire at the Marblecast Company warehouse at 1920 Ridge Avenue on a Saturday night in February.

Located at the northeast corner of Chicago & Keeney, Humphrey Chevrolet’s main garage door opened onto Keeney Street, and it was through this entrance that firefighters attacked the flames. Very much like the Moto-Port fire in 1956 and the Holiday Lincoln-Mercury fire in 1968, this blaze involved vehicles, gasoline, and other flammables located inside a commercial garage, producing thick black smoke that poured out of the garage and permeated the neighborhood.

Crews from Engine 22 and Squad 21 initially attacked the fire with hand-lines, before being forced to back-out when conditions in the interior worsened. Engine 24 took the hydrant at Hinman & Keeney and supplied water for Engine 22 and Squad 21. Engine 21 and Engine 23 responded on the second alarm and led-out multiple 2-1/2 inch hose-lines, with Engine 21 pumping from the hydrant at Chicago & South Boulevard, and Engine 23 pumping from the one located on the east-side of Chicago Avenue half a block north of Keeney. The service department was gutted and several vehicles were destroyed before the flames were extinguished. The estimated loss from this fire was $160,000.

About a month after the Humphrey Chevrolet fire, the EFD responded to a report of a fire at the Marblecast warehouse. Located in the former Bowman Dairy building, the blaze was initially attacked from the interior with hand-lines manned by the first-arriving engine companies, while Truck 21 ventilated the roof. F-2 ordered a second alarm, bringing Engine 25, Engine 22, and Truck 22 to the scene, with second alarm companies ordered to protect the Fields Cadillac automobile dealership exposure to the north.

Mutual aid was requested from Wilmette, and Engine 202 responded to EFD Station # 1 to provide coverage for the city, as Engine 24 — the last remaining EFD engine company available — was dispatched to the fire. Despite a valiant effort by the engine companies, the fire had gained too much headway to allow firefighters to knock it down, so crews were ordered out of the building and the fight went defensive.

With Truck 21 working on the east side and Truck 22 operating from the C&NW RR freight siding on the west side, the EFD’s two ladder trucks provided elevated master streams that were played through the roof after it collapsed, as well as 35-foot and 50-foot ground ladders used to access the roof of the Fields Cadillac automobile dealership. The general manager of the auto dealership as well as several employees responded from home and moved a number of Caddies out of the showroom and service department.

A full Code 10 was ordered by Chief Beattie, calling in firefighters from the two off-duty shifts, many of them responding from a party hosted by IAFF Local 742. The two reserve engines and the reserve truck were manned by off-duty crews arriving at Stations 3, 4, and 5, while other firefighters were shuttled to the scene in EFD station wagons and the International pick-up truck.

The auto dealership to the north was saved but the warehouse was gutted, with an estimated property loss loss of $543,000, the sixth-highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point time. Only the fires at the American Hospital Supply Corporation ($1.9 million loss in October 1963), the Rolled Steel Corporation ($1.4 million loss in January 1970), Bramson’s clothing store ($1.2 million in October 1971), the Northwestern University Technological Institute ($620,000 loss in December 1940), and Hines Lumber Yard ($545,000 loss in March 1971) sustained a higher property loss.

During the 1960’s, IAFF Local 742 grew increasingly militant under the dynamic leadership of Michael Lass. Lass joined the EFD in 1963, and was promoted to Captain in 1970. However, his real talent was as a union operative. Capt. Lass resigned from the EFD in 1971, giving up a promising career as a fire officer to take a full-time job as IAFF Illinois field representative. Capt. William Currie, a 20-year veteran of the EFD, succeeded Lass as president of Local 742, but the union was no less militant under Capt. Currie than it had been under Capt. Lass.

At 6 AM on Thursday, February 28, 1974, just a few days after the Marblecast fire, 88 members of Local 742 led by Capt. Currie went on strike, the first significant job action by Evanston firemen since eleven of the twelve members of the part-time paid EFD resigned en masse in a dispute with Chief Sam Harrison in 1888. Requesting an immediate 10% pay raise and a reduction in their work-week, Evanston firefighters struck only after the City of Evanston refused to negotiate.

With 88 members of the Evanston Fire Department plus their families, friends, and citizens sympathetic to the cause walking picket lines in front of the five fire stations, EFD chiefs, police officers who had been cross-trained as auxiliary firefighters in 1958, and other assorted “volunteers” from various city departments were ordered to man the fire stations. Two police officers were assigned to each of the three police station wagon ambulances, as the Evanston PD responded to inhalator calls without EFD support. The Village of Skokie agreed to allow its fire department to provide mutual aid to Evanston, but only in the event of a working fire.

The City of Evanston requested and received an emergency court injunction to stop the strike, but only after another judge refused to grant one. Members of Local 742 returned to work at 11 AM on Saturday, March 2nd, the strike having lasted 53 hours. No significant fires occurred during the strike. Despite some in city government claiming the city had won, the Evanston City Council recognized Local 742 as the collective bargaining entity for Evanston firefighters, and directed City Manager Ed Martin and the city attorney to negotiate with the union. As a result, Evanston firefighters received a significant pay raise, and the average work-week was reduced from 56 to 54 hours.

In the year prior to the strike (1973), annual salaries for “topped out” members of the Evanston Fire Department ranged from $20,600 (Chief) to $17,880 (Assistant Chief) to $15,192 (Captain) to $13,848 (Fire Equipment Mechanic) to $13,008 (Fireman I). By 1977, annual salaries for “topped out” members of the EFD had increased to $29,000 (Chief), $23,952 (Assistant Chief), $19,788 (Captain), $18,660 (Fire Equipment Mechanic), and $17,256 (Fireman I), in each case an increase of anywhere from 30% – 40% over the four-year period. This increase is made even more significant when combined with a reduction in the average work-week from 56 to 54 hours during the same period of time.

