Posts Tagged National Board of Fire Underwriters

Evanston Fire Department history Part 75

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about the History of the Evanston Fire Department


In July 1976, Rock Island Fire Chief Glen Ayers was appointed chief of the Evanston Fire Department (EFD), the first outsider to serve as Evanston’s fire chief since Norman Holmes came to Evanston from the Chicago Fire Department in 1905. Once Ayers took charge, the first thing he did was order Chief Beattie’s yellow fire trucks — including a new Mack pumper still at the factory —  to be re-painted “Rock Island Red.” The new 1,000-GPM / 300-gallon Mack pumper arrived in December 1976, and was placed into service as the new Engine 25 in January 1977.

The rig that the new Mack pumper replaced was the 1952 Pirsch 1000 / 100 squad-pumper (the original Squad 21) that was rebuilt as a TCP by General Body in 1966. The 1952 Pirsch was placed into reserve as Engine 26 after the Mack pumper went into service at Station # 5. The EFD’s remaining 1958 Seagrave 1000 / 300 open cab TCP (ex-E23) was then sold at auction, purchased by the Indian Trail Restaurant in Winnetka for use as a parade and party vehicle. The Seagrave rig appeared in the North Evanston 4th of July Parade a few times while it was owned by Indian Trail.

The EFD chose to keep the older 1952 Pirch pumpers in reserve instead of the two 1958 Seagrave pumpers, partly because the Pirsch rigs had enclosed cabs, but mainly because the Pirsch pumpers consistently out-performed the Seagrave pumpers at annual pump tests. In fact the pump on the other 1958 Seagrave rig  (Engine 24) performed so poorly in its 1974 pump test that it was temporarily replaced by one of the older Pirsch pumpers while its pump was repaired, and then it was sold at auction immediately after it was replaced as a front-line rig in 1975. 

On April 11, 1977, the City of Evanston purchased 21 100-foot lengths and three 50-foot lengths of Duro-lite low-friction five-inch supply hose for the EFD at a cost of $10,990, enough hose for three of the EFD’s five engine companies. The city purchased an additional 18 100-foot lengths and an additional two 50-foot lengths of Duro-lite supply hose at a cost of $11,400, on April 6, 1978, as all five EFD engine companies were now equipped with five-inch supply hose.

The acquisition of the supply hose radically changed firefighting tactics, because engine companies could now lead-out from the hydrant to the fire, instead of from the fire to the hydrant. Eventually the ambulance crew assigned to a fire was responsible for taking the “plug position” and hooking up the supply lime to the hydrant.    

During 1978, the Insurance Service Organization (ISO) conducted an inspection of the Evanston Fire Department. The ISO was formerly known as the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU), and this was the first inspection of the EFD by the ISO / NBFU in almost twenty years. As a result of the inspection, the ISO dropped the EFD’s rating from a class “3” to a class “4” fire department, in part because the EFD’s front-line aggregate pumping capacity had been reduced from 6,000 GPM to 5,250 GPM since 1959.

The Evanston City Council, the city manager, and Chief Ayers collectively freaked out, and plans were immediately made to purchase two new apparatus with minimum 1,250-GPM pumps.

The first rig purchased was a Pirsch Model 88C 1,250-GPM / 750-gallon TCP, acquired at a cost of $76,200. The pumper was a so-called “spec” rig, in that it was manufactured during a slow period when the company was not in receipt of many orders and wanted to keep their workers busy. The problem with a spec pumper is that it is what it is, and the fire department that buys it has no input in the design or specifications. The new Pirsch engine went into service as the new Engine 22 in April 1979, with the former Engine 22 (1970 Pirsch 1000 / 300 TCP) going into reserve, even though it was only nine years old. 

The second rig purchased was a 1,250-GPM / 300-gallon / 100-foot aerial-quint. A quint combines the functions of a pumper and a ladder truck in one vehicle, and the EFD had absolutely no prior experience with quint rigs. Pirsch came in with the low bid, but it was rejected by Chief Ayers because he said it did not meet specifications. Instead the contract was awarded to FWD Truck & Equipment (Seagrave), with Evanston paying the company $185,645 on April 23, 1979, for the quint.

