Posts Tagged History of Evanston Fire Department

Evanston Fire Department history Part 37

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

THE END OF THE ROARING TWENTIES 

On May 20, 1928, EFD Engine No. 1 (the 1917 Seagrave 750-GPM TCP) sustained $4,000 in damage when it struck a large pot-hole on Bridge Street near McCormick Boulevard while returning to quarters from an alarm in North Evanston. Chief Hofstetter accompanied the apparatus as it was conveyed via rail back to the Seagrave factory in Columbus, OH, apparently hoping to influence the Seagrave maintenance shop to put a priority on repairs for a good Seagrave customer like Evanston. Meanwhile, the City of Evanston sued the Sanitary District of Chicago – responsible for the maintenance of Bridge Street –- to recover the cost of the repairs.

With its rig out of commission for an indefinite period of time, Engine Co. 1 was assigned the venerable 1911 Robinson Jumbo pumper, which back in the day had been the EFD’s first automobile fire engine, but by 1928 was on its last leg. The inhalator normally carried aboard Engine 1 was temporarily transferred to Engine 5, since the Jumbo was not particularly reliable and was prone to mechanical breakdowns.

After being out of service for nearly four months, Engine 1 was finally returned to Station # 1 and placed back into service on September 18, and the Robinson pumper was placed back into reserve at Station # 2. Among the repairs made to the damaged pumper while at the Seagrave shops were a new drive-shaft, a new front axle, a suspension upgrade including new springs & shocks, new wheels, and pneumatic tires, matching the factory-installed suspension, wheels, and tires on the three EFD Seagrave rigs built in the 1920’s. New wheels and pneumatic tires replacing hard rubber tires were installed on Truck 2 and Engine 3 in 1929.

In December 1928, the Evanston City Council appropriated $800 to purchase a Ford Model “A” Tudor sedan for the fire prevention inspector. Since being appointed to that position on May 1, 1928, Capt. J. E. Mersch had been transported to his inspection duties by the chief’s buggy-driver (if available), or by taxi cab, or sometimes by use of public transportation. However, it just wasn’t very convenient for a man who walked with a cane to not have his own reliable means of transportation. The Ford sedan also provided a back-up automobile for the chief, no doubt considerably more appropriate than the dog catcher’s wagon that had been employed as a temporary replacement when Chief Hofstetter’s automobile was out of service a few years earlier     

On February 5, 1929, the Evanston City Council passed the “Fire Prevention Ordinance,” which officially established the EFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau.The ordinance assigned the following duties and responsibilities to the Fire Prevention Bureau:

1. Prevent fires through education;
2. Regulate storage and use of explosives and flammables;
3. Regulate installation and maintenance of automatic fire alarms and extinguishers; 
4. Ensure maintenance and regulation of fire escapes;
5. Ensure means and adequacy of exit in cases of fire involving factories, schools, hotels, rooming houses, asylums and sanitariums, hospitals, churches, assembly halls, theaters, amphitheaters, and any other establishment where persons work and/or congregate;
6. Investigate the cause, origin, and circumstances of fires. 

Also in February 1929, two new electrically driven high-lift pumps were installed at the waterworks at Lincoln & Sheridan. One was capable of pumping 10,000 GPM, and the other 7,000 GPM. The two new pumps replaced the old Gaskill 3,500 GPM steam-driven pump that had been in service since 1888.

In August 1929, the Robinson Jumbo pumper failed its annual pump test at Becker’s Pond. Because the Robinson Fire Apparatus Manufacturing Company had gone out of business several years earlier, a replacement pump could not be located, so the Jumbo’s pump was disconnected, its chemical tank & red line, ground ladders, hose load, fire extinguishers, and other miscellaneous firefighting equipment were removed, and the rig was transferred to the street department for use as a utility truck. The street department was still using horse-drawn carts and wagons in 1929, so any type of auto truck – even an old fire engine – was a welcome addition to their fleet.    

On Monday, December 2, 1929, Engine Co. 5, Truck Co. 1, Engine Co. 1, and Engine Co. 2 responded to a fire at Thompson’s Restaurant at 618 Davis Street in Evanston’s downtown high-value district. Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol No. 8 responded for salvage work when it was reported as a working fire, and Truck Co. 2 and Engine Co. 3 were dispatched on the second alarm after the blaze communicated to the DeBreuil Tea Room located next-door to the west.