Reducing the work-week was accomplished by the return of the “Kelly Day” (henceforth to be known as a “Short Day”), a concept that had been phased-out when the three-platoon system and 56-hour work-week were implemented in April 1957. Beginning in 1975, each Evanston firefighter working a shift would receive an extra day off every twelve weeks (a five-day mini-vacation after every 27 days worked). To provide the three additional men needed to cover short days (one extra man on each platoon), one of the two captain’s positions in the Fire Prevention Bureau was eliminated, and the EFD was increased from 100 to 102 members.

The “Collective Bargaining Bill” was signed into law by Illinois Governor James Thompson on December 10, 1985. In addition to providing collective bargaining rights for Illinois firefighters, the bill also made strikes by firefighters illegal. However, Evanston firefighters won collective bargaining rights in 1974 because they were willing to risk their careers by going out on strike after the city refused to negotiate, which in subsequent  contracts helped lead to more substantial pay raises, a further reduction in the work-week, and improvements in working conditions. 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 70

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Long-time Assistant Chief Ed Fahrbach retired in July 1972 after 43 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department. He was sixth longest-serving member of the EFD at the time of his retirement, behind only Albert Hofstetter (49 years), Tom McEnery (46 years), J. E. Mersch (45 years), Michael Garrity (44 years), and Jim Geishecker (44 years). Chief Fahrbach’s father — Edward G. Fahrbach — served as an Evanston firefighter 1916-40.  

Hired in 1929, Chief Fahrbach was promoted to lieutenant in 1944, to captain in 1949, and then to assistant chief (platoon commander) when the EFD went to the three platoon schedule in 1958. He was also a platoon drillmaster in the 1950’s. Chief Fahrbach was the only Evanston fireman hired prior to the Great Depression who was still on the job in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, his golden years didn’t last very long, as he died in 1973, just a year after he retired.

Chief Fire Marshal Jim Wheeler retired in ill health in 1973 after 27 years of service, only two years after he was appointed chief. Chief Wheeler’s father and brother also served with the EFD, with his brother Chester retiring at the same time as Assistant Chief Fahrbach in 1972. For a period of about a year after Jim was appointed chief and before Chester retired, Chester was one of Jim’s buggy drivers. After retiring from the EFD, Chester became a Police / Fire communications operator. 27-year EFD veteran Assistant Chief George Beattie replaced Chief Wheeler as chief fire marshal in September 1973.

Several other veteran Evanston firefighters retired in 1973, including Capt. George “Bud” Hofstetter (Engine 23) after 32 years of service, Capt. Vic Majewski (Truck 22) after 31 years of service, and Fireman Ernie Bouchard after 26 years of service. Also, Capt. Len Driskell (Engine 24) and Fireman Neal Smithwick retired on disability pensions in 1973.

Capt. Ed Pettinger was promoted to assistant chief fire marshal and replaced Ed Fahrbach as a platoon commander in 1972, and Capt. Sanders “Sam” Hicks was promoted to assistant chief fire marshal and replaced George Beattie as a platoon commander in 1973. Chief Hicks was the EFD’s first African American chief officer. Also, firemen Don Melzer, Bill Currie, Fred Nelson, and Don Sherrie were promoted to captain in 1973. Capt. Currie was IAFF Local 742 chapter president at the time of his promotion, having succeeded Michael Lass after Lass resigned in September 1971 to take a position with the IAFF as Illinois field rep.

New firefighters hired in 1973 were Jim Cox, Jim Dillon, Lou LoBianco, Dave Busch, Roger Bush, Dave O’Malley, Benjamin Phillips, Jim Hayes. and Bob Marti, Also, Faith Seiler was hired as the chief’s secretary, a new position created to replace the chief’s buggy drivers who had served as administrative assistants to the chief since 1901. Faith Seiler transferred to the Evanston Police Department in February 1974 and was replaced by June Eastman. In addition, long-time Fire Prevention Bureau administrative assistant Eleanor Franzen retired in 1972. Shirley Breitenstein replaced Eleanor Franzen, and then Sandra Waas replaced Shirley Breitenstein about a year later.

Jim Wheeler and George Beattie were hired off the same civil service list in 1946, but they had rather different styles as once they became the chief fire marshal. Chief Wheeler was a traditionalist and didn’t change anything once he was appointed chief, but Chief Beattie had a number of new ideas that he proposed and then implemented after becoming chief. Probably the most significant immediate change was reassigning his buggy-drivers to the Fire Prevention Bureau, where they would work shifts as inspectors and photographers instead of as chief’s drivers and administrative assistants. To that end, a new 1973 Plymouth station wagon was purchased for Chief Beattie, so that the chief now had a “take home” car and would no longer need a driver.

The only emergency lights on the chief’s new vehicle were red lens covers over the high-beam headlights, and a magnetic “Kojak light” that could be connected to the cigarette lighter and then placed on the roof when responding to an emergency. Also, the chief would no longer automatically respond to working fires. He would be notified about the incident by the Police / Fire Communications center, and then he would decide whether to respond to the incident or allow the platoon commander to remain in charge.

To improve the visibility of fire apparatus, Chief Beattie ordered all new EFD vehicles purchased to be painted in non-traditional “safety yellow.” Also, to reduce noise pollution, electronic sirens were to be installed on all new EFD vehicles, and the sirens were to be placed in manual mode and used only in short bursts when approaching intersections, pedestrians, and/or traffic congestion. 

Probably the most radical idea proposed by Chief Beattie was the creation of a new Emergency Medical Services Bureau, with firefighters volunteering for the program being cross-trained as paramedics and then staffing Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances. Once the program was implemented, the plan was for the MICU ambulances to replace stretcher and first-aid equipped police station wagon patrol cars backed-up by stretcher and first-aid equipped EFD station wagon staff cars that had been providing ambulance service in Evanston since 1958.