The quint arrived in 1980 and was placed into service as the new Truck 21 at Station #1, with the former Truck 21 (1968 Pirsch 100-foot TDA) being moved to Station # 2 as the new Truck 22 after a diesel engine was installed. The former Truck 22 (the 1952 Pirsch 85-foot TDA that had been extensively refurbished in 1969) was moved to Fire Station #3, where it replaced the 1951 Pirsch 85-foot TDA (ex-T21) as the EFD’s lone reserve truck.

In addition to the new rigs, two new Ford modular MICU ambulances were placed into service as Ambulance 1 and Ambulance 2 in 1980, replacing the 1975 Dodge van ambulance (the original MICU 1) and the ex-Skokie F. D. Cadillac ambulance. The 1976 Chevrolet modular MICU ambulance (the original Ambulance 2) became Ambulance 3 at this time. Ambulance 2 initially was assigned to Station # 2, but by 1981 all three ambulances  were located at Station # 1. Also, a new 1979 Chevrolet station wagon was purchased for the shift commander, and a 1979 Chevrolet van replaced the 1974 Dodge utility van.  

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 61

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


NBFU ’59

The National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) conducted an inspection of the Evanston Fire Department in 1959, the first since 1935. The EFD received a rating of “class 3” from the NBFU, the same grade it received in 1935. Among Chicago-area fire departments, only the Chicago FD was rated higher than “class 3,” having long held an NBFU “class 2” rating. The Evanston FD and the Oak Park FD were the only Chicago-area suburban fire departments rated “class 3” by the NBFU as of 1959. However, by 1971, the Skokie FD had been upgraded to “class 2,” and the Winnetka FD had been upgraded to “class 3.”

Recommendations offered to the Evanston Fire Department by the NBFU in its 1959 inspection report included establishing an additional engine company at Station # 1 to replace the relocated Engine 25, restoring pre-1957 staffing so that five men would be assigned each shift to companies at Station # 1 and four men would be assigned each shift to companies at the other four stations, mandatory annual physical examinations for all firemen over age 55, mandatory retirement at age 62, and making the chief fire marshal a civil service position rather than a political appointment.

The only NBFU recommendation implemented by the EFD was a mandatory annual physical exam for all firemen over age 55. As to placing an additional engine company in service at Station # 1 to replace the relocated Engine Co. 25, Squad 21 was placed back into front-line service and staffed as a company at Station # 1 in 1963, and the squad’s 1952 Pirsch did have a 1,000-GPM pump, a 100-gallon water tank, and a booster line, but it was not considered to be an engine company because the rig had no hosebed and thus could not carry a standard engine company hose load.

The iconic Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph boxes located on many Evanston street corners and in front of schools and hospitals were replaced in 1959 by a network of 80 police / fire emergency telephones manufactured by Western Electric that were connected directly to the city’s police / fire communication center. The Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph system had been in service in Evanston since 1895, but the new emergency telephones would permit an individual to advise the police / fire communication operator of the specific nature of an emergency, so that appropriate assistance could be dispatched without delay.

Each emergency telephone was enclosed in a bright red box with reflective lettering. Once they were placed into service, an EFD engine company would no longer have to respond to “check the box” after a fire alarm box pull. If an emergency telephone was lifted off the hook with no voice on the other end, the closest police officer would be dispatched to check what was called a “cold box.” The EFD would only respond if a citizen reported a fire or needed an inhalator. The telephones also provided police officers and firefighters with a method to call headquarters if a radio transmission was inadvisable or impossible.

Capt. Jim Wheeler (a future chief) and Capt. Willard Thiel (the EFD’s training officer) were promoted to assistant chief and firemen Dan Lorden and Ed Pettinger were promoted to captain in 1959, as Assistant Chief Jim Mersch retired after 23 years of service, and Capt. Joe Schumer resigned. The four new firemen hired in 1958-59 were Edward “Ted” Riley and LeRoy “Charlie” Rohrer (June 1958), Leonard Conrad (September 1958), and Ken Hatfield (March 1959). Len Conrad was promoted to captain in 1964 after only five years on the job, and he would become the EFD’s first “medical officer” in 1978.

