Friday, October 13, 2023

Establishing a Paramedic Service in the Cincinnati Fire Department

Establishing a Paramedic Service in the Cincinnati Fire Department

In 1972 the Rescue 52 Committee was formed to determine how to bring paramedic service to all the municipalities in Hamilton County.  This included training some 1000 providers across the county to the level of paramedic.  The first phase of the project involved training 23 Cincinnati Fire Department squadmen as paramedics at Cincinnati General Hospital.  The Rescue 52 Committee was named for Cincinnati's first fire department rescue company which began operation in 1916.  As part of their research, members of the committee visited existing medic systems in Columbus and Seattle. 

The Rescue 52 Committee
Dr. Robert McMaster, Chairman - Stewart Creelman - Randall Garland - Robert Van Fossen
 Thomas Bittenbender - George Loeber - Jerry Ransohoff - Laurence H. Kyte Jr.
Cincinnati Fire Chief Bert Lugannani - Miss mary Flugstad - Dr. Donald Romhilt - Scott Stoelting

The Rescue 52 Project aimed to improve mobile emergency care in Cincinnati.  Equipment for the initial phase of the program was purchased with funds solicited by the Cincinnati Association of Life Underwriters and included over $80,000 in contributions. The first group of Cincinnati Fire Department squadmen began training in June 1973.  The course was coordinated by Dr. Donald Romhilt, a cardiologist, and physicians associate Richard Turner and was given at Cincinnati General Hospital.  Training included 48 hours of on duty time and 160 hours of off duty work.  Early medics learned to establish IV's, administer drugs, and produce and read electrocardiographs that could be transmitted to the hospitals from the field.  Medics were also able to defibrillate patients in cardiac arrest and were in radio communication with physicians at the hospital.   

First CFD Members Trained as Paramedics
Capt. Roland Hulley - Lt. Chester Busham - Lt. George Wells - John Yeager - William Rinear
Ralph Rengering - Robert Williams - Vincent Ehemann - Thomas Herbert
William Nackenhorst - Robert Becker - Joseph Voegele - Roger Moore
Gary Kearsey - Bernard Klaene - Raymond Voss - Ralph Stelter - William Tolle
Robert Bee - Kenneth Durbin - Billy Snape - Charles Scherrer - Lester Lindsey

New CFD paramedics in training

CFD Medics Lt. George Wells & Bill Snape on Rescue 24 in Price Hill
Photos Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum - Kappa Family Collection

By the end of 1973 the Cincinnati Fire Department operated two ambulance units (Rescue 01 which ran out of the 14s quarters at 430 Central & Rescue 02 which ran out of the 09s quarters on Reading Rd).  Plans were in place for an expansion of the departments EMS services with a group of 21 members having largely completed training as paramedics and equipment and apparatus on order.  The planned expansion called for operation of 1 heavy duty task unit (Squad52), 2 paramedic units, and three rescue (basic) units.  Expansion of the EMS program was expected to reduce the number of transports made by Cincinnati Police Scout Cars, then a common mode of transport to the hospital for minor cases.  

Left: New Style CFD Ambulance units purchased for the EMS expansion - Right: Police scout cars used for patient transports 
Photos Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum

In 1974 Rescue 01 & Rescue 02 continued to operate from their previously assigned locations and now offered paramedic service.  Three additional Rescue units (18, 24, and 38) were also placed in service providing basic service and expanding the departments ability to meet the needs of the community.  Outside of the City of Cincinnati, Gary Miller of the Red Cross was appointed by Dr. McMaster to share information in an effort to begin to expand the program throughout Hamilton County.  

CFD Rescue 38 members Ron Schramm and Charlie Scherrer in operation at an EMS run
Courtesy Stelter Family Collection

On April 4, 1976 the department moved forward with a realignment of emergency medical services.  Rescue 01 remained in its location at 430 Central but was renamed Rescue14.  Rescue 02 was disbanded.  Rescue 18 was moved to Hyde Park and renamed Rescue 46.  Rescue 24 and 38 remained in their previous locations.  All of the rescue units were made paramedic units at this time.  The four paramedic units made 16,332 runs in 1976 compared with 16,250 in 1975.  