Until such time as MICU ambulances could be acquired and firefighters could be cross-trained as paramedics, Chief Beattie ordered engine companies responding to inhalator calls to use EFD station wagons whenever possible, in order to reduce wear and tear on the increasingly more expensive EFD pumpers, and to have a vehicle with a stretcher available at the scene in case the police ambulance was delayed or had to be diverted to a police emergency. The main problem with this plan was that while the engine company was at an inhalator call or returning to quarters from an inhalator call, the engine was not available to respond to a fire until the company was physically back in quarters. This same problem would become an issue several years later, when ambulances were sometimes staffed by engine or truck “jump companies.”

As one might expect, given the long history and tradition of the Evanston Fire Department there was a bit of resistance and push-back from some of the more veteran members of the EFD against Chief Beattie’s ideas, but they were all eventually implemented. Only the “safety yellow” fire engines equipped with electronic sirens did not ultimately stand the test of time. 

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 69

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Chief Lester Breitzman retired in July 1971, after 35 years of service with the Evanston Fire Department. Chief Breitzman was one of only four firemen hired by the City of Evanston between 1932 and 1939, as the country was in the grip of the Great Depression. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1947, to captain in 1952, and to assistant chief in 1957. He commanded the Fire Prevention Bureau for eight years prior to being appointed chief in 1964.

In addition to Chief Breitzman’s retirement, Capt. Leonard Bach (29 years of service), and firemen Ed Lyyjoki (23 years of service), Robert Godeman (20 years of service), and Richard Hennessey (24 years of service) also retired in 1971. Capt. Michael Lass resigned just one year after being promoted to captain, taking a position as IAFF Illinois field rep. A brilliant union leader, Capt.Lass had been president of Local 742 prior to his resignation. 

Twenty five-year veteran Assistant Chief Jim Wheeler served as acting chief when Chief Breitzman retired, and then was appointed chief fire marshal in October. Chief Wheeler’s father Orville was an Evanston firefighter 1914-24, passing away after a short illness in July 1924, just days before he was to have been promoted to lieutenant. Orville was a chief’s buggy-driver prior to his death, and his older son (and Jim’s older brother) Chester was a long-time chief’s buggy-driver / administrative assistant as well, before he retired in 1972. 

Capt. Robert Brandt was promoted to assistant chief and replaced Chief Wheeler as a platoon commander, and firemen Jim Burns and John “Skip” Hrejsa and fire equipment mechanic Ernie Bongratz were promoted to captain in 1971. New firemen hired were Phil Burns, Dave Cleland, William Noland, Bruce Peters, Dave Pettinger, and Ken Semrow in 1971, and Michael Lipnisky in 1972.   

The EFD added three new Dodge station wagons to the fleet in 1970-71, with the two 1970 Dodge wagons assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau (F-3 & F-4), and the 1971 Dodge wagon assigned to the platoon commander (F-2). The new station wagons replaced a 1963 Plymouth station wagon, a 1964 Plymouth station wagon, and a 1962 Ford station wagon. The new F-3 was an auxiliary ambulance just like the previous F-3, equipped with a stretcher and first-aid gear and garaged at Station # 5 at night and on weekends when not being used by an FPB inspector, available to be staffed by Engine 25 when needed. 

An unusual incident occurred on August 9, 1971, when a seaplane taking off from Lake Michigan near Clark Street Beach crashed and capsized. The U. S. Coast Guard crew stationed at Wilmette Harbor responded to the crash aboard their cutter, and Squad 21 responded aboard the EFD’s DUKW (F-7). A USCG rescue helicopter also responded. Both of the occupants in the plane were rescued.

Major fires occurring during Chief Wheeler’s regime, including one at the J. P. Schermerhorn & Company condominium at 838 Michigan Avenue in September 1971 ($95,000 damage), another that gutted Bramson’s clothing store at 1711 Sherman Avenue in October 1971 ($1.2 million loss), one at the Evanston Scrap Metal & Iron works at 1311 Foster Street in January 1972 ($150,000 loss), one at the Freedman Seating Company warehouse at 2000 Greenleaf Street in February 1973 ($100,000 damage), and an explosion and fire at a laboratory inside the Northwestern University Technological Institute at 2145 Sheridan Road ($87,167 damage) in March 1973.

The condo fire in September 1971 involved a fairly new five-story multi-unit residence that required a high-rise attack, with water supplied by engines pumping into stand-pipes, engine companies donning SCBA and carrying hotel loads into the building and attacking the blaze from the floor below the fire floor, and truck companies ventilating the floors above the fire. It was a complicated operation that required personnel to rotate in and out of the building as SCBA air supply ran out. Bottles were transported back & forth via EFD station wagons and the International pick-up truck from the scene to Station # 1, where the bottles could be refilled. 

The fire at the upscale Bramson’s clothing store in the downtown “high value district” was reported about 45 minutes before the 8 AM shift change, so that the oncoming shift was available to staff the two reserve engines and the reserve truck. This allowed all five engine companies, both truck companies, and Squad 21 to respond to the fire within the first few minutes. The fire was located in the basement, and crews from Engine 21, 22, and 23 spent about half an hour attempting to locate the seat of the blaze, while Truck 21 ventilated, and Truck 22 and Squad 21 performed salvage duties. .