Engine Co. 4 changed quarters to Station # 1 to cover the city, and the off-duty platoon was called-in to provide relief for crews working at the fire, with men walking a block and a half to the scene from Station # 1. The aggregate damage to the two businesses and the structure was $57,274, making it one of the top five highest dollar losses from a fire in Evanston’s history up until that point in time.

In the aftermath of the fire at Thompson’s Restaurant it became clear that the EFD needed a reserve pumper to replace the Robinson Jumbo. So the Evanston City Council appropriated $3,000 to have the Seagrave shops rebuild Engine Co. 4’s hose truck as a 500-GPM Suburbanite TCP, with a 50-gallon booster tank and 150-foot booster line replacing the original factory-installed 300-GPM booster pump, chemical tank, and red line. New axles, wheels, shocks, pneumatic tires, fenders, sealed-beam headlamps, and side-mounted green & red warning lights were also installed. In appearance, the Suburbanite closely resembled the two Seagrave Standard pumpers purchased by Evanston in 1927, except it was a bit shorter and had only a 500-GPM pump instead of the 1000-GPM pumps that were on-board the Standards.

As soon as the Seagrave shops finished the rebuild, the pumper was quickly returned to Evanston and went into service as the new Engine No. 4, as the old Engine No. 4 – the 1906 American-LaFrance Metropolitan 700-GPM steamer that was permanently attached to the 1918 Seagrave Model “K” one-axle tractor — was placed into reserve at Station # 4 as Engine No. 6, with the decommissioned Robinson Jumbo pumper available to be temporarily returned to the EFD from the street department to run as the tractorized-steamer’s hose truck anytime the reserve steamer needed to be placed into front-line service.       

Sadly, a number of active members of the Evanston Fire Department died while off-duty during the 1920s:

1. Lt. Harry Schaeffer Sr. (Truck Co. 1), whose son Harry Jr. would later serve with the EFD and retire as an assistant chief, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in June 1923;
2. Fireman and chief’s buggy-driver Orville Wheeler, (whose two sons, James and Chester, would later serve with the EFD, with James retiring as Chief in 1973) died of pneumonia in July 1924, six weeks before he would have been promoted to lieutenant;
3. Fireman Clinton Claypool (Engine Co. 3) died of meningitis in January 1925;
4. Rookie Fireman Fred Michelau (Truck Co. 1 ) drowned while on vacation in Michigan in August 1928,
5. Lt. Walt Boekenhauer (Engine Co. 4) died of a heart attack suffered while on vacation in July 1929. 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 36

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

EVANSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT CIRCA 1928:

FIRE STATION # 1 (809 Grove Street) – four-bay firehouse opened in March 1897, occupying the west half of the police/fire headquarters building located at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman. 

Chief Fire Marshal Albert Hofstetter’s office was at Station # 1

TRUCK Co. 1: 14 men (seven on each platoon, with one of the assigned as the chief’s driver), with 1st Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Ed Johnson (company officer & platoon commander) and Lt. Michael Garrity (assistant company officer) commanding opposite platoons of Truck Co. 1.

TRUCK Co. 2. 13 men (six on each platoon, plus one man detailed as fire prevention Inspector), with 2nd Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Tom McEnery (company officer & platoon commander) and Lt. Anthony Steigelman (assistant company officer) commanding opposite platoons of Truck Co. 2. Capt. J. E. Mersch was appointed Fire Prevention Inspector in May 1928 and was administratively assigned to Truck Co. 2 1928-32.  

ENGINE Co. 1: Twelve men (six on each platoon), with Capt. George Hargreaves (company officer) and Lt. John Wynn (assistant company officer) commanding opposite platoons of Engine Co. 1. As of 1928, Capt. Hargreaves was the longest-serving member of the Evanston Fire Department (34 years and counting…).    

ENGINE Co. 5  Twelve men (six on each platoon), with Capt, Henry Tesnow (company officer) and Lt. Ed Newton (assistant company officer) commanding opposite platoons of Engine Co. 5. Engineer J. K. Wilen was a motor driver of Engine Co. 5 in addition to being the EFD’s fire equipment mechanic.

