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The Franklin Park Fire Department was organized officially in 1903. Prior to that time, firefighting was strictly a volunteer affair. Bucket brigades were used for the equipment and the alarm was the Indiana Harbor Belt Rail Road whistle. If a steam engine was in the rail yards, it blew its whistle. If there was not enough steam to sound a whistle, the alarm was never sounded and the house burned down.
Firefighting in the early days in Franklin Park consisted of fighting prairie fires that could easily have wiped out the town with the tall grass and old wooden buildings. Traveling around Franklin Park consisted of mud roads that became impassable from spring rains and were frozen ruts or snow banked lanes in the winter. Getting from Grand and Mannheim to Rose Street was hazardous and often possible only on horseback.
The first fire siren was installed in 1923. Before the death of Charles Rupp, it was his last official act to perform the testing of the siren before placing it in service. Firemen in the community responded to the siren for many years, until the introduction of a new type of phone service that would allow phone calls to the homes of the firemen. Early firemen received $1.00 for fire calls, with an additional fifty cents added for an extra half hour. Later the fee was raised to $2.00 and in 1947 firemen were granted a $3.00 fee.
Extra alarm fires that took place during the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies in Franklin Park were the Town and Country Hotel at Grand and Scott a six-story building better known as the Sunset Arms, Evans Lumber on Mannheim Rd., Aerosol Dynamitic's on Franklin Ave., Roto Ink on Franklin Ave., the Harbor Yards Water Tower and Deans Foods. Quality Tire on Birch St., the Best Steak House, National Fabrics and WC Grants on Mannheim Rd. Fastener Corp. (nine building loss) on River Rd., Montgomery Wards Warehouse on Seymour Ave. numerous Mackey house fires on Scott St. Club Hollywood on Belmont Ave. Josyln Mfg. on Grand Ave., Bollig's Tavern on Rose St., Cork and Clever Restaurant on Mannheim Rd. and Park Trucking on Chestnut St.
The first introduction of the contracted ambulance service occurred in 1975 with an ALS ambulance from Town & Country Ambulance being parked at Fire Station 2 from 9 AM until 5 PM daily. In late 1975, two ALS units were added due to the increased demand for emergency medical services. Some of the first contracted paramedics working here in Franklin Park were Earl Field, Terry Kurz, Andrew "Skip" Johnson, Larry Robins, Bob Horak, Mike Matthews, and Bob Debosko.
Extra alarm fires in the 1990s included the Reeves Ct. house fire, Fisher Pen on Belmont Ave. Houston Foods on Edgington St. and Maple Leaf Bakery on Mannheim Rd. As of 2000, the Franklin Park Fire Department advanced with new state of the art equipment including a force of 46-fire suppression, 13 medical personnel and 1 administrative assistant. They run four engine companies, one ladder company, one squad, three advanced life support ambulances, a command vehicle, two vehicles shared by fire prevention and training bureaus and one chief's car.
Information compiled by Rodger Hammill and David Traiforos. Originally printed January 29, 2000, edited 2/2008 and 4/2012.