Unfortunately, the fire eventually worked its way up through the walls into the first floor, at which point crews were ordered out of the building and the fight went defensive. The aerial ladders of both Truck 21 and Truck 22 were extended to establish elevated master streams, with water supplied by Engine 24 pumping from Davis & Sherman and Engine 25 pumping from Clark & Sherman. Engine 23 took the hydrant at the northwest corner of Church & Sherman, supplying a monitor set-up on the roof of Lytton’s clothing store to the south,

Engine 21 supplied another monitor set-up in front of the store from the hydrant located on the east side of Sherman Avenue just north of the fire, and Engine 22 was at the hydrant at Church and Orrington, supplying 2-1/2 inch lines to a monitor located in the alley. Engine 21, Engine 22, and Engine 23 also supplied hand lines that were used in the initial interior attack and then again later once the fire was under control. The $1.2 million loss from this fire was the third highest loss from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.           

The Evanston Scrap Metal and Iron Works fire on Foster Street was more than a junkyard fire. Although the business was involved in the acquisition of scrap metal (including a couple of old Evanston fire trucks), it recycled the metal for use in various types of construction projects. This was a “surround and drown” type of fight that involved using master streams to knock down the main fire, and then hand-lines used in an extensive overhaul that lasted many hours.

The fire at the Freedman Seating Company warehouse on Greenleaf Street was a day-long slog, as truck companies ventilated, Squad 21 salvaged, and three engine companies supplied hand-lines from nearby hydrants. This was just one of many fires to occur over the years in a business located in close proximity to the C&NW RR Mayfair Division freight tracks on the west side of Evanston.

The $87,167 loss from the fire at the Northwestern University Technological Institute stemmed mainly from the initial explosion. Firefighters made an interior attack using stand-pipes and hotel loads, and the fire in the lab was knocked-down fairly quickly by Engine 23 and Engine 21. Five years later, the Unabomber sent a mail bomb to the same facility. An NUDPS officer was injured when he opened the suspicious package. The 1973 fire & explosion at the N. U. Tech building was the second major fire to occur there. In December 1940, Evanston and Chicago firemen battled a major conflagration involving the building’s superstructure while it was still under construction.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 68

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


By 1970, Evanston’s population stood at a robust 80,113, up slightly from 1960 (79,383). The next ten years, however, would see a steady decline in population. Evanston’s 1980 census counted 73,706 residents, down nearly 10% from 1970, and back to a population total not seen in Evanston since 1950. Evanston’s population has remained constant at just under 75,000 since 1980.

Evanston incurred three major fires over the first four months of 1970 that together caused more than $2 million in damage. The first one was at the Rolled Steel Corporation plant at 2100 Greenwood Street on a frigid day in January. The fire was caused by an out-of-control furnace that ignited a rolling mill. Station # 1 and Station # 4 companies responded on the initial alarm, with Truck 22 and Engine 25 dispatched on the second alarm about 30 minutes later to provide additional manpower, as companies were rotated in & out of the very hot interior.

Because of the value of the equipment and stock destroyed in the fire, the loss was estimated $1.4 million, the second highest loss from fire in Evanston’s history up to that point in time. However, other than the very high dollar loss, the fire itself wasn’t spectacular. Only Engine 21 and Engine 24 led-out and pumped during the course of the fire, with the other companies engaged in extensive ventilation and salvage work,

At about 8 PM on the cold, windy night of Sunday, March 10, 1970, the Evanston Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at the Hines Lumber yard at 1613 Church St. Companies from Station #1 were on scene within three minutes followed by Engine 24 a minute later, but the flames had already gained considerable headway by the time crews arrived.

Upon arrival, F-2 immediately ordered a second alarm that brought Engine 23 and Engine 25 to the  fire, followed a minute later by a mutual-aid request for two Skokie engines, a Wilmette engine, and a full Code 10 (call-back of all off-duty Evanston firefighters). Squad 21 led out two 1-1/2 inch pre-connects initially to try and knock the fire down, but there was just too much fuel and too much wind. Squad 21 then switched to its deluge turret nozzle, with Engine 21 supplying Squad 21’s master stream after hooking up to the hydrant at the southeast corner of Church & Florence. Engine 21 also led out additional 2-1/2 inch hand-lines.

Truck 21 took a position in the parking lot of the business to the east of the lumber yard and extended its aerial ladder almost immediately after arriving. Engine 24 took the hydrant at Church & Ashland and supplied Truck 21’s elevated master-stream. Engine 25 grabbed the hydrant at the northeast corner of Church & Darrow and led out 2-1/2 inch lines that supplied a monitor placed atop the elevated C&NW RR Mayfair Division freight tracks located on the west side of the lumber yard.

Skokie Engine 2 pulled up across the street from the lumber yard and connected to the hydrant on the south side of Church Street, leading-out multiple 2-1/2 inch hand lines manned by personnel from Skokie FD Engine 2 and Squad-Engine 1. Wilmette Engine 206 backed-down Florence Avenue from Davis Street and dropped two loads of 2-1/2 inch line before taking the hydrant at Davis & Florence. A load of 2-1/2 inch line from Engine 23 was connected to Engine 21, but Engine 23 did not pump at the fire. 

Engine 22 and Truck 22 responded to the fire once off-duty firefighters began to arrive and placed the two reserve engines and the reserve truck into service, and were assigned to protect exposures to the west of the Mayfair tracks. It was essentially a big bonfire, as lumber, sheds, and the company office were destroyed. Damage was estimated at $545,00, the fourth highest loss from fire in Evanston’s history, behind only the American Hospital Supply Corporation fire (1963), the Northwestern University Technological Institute fire (1940), and the Rolled Steel Corporation fire (January 1970).

Just a few days after the lumber yard fire, the EFD battled a stubborn blaze at the world-famous Northwestern University Traffic Institute (NUTI) at 1802 Hinman Ave. Founded in 1933 by Evanston Police Lt. Frank Kreml in partnership with Northwestern University, NUTI was located in a large 19th century wood-frame mansion just south of the campus. The institute offered college-level courses in accident investigation, accident prevention, and traffic enforcement strategy. Its curriculum was eventually expanded to include all aspects of police science, including administration and management. Future police chiefs from all over the world attended NUTI.

