History

This is a brief history of the Evanston Fire Department.

 
 
 

Evanston Fire Department History

 

HISTORY OF THE EVANSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT

by Sandra Waas, Department Secretary

 

Evanston is adjacent to Lake Michigan on the north boundary of Chicago, only 13 miles from the Chicago Loop. Evanston is bordered on the north by Wilmette and on the west by the Village of Skokie. Evanston is both a metropolitan and suburban city. The Fire Department of Evanston reflects that feature of Evanston. The workload is that of a metropolitan city with increasing numbers of calls for emergency assistance.

 

The City of Evanston was founded in 1853; incorporated in 1863. "The Town Board was petitioned to purchase a Babcock Fire Extinguisher or other machine as the nucleus of some sort of Department in November, 1872. The Evanston Fire Department began as a volunteer department, May 25, 1875. In 1879 efforts were put forth to organize a regular Fire Department connected with the Water Works by telephone communication. A volunteer hook and ladder company was formed and accepted by the Village in April, 1881." As Mr. Russel Crouse wrote in the Currier and Ives, "Life of a Fireman" lithograph series, "the Fire Department Volunteer Organization was born of civic pride, and into it crowded the fathers and sons of the best families of the day. They received no pay, but membership was considered an honor."

 

In June 1883, Samuel Harrison was appointed Fire Marshal. The Annual Reports of 1896 and 1898 show the Evanston Fire Department force as 11 men and one Fire Chief under full pay. The Fire Department responded to 71 alarms in 1896 and 74 alarms in 1898. Total Fire Loss in 1896 is listed as $24,505.00 excepting the Barlett building loss of $11,300; and in 1898 as $15,199 with the exception of St. Nicholas Church fire of $10,475.

 

Fire Department equipment was horse-drawn vehicles. Fire Station #1 located in the North end of Town listed a total value of $12,097. Included in that estimated value were one Ahrens Steamer, $4,000.00, one Hook and Ladder Truck and Equipment, $500.00, 3 sets of Double swinging harnesses, $450.00, and seven (7) horses at $875.00. The Sixth Ward had a value of $326.00, which included one horse cart of $20.00 and one Hand and Truck Ladder of $50.00. Engine House #2, at the South end of Town had a total value of $1,213.00 with one horse at $125.00.

 

Evanston Fire Department Rules and Regulations of the 1900's required that horses be walked at intersections and curried and feed every evening. Evanston at the time was largely farmland with a large portion of the land for vineyards and orchards.

 

However, Evanston also had a large financially wealthy population living along the lakefront and throughout the city. Stately Victorian homes are dotted throughout Evanston with many listed on the historical register. Several, such as the Charles Dawes Mansion was home to General Dawes who served as Vice-President under Calvin Coolidge. It was built in 1894, and is now home to the Evanston History Center and Frances E. Willard home built in 1894 is now a national shrine.

 

Northwestern University was chartered in 1851 as an independent, privately controlled University. "Originally only liberal arts were taught and Northwestern University pioneered in professional education by establishing schools in Medicine, law, speech, dentistry, music, management, engineering, journalism, and education." Evanston has been known as a college town, with the educational community still a prevailing fixture in the nature of the community. Other centers of leaning include: National Louis University (formerly National College of Education) 2840 Sheridan Road was founded in 1886; Garrett Theological Seminary, 2121 Sheridan Road, since 1853; Seabury Western College, 2122 Sheridan, and Kendall College of Culinary Arts (formerly Kendall Junior College) 2408 Orrington. Bookstores and Coffeehouses are still one of the most popular meeting places in the area. Northwestern still owns a large amount of property in Evanston, and continues to develop large building projects such as the Research Park, Science Buildings, Kellogg Center, and the Technological Institute.

 

"In 1911, the Evanston Fire Department purchased its first motor apparatus, a Robinson Pumper. By 1917, and 1918, the Evanston Fire Department was completely motorized. Five pieces of equipment were purchased on May 1, 1917 at a total cost of $28,800.00. The last of the five pieces purchased the tractor of Engine #2, arrived and was placed in service on March 2, 1918. It was in 1918, that the Fire Department sold to the City Street Department, the 14 Fire Department horses."

