Fire Chief George M. Houren Alton Illinois Fire Department 22 December 1961

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Fire Chief George M. Houren
Alton Illinois Fire Department
22 December 1961 - done" failure bill said order new there was an...
done" failure bill said order new there was an none and he (the their the last Boston denied shop. Celtics refused because Ads. AN ANSWER To Former Fire Chief Houren Before leaving the City of Alton to take another position, former Fire Chief Richard G. Houren made many serious accusations concerning the ability and character of the personnel of the Alton Fire Department, which were widely publicized by press and radio. While City Manager Graham Watt's statement statement of December 18,1961 is gratifying in that it tends to exonerate the members members of the fire department from much of the blame for the conditions which Mr. Houren says exist, nevertheless, specific charges remain unanswered. The City Council has not seen fit to ask members of the Fire Department to what extent, if at all, any of the criticisms criticisms of Mr. Houren are true'. No notice of the special meeting to hear the report report of Mr. Houren was given to any member of this department nor was any notice published. Mr. Houren's report to the City Council is inaccurate and exaggerated. As an example, Mr. Houren is reported to have said that the City's only turret gun, a device for throwing concentrated streams of water into large fires, was missing a number of ball bearings and its gaskets were defective. The fact is that this equipment is mounted on a 1927 model American La France pump- er, which, the National Board of Fire Underwriters said "—but would be used only as a hose truck due to the poor condition condition of the pump." Mr. Houren failed to mention this fact in his report to the Council, although perhaps, despite his eminent qualifications^he did not know the model and status or this pumper and had not thoroughly read the report of the underwriters. Obviously, if the pump is in poor condition, the turret is useless. Much of Mr, Houren's comments concerned the presence of cockroaches in the fire house, charging that their presence is a clear indication that the Bremen do not have enough initiative to keep their living quarters clean and ttv&We.v»to ^jtp^t^^ living; qumerW ? 6f*thfr Alton firemen were not clean and livable nor did he state that the housekeeping practices of the department were poor. Mr. Houren did, nevertheless, clearly imply that the members of the fire department department lived in conditions which were infested infested and unclean and that they had no desire to improve such conditions. This accusation is most strenuously denied and is not a fitting comment for a man of Mr. Houren's reputed high caliber. Weekly scrubbing of floors and windows windows is s routine at all times. Many firemen firemen have bought insecticides at their own expense to eliminate or control the cockroaches but the age and the conditions conditions of the firehouses with cracked and broken plaster and wall board ceilings ceilings make it impossible for amateur exterminators exterminators to be effective. If members of the fire department were more inclined to air legitimate grievances, the first and foremost would the physical conditions of their fire louses. Mr. Houren says the City is being short-changed by the men by stretching vacation periods over a longer period of ;ime, by means of juggling compensatory compensatory time off and sick leave. By ordinance, ordinance, . a compensatory day off is given for all personnel who work one of the eight designated holidays and the same ordinance states that "Up to but no more than five days of compensatory ;ime may be added or included with a 'ull period of vacation or leave due to llness." Concerning other comments of Mr. Houren as to the quality and efficiency of the men and equipment of the Fire Department, the following are excerpts rom the March, 1958 report of the National Board of Fire Underwriters: —all pumpers delivered at or above their rated capacities —operation of the pumpers by the regular drivers was good —apparatus is in mainly good condition condition —housekeeping conditions were mainly good —discipline is informal, but generally generally well maintained Unless conditions materially changed between March, 1958 and December, 1961, the Board of Fire Underwriters or Former Chief Houren is misstating the facts, As a possible explanation of the difference of opinion, Mr. Houren stated to a member of the Fire Department that he would "blast" the firemen before before he left the City. It Is true that the firemen had no admiration for Mr. Houren. Within five days of taking office as Chief, Mr. Houren informed the men he was to lead that they were no better than third rate volunteers, that the Engineers were not qualified and that the Assist, ant Chiefs were not qualified to handle their jobs. Having formed and voiced such an opinion in five days, Mr. Houren Houren could not and did not earn the respect respect of his men and, further, did not seek to earn such respect. This fundamental fundamental qualification for leadership was wholly lacking. Yet, no member of the Alton Fire Department is known or suspected to have made any anonymous phone call or threat to Mr. Houren, directly or indirectly. indirectly. . The conclusions of the National Board of Fire Underwriters concerning concerning the fire department are as follows: "The department is seriously unmanned unmanned and there are insufficient company officers; the number of men on duty prevents the most effective and efficient use of equipment. "The number of engine and ladder companies is inadequate, but the outside aid agreement with surrounding surrounding communities somewhat offsets the shortage of men and companies. Pumper capacity is mainly adequate and the condition condition of the apparatus is mainly good, however, providing more adequate repair facilities, adopting adopting a preventive maintenance program and conducting annual pumper tests would decrease the possibility of apparatus failing when needed. "The department is handicapped by the absence of sufficient, powerful powerful and special-stream appliances appliances and emergency equipment, which are especially important for combatting large fires. The shortage of some minor equipment equipment also adversely affects fire methods. Small stream appliances are mainly sufficient. Adequate salvage work is practically' impossible impossible with the shortage of men and salvage equipment. Sufficient ^fc^*sK*^^ good tests are conducted; a considerable considerable amount is over seven years of age. "The equipping of all apparatus with radio units would enable the operator to give additional information information to responding apparatus which allow dispatching of apparatus returning from alarms if necessary and would enable companies away from quarters for inspections or training to remain remain in service. "The adoption of modern rules and regulations for the guidance of all .concerned would be desirable. desirable. Training facilities, and the training program are inadequate. Regular company inspections' would help to familiarize all members members with structural features and, hazardous conditions that might be encountered during a fire. "Response to alarms is mainly well arranged, but fire methodsf are only fair. Records are ln-< complete or lacking." Two principal points are obvious In the foregoing: (1) there was not sufficient men and equipment in the department department and (2) training procedures > should be established and maintained. The members of the City of Alton Fire Department are vitally concerned with adequate personnel and equipment. Their health and their lives depend upon both. This is, however, principally a budgetary and financial problem which cannot be solved without public recognition and support. Additional training of members of this department is welcomed as being equally important to the safety of the members of the department, but train- Ing must be organized and systemized to be effective. The fire at the Biedermans Furniture Furniture Company at Broadway and Piasa was subject to an editorial in the Alton Evening Telegraph of January 20,1959, which stated: "Police and firemen carried out a well organized program of fire fighting and. traffic control, but avoided completely a bad situation at a ticklish point in the City's traffic pattern during a particularly particularly critical hour of the day. "What could have developed into a major tragedy of property, business and public accommodation accommodation was quickly and efficiently controlled and halted, "For this the public has to thank a fine esprit du corps between police police and fire departments as well as among the men within the de» partment". WHO IS RIGHT? Alton Fire Fighters Local 1?55 (All Alton Firemen are jtfember* of this Local)

Clipped from
  1. Alton Evening Telegraph,
  2. 22 Dec 1961, Fri,
  3. Page 3

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  • Fire Chief George M. Houren Alton Illinois Fire Department 22 December 1961

    kewoodley – 22 Jun 2013

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