Companies from Station # 1 arrived first, with Chief Breitzman ordering a second alarm that brought an additional engine company and an additional truck company to the scene. The fire was ensconced somewhere deep within the bowels of the venerable structure, such that extensive probing, pulling of ceiling, and opening up walls was required just to locate the seat of the blaze. It was an all-day operation that initially involved surgical roof ventilation and a lot of salvage work by the truck companies, before firemen were ordered out of building as the fight went defensive. The historic structure was gutted, with the loss estimated at $130,000.

Capt. Ted Bierchen (21 years of service), Capt. Dan Lorden (24 years of service), and Capt. Dave Tesnow (24 years of service) retired in 1970. Firemen Michael Lass, Jim Mersch Jr, and Joe Burton were promoted to captain on December 1st. Capt. Burton joined Capt. Sanders “Sam” Hicks (promoted in 1963) and Capt. Don Searles (promoted in 1965) as one of the EFD’s first three African American captains. New firefighters hired in 1970 were Phil Schmidt, Ed Galloway, Johnny King, and John Munro.

The EFD battled two significant fires in apartment buildings in late 1970 / early 1971. The first one occurred in December 1970, at 1003 Hinman Avenue in southeast Evanston. This apartment building was one of many similar multi-family residential structures that were constructed in Evanston and Rogers Park during the North Shore’s so-called “million dollar a month building boom” of 1918-23. The fire started in one of the apartments on the first floor, and then communicated to the other units. All of the occupants were safely evacuated. The aggregate loss to the building and contents was estimated at $85,000.

The second fire occurred on a bitter cold day in January 1971, in a large wood frame rooming house occupied by Northwestern University students at 2010 Sherman Ave. Firemen spent more than an hour pulling ceiling and opening up walls, before being ordered to evacuate and take defensive positions after interior conditions  worsened. A call-back of off-duty personnel allowed fresh crews to relieve nearly-frozen ice-encrusted firefighters manning exterior hose lines. The exhausted men were then piled into EFD station wagons like cordwood to be transported back to Station # 1 to thaw out. The loss from this fire was estimated at $90,000.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 67

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



The Mutual-Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) was established in 1968 to provide pre-planned mutual-aid responses to large fires involving north suburban fire departments and fire protection districts. The Evanston Fire Department was assigned to MABAS Division 3, along with the Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Highwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Park Ridge, Skokie, Wilmette, and Winnetka fire departments, the Deerfield-Bannockburn, Glenview Rural, Northbrook Rural, and North Maine fire protection districts, and the Glenview Naval Air Station.

The Glenview FD was the designated MABAS Division 3 dispatch center, and Niles FD was the back-up. The mutual-aid fire channel known as NIFERN (Northern Illinois Fire Emergency Radio Network – 154.265 Mhz) was used by MABAS. In the event of a major fire, the stricken fire department would contact the MABAS dispatcher via NIFERN and advise the box number, the physical location of the incident, and the alarm level being requested. The MABAS dispatcher would then transmit the alarm over the NIFERN radio frequency. Units responding to the box alarm were responsible for switching to NIFERN and contacting the MABAS dispatcher, advising the dispatcher that they were en route. Because all companies responding to a MABAS box alarm were required to be staffed by at least four firefighters, only EFD Station # 1 or Station # 2 companies responded to MABAS box alarms.

Most of the fire departments in Division 3 had more than one box card, with a different response depending on the box number’s location. Evanston, however, had just one box card (# 625), with Lake & Elmwood (Fire Station # 1) listed as the location of the box. A Wilmette engine and a Skokie truck were due to respond into Evanston on a box alarm, with a Skokie engine due on a second alarm, and a Winnetka engine (changed to a Winnetka Snorkel in 1983) and a Morton Grove engine due on a third alarm. A Glenview Naval Air Station ARFF was also listed on the card in the event it was needed. Otherwise, anything beyond a third alarm would be a “special call.” Also, there was no “dive box,” no “ambulance box,” no “fire investigation box,” et al in 1968. MABAS existed strictly for large fires at that time.  

The EFD was not due to respond everywhere in MABAS Division 3, and where an Evanston engine, truck and/or squad was due to respond, the level of the alarm on which it was due varied based on the box number. In some cases, the Evanston company was just changing quarters to provide back-up coverage. An Evanston engine, truck, and squad were on the Morton Grove box card, an Evanston engine and truck were on Niles and Skokie cards, an Evanston engine was on the Glenview, Northbrook, North Maine, and Wilmette cards, an Evanston truck was on the Glencoe, Northfield, and Park Ridge cards, and an Evanston squad was on the Winnetka card. Although the Evanston Fire Department routinely responded to MABAS box alarms, the EFD almost never requested a MABAS box back in the day, even for a large fire. A call-back of off-duty firefighters was required before a chief could request a MABAS box, so when immediate mutual-aid was needed, EFD chiefs would just request assistance directly from Wilmette and/or Skokie.

The Evanston Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau underwent several significant personnel changes in the years 1965-68. Long-time FPB inspector Capt. Harry Meginnis retired in 1965 after 23-years of service with the EFD, and 25-year veteran Assistant Chief Harry Schaeffer Jr – commander of the Fire Prevention Bureau – retired in 1967 after he was appointed Illinois State Fire Marshal by Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner,

FPB inspector Capt. Tom Hanson was promoted to assistant chief fire marshal and replaced Chief Schaeffer as commander of the FPB, but then Chief Hanson himself retired after twenty years of service in 1968 to take a high-paying job in the private sector. FPB inspector Capt. Robert Schumer was then promoted to assistant chief fire marshal and replaced Chief Hanson as FPB commander. Capt. William Lapworth and Capt. Joe Thill were transferred to the FPB in 1967-68, and they worked as FPB inspectors until they retired.