 

On September 1, 1924, a new 85' Aerial Ladder was placed in service. Two additional men were placed on the Evanston Fire Department to man the new truck. In 1927, with the addition of 20 new members and two additional 1000-gallon pumpers, the Department reached a total of 84 men in service. The City found it necessary to reduce the personnel during the Depression to a total of 78 men. In 1937, the two new 750-gallon Seagrave Pumping Engines and one 65' Aerial Ladder truck were placed in service. These new pieces of apparatus were equipped with cab for driver and officer.

 

"During 1940 through 1955, the Evanston Fire Department operated seven pieces of fire apparatus and had a total personnel force of 84 positions. Personnel were 1 Fire Chief, 1 Assistant Chief in Fire Prevention, 80 suppression personnel (Firefighters, Lieutenants, and Captains), and 2 Shift Commanders in suppression. Each of the 82 suppression personnel worked 84 hours per week on a 2-shift system. This resulted in a maximum of 41 personnel being available on each shift. Five personnel per shift were assigned to each of the seven pieces of fire apparatus, and were supervised by one Assistant Chief serving as a Shift Commander."

 

In 1956, a State of Illinois law mandated a maximum 56 hour work week per position for paid Fire Department personnel in cities of 5,000 population or more. This law required the addition of a third shift to the Evanston force. A rescue squad was added for a total of eight pieces of fire apparatus and eighteen positions were added to the Department. Fifteen positions were added to Suppression; two men were added to Fire Prevention; and a Training Officer position was created.

 

Equipment in 1975 consisted of five engines, two trucks, one squad, an amphibious vehicle (a Dukw), and reserve equipment. In 1976, the Emergency Medical Services (E.M.S.) Division was created, and thirteen new positions were established. These positions included twelve men to staff the new ambulances, and one Captain to supervise the E.M.S. Department. Further reorganization also took place. Two of the three Suppression/Assistant Chiefs/Shift Commanders were assigned administrative duties.

 

Total Fire Department personnel were as follows:

1 Fire Chief
2 Assistant Chiefs - Administration
1 Assistant Chief - Fire Prevention
2 Captains - Fire Prevention
1 Inspector - Fire Prevention
1 Assistant Chief - Training
1 Medical Officer - E.M.S. Supervisor
12 E.M.S. Personnel (4 per Shift)
3 Suppression Shift Commanders
91 Suppression Personnel - Firefighters and Captains
________________________________________
115 Total personnel

 

Fires are more than large monetary losses to buildings. Members of the Department remember more than just hose streams. Members, who responded to two Rustoleum Corporation fires in 1976 and 1977, recall large aerosol cans firing into the air like bullets in between normal fire containment. Bowman Dairy Building, 1922 Ridge in February of 1974 had firemen responding to call-back's after a retirement party to a fire in below zero weather with high wind chill factors. The chins, clothing, and even mustaches of firemen were covered with ice. Firefighting is a dangerous profession. In 1985, the Fire Department experienced the tragic death of Firefighter/Paramedic Marty Leoni at a house at 1927 Jackson. Firefighter Leoni's portrait is displayed in City Hall at 2100 Ridge. In addition, a Fallen Firefighters' Memorial was dedicated on July 23, 1993 in Fireman's park at the corner of Maple & Simpson to honor Evanston Firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

 

At the present time, the Evanston Fire Department consists of 109 members, 61 of which are paramedics. The Evanston Fire Department in 1999 responded to 7,451 requests for service, with 4,513 of those requests being Emergency Medical Service calls. Evanston Fire Department members must have both firefighting and emergency medical knowledge since there is a large workload and overlapping in both the business of fighting fires and responding to Emergency Medical calls. "The relationship between houses, apartments, businesses, parks, schools, and institutions, the amount and intensity of each use, the quality of services provided and physical conditions have much to do with the character of the community."

