Everyone knows that I’m all about the History, Tradition, Pride, Honor and Respect of the Fire Department and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a few days this week with the Chicago Fire Department as well as my friends and family from MN8 Fox FoxFire (link) .
It was a GREAT trip and I’m glad I made it! I wasn’t going to go but changed my mind at the last minute as my dad agreed to drive me up (I have been feeling a bit “under the weather”).
We went up in support of Zach Green and MN8 FoxFire being recognized for a contribution they made to the Chicago FD. Earlier in the year, Chicago held an event they called the “Great Chicago Fire Hydrant Event” (learn more about the event HERE) . The event launched on September 11, 2013 in an effort to bring awareness to Chicago’s Bravest as well as to raise money for the “100 Club of Chicago” (link) .
“The 100 Club of Chicago is the civilian organization that provides for the families of police officers, firefighters and paramedics who have lost their lives in the line-of-duty. The Club helps families ease the financial burden associated with the tragic event, including immediate financial assistance and the ongoing cost of higher education. All federal, state, county and local police officers, firefighters and paramedics stationed in Cook County are included” .
There were over 100 hydrants entered into the event. Each was approx. 5′ tall by 3′ wide and were custom painted. They were then displayed in front of prominent businesses or locations of sponsors throughout the city. At the conclusion of the event, each hydrant was auctioned off. Zach (MN8 Fox Fire) won the bid for the hydrant created by Chicago Firefighter Charles “Tattoo Chuck” Iglinski . You can view that hydrant HERE . The hydrant was sponsored by and displayed in front of Funkie Fashions (link) which is a company owned by another Chicago Firefighter.
It was the only hydrant which displayed the names of ALL of the Chicago Fire Department’s Line Of Duty Deaths. It was a humbling and beautiful piece.
As soon as Zach won the bid, he knew that the hydrant belonged to the Chicago Fire Department and it’s members. He quickly arranged for it to be donated back to them in hopes it would have a home fitting for the members inscribed on it.
We were overwhelmed at the response from the Chicago FD. Not only were they grateful for the contribution, they quickly decided that it would be permanently displayed in the lobby of their Training Academy where the badges and other Memorials to their fallen are located! It was a HUGE HONOR from all aspects!
The Academy is actually built on the exact spot where the Great Chicago Fire started back in 1871 inside Mrs O’Leary’s barn. That October fire is the reason today that Fire Prevention month is in October. That fire is also responsible for many other traditions we still hold dear in today’s Fire Service. I don’t know of a greater piece of Fire Service History than this spot.
The walls of the Academy are lined with the badges of Chicago’s fallen. There are over 573 of them.
Another interesting fact I learned is that the display case only came about after (or possibly during) the filming of the movie Back Draft. Film director Ron Howard mentioned the fact that he had noticed their absence and was told the reason was due to an inadequate budget. The story is that he immediately requested his personal check book and drafted a check suitable for the display.
There were several other Memorials on display as well. Bronze castings of boots etc. One that stood out for me was those of Firefighter Christopher Wheatley.
I had the HONOR of meeting FF Wheatley’s family back in October, 2011 at the 30th Annual National Fallen Fire Fighter’s Memorial Weekend. We shared many tears and even a few laughs together.
Our meeting was early in my years as a volunteer at the NFFF and it made quite the impression on me. It’s one of the main reasons I continue to serve the NFFF and their mission today. Apparently, Firefighter Wheatley made an impression on the Chicago FD as well . They named a Fire Boat after him. You can read my previous post from that Memorial Weekend in the link below …
The recruits who attend here are not even allowed to walk these halls (or enter this section of the building) until they graduate.
They have to EARN the right to share the same space as these men, their memories and legacies! You can imagine then what an HONOR it was for us from MN8 FoxFire to be invited into this place.
The Hydrant Zach purchased and donated back to the Department was placed in the lobby along with a plaque recognizing him (and the Company) for the gesture.
They even had a small Dedication Ceremony complete with bagpipes!
I didn’t get a head count but there were several in attendance. Several members spoke and gave their “thanks” while in the end, the hydrant was placed where it should be. It’s just another small example of firemen, Brothers, Sisters and companies DOING THE RIGHT THING.
I’m proud to have attended and to be associated with folks such as Zach Green and my MN8 FoxFire family. What I haven’t mentioned yet was that my dad (retired from the job with almost 30 yrs) made the trip with me. Actually he did more than make the trip …. he drove the entire way (1450+ miles in 3 days).
It was also my Birthday and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend it. I’ll give ya some details as to who else attended and some of the folks we met (remember, the TV series Chicago Fire is actually filmed there) in a future post. I’m going to stop here for now and attend to a few details needing my attention. I’ll get back to ya in the next day or so but until I do …..
Stay SAFE and in House!