In addition to the changes in the FPB circa 1965-69, veteran firemen Nicholas Jung (24 years of service), George M. Harrison (23 years of service), and John Boho (22 years of service) retired in 1966, Capt. Ervin Lindeman retired after 31 years of service in 1967, firemen Stan Broslovik (22 years of service) and James Liozzo (20 years of service) retired in 1968, and Capt. Lou Peters retired after 27 years of service in 1969. Also, Capt. Richard Zrazik and Fireman Frank Sherry Jr retired on disability pensions, Capt. Zrazik in 1966, and firefighter Sherry in 1967.

Also, firemen Don Searles (1965), Joe Planos (1966), Bill Moore (1967), Henry Harloff and Pat Morrison (1968), and Tom Linkowski (1969) were promoted to captain during this period of time. New firemen hired were Vincent McEnaney (1965), Darold Olson, Ray Cottini, Jim McLaughlin, Nick Waldron, and Anthony Broz (1966), John Wright, Max Sheaffer, Pat Lynn, Albert Lesiak, William Beckley, and John Wilkinson (1967), Dave Franzen, Randy Drott, Michael Bunyon, and Jerry McDermott (1968), and John Graber, John Fisher, Neal Smithweck, and Robert Mulherin (1969).

It had been a sore spot in Evanston for many years that Northwestern University was tax exempt and therefore received fire protection from the city without paying for it. Then on November 18, 1968, Northwestern University unexpectedly donated the $29,602 needed to pay for a new Pirsch pumper for the Evanston Fire Department. It wasn’t totally altruistic, however, as the donation was a “thank you” from Northwestern after the Evanston City Council agreed to re-zone the square-block northeast of Emerson & Maple from single-family to high-rise / multi-family. This allowed N.U. to build the 10-story Engelhart residence hall for graduate students at 1915 Maple Avenue. It was the second-tallest building in Evanston after it was completed in 1971.

Since the pumper was donated by Northwestern University, one of the aldermen suggested that it should be painted either purple or white with purple stripes, with a “Willie the Wildcat” sticker on the doors, but that didn’t happen. it was presumed at the time of the donation that the new pumper would go into service at Fire Station # 3 since Engine 23 was first-due to the Northwestern University campus, with Engine 23’s 1958 Seagrave moving to Station # 5 to replace Engine 25’s 1952 Pirsch.

The new Pirsch pumper arrived in May 1970, and it was placed in service at Station # 2 — not at Station # 3, as had been expected. Engine 22 — the 1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 TCP ex-S21 that had been rebuilt as a TCP in 1966 — relocated to Station # 5, where it became the new Engine 25. The 1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 TCP that had been Engine 25 1952-70 was then placed into reserve at Station # 5 as Engine 27. The 1968 Pirsch (Engine 21) and the 1970 Pirsch (Engine 22) were nearly identical rigs, the primary difference being Engine 21 had a 1250-GPM pump, while Engine 22 had a 1000-GPM pump. 

Because the donation of the 1970 Pirsch pumper was unexpected and had not been part of the EFD’s master plan for apparatus replacement, the 1949 Seagrave 1000 / 80 TCP (Engine 26 – ex-E22) was no longer needed as a reserve pumper once the new Pirsch pumper arrived and the 1952 Pirsch pumper at Station # 5 was placed into reserve, and so it was sold at auction to a private collector for use as a parade and party vehicle. It was mainstay in the North Evanston Fourth of July Parade for many years.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 66

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



In 1962, the Evanston City Council and the Chamber of Commerce came to the unhappy realization that Evanston’s once-thriving downtown business district was dying a slow death. A master plan was developed to transition downtown Evanston from an upscale retail center to a banking, service, and hospitality mecca. The centerpiece of the plan was State Bank Plaza, a 22-story office building to be located on ground formerly home to Lord’s department store, the State National Bank, and Cooley’s Cupboard malt shop. Once erected, State Bank Plaza would be the tallest building between Chicago and Milwaukee.

With a 22-story high-rise under construction in the downtown “high-value district,” the city council appropriated funds in 1966 to purchase a 1250-GPM / 300 gallon triple-combination pumper and a 100-foot tractor-drawn aerial ladder truck. Peter Pirsch & Sons was awarded the contracts for both rigs, with the TCP costing $24,690 and the TDA costing $60,000. The initial plan was for the 1951 Pirsch 85-foot TDA (Truck 21 since 1951) to be moved from Station # 1 to Station # 3 once the new 100-foot TDA was placed into service as the new Truck 21, allowing the EFD to once again run three truck companies, as had been the case 1955-62. Also, new tractors were to be purchased for the 1951 and 1952 Pirsch TDAs.

Placing the third truck into service would have required transferring the fourth man assigned each shift to Truck Co. 21 and Squad 21 and the chief’s driver / administrative assistant to the third truck, leaving all nine companies – five engines, three trucks, and Squad 21 — staffed by three men each shift (plus the platoon commander), with three additional men assigned to each shift who would cover for absences due to vacation, illness, or injury incurred on duty. Like Evanston Police Chief Bert Giddens, EFD Chief Lester Breitzman would get a “take home” car, and a civilian secretary would be hired to be the chief’s new administrative assistant.

