Today in Detroit Fire history – January 1978
Detroit Fire Department Sergeant Fred Bergman made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of Detroit on April 4, 1947. At the time of his death Fred was assigned to Engine 32.
Initially it was thought that Bergman had become overcome by smoke while fighting a fire in a residence at 9343 E. Vernor. He was revived at the scene, but became ill while his company was returning to their quarters.
Sergeant Bergman was transported to Receiving Hospital. He passed away about 40 minutes after reaching the hospital. It was later found that he had suffered a heart attack.
At the time of his death Fred was 49 years old. He was a 23 year veteran of the department.
Fred left behind a wife and daughter.
Today in DFD history – April 4, 1956
In 1956, Detroit was still using a telegraph based fire alarm call box system. Boxes were located throughout the city, typically on street corners. Each box had an individual number that identified its location.
When there was an emergency a person would go to the nearest box and pull the hook. The box would send a series of electrical pulses through cables that would punch a tape and ring bells in fire stations. The number of rings and holes in the tape corresponded to the box number. Firefighters had run cards that identify the box number, location of the box and what companies responded to the alarm.
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Once again central office has delivered a radio message no firefighter wants to hear.
For the second time in 2 days the Detroit Fire Department grieves the lost another member who died while on duty. Walter Szelag, Captain of Fire Boat 1, passed away from what appears to be a heart attack.
At approximately 4:15 pm, November 20, 2015 crew members radioed for an ambulance to be sent to the fire boat station. Captain Szelag was transported to Detroit Receiving Hospital where he was pronounced dead. At 5:47 pm department radios delivered the sad news. ““Central office regrets to inform you of the untimely death of Capt. Walter Szelag of Fire Boat 1.”
One firefighter reported that this was Captain Szelag’s last scheduled shift of the season before the Fire Boat is shut down for the winter.
Captain Szelag’s death comes on the heals of another Detroit Firefighter death. Just 2 days prior, November 18, 2015, Sgt. Vincent “Vinny” Smith passed away while on duty at Engine 48’s quarters.
He was found at approximately 7:30 am seated in his recliner. At this point there an official cause of death has not been released, his death also appears to be from a heart attack.
Vinny served on the department for 23 years and was currently assigned to L-13. Sgt. Smith leaves behind a wife and 5 children.
Today in Detroit Fire Department History – March 4, 1957
Detroit firemen reported in style to a four-alarm blaze today.
They used 116 taxicabs to reach a fire in a two-story building that caused damage estimated by Fire Chief Edward J. Blohm at $50,000.
The fire was still burning when a new shift of firemen reported for duty at 8 a.m. Since all their trucks and other equipment were at the scene, the reporting firefighters hailed taxicabs to carry them to the blazing building.
The firemen going off duty used the taxis to return to their stations.
A tally on the city’s taxicab cost was not immediately available.
Source: The Escanaba Daily Press, March 4, 1957
Today in Detroit Fire Department History, March 3, 1909
Ten men faced death on the top floor of a three-story power building Tuesday when they were cut off from escape by fire on the lower floors.
Several of them tried to jump from the windows, but were restrained by their champions until the firemen rescued them with ladders.
All suffered smoke and heat, but none with serious results.
Source: The Huntington Herald, March 3, 1909
Today in Detroit Fire Department History, March 3, 1958
Fred Bauman, Chief of Detroit Fire Batallion 4, was injured seriously today when a fire-weakened second floor on which he was standing gave way, hurling him 16 fee to the ground floor.
Bauman, 56, fell at Irving School after the building had been ransacked and set afire by vandals. He suffered multiple fractures of the left side and possible spinal injuries. Firemen estimated damage at $25,000.
Source: Ironwood Daily Globe, March 3, 1958
Irving School was located at 94 W. Willis, between Woodward and Cass. This area is now the 1st Battalion.
The building was originally built in 1882 and served for years as a K-6 elementary school .
Detroit Fire Department Firefighter Michael L. Johnson made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of Detroit. At the time of his death Michael was assigned to Ladder 11.
On December 12, 1977 at 9:57 am Ladder 11 responded to an alarm of a fire at 3433 E. Warren. Ladder 11 proceeded out of quarters, turning left on Milwaukee. Firefighter Johnson was the tillerman of Ladder 11. Firefighter Johnson signaled the driver with 2 beeps of the buzzer that he was ready for the rig to move.
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I’m hoping you can help me with a question that one of our followers sent in.
At one point several firefighters had car license plate numbers that started with DFD. I know some still have the DFD plates.
The question is, were those plates reserved by the Secretary of State for Detroit Firefighters only?
If so, was this practice discontinued?
If you have any insights or stories related to the DFD plates I would love to share them. Please leave a comment below.