 

New purchases of equipment are an on-going matter. A recent purchase was a new Engine with a 50-foot ladder and master streams capability called a tele-squirt. Two new ambulances were received in 1999. The new ambulances are equipped with heavy-duty chassises, higher riding capability for drivers, and more modular headroom in the ambulance itself. Mobile Data Terminals (M.D.T.'s) have been installed in many Fire Department vehicles linking the equipment with the Dispatch Center. Evanston is acquiring the capability required to utilize modern technology and new tactical approaches to collect and analyze the extensive data needed for effective and efficient fire operations on a day-to-day basis.

 

The Evanston Fire Department now has five fire stations. There is a new Fire Station #1 built at 1332 Emerson (Wesley and Emerson). Station #2 located at 702 Madison, erected in 1954 has currently undergone extensive remodeling to bring the station into line with modern living requirements. Old Fire Station #1 was erected in 1948 at the present time it is vacant. Fire Station #3, 1105 Central Street, and Fire Station #5, 2830 Central Street were erected in 1954. Fire Station #4 was built in 1989. In the rehabbing of firehouses, present equipment requirements are taken into consideration as well as the general health and safety requirements of the firefighters.

 

However the duality of the Evanston Fire Department reflects that in addition to equipment, Emergency Medical and firefighting needs, personal service to its citizens is an increasing and ambitious part of this Department. Community involvement with the Evanston Fire Department has increased one hundred-fold since the 1950's. Both fire and EMS calls are not the only demands this Community makes. Citizen's want our increased participation in Fire Prevention programs and projects, home security, preservation issues, ecological and environmental concerns, e.g. Clean Air Act, asbestos removal, Hazardous materials information and disposal, building construction, and the continued issues of Fire and Life safety.

 

The Fire Prevention Bureau was established on February 5, 1929. The Fire Prevention Bureau in 1975 had won over 18 national awards. The Fire Prevention Bureau received awards from the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry and the National Fire Protection Association for fire prevention activities. In 1985, the Fire Prevention Bureau won the First Place Title in the State of Illinois Fire Prevention Contest winning over several other suburban Departments. Fire Prevention on-going activities are outlined in greater detail in this report, however, in general can be simply summarized as falling into five divisions: 1) Fire Inspection, 2) Fire Investigation, 3) public and private education, 4) legislation, 5) data collection and analysis.

 

As a result of fire investigations and data anaysis, the Evanston Fire Prevention Bureau was responsible for identifying halogen lamp hazards in 1993 and since then, the lamps have been redesigned and are now much safer for the consumer. In addition, the Division was also involved in the research of Carbon Monoxide Detectors when they first came out. Our data collection was instrumental in identifying problems. We continued to work with Underwriter's laboratory, the Gas Research Institute, and other agencies until Carbon Monoxide Detectors evolved into the reliable life-safety devices that they are today. Evanston has always been a forerunner in Fire Prevention activities and continues to try ambitious projects to keep its visibility in the Community.

 

The Evanston Fire Department has redesigned its insignia and name. The Evanston Fire Department described only a part of the skills and services our Department offers. We are now called the Evanston Fire and Life Safety Services. Our main concern is the safety of the each and every life in our Community.

A Look Back: William C. Currie

William C. Currie, served as Captain and past President of Evanston Local 742, retiring in 1978 after 29 years with the Evanston Fire Department.   Bill Currie pushed for establishing a trained paramedic and fire department ambulance service in Evanston and also led a successful and historic strike in 1974. 

The strike and its success was something that Bill was very proud of.   After many months of meetings with the City of Evanston in an effort to agree to a 10 percent wage increase and a work week reduction to 54.2 hours they decided on a strike.   At the time of the strike Evanston fire fighters were working a 56-hour week at $4.33 an hour.   It was the first time that a strike had occurred in Evanston and in Illinois.   On February 28, 1974, 88 Evanston fire fighters walked out of their stations.   

