Lincolnshire-Riverwoods fire district celebrates 75th with fun, nod to tradition

  • Evan Benson, 7, of Palatine, attempts to drop Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District Chief Tom Krueger into a dunk tank Sunday during a celebration of the department's 75th anniversary. The event mixed family friendly activities with tributes to the fire district's long history.

      Evan Benson, 7, of Palatine, attempts to drop Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District Chief Tom Krueger into a dunk tank Sunday during a celebration of the department's 75th anniversary. The event mixed family friendly activities with tributes to the fire district's long history. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Retired fire Capt. Allan Mattson views the plaque commemorating the sacrifice of Assistant Chief John Polimeni, who was killed in the line of duty in 1971. Mattson was among the many former Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District firefighters who returned to the fire station to help celebrate the department's 75th anniversary.

      Retired fire Capt. Allan Mattson views the plaque commemorating the sacrifice of Assistant Chief John Polimeni, who was killed in the line of duty in 1971. Mattson was among the many former Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District firefighters who returned to the fire station to help celebrate the department's 75th anniversary. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • A plaque honoring Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District Assistant Chief John Polimeni, who died in the line of duty in 1971, was on display Sunday during a celebration of the agency's 75th anniversary.

      A plaque honoring Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District Assistant Chief John Polimeni, who died in the line of duty in 1971, was on display Sunday during a celebration of the agency's 75th anniversary. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 6/7/2015 7:09 PM

Fun and tradition went hand in hand Sunday as the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District celebrated its 75th anniversary with family friendly activities and tributes to the agency's long history.

Children slid down fire poles and even had a chance to send Fire Chief Tom Krueger falling into a dunk tank.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Guests viewed dive team demonstrations and visited a public education trailer.

There also were demonstrations of a vehicle extrication and the difference interior sprinklers can make when it comes to putting out a fire.

The rich tradition of the department, once known as the Vernon Fire Protection District, was well in evidence with the attendance firefighters who were with the department more than 40 years ago.

"To have all these guests (the people who served in the past) here to exchange stories is something that is indescribable," said firefighter/paramedic Eric Levernier. "I'm the 87th firefighter to be hired. Number one is here."

Krueger said the department has been emphasizing the tradition of the fire service.

"They want to get into the traditions of the fire service," he said of today's younger firefighters. "That is why we are doing all of this today."

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Among the early firefighters present Sunday was Ted Tarr, who served as chief from 1972 to 1997. He joined a department when it was making a transition from a volunteer to a professional agency.

"I was the first paid firefighter," he said.

During his tenure, the department moved from the old station on Milwaukee Avenue to its current facility on Schelter Road.

Among the fires he recalled was the Christmas Eve 1992 blaze at DJ Stables in Mettawa. More than 70 horses had to be evacuated, as about 100 firefighters from 22 departments fought the fire for nearly 12 hours in freezing temperatures.

"The smoke coming out of the roof was huge at the stable," Tarr said. "We had 9,000 bales of hay in the hayloft. And that's where the fire was."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Over the years, the department has grown from one to three fire stations and six to 43 full-time firefighters.

Among the retired firefighters who visited Sunday was Capt. Allan Mattson, one of the first six full-time firefighters hired. He recalled the department's only fatality when, in 1971, Assistant Chief John Polimeni died after a fire truck responding to a blaze in a vacant building overturned on Weiland Road in Buffalo Grove.

Four other firefighters were injured in the accident, including Mattson, who had four dislocated ribs, a dislocated shoulder, a sprained ankle and a concussion.

"Not bad for flying off the back of a fire truck," he said Sunday.

Mattson, who retired with the rank of captain, said the district's early firefighters were a "special group of people" and praised the current ranks.

"It is even more professional," he said. "The tools the guys have today are just light years (ahead of) what we had back then."

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