Inhalators were assigned to all five EFD engine companies in 1959, so Squad 21 was no longer the city-wide inhalator unit, and now only responded to special rescue calls, and to fires when requested by a chief officer. A fire equipment mechanic normally operated Squad 21 when it was needed. The EFD averaged only about 100 inhalator calls per year (about two per week) throughout the 1950’s, but by 1965 the number of inhalator calls would increase to about one per day, and to two or three per day by the time the EFD’s paramedic MICU ambulance service was established in 1976.

Both F-1 (Chief Geishecker’s 1957 Ford station wagon) and F-2 (the platoon commander’s 1956 Chevrolet station wagon) were equipped with a stretcher and a first-aid kit in 1959, just like the police station-wagon patrol-ambulances. However, the EFD station wagons were strictly back-up ambulances, and were dispatched only if no police ambulances were available. F-1 was replaced with a new Ford station wagon in 1962, and F-2 was replaced with a new Plymouth station wagon in 1963.

The Scott Funeral Home offered to donate a Cadillac ambulance (ex-hearse) to the Evanston Fire Department in 1959, but the city manager politely declined the offer. The police department was providing ambulance service backed-up by two EFD stretcher-equipped station-wagons, and placing a Cadillac ambulance into service would have required either hiring more firemen (definitely not going to happen) or taking Truck Co. 23 out of service (considered inadvisable at the time). Spurned by its hometown fire department, the funeral home donated the ambulance to the Skokie Fire Department instead.

George and Effie Dye were killed in a house fire at 1803 Hartrey Avenue in 1959. Companies from Station # 1 and Station # 5 responded to the alarm and were on the scene within four minutes, but were unable to save the couple. Evanston routinely averaged one or two deaths from fire every year, but this was the first time more than one person died in the same fire in Evanston since firemen George Stiles and William Craig were killed at the Mark Manufacturing Company fire in 1905. The Dye’s residence on Hartrey was located along the imaginary line connecting Church & Fowler to Foster & Grey that was the furthest distance from an Evanston fire station, albeit within the NBFU standards of the day.

In November 1959, the Davis Furniture store at 721 Main Street was gutted by a fire, resulting in a $155,000 loss. Three engine companies, two truck companies, Squad 21, and several cross-trained police officers were on the scene and working within the first few minutes. Engine 25 and Truck 23 transferred to Station # 1, and then Engine 25 and Squad 22 (the high-pressure / hose truck) responded after the fight went defensive. Engine 23 and Engine 28 (ex-E24) were ordered to the fire to pump water for master-streams after off duty firemen arrived and staffed the three reserve engines. Off-duty men not staffing reserve apparatus were shuttled to the fire from their respective stations via CD pick-up truck.

Fire Prevention Bureau Capt. George Croll died after a lengthy illness in January 1960, and Fireman Art Windelborn retired in 1961 after 33 years of service. Fireman William Lapworth was promoted to captain, and Bob Schwarz, Richard Beucus, and William Lemieux were hired. Bob Schwarz was a charter member of the EFD’s elite “arson squad” (the FPB’s fire investigation unit) that was established in 1975.

A mysterious explosion heavily damaged the North Shore Overall uniform store at 1818 Dempster Street in May 1961. It wasn’t a major fire and there were no injuries because it happened when the store was closed, but the blast caused a hefty $107,000 damage to the store. The EFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau did not have the necessary expertise at that time to investigate the incident, so the Illinois State Fire Marshal was requested to conduct the investigation.

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 41

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department


Despite budget cuts that kept it from modernizing to the extent recommended by the NBFU in 1935, the Evanston Fire Department of the 1930’s was a highly-respected outfit, so much so that the Village of Golf — a small, wealthy enclave located adjacent to the Glen View Club on the north-side of Golf Road west of Harms Woods, three miles west of the Evanston city limits, and five miles from EFD Fire Station # 3 — contracted for fire protection from Evanston in 1937. 

As part of the contract, Evanston agreed to respond with one engine company (normally Engine Co. 3), one truck company (normally Truck Co. 2), and a chief officer to any report of fire received from the Village of Golf. Additional EFD companies would respond if needed.

The cost to the Village of Golf was an annual flat-fee to be paid regardless of the number of times the EFD might respond to incidents in the village and without regard to the severity of any given structure fire. The arrangement with the Village of Golf lasted until the Glenview Rural Fire Department (later known as the Glenbrook Fire Protection District) was created after World War II. 