The City automatically did what cities usually do -- went to the courts for an injunction. But Judge L. Sheldon Brown, refused to grant the order. So the City went to Circuit Court to get its injunction, forcing the fire fighters back to work after 50 hours of strike. The City was preparing to ask the court to jail the union leaders at the time of their return.   Evanston police did in fact issue warrants for their arrest.    

In the court settlement, the fire fighters returned to work on their regular shifts and the city agreed to no disciplinary actions. The City agreed to resume talks with a federal mediator and to submit disputed issues to an arbitrator -- however, the arbitrator’s decision was not binding. 

The Evanston fire fighters considered their walk-out a victory, as they had gotten the city and the public’s attention and were able to get the City back to the bargaining table.

Evanston was not the only suburban Chicago department in turmoil at the time. Fire fighters in Northlake and Morton Grove sued their cities to enforce the 56 hour work week. Franklin Park firefighters took a strike vote in 1974 also.

Firefighters must be = 

The above slogan was embossed on white pins with bold red lettering and were worn by the Evanston Firefighters and those who supported them wore during the strike. 

He loved being a “smoke eater” and he loved his fellow firefighters.   Bill Currie died on May 24, 1997, he was 71 years old.   

 

Horse History of the Evanston Fire Dept.

This from Phil Stenholm:

100 years ago (February 21, 1918), the last three horses were retired from service with the Evanston Fire Department as the EFD became fully motorized. (This was five years before the Chicago Fire Department retired its last horse and became full-motorized).

The Evanston Fire Department utilized horses to pull its apparatus for nearly 35 years. Horses could pull firefighting apparatus at a speed of approximately 10-12 miles per hour (depending on the size and weight of the apparatus, weather, road, and traffic conditions, and the number of horses used), although the speed would decrease as the distance to be traveled increased and the horses became fatigued. Then once on the scene of a fire, the horses would be uncoupled from their apparatus and kept warm or cool (as necessary)–and out of harm’s way while firefighters battled the blaze.

Firemen were responsible for the care and feeding of the horses, although horses that were ill or injured would be examined and treated by a veterinarian. Fire department horses were kept in service for ten to 15 years (sometimes a bit longer), depending on the horse’s age and general health. Horses used by the Evanston Fire Department were usually transferred to the Street Department when no longer able to meet the demands of pulling firefighting apparatus.

The Evanston Fire Department’s horses were treated with the respect and dignity normally accorded to a friend or family member. When firefighters from the Evanston Fire Department won a muster in Blue Island in 1902, “Bob” and “Dan” (the horses pulling the hose wagon) were given the same “hero’s welcome” as the firefighters when the hose wagon returned to Evanston. .

In 1912, the Evanston Firemen’s Benevolent Association staged a fund-raising performance of “The Still Alarm” (a popular melodrama of the era) at the Evanston Theater. Members of the Evanston Fire Department were featured in the play, including EFD horses “Sharkey” and “Buttons.” (With a predilection for biting the buttons off the clothing of anyone who might come near, “Buttons” was an unusually talented horse. He could actually open a water-faucet by himself, and he performed this trick in the play).

The Evanston Fire Department first employed horse-power to pull its firefighting apparatus in November 1883, after the Village Board of Trustees purchased a horse named “Dave” from a farmer in Indiana to pull the new four-wheeled fire patrol/hose wagon. (Prior to 1883, all EFD fire-fighting apparatus was hand-drawn).

Four additional horses were acquired for the Fire Department in 1884-85, after the formerly hand-drawn Babcock chemical-engine was converted to horsepower and after the Village of Evanston purchased a hook & ladder wagon from the Davenport Fire Apparatus Co. The horses were kept in a stable at the EFD’s engine house (an old wood-frame remodeled paint shop located at the northwest corner of Sherman Avenue and the north alley of Davis Street) that was acquired for the use of the Fire Department in 1883.

When the combination engine house/stable was placed in service in November 1883, the Evanston Fire Department became a part-time paid fire department (it had previously been 100% volunteer). So the Village of Evanston employed a full-time “police/fire officer” (combination village nightwatchman/fire apparatus caretaker) to live at the fire house. The duties of the police/fire officer included the feeding and general care of the Fire Department’s horses. A three-man full-time paid Fire Department was established on June 5, 1888, and each man was responsible for one of the firefighting apparatus (Hose 1, Chemical 1, or Truck 1) and the horses used to pull it.