The new Pirsch 1250 / 300 TCP arrived in February 1968 and was placed into service at that time as the new Engine 21, with the former Engine 21 (1952 Pirsch 1000 / 80 TCP) becoming a reserve engine (Engine 28) at  Station # 4. The new Engine 21 was baptized under fire the day it was placed into service, at an extra-alarm fire in the service department of the Holiday Lincoln-Mercury automobile dealership at 535 Chicago Avenue. The service department was gutted before the flames were extinguished. The estimated loss from this fire was $160,000.
On April 5, 1968, Engine Co. 24 along with the fourth men from Squad 21 and Truck 21 responded as a five-man crew on an unusual mutual-aid assignment. The west side of Chicago was in flames in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr the night before in Memphis, and most of the Chicago Fire Department was engaged in fighting the fires. As a result, a number of suburban fire departments were requested to staff empty CFD firehouses in the outlying battalions,

EFD Engine 24 was assigned to CFD Engine Co. 70 at 1545 W. Rosemont Avenue in the 27th Battalion. Engine 24 was at Engine 70 for about 12 hours, before returning to Evanston. This was the second time an EFD engine company had been sent to a CFD firehouse, the first time being in May 1934 when Engine Co. 1 temporarily moved into Engine Co. 71’s quarters at 6239 N. California Avenue during the Union Stockyards conflagration.

Several months later, Engine 24 sustained extensive front-end damage in a traffic collision, and was sent to the Seagrave factory body shop in Clintonville, Wisconsin. After repairs were completed, Engine 24 was driven the 200 miles back to Evanston rather being shipped via flatbed trailer, as probably would have been the case if Seagrave was still based in Ohio. Because the pumper was being driven back to Evanston, Seagrave placed a canvas canopy over the open cab to protect the driver from the weather.

Once Engine 24 arrived in Evanston and was placed back into service at Station # 4, firefighters assigned to  the company found out they really liked the canvas canopy, so it would remain on Engine 24 going forward. Also, as a result of the repairs, the pumper now sported dual front headlights, replacing the single-beam headlights that were originally on the rig. At least as far as cosmetic appearance goes, the EFD’s two 1958 Seagrave pumpers (Engine 23 and Engine 24) were no longer “twins.”

The new Pirsch Senior 100-foot TDA arrived in time for Christmas 1968, but it was not placed into service for several weeks because firefighters needed time to become familiar with the new truck, and the brutal winter weather postponed some of the testing and training that was required before the truck could be formally  accepted by the city. The new Truck 21 was finally placed into service in February 1969.

The former Truck 21 temporarily replaced Truck 22 at Station # 2, because the city council redirected the $20,000 that would have been spent on two new tractors to an extensive “modernization” of Truck 22. The modernization of Truck 22 was a special deal offered by Pirsch, and it involved gutting the inside of the 1952 tractor and replacing just about everything, including the engine, transmission, axles, wheels, drive-train, electrical system, even new fenders with dual front headlights. The trailer also was extensively refurbished, with a new aerial-ladder control box, a new tiller system, and cabinets to provide water-tight storage space for equipment. It also received a new paint job. Pirsch called it “good as new, for half the price.” 

Once the modernization / refurbishment of Truck 22 was completed, the former Truck 21 that had been running temporarily as Truck 22 was transferred to Station # 3 and became the EFD’s reserve truck. As a result, there would be no third truck company. Truck 21 and Squad 21 would continue to run as four-man companies each shift, and one fireman each shift would serve as Chief Breitzman’s driver and administrative assistant.  

Both the 1937 Seagrave 65-foot aerial truck (Truck 23) and the 1937 Seagrave 750 / 80 TCP (Engine 27) were removed from the fleet in 1969. This left the EFD with two reserve pumpers  – the 1949 Seagrave 1000 / 80 TCP (Engine 26) at Station # 5 and the 1952 Pirsch 1000 / 80 TCP (Engine 28) at Station # 4 – and the reserve 1951 Pirsch 85-foot TDA (Truck 23) at Station # 3. As of 1969, all pumpers including the two reserve engines had a minimum 1000-GPM pump, all trucks had a minimum 85-foot aerial ladder, the oldest front-line rig was 17 years old, and no reserve rig was more than twenty years old. 


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Evanston Fire Department history Part 65

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department



Chief Lester Breitzman and the platoon commanders were equipped with Motorola HT-200 portable two-way radios in 1965. Because he now had a hand-held radio he could carry around the fireground, It was decided that the platoon commander no longer needed a driver / radio operator, so the firemen formerly assigned to drive F-2 were transferred to Squad 21, and became the squad’s fourth man each shift. When transmitting via handie-talkie, the chief used the radio call-sign “F-1-X,” and the platoon commander was “F-2-X.” Company officers were also eventually assigned handie-talkies, and were identified as “Engine 23-X,” “Squad 21-X,” “Truck 22-X,” etc, when operating on a portable radio.

Wayne Anderson became Evanston’s new city manager in 1963, and with Squad 21 back in front-line service and responding with four men to all fire calls, Bert Johnson’s Police-Fire Cooperative Plan was quietly phased out in 1965. However, the three police station-wagon patrol-ambulances remained in service and continued to respond to inhalator calls and ambulance runs, and while police officers were no longer expected to work as firefighters (except in extraordinary circumstances), police recruits did receive some training in basic firefighting.

The EFD added three new station wagons to the fleet in the years 1964-66, including a 1964 Plymouth station wagon (the new F-3) that was assigned to a Fire Prevention Bureau inspector during business hours and garaged at Fire Station # 5 at night and on weekends and holidays, a 1965 Dodge station wagon (F-5)  assigned to the Training Officer at Station # 1, and a 1966 Ford station wagon (the new F-1) assigned to Chief Breitzman at Station # 2. All three of the station wagons were equipped with stretchers and first-aid kits and served as auxiliary ambulances, backing-up the three police station wagon patrol ambulances.