The two suburban fire departments that surrounded the Village of Golf at that time — Morton Grove and Glenview — were mostly all-volunteer, with small-capacity pumpers and no ladder trucks, so despite being five miles and an average drive-time of 12-15 minutes from Golf (depending on traffic and weather conditions), the EFD could provide both front-line first-class fire apparatus as well as sufficiently trained manpower to operate the rigs immediately upon arrival.

The Evanston Fire Department also was contracted with the Village of Niles Center (later known as “Skokie”) going back to the 1920’s to respond to alarms in College Hill, a somewhat isolated area located in the northeast corner of Niles Center that had joined Evanston School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 because its residents wanted their children to attend nearby ETHS and be part of the greater Evanston community.

College Hill was part of a much-larger five square-mile tract of land that Evanston had planned to eventually annex to provide space for it burgeoning immigrant and African-American population. However, the Village of Niles Center unexpectedly annexed the land in the 1920’s, leading to hand-wringing and threats of legal action from the City of Evanston.

The area was very sparsely populated when it was annexed, and it remained so until after World War II. Numerous streets were constructed in this area in the 1920’s in anticipation of a suburban housing boom, but the houses didn’t materialize for a number of years; first because of the Great Depression, and then later because of World War II.

College Hill was bounded by Crawford Avenue on the west, Greenleaf Street on the south, and the City of Evanston on the north and east, so by 1927 — when EFD Fire Station # 4 was completed — three of Evanston’s four fire stations were actually closer to all parts of College Hill than was the mostly-volunteer Niles Center F.D., with its firehouse located at 8031 Floral Avenue in “downtown” Niles Center. In fact, one of the reasons the NBFU had recommended in its 1935 report that a fifth EFD station be constructed in the area of Grant & Central Park was because that location would better serve College Hill.  

Thanks to its ambitious annexations of the 1920’s, its corporate limits extended far to the east and north beyond its center core, but Niles Center’s population, culture, and commercial activities in the 1930’s were still essentially located around the intersection of Oakton & Lincoln. In fact, Niles Township High School (later known as Niles East) was constructed at 7700 Lincoln Avenue in 1938 so as to be close to where most of its students resided.  

So there were a few scattered homes in College Hill as well as a handful of businesses and commercial structures located on Dempster Street, Church Street, and East Prairie Road, and the Evanston Fire Department responded to alarms in this area until January 1949, when the Village of Skokie opened its east-side fire station at 8340 Hamlin Avenue and was able to provide fire protection to College Hill.

The only other nearby suburban fire department that was under contract to respond to alarms outside its own corporate limits in the 1930’s was the Winnetka Fire Department, which responded to alarms in the Village of Kenilworth, the Village of Northfield, and to unincorporated county areas of New Trier Township located between Winnetka and Wilmette, including “no-man’s land” on Sheridan Road, and the exclusive Woodley Road neighborhood northwest of Wilmette.   


1915 American LaFrance Type 75 750-GPM TCP .
1923 American LaFrance Type 67 city-service truck

1919 American LaFrance Type 75 750-GPM TCP
1926 American LaFrance Type 14 quad
1926 Ahrens-Fox 1000-GPM TCP
1937 Pirsch Junior 750-GPM / 60-foot aerial quad

1924 American LaFrance Type 75 750-GPM TCP

1936 Pirsch 750-GPM TCP

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Evanston Fire Department history Part 40

From Phil Stenholm:

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

NBFU ’35 

In 1935, the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) conducted an inspection and evaluation of the City of Evanston’s fire protection. Besides  evaluating a fire department’s manpower, apparatus, facilities, training, and code enforcement, the NBFU also would analyze a community’s water supply, fire alarm systems, and conflagration hazards in determining the final grade. Previous NBFU inspections of Evanston’s fire protection had taken place in 1912, 1924, and 1930, and Evanston had received a favorable grade in its 1930 NBFU evaluation. However, since the 1930 inspection, the City of Evanston had cut six positions from the Evanston Fire Department as part of the city’s budget cuts as the result of the Great Depression, and that adversely affected Evanston’s final grade in 1935.      

In the aftermath of its 1935 inspection and evaluation, the NBFU issued a number of recommendations that directly affected the future of the Evanston Fire Department.  

