Improvements continued in the 1870s and 1880s. On Dec. 21, 1872, Engine 21 was organized with seven African American members. In 1876; Chief Operator John-Barrett designed and installed the "Barrett Joker," an.automatic register that gave the box alarm signals, embossed on a strip of paper, to all fire companies. Talking lines were extended to all the firehouses along with telegraph sounders and keys in 1877.
FIRE HISTORY >>> Part 1 – The Early Years perience he could draw upon throughout their companies responded to the Stock a career that led to the top job of fire com- Yards blaze. Companies from Hammond, The year 2008 marked the 150th anniver- missioner 24 years later. Joliet, Lake Forest and Oak Lawn worked On the east side of the fire, the on- at the fire. Offers of men and equipment sary of the organization of the paid Chicago coming wave of heat and flame continued came from as far away as Milwaukee, De- Fire Department (CFD). The paid department to cause “practically instantaneous in- troit and Cincinnati. traces its ancestry to the colorful and romantic volvement of entire buildings in its path.” The city certainly needed extra help volunteer fire department that protected Chicago Structures on the east side of Dexter Park because no fewer than 100 of its pump- from 1832 to 1858, when Chicago was a large Avenue and the west side of Halsted were ers were used at the fire, along with 12 city bustling with riverboats, steam trains, stock- consumed so quickly that Engines 43 ladder trucks, all three water towers, four yards, tall grain elevators, and buildings five and and 98 burned on the spot. What were high-pressure wagons and three squads. six stories tall. called freak currents of heated gases and Other apparatus at the scene included The inadequacy of the volunteers to cope sparks swept over intervening buildings three light wagons, five ambulances, and now attacked frame porches behind three gasoline supply wagons and three with a major incident culminated at the fire of buildings east of Halsted. fire insurance patrol units. Only 13 of the Oct. 19, 1857, when 23 lives were lost, including In his report, Costello said, “By this engines being used had pumping capacity six volunteer firemen, and property worth a half- time we were driven from Exchange Ave- of 1,000 gallons per minute. The rest were million dollars was destroyed. Early in 1858, a nue and Dexter Park Avenue, and the fire 750-gallon rigs. Fire department repair steam engine, built in New York and nicknamed marshal decided we would have to make shops delivered five engines, along with Long John after the current Mayor Wentworth, our next stand on Halsted Street, being nine other pieces of apparatus with extra was tested and purchased, and became Engine backed by engine companies on Union hose, to the quarters of Engine 29, where 1. The end of the volunteer system came official- Avenue, with the entire two blocks on off-shift firemen were dispatched to put Halsted from 43rd to Root Street being them in service. ly on Aug. 2, 1858, when by city ordinance the on fire,” including the Drovers Bank, the The Stock Yards Fire was considered paid department was organized and an engineer Old Stock Yards Pavilion, the Stock Yards under control by about 11 P.M. Saturday, was hired for the Long John. Slowly but surely, Inn and a number of other buildings. but it wasn’t officially struck out until companies of the paid department replaced “To give a little idea of the spirit dis- 11:47 P.M. on Sunday, May 20. After that, volunteer units, and by 1867, the volunteers played by the men,” Costello said, “I saw several companies remained on the site were gone forever. one company working in the heart of the for a few days to watch for rekindling and And so began the era of horse-drawn flames, their hose afire on the street almost knock down dangerous walls. The nearly apparatus and steam fire engines that would last to the pipe. Finally, their engine went up 31½-hour battle burned the equiva- for the next 65 years. Improvements during the in a blaze of flame, and without any order lent of six square city blocks and caused from a superior officer, they instantly ran property losses in excess of $6 million. 1860s included the installation of fire alarm boxes to the nearest engine which was working, Yet, thanks to the relentless efforts of on street corners and gongs in the engine houses pulled off a second line of hose, and after the firemen, many of whom responded on June 2, 1865. In 1869, a modern water-pump- trying to extinguish the fire on this engine, while off-duty or even out of retirement, ing station and tower connected by a two-mile led out a section that was catching on fire important buildings were saved, includ- tunnel intake to an inexhaustible supply of water and went to work as though it were an ev- ing the Armour & Co. general offices, the from Lake Michigan was completed. eryday occurrence. And at the same time Armour and Swift packing plants, the By 1871, the force consisted of 216 men every man on that company was in need G.H. Hammond Packing Co. and the Live manning 17 engines, four hook-and-ladders, six of medical attention.” Stock National Bank. As noted earlier, Costello had called Miraculously, only one fatality was re- hose companies and two hose elevators. Chicago for a 4-11 at 4:26 P.M., and besides the ini- ported. Isaac Means, a Stock Yards watch- had a population of 334,370, an area of 36 square tial response of four engines, two trucks, man who is credited with turning in one of miles and 59,500 buildings, most of them frame. a squad and a high-pressure wagon, each the first alarms, could have fled, but stayed An inadequate fire force in a frame city, coupled level of extra alarms brought five more to open some of the pens to save hundreds with 14 weeks of drought, hot and scorching engines and various other apparatus. of cattle and lost his life in the process. As winds from the southwest, needed only a fire on After Costello’s call for a 5-11
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