CFD Table of Organization 12/31/1976 - 4 Paramedic Rescue Units 

With the additional services provided by Cincinnati Fire Department paramedics, the needs of the community would continue to grow.    In 1978, to further standardize quality and care, the Cincinnati Fire Department generated the first paramedic operations manual in the nation.  By 1979 the department was utilizing fire engine companies as first responding units throughout the city and by the end of that year, Cincinnati paramedics working with the University of Cincinnati Paramedic Program had trained over 200 additional medics working throughout Hamilton County.  The stage was set for the CFD to assume full control of city Emergency Medical Operations in the next decade.  Soon the police scout car would be a thing of the past as national standards would come to dictate emergency medical transportation.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

1940 Fall Proves Fatal to Fireman

1940 Fall Proves Fatal to Fireman

Scene of Ladder Failure - August 4, 1940 - Dressing Family Collection

On August 4, 1940, companies were drilling in the rear of Engine 32's quarters in Avondale.  Firefighter John Dressing Jr was ascending the aerial of Ladder Company 9 (todays Ladder 23) as part of a training evolution.  As Dressing approached the top of the 85ft aerial, it suddenly broke near its base falling onto the roof of an adjoining garage and tossing Dressing through a skylight.  It was estimated he fell twenty feet.  Firefighter Dressing suffered serious neck and internal injuries as well as a broken left arm and broken rib.  He was hospitalized for 7 days and was off duty for over 5 months.  Despite ongoing health concerns, he was returned to duty and assigned to Engine 49 in Madisonville.  Sometime around August 1943 he began to experience swelling in his neck and again visited with doctors.  Soon it was determined that a cancerous tumor had developed.  Doctors reviewed the case and indicated that his disease was potentially linked to his earlier injuries sustained in the fall.  As his health deteriorated, he was again forced from service and on February 2, 1944 he was taken to General Hospital where he died the following day.  Doctors determined his cause of death was pneumonia and carcinoma of the lung.

Cincinnati Fire Department Injury Report - August 4, 1940 - Dressing Family Collection

Recently I was contacted by the son of Firefighter Dressing, Mr. John Dressing III.  He was interested in sharing some photographs of his father and additional documentation and details regarding his father's service and death.  Mr. Dressing visited the quarters of Engine 35 in Westwood to share his father's story.  Though he was just a young child at the time of his father's injury, he was able to provide a wealth of information and documentation addressing the incident.  


John Dressing III visiting Engine 35s Quarters in October 2022


Newspaper Source Unknown
Dressing Family Collection

Firefighter John Dressing died of his injuries/illness on February 15, 1944.  He was survived by his wife and two young children.  His story is representative of the many sacrifices sustained by countless firefighters in the course of their service to the City of Cincinnati for which the details are often lost to history.  Many thanks to Mr. John Dressing III for sharing his fathers story!

John Dressing Jr - Dressing Family Collection

Additional History and information

John Dressing entered the Cincinnati Fire Department in 1933.  He was assigned to Ladder Company 12 at the time of his accident.  In 1997 Ladder 12 was re-numbered Ladder 32.  

Dressing is known to have responded to the Spaier Health Shoe Store 3 alarm fire and collapse on February 23, 1940 and was among the 16 firefighters who were injured when the floor collapsed beneath them.  Many of the firefighters were trapped under heavy debris but Dressing was fortunate to escape with only minor injuries.  

John Dressing drinking coffee after being rescued from the Spaier Shoe Store Collapse
Dressing is pictured second from right
Cincinnati Post - 24 February 1940

Dressing's father, John Dressing Sr., was a Cincinnati Police Patrolman with the Traffic Court.  He suffered a heart attack just days after learning of his son's fall from the ladder in 1940.  He was transported to General Hospital where his son was already a patient.  A couple of days later local  papers reported both men to be in fair condition.  John Dressing Sr. ultimately recovered and was released from the hospital.    

We honor the memory and sacrifice of 

Firefighter John Dressing Jr


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

In Memory of Bill Houston

On May 1st members of the Cincinnati Fire Department lost a brother, friend, and mentor.  Bill Houston was a well respected fireman with a passion for the history of the CFD and the fire service.  Bill loved steam fire engines, old equipment, and great stories.  Many of the images shared in previous posts where provided by Bill.  He was always happy to share his collection!

William G. Houston

Bill, thanks for all you have done to protect and preserve the history of the CFD.

Friday, May 20, 2016

In Honor of Jordan Pieniazek

In Honor of Jordan Pieniazek

In honor of our friend and brother Jordan Pieniazek.  Jordan was taken from us in a motor vehicle accident on his way into work at Engine 12 in Camp Washington on May 1st.  He was passionate about his Family, God, and the Cincinnati Fire Department and we are all better for having known him.  Through his example we remember to "live life."  

Engine 12 company outing organized by Jordan

Monday, December 28, 2015

Firefighter Patrick Wolterman - LODD 28 December 2015

Firefighter Patrick Wolterman
Hamilton Fire Department
Last Alarm - 28 December 2015

Today we honor Firefighter Patrick Wolterman of the Hamilton Fire Department.
Firefighter Wolterman was killed in the line of duty early this morning when he fell through
the floor at a residential fire.  Initial reports indicated two elderly civilians might have been trapped in the structure though ultimately the home was found to be unoccupied at the time of the fire.  Firefighters made entry around 0117 and the mayday call was given just three minutes later.  Wolterman began his service to the City of Hamilton in April of this year and had previous service in other fire departments including The Colerain Township Fire Department.