After the Village of South Evanston was annexed by the Village of Evanston (and the City of Evanston was formed) in 1892, the Evanston Fire Department was expanded and more horses were needed. A one-horse one-axle hose cart (Hose 2) was placed in service at the Fire Department’s “Engine Hose No. 2” at the old South Evanston Village Hall at 750 Chicago Avenue (the Evanston Police Department also established a “South Precinct” at this facility after annexation), and the number of horses assigned to pull the fire patrol/hose wagon at Engine House No. 1 was increased from one to two. (By doubling the horsepower assigned to Hose 1, the speed of the apparatus was increased and the Fire Department’s response to alarms was improved).

Engine House No. 1 was relocated into the new City Hall at the northwest corner of Davis & Sherman (across the alley to the south from the old paint shop) in 1893, and a steam fire engine (an 1895 Ahrens “Metropolitan” 2nd size steamer) was placed into service in March 1895. But because no additional horses were acquired to pull the steamer, the very useful Babcock chemical-engine was taken out of service and placed into reserve as its horses were reassigned to the steamer. .

After a disastrous fire at the home of prominent Evanstonian Harvey Hurd in August 1899 where there was a delay in getting water onto the fire, the City Council acquired two additional horses for the Fire Department and the EFD placed the chemical-engine back into service. By this time “Engine House No. 1” (now known as Fire Station #1) had been relocated again, this time from City Hall into the new Police/Fire public safety headquarters at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman.

Five more horses were added to the Fire Department (for a total of 14) in 1901, as a two-horse four-wheeled hose-wagon replaced the one-horse single-axle hose cart at Station #2, a two-horse four-wheeled hose wagon was placed in service at new Fire Station #3 at 2504 West Railroad Avenue (later known as “Green Bay Road”) in North Evanston, and a two-horse buggy was purchased for the Chief Fire Marshal (as the Chief was now assigned a “buggy driver”).

Two more horses were added (for a total of 16) in 1903 when a Seagrave combination truck (light-duty hook & ladder and chemical engine) was placed in service at rebuilt Fire Station 2 (the three-bay firehouse was constructed on the site of the former South Evanston village hall/firehouse/police station), and another horse was added (bringing the total to 17) in 1906 when a new three-horse steam fire engine (an American-LaFrance “Metropolitan” 700 GPM steamer) was placed into service as Engine No. 1 at Fire Station #1. (The older Ahrens steamer was kept in reserve without manpower or horsepower 1906-11).

In the Summer of 1907, the hose wagons at Stations #2 and #3 (Hose 2 and Hose 3) were taken out of service and the horses that had been assigned to the two hose wagons were reassigned to the new American-LaFrance four-horse aerial-ladder truck that was placed into service at Station #1. The old Truck 1 (1885 Davenport H&L) was moved to Fire Station #3 (becoming Truck 3), and hose boxes with a capacity for 850-feet of hose-line were added to the Seagrave combination truck at Station #2 and to the Davenport H&L now at at Station #3.

The Evanston Fire Department had 19 horses in service (the most it would ever have) starting on February 15, 1911, when two more horses were acquired so that the old two-horse Ahrens steamer could be placed back into service at Station #2.

But the EFD’s horse-drawn era was on borrowed time.

As early as July 1909, the Evanston City Council had expressed an interest in the possibility of purchasing a gasoline-powered fire engine for the Fire Department. Gasoline-powered automobile fire apparatus were first used in the U. S. in 1906, and by 1909 it was becoming increasingly clear that the fire engine of the future would be motor-driven rather than horse-drawn.

Automobile fire apparatus were cheaper to operate than horse-drawn apparatus (horses needed to be fed every day, even when a fire department received no alarms, while automobile apparatus only needed gas and oil when they were in use), and automobile fire trucks were two or three times faster than horse-drawn apparatus and wouldn’t get tired and slow-down en route to a fire like horses sometimes would (thereby improving a fire department’s “response time,” and reducing or eliminating the need to construct additional fire stations to cover the outlying areas of a city).

