Collegiate Fire Fighters Protect Illinois Campus

Collegiate Fire Fighters Protect Illinois Campus

Members of the fire crews attack a brush fire with back-pack water pumps and extinguishers in a recent demonstration

—Photo by Robin Bard

AN ESSENTIAL NEED is fulfilled by those students of The Principia College, Elsah, Ill., who double as fire fighters on the campus. The Principia, a liberal arts school, is about 40 miles north of St. Louis. Since the school is nearly 20 miles from the nearest organized department, it is to the school’s advantage to maintain a crew of men who can be depended upon to turn out at any time, night or day, to meet any fire call. The fire crew indirectly pays for itself, too, because as a result of their proficiency, the school receives city fire insurance rates even though it is located in a rural area.

The men are chosen—14 from each of the five men’s houses—by the fire captain of the individual house. The captain is elected by the fire crew and serves for one school year. He is responsible for choosing his crew from the volunteers of the house at large. There are no formal requirements; anyone who wishes to may join.

The college has two fire engines. One is a 1942 Chevrolet pumper, the other a jeep which has been fitted with a pump and carries ladders, suction pipe, and some 1 1/2-inch canvas hose. The jeep is fitted with a 250-gallon tank trailer, from which it can pump through either its booster hose or the 11/2-inch hose. Adjustable nozzles are used on both the pumper and the jeep, and with these nozzles, anything from a straight stream to water fog can be employed.

The pumper carries all 2 1/2-inch hose, with the exception of two lengths of 1 1/2-inch line. A Siamese coupling is used on the 2 1/2-inch line and from this two 1 1/2-inch hand lines are taken. The pumper also carries a 2 1/2-inch deluge nozzle and a 2 1/2-inch adjustable nozzle, both of which can be used in the event of a large fire. It carries a 200-gallon booster tank and 200 feet of booster hose.

The plugman and engineer open valves on pump after a demonstration.The plugman waits at hydrant while engineer-driver adjusts pressure at a drill by the jeep crew

Photos by Fred Hillman

The pumper crew consists of 10 men including the captain. Other crew members are: Three nozzlemen, three hoseman, a hvdrantman, an engineer and a driver. The jeep crew is only half as large and several of the men “double in brass.” For example, the driver serves as a hoseman and engineer, and the hvdrantman serves as a hoseman and a nozzleman, if necessary.

From the equipment, it can be seen that the fire crew is quite versatile. The jeep can travel over fields and grassy areas which are inaccessible to the pumper, and with its 250-gallon tank it can put water right at the scene of a blaze. In the event of a fire at a great distance from a water supply, either vehicle can act as a pumper, while the other serves as a water carrier. If the fire is located so that it is practical, relay pumping can also prove effective.

Crew drills are held twice each week. The members of the house on duty for that particular week turn out at 6:00 a.m. for drill. Two runs are held, using two different hydrants. As the apparatus approaches the hydrant to be used, the two nozzlemen grab the hose skid preparatory to jumping. At the captain’s signal, the nozzlemen jump off pulling the skid with them. The nozzlemen advance upon the “fire” while the other crew members ready the apparatus for pumping. On one timed run, the elapsed time was 45 seconds from the time the nozzlemen jumped until water came out the nozzle. After the drills, dry hose is packed on the vehicle. It should be mentioned that a variety of drills are planned, using extinguishers, pumping from draft, knapsack pump cans, and relay pumping, in addition to the regular hydrant runs.

Each house sponsors a fire crew. Since there are five houses, the tour of duty is one week in five, from Saturday noon to Saturday noon.

At the end of the year, a test run is held for each house. On this run, questions are asked of the individual crew members by the administrative fire chief, the student fire chief, and the administrative fire marshal. Also, the time is taken by one officer who waits near the hydrant at which the drill is to be held and starts his stopwatch when the apparatus passes a certain point. Time is stopped when water hits the nozzle.

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The school awards a fire trophy each year to the house which is judged to have the best fire crew. The decision is based upon the house’s performance on the final drill and also on its performance during the year, as reflected in the reports submitted to the fire marshal by the house fire captain after each drill. Appropriately enough, the trophy is a chrome-plated nozzle mounted on a wooden standard with the name of the winning house on a plaque. Of course, each house tries to have its mantel become the resting place of the trophy, and once it is there, no effort is spared in retaining it!

Being a member of a community fire department is a unique experience for college men, and each man while enjoying the drill is reminded not to forget the purpose behind the drill. The fire crew is an important activity at The Principia, and its importance stretches throughout the entire area it protects.

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