Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol
In 1833 when Chicago was incorporated as a town, it was protected from fire by a company called the "Washington Volunteers." During this year the first fire ordinance was passed making Fire Warden Benjamin Jones responsible for monthly inspection of all buildings to insure that no stovepipes passed through any roof, partition, or wall of a building unless guarded by tin or iron six inches from the wood. A fine of five dollars could be levied for any violation of the law, the fine to be repeated if the cause of complaint was not removed within 48 hours. The following year the town was divided into four wards, and in each a warden was appointed to make a monthly inspection to ensure compliance with the ordinance. In case of fire, the wardens had the power to call on citizens or bystanders to assist in putting out the blaze. The fire-bucket ordinance of 1835 required every occupant or owner of a store or dwelling "to have one good painted leather fire-bucket, with the initials of the owner's name painted thereon" for each fireplace or stove in the building, the bucket to be hung within easy reach. Thus the Fire Department and Bureau of Fire Prevention had their start. The engine house was on LaSalle Street where City Hall now stands, and covered an area of twelve by twenty-four feet which contained a cistern made of pine lumber large enough to hold two hogsheads of water. Two hand-engines were used by this early fire department. The first paid fire department was organized on August 2, 1858. Steam engines and a fire-alarm telegraph system were then purchased for the first time. The hose carts were at first drawn by men running at top speed, but the engines were drawn by horses. The first fire-alarm boxes were installed in 1865. The most destructive fire that Chicago had yet experienced occurred October 19, 1857. Twenty-three lives were lost and property damage was extensive. As a result of this fire, the Citizens Fire Brigade of Chicago was formed on November 19, 1857. Consisting of businessmen and insurance companies, the duties of the brigade were to take valuable goods from burning buildings and prevent damage by water and thievery. The Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol, organized October 2, 1871, had its beginning in this Citizen's Fire Brigade. The great fire of 1871 (October 8) led to a reorganization of the Fire Department on a military basis. The city was divided into 18 battalion districts, the companies in each comprising a battalion, under the charge of an Assistant Fire Marshal or Battalion Chief. The fire department stopped using horses for fire trucks February 5, 1923, with Fire Engine 11, at 10 East Austin Avenue. Fire alarm box 846 at State and Chicago Avenue was pulled at 12:40 p.m. and with the horses scrubbed and groomed, the old steamer rolled out of the swinging doors for the last time. While they were gone the new motor apparatus was backed into place, and the motorization of the Chicago Fire
Department was an accomplished fact. The drivers took a cheer from the crowd on the return to the firehouse and then the horses were taken to the House of Correction to be sold. An important date in the more recent history of the Fire Department is January 1, 1958, when the Bureau of Fire Investigation was created. Prior to its inception, the sources of many of Chicago's fires went undetermined. Knowledge of the causes of fires has proved to be extremely valuable not only in the prevention of potential fire, but in aiding insurance companies in their investigations and increasing the protection of the citizens of Chicago. All of the personnel assigned to this unit have completed arson courses at various universities throughout the country and are thoroughly trained in their respective fields. Another recent milestone in Chicago Fire Department history was the construction of the Fire Academy, a $2.5 million Fire Department complex with the most modern training school in the country.
Built on the site of the famous O'Leary home where the great Chicago Fire of 1871 started, the Fire Academy was dedicated in May, 1961. Today the 4,314 firefighters and 619 paramedics of the Fire Department rank among the world's best.
A Chronological History of Chicago: 1673- Compiled by Chicago Municipal Reference Library, City of Chicago Updated by Municipal Reference Collection, Chicago Public Library Last Updated: 08/1997
Patrol 7 members front row L–R Earl Nootbaar, unknown member, Jim Banks, John McCue.
Top row L-R Warren Redick, Jim Hastings and Loren O’Rourke
Our deepest condolences to the families of Earl Nootbaar and Bill Schneidwind who passed on a few months ago.
Excerpts from the chapter:
“In Their Own Words …. The Men of the Patrol.”
Patrolman Don Kelso: “We had a fire at a mattress company and the building had chutes in there for the mattresses. We were below the fire placing covers, when all of a sudden some mattresses on fire started sailing down the chutes and chased us right out of the building. We didn’t expect this and the whole place ended up burning down".
Patrolman Earl Nootbaar(Passed away 2006): “I was 23 years old when I went on the Patrols and even now at age 80, I can still remember the Patrol slogan – “Mid summer rains and winter snows, thru portals these which never close, speed loyal hearts and willing arms, duty bound to fire alarms.”
Patrolman Pierce Buckley: “When I came on there was a handball court in Patrols 1 & 2’s house. For training they brought you in there and you simulated covering racks of clothing and racks against the wall. Racks against the wall had to be covered by getting something to weigh down the covers at the top because you couldn’t get behind them. We also simulated making chutes and how to properly cover an open roof to prevent further damage. They placed you with an experienced patrolman and you practiced throwing covers everyday and after while it became second nature to you.”