In addition to being company officers, Assistant Chief Ed Johnson (Truck Co. 1) and Assistant Chief Tom McEnery (Truck Co. 2) were also platoon commanders, and they responded to alarms in the chief’s automobile if the chief was off duty. 

Chief Hofstetter and Capt. Mersch normally worked business hours Monday through Friday and a half day on Saturday. 

STATION # 1 APPARATUS:

1. Truck No. 1 – 1924 Seagrave TDA equipped with an 85-ft aerial ladder, about a dozen ground, roof, and pompier ladders, salvage covers, fire extinguishers, and a life net;

2. Truck No. 2 – 1917 Seagrave Model “E” city service truck equipped with about a dozen ground, roof, and pompier ladders (including a 55-ft Bangor  ground ladder that required four men to raise with tormentor poles), a 50-gal chemical tank with a 150-ft lead of red line, a heavy-duty jack, salvage covers, fire extinguishers, and a life net;

3. Engine No. 1 – 1917 Seagrave 750 GPM TCP equipped with a 50-gal chemical tank and a 150-ft lead of red line, 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch line, 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch line, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, nozzles and hose clamps, siamese and wye connections, fire extinguishers, two ground ladders, and an inhalator; 

4. Engine No. 5 – 1927 Seagrave “Standard” 1000-GPM TCP equipped with a 50-gal booster tank and a 150-ft lead of booster line, 1,250 feet of 2-1.2 inch line, 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch line, and 500 feet of three-inch line, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, nozzles and hose clamps, siamese and wye connections, fire extinguishers, and two ground ladders;  


5. Chief’s automobile – 1925 Lincoln Model “L” sedan.   

After the police ambulance was demolished in September 1927, Engine Co. 1 was designated as the EFD’s “inhalator squad,” but a second inhalator kept at Station # 1 could be loaded onto any available rig if Engine 1 was not available. (The EFD consistently averaged about 100 inhalator calls per year prior to 1960).   

A portable high-pressure turret nozzle purchased in 1927 was kept at Station # 1 and could be loaded onto any available rig and transported to a fire if needed.
 
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

STATION # 2 (750 Chicago Avenue) – three-bay firehouse constructed during 1902 and opened in February 1903, which replaced the previous one-bay Fire Station # 2 that had been located in the old South Evanston village hall on the same site.  

ENGINE Co. 2: Twelve men (six on each platoon), with Capt. Carl Windelborn (company officer) and Lt. Frank Didier (assistant company officer) commanding opposite platoons of Engine Co. 2       

STATION # 2 APPARATUS:

1. Engine No. 2 – 1927 Seagrave “Standard” 1000-GPM TCP equipped with a 50-gal booster tank and a 150-ft lead of booster line, 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch line, 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch line, 500 feet of three-inch line, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, nozzles and hose clamps, siamese and wye connections, fire extinguishers, and two ground ladders;  

2. Reserve Engine No. 6 – 1911 Robinson “Jumbo” 750-GPM TCP equipped with a 50-gal chemical tank and a 150-ft lead of red line, a reserve hose load, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, fire extinguishers, and two ground ladders. This rig was the EFD’s lone reserve automobile apparatus 1918-29. 

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

STATION # 3 (2504 West Railroad Avenue) – two-bay firehouse constructed during 1900 and opened in January 1901 

ENGINE Co. 3: Ten men (five on each platoon), with Capt. Ed McEnery (company officer) and Lt. Dan McKimmons (assistant company officer) commanding opposite platoons of Engine Co. 3.    

STATION # 3 APPARATUS:


Engine No. 3 – 1917 Seagrave 300 GPM chemical & hose booster pumper equipped with a 50-gal chemical tank and a 150-ft lead of red line, 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch line, 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch line, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, nozzles and hose clamps, siamese and wye connections, fire extinguishers, and two ground ladders.

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

STATION # 4 (1817 Washington Street) – two-bay firehouse constructed in the aftermath of the Boltwood School fire and opened in December 1927 

ENGINE Co. 4: Ten men (five on each platoon), with Capt. Pat Gaynor (company officer) and Lt. Walt Boekenhauer (assistant company officer) commanding opposite platoons of Engine Co. 4.  