The Evanston City Council’s Fire Committee made a fact-finding trip to Michigan in February 1910 to examine a gasoline-powered automobile fire engine–a Webb/Oldsmobile “combination” (pump & hose) pumper–that was in service in Lansing. Following the trip, the Fire Committee recommended Evanston purchase an “auto engine” for the Fire Department, and the City Council concurred. The question was left to voters in the form of a $10,000 bond issue referendum, and the bond issue was approved in April 1910 by a vote of 1,089 to 879 (55% in favor/45% opposed).

Even though the bond issue was approved in the Spring of 1910, the City Council took more than a year to purchase the truck. Aldermen wanted a so-called “triple-combination pumper” (pump, hose, and soda-acid fire suppression equipment all in one vehicle), so as to eliminate as many horses as possible.

The only bid received was from the Robinson Fire Apparatus Manufacturing Company–along with Howe and Webb, one of the leading manufacturers of automobile “combination pumpers” (pump and hose only) at the time, but there was some concern within the City Council that Robinson may not be able to meet the required specifications, since the company had never built a triple-combination pumper before. (The first triple-combination pumper ever built was placed into service on December 1, 1909, by the Monhagen Hose Company of Middletown, N. Y. The experimental prototype rig was manufactured by a New Jersey firm known as the “Tea Tray Company,” on an American Mors truck chassis).

Evanston Chief Fire Marshal Carl Harrison and the three members of the City Council’s Fire Committee visited the Robinson factory in St. Louis in February 1911. The visit was apparently a positive one, because on May 16, 1911, the City Council signed a contract with Robinson, agreeing to pay the Missouri company $9,000 for a triple-combination automobile pumper equipped with a 2nd size (approximately 700 GPM) triple-cylinder piston-pump, a 50-gallon soda-acid chemical tank with hose reel (the soda-acid chemical system being an automated version of the horse-drawn chemical engines of the 19th century), and two 25-foot extension ladders. The Evanston Index newspaper enthusiastically described the “auto truck” fire engine as “an entire fire department in itself!”

Known as the Robinson “Jumbo” (Robinson’s other impressive-sounding models included the “Invincible,” the “Whale,” the “Monarch,” the “Vulcan,” and the “Master”), the apparatus was powered by a six-cylinder 110-horsepower Buffalo marine engine, and featured a front-end hand-cranked starter, a right-side steering wheel, rear-wheel chain-drive two-wheel mechanical brakes, and solid rubber tires. (In spite of their “bumpy” ride, solid-rubber tires were considered safer and more reliable than pneumatic tires at the time). The hose-bed was polished teak (just like the deck of a sail-boat). Additionally, two ten-foot sections of hard-suction hose were strapped to the sides of the truck (each resting just above the front fenders, behind the headlights). Also, several kerosene lanterns (some with a clear lens, some with a colored lens) were hung from the outside of the apparatus, and a bell was mounted in front of the steering wheel on top of the cowl. (Sirens were not placed on Evanston fire apparatus until January 1927). As was common for the time, the truck had no windshield.

The “Jumbo” built for the City of Evanston was displayed at the International Association of Fire Engineers (IAFE) Convention in Milwaukee in September 1911, and the fire engine impressed many convention visitors. (Most had never seen a triple-combination automobile pumper before, since the Evanston “Jumbo” was one of the first triple-combination pumpers ever built).

Evanston Mayor Joseph E. Paden and Aldermen John W. Branch, Howard M. Carter, and James R. Smart traveled to Milwaukee on September 20th to meet with Robinson representatives and arrange for delivery of the apparatus to Evanston.

The fire engine arrived in Evanston during the first week of October 1911, and was road-tested over a three-day period starting on October 3rd. A Robinson engineer drove the five-ton “Jumbo” up and down the streets of Evanston, reaching a top-speed of 35 MPH.

