Formation of the Clarendon Heights Fire Protection District began in 1954 when the residents of an area originally known as the South East Acres Civic Association were notified by the Village of Westmont that they would no longer provide fire protection to the area. The Village of Clarendon Hills followed suit two years later.
As it became increasingly clear that the area was going to need fire protection services, the residents changed the association name to the Clarendon Heights Association and then again to the Clarendon Heights Fire Association. One last attempt was made by the residents in 1956 to secure fire protection from either Westmont or Clarendon Hills but efforts proved unsuccessful.
A referendum was held shortly thereafter seeking to form the Ruth Lake Fire Protection District but the referendum failed by a vote of 263 to 194. Not deterred, the Fire Association incorporated and elected a President, Bill Bergman. By the end of 1956 there were ten volunteer firefighters and Erv Drallmieier was elected the first Fire Chief of the fire department.
In 1957, the Ladies’ Auxiliary was organized and became a valuable part of the fire department assisting with many fund-raising projects. In December 1957, a 1934 Dodge pumper was purchased from the Milton Fire District for $1,450 and numbered Engine No. 1.
Engine No. 1
In March 1958, the first official incident of the fire department was recorded – a prairie fire. Petitions were again circulated in May 1958 seeking to form a fire protection district. A 1936 International pumper was purchased from the Chicago Ridge Fire District for $200 and became the second piece of apparatus for the fire department and was known as Truck No. 2.
Next on the fire department’s list was obtaining a building to house the growing fleet. The Fire Association leased garage space for $1.00 from John Heidenreich and the first fire station was located at 5824 Bentley. In July 1958, the referendum was held and passed forming the Clarendon Heights Fire Protection District and the first fire district Trustees were appointed – Art Nissen, Elton Pearson and Art Winkler. The fire district boundaries were 55th Street on the north, Richmond Avenue on the west, 67th Street on the south up to Clarendon Hills Road then north up Clarendon Hills Road to 63rd Street, the north side of 63rd Street to Madison then north back to 55th Street. The fire district contracted the services of the volunteer fire department for $1.00.
Clarendon Heights Fire Protection District Boundaries
(on a modern-day map)
In April 1960, John Heidenreich became the second fire chief. 1960 was also a busy year for the fire district in regards to vehicle acquisitions. A 1950 Ford panel truck was purchased from a local electrician and was used to transport rescue equipment as well as injured firefighters. This vehicle was designated No. 3.
Then a heavy construction contractor out of McCook, S.A. Healy, donated a 1947 Dodge tanker truck which carried 1000 gallons of water. This became the District’s first tanker and was designated No. 4 and later No. 6. In August 1960, a 1948 Ford pumper was purchased from the Pleasantview Fire Protection District for $3,000.
1947 Dodge tanker truck donated by S. A. Healy
1948 Ford pumper purchased from the Pleasantview Fire Protection District
The District was quickly outgrowing the space on Bentley and it was evident that a larger facility was needed. Through donations, fund raisers and $10,000 in borrowed funds the fire district had enough money to build a new fire station. The building was built by members of the fire district, who not only donated their time but also provided the funding to complete the station. On April 30, 1961, the fire station officially opened.
The Clarendon Heights Fire Protection District experienced the largest incident in its history on September 1, 1961 when TWA Flight 529, a four-engine Lockheed Constellation L-049 aircraft crashed into the corn and soybean fields just west of 6100 Clarendon Hills Road just after 2:00 AM killing all 78 on board. The flight had taken off from Midway Airport and was bound for Las Vegas when, while climbing to 5000 feet, it suddenly pitched violently upwards resulting in an accelerated stall from which the crew was unable to recover. The cause of the crash was a technical failure of the elevator control (controls the aircraft’s pitch) resulting in loss of control of the aircraft. At the time the crash was the 3rd worst in U.S. history and currently ranks as the 32nd worst. A Memorial for TWA Flight 529 can be found across the street from the crash site in the Village of Willowbrook’s Prairie Trail Park.