STATION # 4 APPARATUS:

1. Engine No. 4 – 1906 American-LaFrance “Metropolitan” 700 GPM steam fire engine permanently welded to a 1918 Seagrave Model “K” one-axle tractor;
 
2. Hose No. 4 – 1917 Seagrave 300 GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper with a 50-gal chemical tank and a 150-ft lead of red line, 1,250 feet of 2-1/2 inch line, 100 feet of 1-1/2 inch line, two ten-foot lengths of hard suction hose, nozzles and hose clamps, siamese and wye connections, fire extinguishers, and two ground ladders.      
      
Both rigs assigned to Engine Co. 4 had previously been assigned to Engine Co. 2. Just as was the case with Engine Co. 2 before Engine Co. 4 was organized, the chemical & hose booster pumper provided the hose supply for the tractorized steamer.  

Engineer Max Kraatz and Assistant Engineer William Richards were assigned to Engine Co. 4 because they were two of only three members of the EFD in 1928 who were qualified to operate, maintain, and repair the steamer. (Engineer Frank Altenberg of Engine Co. 3 was the other one).
 
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Each engine and truck company could run one man short  — and frequently did, due to vacations, sick calls, on-duty injuries, and/or overtime comp payback — so as of May 1928 the maximum aggregate staffing for each platoon each shift was 41 men (if each company was fully-staffed), and the minimum aggregate staffing for each platoon each shift was 34 men (if all seven companies were running one man short). 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 35

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

EXPANSION 

In November 1927, lieutenants Henry Tesnow and Carl Windelborn were promoted to captain, firemen Walter Boekenhauer, Michael Garrity, Anthony Steigelman, and John Wynn were promoted to lieutenant, Motor Driver J. K. Wilen was promoted to the new rank of “Engineer – Mechanic,” and twenty new firemen were hired: Harold Anderson, John Anderson, Albert Balmes, Charles Bammesberger, Fred Carlson, Herbert Claussen, Norman Fochs, Edward Hanrahan, Knud Hanson, Milton Kummer, Charles Lapp, Fred Michelau, Louis Morgan, William Murphy, Elmer Nepstad, Charles Novak, Fred Schumacher, Francis Williams, B. V. Williamson, and L. P. Williamson. Ten of the new men were assigned to one of the platoons, and ten were assigned to the other, with no more than three of the new men assigned to any one company.       

As part of the November 1927 EFD expansion, Engine Co. 4 was organized at Fire Station # 2. Ten men were assigned to Engine Co. 4, and the new company was provided with equipment and apparatus (a tractorized-steamer and a booster-pumper) formerly used by Engine Co. 2. Pat Gaynor was the first captain. The company moved into brand-new Station # 4 at 1817 Washington Street on December 30, 1927. The two-bay Station # 4 was the first Evanston fire station designed and built especially for automobile apparatus (a garage rather than a barn), with a kitchen and a dining room part of the original blueprint.

Also, Engine Co. 5 was organized at Fire Station # 1 on the same day that Engine Co. 4 was organized at Fire Station # 2. Twelve men were assigned to Engine Co. 5. This company was assigned one of the new Seagrave “Standard” 1000-GPM pumpers (the other was assigned to Engine Co. 2), and was the designated “high-value district” (downtown Evanston) engine company for many years. Henry Tesnow was the first captain.

Capt. J. E. Mersch was supposed to have been the commander of Engine Co. 5, but he suffered a disabling leg injury in September 1927 when the police ambulance in which he was riding was hit broadside by a bus. In May 1928, after he was discharged from the hospital and after it was determined that he could no longer work as a fireman, Capt. Mersch declined to take a disability pension and instead was appointed to the newly-created position of “Fire Prevention Inspector.” He was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief Fire Marshal in 1932, and he would continue to serve as both Fire Prevention Inspector and Chief of the Fire Prevention Bureau until his death at the age of 67 in October 1950.

With Capt. Mersch appointed Fire Prevention Inspector, Lt. Ed McEnery was promoted to captain, and Fireman Frank Didier was promoted to lieutenant. Also, Capt. Tom McEnery was promoted to Assistant Chief Fire Marshal and Platoon Commander, as an assistant chief would now command each of the two platoons.