Riding along on the test-drive were three members of the Evanston City Council (Aldermen Branch, Carter, and Changelon), and two engineers from the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU), Dr. F. A. Raymond and Kenneth Lydecker. The road-test was terminated early due to an overheated crankcase bearing, only the first of many mechanical problems to dog the Jumbo.

The Robinson “Jumbo” (officially rated at 750 GPM) passed capacity and pressure pump tests supervised by engineers from the NBFU at Becker’s Pond (now known as “Boltwood Park”) on Monday, October 23, 1911, successfully pumping 750+ gallons of water per minute at 110 pounds per square-inch through two 2-1/2” hose-lines fitted with 1-1/4” nozzles. The apparatus was accepted by the Evanston City Council on November 14th, and went into service as “Motor Engine No. 1” ten days later. Four new men were hired, including a civilian “Motor Driver” who had been specially trained at the Robinson factory in St. Louis. (A “Motor Driver” was defined as a combination chauffeur/mechanic/engineer).

The arrival of the “auto truck” allowed the City of Evanston to transfer four horses previously used by the Fire Department to the Street Department and transfer a steam fire engine (the EFD’s oldest engine, an 1895 Ahrens “Metropolitan” 600 GPM steamer) to Station #3 from Station #2. So by January 1912 (and for the first time ever), an engine company operating an automobile pumper or a steam fire engine was in service at each of Evanston’s three fire stations.

Because the Robinson “Jumbo” was so much faster than horse-drawn apparatus, Truck Co. 1 (operating at the time with a four-horse 1907 American LaFrance 85-ft HDA) was combined with Engine Co. 1 as a 15-man company (ten men on duty at any one time) known as “Motor Engine Co. 1,” and all personnel assigned to Station # 1 (except for a teamster and a tillerman assigned to drive the aerial-ladder truck and another man assigned as the chief’s “buggy driver”) rode to alarms aboard the “auto truck.”

In January 1916, fire gutted Rosenberg’s department store at 820 Davis St. Two Chicago F. D. engine companies assisted, and both of the CFD companies (Engine Co. 102 & Engine Co. 110) sent to Evanston were equipped with modern gasoline-powered automobile pumpers–Engine No. 102 a brand-new Seagrave, and Engine No. 110 a 1912 Webb that had previously been assigned to Engine Co. 102. With EFD Motor Engine No. 1 (the Robinson “Jumbo”) also working at the scene, it was a chance for Evanston officials to compare the performance of the three rigs under “game” conditions.

2,000 spectators gathered at Fountain Square, as Evanston and Chicago firemen fought the blaze late into the night. (Steve Redick was there but forgot to bring his camera). All three of the automobile pumpers ran out of gas after the EFD’s reserve fuel supply (120 gallons) was exhausted, but more gasoline was eventually located at a nearby garage. EFD Capt. Ed Johnson (Motor Engine Co. 1) was seriously injured at this fire, but eventually recovered and returned to duty. The $58,700 loss set a new mark (at the time) for the 2nd-highest loss from fire in Evanston’s history.

At the time that the Robinson engine was under consideration by the Evanston City Council in 1910, none of the companies that would later become the leaders in the production of automobile fire engines were manufacturing triple-combination pumpers. However, once Seagrave, American-LaFrance, and Ahrens-Fox began to produce reliable and durable automobile triple-combination pumpers, the temperamental “hot rod” manufactured by Robinson could not compete, and the company went out of business. And once the company was out of business, spare parts could only be obtained by salvaging parts from other Robinson rigs (if any could be located…).

In December 1914 the City of Evanston purchased an Overland roadster (at a cost of $800) for the Chief Fire Marshal, and by February 1918 the EFD was fully-motorized.