1. Relieve the two platoon commanders of truck company officer responsibilities and provide them with an automobile and a driver;  
2  Restore the six positions that were cut cut in 1933;
3. Hire additional personnel to allow for increased nighttime staffing of engine and truck companies (two additional men per company per shift), with additional manpower provided to replace men on vacation or on sick leave;   

4.Construct a fifth fire station in the area of Grant & Central Park and establish an engine company with a minimum 750-GPM pumper at this new station once it has been completed;
5. Replace the 300-GPM pumper at Station # 3 and the 500-GPM pumper at Station # 4 with minimum 750-GPM pumpers;
6. Transfer the 500-GPM pumper from Station # 4 to Station # 1 to be the inhalator squad and reserve  pumper; 
7. Construct a new Fire Station # 2 with space for a ladder truck, and transfer Truck Co. 2 from Station # 1 to the new Station # 2 once it has been completed; 
8. Construct a new Fire Station # 3 with space for a ladder truck, and hire additional manpower and place a third truck company in service at the new Station # 3 once it has been completed.   
9. Dedicate a bay in one of the fire stations as a repair shop and provide the mechanics sufficient spare parts to complete routine apparatus maintenance and repairs in a timely fashion; 
10. Establish a training school with a senior officer in charge to provide instruction to new recruits and to existing members (including officers); 
11. Assign one company each shift to assist the Fire Prevention Inspector with fire code inspections.  
12. Test pumpers twice a year instead of once per year; 

Because of the grip of the Great Depression, the City of Evanston was unable to implement any of the recommendations by appropriation. However, in April 1937 Evanston voters approved a $45,000 bond issue that would allow the EFD to acquire two new 750 GPM triple-combination pumpers and one new 65-foot aerial-ladder truck (all three to be equipped with an 80-gallon booster tank and booster-line on a hose reel).

The Seagrave Corporation (surprise!) won the bid. All three rigs were built with enclosed cabs, a first for the Evanston Fire Department, and the two pumpers had canopy cabs that allowed firefighters to ride on a jump seat behind the cab instead of on the back-step. All future EFD fire fighting apparatus would be ordered with enclosed cabs, with the exception of two Seagrave pumpers purchased in 1957. Also, the bond issue provided funds for the purchase of an additional Ford Tudor Deluxe sedan equipped with a Motorola “Police Cruiser” AM radio receiver for the use of Fire Prevention Inspector that would also serve as a back-up automobile for the Chief.    

The new aerial-ladder truck went into service with Truck Co. 2 in November 1937 and the two new pumpers went into service with Engine Co. 1 and Engine Co. 3 in January 1938. The old Engine No. 1 (1917 Seagrave 750-GPM TCP with 50-gallon chemical tank and red line) was transferred to Station # 4 as the new Engine No. 4, and the 1917 Seagrave Model “E” city service truck (formerly Truck No. 2 ) was placed into reserve, re-designated Truck No. 3, and relocated to Station # 3, with its ground-based 55-foot Bangor ladder removed from the rig and kept in storage so that the truck could fit (just barely) into the north bay of Station # 3.

Also, the 1917 Seagrave chemical & hose booster-pumper that was rebuilt as a 500-GPM “Suburbanite” TCP in 1930 (formerly Engine No. 4) did not become the inhalator squad at Station # 1 as was proposed by the NBFU, but it was placed into reserve and re-designated Engine No. 6 at Station # 4, the 1917 Seagrave 300-GPM chemical & hose booster-pumper (formerly Engine No. 3) had its pump disconnected and its chemical tank & red line, ladders, hose load, and other equipment removed, and was transferred to the Street Department for use as a utility truck (just like the Robinson Jumbo pumper had been in 1929), and the tractorized-steamer that had been in reserve at Station # 4 since 1930 as the EFD’s lone reserve apparatus was removed from service, with the 1918 Seagrave Model “K” tractor dismantled for spare parts and the 1906 American LaFrance 700-GPM steamer sold for scrap.  

However, the 1937 bond issue did not provide the funds needed to restore the six positions cut from the EFD in 1933, relieve the two platoon commanders of their company officer responsibilities, or build three new fire stations, so those NBFU recommendations would have to wait a few more years before they could be implemented.

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