With five engine companies and two truck companies now in service, the EFD’s response to alarms changed significantly. Instead of a one engine / one truck response to a report of a structure fire as had previously been the case, two engine companies and one truck company would now respond to a “general” alarm, with a three engine / one truck response to the downtown “high value district” (the area bounded by Lake Street on the south, Oak Avenue on the west, Clark Street on the north, and Hinman Avenue on the east), and a three engine / two truck response to hospitals, sanitariums, nursing homes, and schools during school hours.  

As had been the case since June 1922, Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol No. 8 responded to all working fires in Evanston involving high-value properties from its quarters at 3921 N. Ravenswood Avenue, and as had been the case since September 1924, both EFD truck companies were located at Station # 1, with Truck Co. 1 (operating with the TDA) the first-due truck company east of Asbury Avenue, and Truck Co.2 (operating with the city service truck) the first-due truck company west of Asbury.   

Engine Co. 1 was now designated the city-wide second engine, and also responded to inhalator calls city-wide; Engine Co. 2 was first-due to the area east of Asbury and south of Greenleaf Street, and responded as the third engine south of Dempster west of Asbury, and east of Asbury between Greenleaf and Foster; Engine Co. 3 was first due north of Church Street west of Asbury, and north of Foster Street east of Asbury; Engine Co. 4 was first-due west of Asbury and south of Church Street; and Engine Co. 5 was first-due east of Asbury between Greenleaf and Foster (including the downtown “high value district”), and responded as the third engine west of Asbury north of Dempster, east of Asbury north of Foster, and east of Asbury south of Greenleaf. If available, Engine Co. 2 would “transfer” (change quarters) to Station # 1 if Engine Co. 5 was at a working fire, and either Engine Co. 3 or Engine Co. 4 would transfer to Station #1 (and place the reserve inhalator on-board the rig) if Engine Co. 1 was at a working fire. Prior to the installation of apparatus radios in 1952, returning to quarters and changing quarters had to be done expeditiously, because companies were incommunicado while on the road.

41 men were assigned to each platoon: 14 men (seven on each platoon, with one of the men assigned as the chief’s buggy-driver) were assigned to Truck Co. 1, twelve men (six on each platoon) were assigned to Truck Co. 2, Engine Co. 1, Engine Co. 2, and Engine Co. 5, and ten men (five on each platoon) were assigned to Engine Co. 3 and Engine Co. 4. Each company could run one man short, so the absolute minimum aggregate shift staffing if each company was running a man short was 34 men. .

The assistant chiefs assigned to Truck Co. 1 and Truck Co. 2 (Ed Johnson and Tom McEnery, respectively) were both company officers and platoon commanders, so they worked opposite platoons. As had been the case for many years, EFD Chief Albert Hofstetter responded to routine alarms as long as he was on duty, and he would be picked up at home by his driver and would be driven to a working fire if he was off duty. But beginning in May 1928, the assistant chiefs (platoon commanders) would respond to routine alarms in the chief’s automobile and be acting chief at the scene of an incident, and have the authority to order additional alarms or a call-back of the off-duty platoon, or even request assistance from the Chicago F. D. or other neighboring fire department, if the chief was off-duty.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 34

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

AFTERMATH 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 33

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

BOLTWOOD 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 32

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

A BAD NIGHT FOR FEET 
 

At 1:30 AM on Wednesday morning, January 7, 1925, EFD Engine Co. 2 and Truck Co. 1 responded to a report of a fire at the Evanston Boot Shop at 919 Chicago Ave. Chief Hofstetter was notified by his buggy-driver that the blaze was confirmed as a working fire, and was picked up at his residence at 1228 Sherman Avenue and conveyed to the scene. Upon arrival, Chief Hofstetter ordered a second alarm and a call-back of the opposite platoon, and EFD Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 2 and CFIP Patrol No. 8 responded to the fire, while Engine Co. 3 changed quarters from Station # 3 to Station # 1 and began to call-back off-duty firefighters.

While firefighters were working to quell the stubborn blaze at the boot shop, another fire was reported at 3:30 AM at the Swanson Brothers shoe store at 1906 Central Street in North Evanston. Engine Co. 3 responded to the alarm on Central Street (which was located only a block from Station # 3) with a longer-than-usual response time, because the company was responding from its change quarters at Station # 1. Engine Co. 3 — operating with its own five-man crew plus a few off-duty firefighters who had reported to Station #1 over the previous couple of hours — encountered heavy fire conditions upon arrival. A man was sent on foot to Station # 3 to call for additional assistance, and more firefighters from the opposite platoon who had just arrived at Station # 1 formed-up as a temporary Engine Co. 4 and responded to the fire aboard the reserve Robinson Jumbo pumper (Engine No. 4).   

