Historical Highlights of the Chicago Fire Department by ProQuest


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									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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