Voters approved a bond issue in April 1917 that led to the purchase of a fleet of automobile fire fighting apparatus from the Seagrave Company (total cost of $28,800), including one Model “E” city service ladder truck (equipped with an array of ladders including a 55-foot ground-based extension-ladder instead of an aerial-ladder, pike poles & axes, salvage covers, fire extinguishers, a heavy-duty jack, a life net, and a chemical tank & hose reel), one 750 GPM triple-combination pumper (a definite upgrade over the “Jumbo”), two chemical & hose 300 GPM booster-pumpers (originally specified in the advertisement for bids as chemical & hose wagons only, Seagrave threw-in the 300-GPM “booster-pumps” at no additional charge), and one Model “K” front-drive one-axle truck tractor (used to motorize the previously horse-drawn 1906 American-LaFrance “Metropolitan” 2nd-size steamer at Station #2).

The original Motorization Plan in 1916 included the acquisition of a four-wheel tractor to pull the 1907 American-LaFrance 85-ft HDA, but the truck was demolished in a collision with an Evanston Railway Company street car at Grove & Sherman in September 1916, and so an automobile city service truck was substituted for the tractor. The EFD did lease a 25-year old used (ex-Chattanooga F. D.) 1892 LaFrance/Hayes 65-ft HDA until the arrival of the new Seagrave city service truck in November 1917, but the EFD would operate without an aerial ladder apparatus for seven years, until September 1924 when a new Seagrave 85-ft TDA was placed in service at Station #1.

As a result of “motorization,” all of the EFD’s remaining horse-drawn rigs were scrapped over a three-month period (November 1917 – February 1918), and the horses used to pull the apparatus were transferred to the Street Department or sold. The EFD staged a parade through Evanston in March 1918 (on the first decent day of the Spring) to show off the new Seagrave rigs. No word on whether the old fire horses were watching.

As part of the Motorization Plan, Evanston’s fire-fighting force was increased from 39 to 41 in 1918. Motor Engine Co. 1 was reorganized at this time, with Engine Co. 1 (under the command of Capt. Tom McEnery and operating with the new triple-combination pumper) and Truck Co. 1 (under the command of Capt. Ed Johnson and operating with the new city-service ladder truck) were once again separate companies at Station #1 (as had been the case prior to 1912), Engine Co. 2 (under the command of Capt. Carl Harms and operating with both the tractorized-steamer and one of the new chemical & hose booster-pumpers) remained in service at Station #2, and Engine Co. 3 (under the command of Capt. George Hargreaves) remained in service at Station #3 with the other new chemical & hose booster-pumper. (Engine Co. 3 operated with just the 300-GPM booster-pumper through 1937).

Initially, the plan was to keep the Robinson “Jumbo” in service (moving it to Station #3 from Station #1) after the arrival of the Seagrave apparatus. However, because Seagrave added 300-GPM pumps to the chemical & hose wagons and because of the Jumbo’s history of mechanical problems, the difficulty in locating spare parts, and excessive vibration when operating at full-throttle, Chief Fire Marshal Albert Hofstetter (Carl Harrison’s successor) decided to remove the Robinson engine from front-line duty after only six years of service and have Engine Co. 3 operate with just the 300-GPM booster-pumper.

The Robinson “Jumbo” was kept in reserve as the EFD’s only spare automobile apparatus until 1929, when it was transferred to the Street Department for use as a utility truck. (Evanston’s Street Department operated with mostly-hose-drawn wagons throughout the 1920’s and into the 1930’s, so ANY automobile truck–even an old fire engine–was considered a useful upgrade).

By replacing horsepower with automotive power, the Evanston Fire Department was able to greatly improve its “response time” to alarms, and exchange the higher maintenance costs associated with the care and feeding of horses with the lower maintenance costs associated with autombiles.

In 1920, the City of Evanston replaced the stable facilities (stalls, tack rooms, and hay lofts) in the fire stations with kitchens, pantries, and dining rooms for the firemen, as firefighters now took their meals in the firehouse instead of at home or at a restaurant.

Meanwhile, the much-beloved animals (“Speed,” “Major,” “Buttons,” “Sharkey,” “Bob,” “Dan” and others) that gave horsepower to the Evanston Fire Department spent their last years pulling garbage wagons and utility carts for the City of Evanston Street Department.

 

 

 

 

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