With all other firefighters from the on-duty platoon committed to fighting the blaze in South Evanston, Chief Hofstetter – who had been advised by his buggy driver of the second fire — immediately ordered Truck Co. 2 (the city service truck) to pick-up from the first fire on Chicago Avenue and respond to Central Street. CFIP Patrol No. 8 also responded to the second blaze to perform salvage work. Chief Hofstetter then requested assistance from the Chicago Fire Department to help battle the blaze in North Evanston, and the Main Fire Alarm Office dispatched Engine Co. 102 and Engine Co. 79 to Evanston. In September 1921, the City of Chicago established a fee for assistance provided by Chicago F. D. companies to neighboring communities — $20 for the first hour, and $15 for each additional hour, per company — and so the EFD did not request assistance from the Chicago Fire Department very often after 1921.    

The Swanson Brothers shoe store was gutted and several several other stores in the block sustained smoke and/or water damage before the conflagration could be contained, with a combined $84,000 damage estimate (combined) between the two fires ($50,000 aggregate damage to stores on Central Street and $34,000 damage to the boot shop on Chicago Avenue). Although it was never proven, the two fires were believed at the time to be arson, because the Retail Clerks International Union (RCIU) had been encountering resistance while attempting to organize employees at the two shoe stores. Back in those days, it was not uncommon for some union locals to employ thugs to damage property by breaking windows, throwing stink bombs or feces into the stores, or sometimes even setting a fire, after more-peaceful attempts to organize workers had failed.            
About six weeks later, on Sunday night, February 22, 1925, Evanston firefighters battled an inferno at the Lynch-Clarisey Oil Company storage yards on Main Street at the C&NW RR Mayfair Division tracks. A cloud of black smoke billowed thousands of feet into the air as 170,000 gallons of oil burned. The fire was extinguished only after the fuel was exhausted. Engine Co. 2 and Engine Co. 1 went to work immediately, and Truck Co. 2 was sent back to Station # 1 to bring the reserve pumper (the Robinson Jumbo) and reserve three-inch hose to the scene. Engine Co. 3 remained in service at Station # 1 to cover the city, and Truck No. 2 was staffed by off-duty firemen when they arrived at Station # 1. All three pumpers including Engine Co. 2’s 300 GPM booster pumper went to work, each pumping at full capacity (2,500 GPM combined) to cover exposures and feed three-inch hose lines into the Eastman Deluger and to an elevated master stream operating from atop Truck No. 1’s extended aerial ladder. Although there was a fear of a possible explosion, that did not happen. While the Chicago Fire Department did place several Foamite rigs into service in 1927 that could be used to attack oil and gasoline fires, setting up defensive positions, covering nearby exposures, and allowing the fuel to burn itself out was the usual method used by fire departments when dealing with a large oil or gasoline fire in 1925. There were no injuries at this fire, but $30,000 worth of oil was lost.     

The fires at the shoe stores in January and at the oil storage facility in February clearly illustrated the need for a fourth engine company in Evanston – either a second engine company at Station # 1, or an engine company located in a fourth fire station to be constructed on the west-side of town — but the Evanston City Council took no action at the time, even though establishing a fourth engine company had been recommended by the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) following their inspection of the EFD in 1924. However, the aldermen did approve $1,500 in July to construct a three-story drill tower in the rear of Fire Station # 3 (which had also been recommended by the NBFU), and it was completed in November. Typically one engine company and one truck company would drill together under the direction and supervision of Chief Hofstetter, parking their rigs in the alley (which would be temporarily closed to traffic) behind Station # 3. Prior to the construction of the drill tower, the EFD had drilled at Fire Station # 1 or at buildings that were in the process of being demolished. In fact, even after the construction of the drill tower, setting fire to a condemned building and then extinguishing the fire was a favorite practice of the EFD for many years.           

