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History of Lake Forest Fire Department

1891:    The Lake Forest Fire Brigade was formed, led by Chief William J. O’Neill, Sr., Assistant Chief Claude Crippen, and Captain Fred J. Wenban.

Lake Forest organized the first fire “brigade” to protect life, property and for the safety of its citizens. The third railroad station to serve Lake Forest was moved to Forest Avenue and was used to house some of the fire trucks due to lack of space.

1895-1902:    During the term of Mayor Edward F. Gorton, the Fire Department was established. When City Hall was built in 1898, and provisions were made to house Fire Department equipment. A fire bell was purchased and put in the tower of City Hall, which would ring out when there was a fire call.

1902:    J. V. Farwell’s barn and all its contents burnt to the ground. Mr. Farwell had a successful business in dry goods and was Mayor of Lake Forest from 1871-1872. (Guide to Lake Forest Mayors) The biggest problem for the Fire Department was that the fire “plug” was 1,000 feet away.

1913:    The first motor-driven ladder truck was purchased. This vehicle carried 1,250 feet of hose, 100 feet of ladders, and a 80-gallon chemical tank with 200 feet of 1-inch hose. The first full-time firefighter was hired. Alfred Marwede, Sr. served as the truck's engineer.

1918:    The fire bell at City Hall rang out whenever there was a report of fire. In November when an armistice had been announced, the Society of Women wanted the bell to ring in joy. After 1½ hours of ringing, the bell cracked. It is reported that the bell was to be kept as a commemoration, much like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA.

An electric siren was purchased to replace the bell.

1921:    The first motor driven pumper was acquired with a 750 gallon capacity. Before this, firefighters depended only on the water main pressure.

1924:    Fire claims the home of famous millionaire broker Volney Foster.

1925:    A new firehouse was erected next to the police station. There was a bunk room to sleep in, the chief’s office, and enough room to house three pieces of apparatus.

Famed National Tea Grocery chain owner George S. Rasmussen lost several out buildings due to fire. Lake Forest firefighters are credited with saving the main house. This same year, the Vice President of Armour & Company, Laurance Armour, lost his home to fire. No lives were lost.

1927:    Two additional full-time firefighters hired.

1929:    The first full-time chief was appointed: James Hough, a retired captain from Chicago.

1933:    A fire at 410 Washington completely burned the house of investment banker C. W. Folds. This fire ruined a Fire Department record of dollar loss. For over a year, the department had kept fire loss to under $1,000. This fire alone was estimated to cost approximately $75,000.

1936:    The coldest temperatures the Fire Department fought fires in to date. A fire at the Ferry estate on Lake Road was fought in temperatures of 25 degrees below zero. It took three days before the department was back in normal mode of operation.

In the Fall of this same year, the estate of Louis F. Swift of Swift & Co. packing had a $40,000 loss to a barn and garage.

1937:    The regular members of Lake Forest Fire Department were given a great opportunity to be trained in Chicago. The fire commissioner gave his permission for the paid members Lake Forest to go to Chicago for training.

1938:    It appears that the old saying of “firefighters rescue cats stuck in the trees” is true. On October 25, the Fire Chief George Bauman went up a ladder in Market Square to rescue a kitten.

1957:    5-year old Thomas Price was credited with saving his family's lives. During the night, the smell of smoke woke up the young Thomas. He went to his parent's bedroom and told his dad he smelled smoke. All family members got out safely. Thomas became a member of the Lake Forest Fire Department 20 years later as a volunteer. Meanwhile on the south side of town that same night, firefighters were saving the lives of 14 other persons in an apartment fire.

1961:    Fire ripped through a 30-room, servants quarters at the Onwentsia Club. It took fire personnel three hours to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings.

1962:    A downtown blaze uproots eight families and virtually destroys a supermarket. The families lived above the supermarket on N. Western Avenue. The families were lucky to get out alive.

1964:    The first reported fire related deaths in Lake Forest Fire Department history occurred. A mother and two children died when their apartment started on fire.

1966:    Six firefighters are treated and released at the hospital after battling a blaze where two elderly people succumbed to smoke inhalation.

1969:    The Fire Department gets a new home at 255 W. Deerpath. Moving day was April 26.  They went from a three-bay, back-in station, to five drive-through bays. At this point in time, on duty manpower was fire firefighters. The main station housed three firefighters, and the west side station housed two.

220 E. Deerpath, Lake Forest, IL 60045
(847) 234-2600
Non-Emergency Police:  (847) 234-2601

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