Fire Chief Richard G. Houren 27 January 1962 Alton Illinois Fire Department
a is To Make Preliminary Of Fire Protection A consultant from the National Board of Fire Underwriters is due here Feb. 6 to make a preliminary preliminary study of the city's fire protection protection problems, City Manager Graham W. Watt announced today. today. He is Henry Thomas, retired chief of the Hartford Conn., fire department. Thomas is coming here, said Watt, following discussion by the city manager with the National Board of Fire IMlenvriters in Boston. He is not coming, however, said Watt, as the consultant the City Council, .talked about. hiring to survey the city's fire department department and make recommendations as to its improvements, following resignation of former Fire Chief Richard Houren. "He is coming here more for a look-see to determine if he can make any preliminary suggestions as to the method of proceeding from this point," said Watt. "We hope it will develop so he svould be willing to do the full consultation job we want done," he added. Commenting on the Marshfield, Wis., newspaper clippings whose contents about Houren local firemen firemen disclosed today, Watt said he had not seen them, though he understood understood they had. been shown. to all members of the City Council by the firemen. Says Successor to Houren In Wisconsin Doing Well A fire chief and assistant chief, appointed from within the Marshfield, Marshfield, Wis., fire department after Richard G. Houren's resignation in 1952, are still holding those positions positions and doing excellent jobs of running the fire department, Ken Olstinski, city editor of the Marshfield Marshfield News-Herald, told the Telegraph Telegraph this morning. Clippings from the News-Herald indicate that Houren resigned from the , Marshfield fire department department under much the same conditions conditions as led to his resignation Dec:. 15, 1961, after only 10 days as chief of the Alton fire department. department. Olstinski described Houren as a colorful fi- 'a character, gure. . ." Tied for High Score Olstinski told the Telegraph that after Houren left the Marshfield fire department, the five-man board of police and fire commissioners commissioners who had selected him from a field of applicants for the job, conducted examinations within the department for the purpose of selecting selecting a new chief and assistant chief. He said the two men named had been the second and third ranking men under Houren. They tied for high score on the examination. examination. Olstinski said "I've no reason to doubt that he knows his business, but he seems to have difficulty getting along with his men." He said Houren had "bad relations" with the members of the fire department department in Marshfield, but in the slightly more than two years he served as chief of the department department he did a lot of good work in improving fire safety practices in Marshfield. Newspaper Clippings The query to the Marshfield newspaper followed announcement announcement by Gene Elmendorf, president president of the Alton Firefighters Local Local 1255, that he had received several several clippings of stories from the News-Herald describing Houren's resignation from the Marshfield department in 1952, under circumstances circumstances similar to those under which he resigned from the Alton fire chief's post. Instead of a taped radio interview interview with the city council, however, however, as a medium for his complaints complaints about treatment at the hands of the firemen, the Marshfield Marshfield paper published a letter from Houren to the commission giving the reasons lor his resignation. "We hesitated to bring Uiis right now," commented Elmendorf Friday in showing the clippings to the Telegraph. "I feel the affairs affairs of the department have set tied down now, "However, 1 do feel that the item should be of interest to Alton's Alton's public." Elmendorf said he wasn't sure which way the disclosure would reflect on the fire department. Discipline, Training Involved at Marshfield were Houren's program of tightening up discipline in the department, providing training courses, improving improving maintenance of equipment equipment — the same factors he had set in motion here. The closing paragraph in Houren's Houren's Marshfield letter of resignation resignation said: "In conclusion, may I say that I no longer desire to work under the constant antagonism and the efforts of pressure groups and their false statements and vicious slander, to say nothing of the interference of the aldermen in the operation of the department, who consider a man not for his ability, but as a means of controlling controlling votes. Such conditions make it impossible for me to continue to do by duty sincerely and for the best interests of the taxpayers and I consequently tender my resignation, resignation, effective July, 1952." Feeling of Antagonism He related how: "On 1 December 1949 I took over the duties of chief fire engineer for Marshfield and was immediately immediately aware of the feeling of antagonism antagonism of the men on the department." department." He added: "Looking over the equipment, I asked how often it was cleaned. The answer was once a week, if it needs it or not' — this was quite obvious. I was escorted to the second floor and found it in extremely deplorable deplorable condition. The lavatory and the kitchen were separated by only a partial partition. The table at which the men ate was covered with a ragged oilcloth and dishes and pans were in a sad state ol neglect. The bunk room had a pool table in the middle and the beds were in all directions in the room. My predecessor had been buying foot disinfectant by the gallon to protect the men. It WAS apparent that his was necessary due to the condition of the floor." Another clipping indicated the Central Labor Union had expressed expressed its endorsement for the firemen. firemen.