Also in July 1925, the City Council granted pay raises to all members of the Evanston Fire Department. The Chief Fire Marshal’s monthly salary was increased from $333.33 to $350, with a $20 per month increase for the Assistant Chief, a $25 per month increase for captains (company officers), a $15 per month increase for lieutenants (assistant company officers), and a $10 per month increase for all other members of the EFD, with an additional $5 per month increase for all members of the EFD except the Chief in January 1926.

On April 10, 1926, Evanston firefighters battled a stubborn blaze at Annie May Swift Hall (School of Oratory) on the campus of Northwestern University that resulted in $34,000 in damage. Both truck companies were heavily involved with ventilation and salvage efforts at this fire. Because it was first-due to the area west of Asbury Avenue which consisted mainly of single-family homes and a few commercial structures along the C&NW RR Mayfair Division tracks, Truck Co. 2 was staffed by only ten men (five men per platoon) at that time, but a week after the Swift fire and at the insistence of Chief Hofstetter, the Evanston City Council approved increasing staffing of Truck Co. 2 by two (Ronald Ford and Frederick Walters were the new men), with henceforth six men on each platoon instead of five, and bringing the total number of Evanston firefighters to 61 (30 on each platoon, plus the Chief).    

 

On Saturday afternoon, October 9, 1926, an observation plane flying over a college football game (Northwestern versus Notre Dame) at brand-new Dyche Stadium crashed on the canal bank near Noyes & Ashland. While en route to the scene, Truck No. 2 (the city service truck) was struck broadside by another vehicle at Ridge & Church. Capt. Thomas McEnery and truckmen John Lindberg and Anthony Steigelman were injured, with $3,500 damage to the fire truck. All three firemen recovered and there were no injuries to the occupants of the plane, but Truck No. 2 was heavily damaged and it was believed that it would have to be scrapped. Meanwhile, Truck Co. 2 was temporarily designated “Engine Co. 4” at Station # 1, utilizing the old Robinson Jumbo pumper and running as the second engine company out of Station # 1. In the aftermath of the crash, sirens were placed on all EFD apparatus, to be used in concert with the rig’s bell.  


At 9 AM on Tuesday, November 30, 1926, Evanston firefighters responded to a report of a fire at the Flossy Dental Supply Company plant at 1851 Benson Ave. Firemen spent all day battling the blaze and the off-duty platoon was called in, with relief crews walking three blocks up Sherman Avenue from Fire Station # 1 to the scene. With the city service truck in the repair shop, the EFD was running with four engine companies but only  one truck company at this time, so Chief Hofstetter made good use of CFIP Patrol No. 8 to protect Flossy’s expensive heavy machinery with the insurance squad’s many salvage covers. However, there was $46,326 in damage to the building and contents before the fire was extinguished. 

In December 1926, John Wilbern of Engine Co. 3 retired after twenty years of service with the Evanston Fire Department, the sixth member of the EFD to take an “old age” pension (minimum 50 years old with minimum 20 years of service) since the Evanston Firemen’s Pension Fund became fully funded in December 1915. John Schmidt was hired to replace Wilbern. Then on December 29th, the city service ladder truck was returned to the Evanston Fire Department after being repaired at the Seagrave Company factory in Ohio. The ladder truck was placed back into front-line service even though the damaged chassis frame could not be completely straightened. However, the master mechanics at the Seagrave factory were somehow able to reorient the rear wheels so that the truck could be driven without impediment, although it was more difficult to turn and maneuver than had been the case prior to the crash.

Tags: , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 31

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY (continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

EFD APPARATUS (MAY 1925):

AT STATION # 1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AT STATION # 2:

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

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

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

AT STATION # 3:

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

Tags: , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 30

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY 

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHIEF’S DRIVERS: (2) 
Fireman John Wynn (hired 1920)
Fireman Frank Sherry (hired 1924)
NOTE: Chief’s drivers were assigned administratively to Truck Co. 1. When at a fire, the chief’s driver was responsible for communication from the scene of the incident, either by driving to & from the nearest fire station, or by use of a nearby telephone if available, or by telegraph from the nearest Gamewell fire alarm box. 

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

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

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

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Evanston Fire Department history Part 29

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

LEARN NOT TO BURN!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evanston Fire Department history Part 28

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

Pat Gaynor, Marriage Counselor 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tags: , , , , ,