Patrick Wolterman was newly married.  We extend our sincere condolences
to his wife and family in this time of loss.

A fund has been established to assist the Wolterman Family

Contribute to the Firefighter Wolterman Memorial Fund
at First Financial Bank

Patrick Wolterman
Firefighter - Hamilton Fire Department
Last Alarm - 28 December 2015
Structure Fire (Arson) - 1310 Pater Avenue

Patrick Wolterman (3rd Row, Far Right) completed
fire training with the Colerain Township Fire Department.
Recruit class graduation was held on 19 November 2008.

Image:  Hamilton Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 20
Firefigher Patrick Wolterman pictured at the Beckett
Paper Mill Fire 31 October 2015

Image: Cincinnati Fire Department
Cincinnati Fire Department Engine Co.12 Flag at half staff in honor
of fallen HFD Firefighter Patrick Wolterman

Image:  Ringle Family Collection
The community came together to pay tribute to the 
sacrifice made by Hamilton Firefighter Patrick Wolterman.  We all pray for the 
healing of his family and friends in this time of loss.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Sycamore Shoe District Fire

The Sycamore Shoe District Fire - 21 December 1910

The Cincinnati Shoe District Fire - Frozen Ruins
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum

     Some of the most extraordinary fires ever faced by the Cincinnati Fire Department occurred in the years between 1900 and 1910.  It was during this time that the paid steam fire department had reached its peak of efficiency, reliability, and size.  Despite the improvements made to the fire department, fire loss was massive in this period.  Buildings were being built bigger and higher than ever before.  Industries were using a wide variety of hazardous chemicals and materials that were largely unregulated, and fire prevention was extremely limited.  It was a period of great fires both in Cincinnati and across the country and it culminated at the end of the decade in a few days that would ultimately claim the lives of dozens of firemen.

Cincinnati Enquirer Headline
22 December 1910

The 1910 Diary of Hook & Ladder 12 (Now Truck 32)
Note the entry for 21 Dec - Box 392 at 2:14am
Courtesy: B.Houston Collection

     Cincinnati was the starting point for these days of death and destruction.  The fire that would start around 2:14am on December 21st from Box 392 would ultimately burn for 222 hours.  35 steam engine companies would see action at the blaze that consumed 68 buildings and could have turned into a great conflagration threatening the entire business district were it not for the actions of the firefighters working to extinguish the flames.  Firemen dealt with freezing temperatures covered in ice from head to toe as walls collapsed around them.  Ultimately 4 people were killed, including three firemen, and six were badly injured.  Considering the conditions, things could have been much worse.

     All was normal for night watchman Krumley.  At 2:09am he turned a key in an automatic signaling device on the 6th floor of the Krippendorf O'Neil Shoe Company indicating everything was fine.  As he started down the stairs to the 5th floor he noticed a glowing light in the courtyard separating his portion of the building from that of the Twinlock Company.  By the time he reached the ground flood he was surrounded by flames and had to run for his life.  Around the same time, Captain Peter Purcell recognized a familiar glow outside the windows of Engine Co.44s quarters.  Upon investigation he found a fire burning at the Twinlock Company and submitted the first alarm.  Several other persons were said to have discovered the fire at around the same time, including two reporters from the Enquirer who were walking home.  The alarm was received around 2:14am.

The Badge of Captain Peter Purcell
Purcell was likely the first fire officer on the scene of the 
Sycamore Shoe District Fire
Courtesy: B.Houston Collection

     Once ignited, the fire spread rapidly aided by several open shafts that created a draft in the building.  It was a cold and windy night which further aided the spread of the fire from one building to the next.  Insurance men had recognized this portion of town as a high risk for some time.  City planners had also noted the need to improve this area and at least one plan existed to turn the location into a park.

     Around 3:30am the crew of Engine 04 was working at 9th & Sycamore street under the walls of the Krippenorf O'Neil Shoe Company.  Someone shouted that the walls were coming down.  Men scattered.  Pipeman Robert Grear was caught by the falling bricks and sustained a fractured skull killing him in the street.  His body was initially removed to the County Morgue just steps away before being moved again as fire threatened the morgue.  When Coroner Coe arrived on scene he witnessed the death of 18yo sign writer Walter Morris.  Police had formed a fire line and were having difficulty keeping the public at a safe distance.  Walls were regularly seen to be collapsing into the street.  Morris was standing under a telegraph pole when a wall of the Cahill Shoe Company tumbled down.  Debris shock-loaded the telegraph wires and snapped the pole near Morris.  He was struck on the head by the falling pole.  The auto patrol rushed him to the hospital but he could not be saved.