F-2 (the platoon commander’s 1963 Plymouth station wagon) no longer served as an auxiliary ambulance after the platoon commander’s driver was transferred to Squad 21 in 1965, but F-1 always had a driver, and (if in quarters) F-3 was staffed by Engine 25 personnel and F-5 was manned by the fourth man from Squad 21 or Truck 21 when needed. In addition, Squad 21 and station wagons F-1 and F-3 were equipped with a wooden back-board known in EFD parlance as a “fracture board,” and so Squad 21, F-1, or F-3 would be dispatched to any incident involving a significant back or neck injury.

Reserve Engine 26 (ex-E2 – 1927 Seagrave Standard 1000 / 50 TCP) – the EFD’s oldest rig – was taken out of service in 1965, and was converted to playground equipment by EFD mechanics. The conversion involved removing the engine, pump, transmission, drive-train, etc, and then welding everything shut, with sheet metal covering the under-carriage. Once the job was completed, the vintage pumper was installed in the middle of brand new Firemen’s Park at the southwest corner of Simpson & Maple. The previous spring, the EFD had used a vacant former church located on the site for ”live burn” practice drills.

In 1964, EFD Chief Breitzman requested that the city purchase a new “more useful” squad rig, and convert the existing 1952 Pirsch squad to a triple-combination pumper by replacing the squad body with a standard pumper body. The Pirsch squad had been in & out of front-line service over the course of its twelve years of service, and so it had relatively low mileage compared to the other 1952 Pirsch pumpers. Also, it had no hose bed, so the 1000 GPM pump had rarely been used and was in virtually pristine condition. Once converted to a TCP, the Pirsch rig would go into service as the new Engine 22.

The new squad would be equipped with an electric winch on the front bumper capable of pulling 18,000 pounds, a reconditioned auxiliary pump, a 300-gallon water tank, new extrication tools, and a top-mounted deluge nozzle salvaged from the recently decommissioned high pressure / hose truck. Modern precision quartz lights would replace the military-style “night sun” searchlights that were on the Pirsch squad. Most importantly, the new squad would have a hose bed with room for two 250-foot leads of 1-1/2 inch hose pre-connected to two rear discharge ports that could be used for a rapid fire attack.

A new factory-built Pirsch pumper-squad purchased by Skokie in 1965 cost $25,000, so City Manager Anderson was looking for a “creative” (cheaper) alternative. The City of Evanston purchased four new garbage trucks in 1965 — International-Harvester R-190 cab & chassis with a Leach Packmaster body — giving Anderson the idea to add an additional cab & chassis to the garbage truck order, purchase a custom-built squad body, a winch, an auxiliary pump, a water tank, and a quartz lighting system separately, and then have EFD mechanics piece it all together in the repair shop at Station # 1.

The city council thought it was a swell plan, and appropriated $13,000 for the project. The International cab & chassis ended up costing $4,474, the auxiliary pump, tank, plumbing, quartz lights, and fabrication and installation of the squad body combined cost $4,974, and the Braden winch cost $725. The pumper body for the 1952 Pirsch squad cost $4,000. EFD mechanics were able to install the winch, pump, tank, and plumbing on the new squad without difficulty, but the squad body was fabricated and installed by the General Body Co.

Located at 5838 N. Pulaski Road in Chicago, General Body was best-known for fabricating the world-famous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, but GBC also built many other unusual commercial vehicles, including the Autocar squads used by the Chicago Fire Department, and the salvage trucks used by the Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol. GBC had previously built a squad for the Niles Fire Department by combining a commercial (GMC) cab & chassis with one of its own fabricated squad bodies, and the body on the Niles squad was the one Evanston wanted GBC to duplicate (albeit with a few modifications).

Fabrication and installation was completed by GBC within four months, and the new Squad 21 went into service in April 1966. Although it was sometimes called the “garbage truck” (for obvious reasons), and firefighters riding on the tailboard were sometimes called “garbagemen,” Squad 21 was the busiest company in the Evanston Fire Department — the SS-1 of the EFD — responding to inhalator calls, minor fires, and miscellaneous details in Station # 1’s district, as well as to all fires and rescue-extrication calls city-wide. The crew assigned to Squad 21 also manned the DUKW amphibious vehicle (F-7) whenever it was needed.
Converted to a 1000 / 100 TCP, the former Squad 21 went back into service as the new Engine 22 in August 1966, replacing the 1949 Seagrave 1000 / 80 TCP, which was then placed into reserve at Station # 5 as Engine 26. The Pirsch pumper’s hose-bed featured two 250-foot leads of 1-1/2 inch hose pre-connected to the two rear discharge ports, as well as 1,500 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose and 300 feet of three-inch hose. A section of soft-sleeve suction hose was pre-connected to an intake port above the rear step. It was the first EFD pumper to not carry lengths of hard suction hose.

Both the new Squad 21 and Engine 22 featured the EFD repair shop’s generic military style graphics of the day (black tape with “EVANSTON” in gold) affixed to the sides of the hoods, the same style of graphics that were applied to EFD station wagons and the DUKW 1964-1971. Squad 21 and Engine 22 also had custom designed gold shields with black lettering affixed on the cab doors, replaced by black shields with gold lettering in 1970. Also, the Mars FL-8 and DX-40 (“football”) warning lights on the older front-line engines and trucks were replaced with the more-visible white / red beacon-type emergency lights at about this same time.

Reserve Engine 28 (ex-E24 – 1937 Seagrave 750 / 80 TCP) at Station # 4 did not pass its annual pump test in 1966, and the other reserve 1937 Seagrave 750 / 80 TCP (Engine 27 at Station # 3) had a blown engine, so once the rebuilt Pirsch TCP went into service at Station # 2 and the 1949 Seagrave pumper was placed into reserve at Station # 5, EFD mechanics transplanted the motor from Engine 28 into Engine 27 to keep it running for a while longer. Engine 28 was then dismantled for spare parts and scrapped. 

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