Robert Grear was killed in the rubble shown in the center of the image.
Note the precarious nature of the remaining walls.
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum

Grear was not the only loss sustained by Engine Co.4
Most of the company was injured and their Ahrens Steam Engine
The "E.G.Megrue" was destroyed
9th & Sycamore Sts
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum

9th & Sycamore at the same angle today
Google Street view

     The wind seemed to push the fire in all four directions.  Firemen struggled to have an impact on the growing blaze.  Water pressure and volume were too low for a fire of this magnitude.  No high pressure system had yet been created for the fire department.  Some of the buildings were tall and the majority of the burning structures were out of reach of the hose lines.  Hot embers were carrying fire to still more buildings and the firemen, covered in a layer of ice, struggled to keep up.  Finally a break in the wind allowed for some gains.

     Hook & Ladder 15 was working on Cheapside with several engine companies.  With the help of police, dozens of horses had been released from the Sycamore Street Livery Stable.  A lone horse was unaccounted for.  Firefighter Charles Schwengel ran back into the stable in an effort to find the animal.  Walls were coming down with frightening regularity at this point.  He had been inside for no more than five minutes when the stable walls collapsed.    Precarious tall ruins of walls would prevent anyone from searching for Charlie's body for a couple of days.  Dynamite first had to be used to bring down several walls to make the area safe enough for men to dig through the debris.  Finally around 4:20 on the afternoon of the 24th, Schwengel's body was recovered.

     An entire city block had been lost in the fire.  Six men had been sent to the hospital with a variety of injuries sustained at the scene.  Among those recovering at the hospital was District Marshal Philip Hurley.  He had been in command of a group of companies operating from a one story roof on Cheapside.  The companies were using a high pressure device called a "three way."  Six men and a support beam were needed to secure the device which threw three separate streams of water.  Hurley noticed the streams were not falling in the ideal location and directed they be moved.  Suddenly the beam helping to stabilize the device collapsed and the hose, operating under 300 pounds of pressure, uncoiled, sweeping men aside and tossing Marshal Hurley off the roof.  He had several fractured limbs and was taken to the city hospital.  It was thought he would recover and he enjoyed a large number of visitors over several days in the hospital.  His condition suddenly worsened in the middle of the night and on December 29th he died.

Engine Co.45 
Standing in the rubble of the Shoe District Fire
L to R: Cosgrove, Capt. Wescott, Kingler, Tibbles, Warmer
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum

Cincinnati Enquirer Headline
23 December 1910

     The Shoe District Fire in Cincinnati was the first of several terrible events that occurred in the United States in the space of just a couple of days.  While firemen here fought desperately to keep Cincinnati's blaze from becoming a general conflagration that might have threatened the city, firemen in Philadelphia were called to a fire at the Friedlander Leather Remnants Factory.  When several men were trapped a group of rescuers moved in to free them.  A wall collapsed on the group killing 13 firemen and one police officer.  It is to this day the largest loss of firemen to occur in that city.  The death toll on December 22nd would far surpass that of the 21st.  Just 59 minutes into a fire at the Chicago Union Stockyards, a 6 story brick wall collapsed killing 21 firemen including the Chief of the Department.  3 Civilians were also killed.  It remains among the all time deadliest events for firemen in the United States.  All told, some 37 firemen and 4 civilians were killed in these disastrous fires.

     Firefighters lost in the Shoe District Fire and listed among the Roll of Honor of the Cincinnati Fire Department include:

Robert Grear
Pipeman - Engine Co.04
Died 21 December 1910
Crushed in wall collapse at fire scene

Charles Schwengel 
Ladder Co.15
Died 21 December 1910
Crushed in wall collapse at fire scene

Philip Hurley
District Fire Marshal
Died 29 December 1910
Injuries sustained at fire scene on 21 December

Asst Fire Marshal Philip Hurley
Died of his injuries on 29 December 1910
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum

Update (11/3/2015):  Among the firefighters injured at the Sycamore Shoe District Fire was Guy Morgan of E04.  He fractured his right leg and was transported to the hospital were he shared space with Marshal Hurley.  It was thought Morgan would recover from his injuries without complication but gengrene set in and on 15 Jan 1911 his leg was amputated below the knee at the city hospital.  Morgan live for many years following this incident.  A World War 2 draft card lists him as a retired city fireman and gives Barney Houston as a contact for more information.  

A portion of the fire area as it appeared around 1891.  9th Street runs across the top of the image and 8th St the bottom.
Sycamore is the first street running vertically on the left.  The building listed as the Blacker Gerstle Co contained 
The Krippendorf O'Neil Shoe Co & Twinlock Co at the time of the fire.
Note open area in the middle of the buildings where the night watchman initially spotted the blaze.
Engine 4 was crushed on 9th Street just outside the Cincinnati Hotel (upper left) and Grear
was killed in the street at this location as well.
Sanburn Insurance Co map - Ohiolink