The Norwood Park Township Volunteer Fire Department was chartered on August 25, 1941, having been formed on Wednesday July 23, 1941 at a meeting held at 4104 N. Overhill. Prior to this time, fire extinguishment for the Norwood Park Township was provided by the Chicago Fire Department at a cost of $150 per fire.
Our first Fire Chief, Walter I. Schoenfeld, ran the department out of his garage at 4318 N. Ottawa. Chief Schoenfeld and a group of businessmen and residents were able to supply the all volunteer departments’ equipment, including a used 1924 Reo fire engine from Niles Fire Department through dance sponsorships, and other fundraising. By the end of 1942 (the first full year in existence), the Department had 23 officers and men split into 4 crews. In February of 1943, 7 additional men were added.
In 1942 the department responded to 27 alarms for the district (3 automobile fires, 2 chimney fires, l church fire, 3 false alarms, l food burning on stove, 2 garage fires, 8 grass fires, l hay stack fire, 3 house fires, l rubbish fire). Two of the fires were mutual aid to Chicago, fire loss was $6,215, and 1 member was injured.
A new engine was outfitted in 1943 by using equipment salvaged from the old engine and putting it on a used 1939 Chevrolet chassis purchased from Lewis Chevrolet for $810. Towards the end of World War II, two pumpers were received (May 1944, April 1945) from the OCD (Organization for Civil Defense) along with a large supply of hose. A used Seagraves Engine was purchased from the Glenview Fire Department in 1944, as the Norwood Park Township Volunteer Fire Department ran 40 alarms for the year (and was up to 168 for 1951, 119 Township, 6 in Harwood Heights, and 43 in Norridge).
In 1947, a partially burned Presbyterian Church was relocated to Ottawa and Montrose Avenue from its original location at Montrose and Thatcher to serve in the updating of the first fire house. The new station was “built around the old one” (which was Chief Schoenfeld’s garage), with the church bell tower being used to call out volunteers for fire alarms. Most of the labor was donated by area residents, including bricklayers, excavation, and other labors.
By December 5th of Station #2 was dedicated at 7301 W. Lawrence Avenue in Harwood Heights. This became necessary as the population continued to increase, and the Fire Department responded to 341 calls (115 Township, 175 Harwood Heights, and 51 Norridge) from July 1, 1955 to June 30, 1956.
The Norwood Park Township Volunteer Fire Department was reorganized as the Norwood Park Fire Protection District after a Vote on February 1, 1958 of 538 ‘For’ and 92 ‘Against’ the reorganization. The population of the district serving Harwood Heights, Norridge, and Norwood Park Township was approximately 10,000 in 1958. Walter E. Schoenfeld was appointed as a full-time Fire Chief on January 1, 1959 and on February 1, 1961 the district went to 24 hour a day manned stations.
Our first Ambulance in the district was donated in May of 1950 by Daniel J. Murphy of Elmwood Park. Murphy, the owner and operator of a Funeral Service located at 7600 West Grand Avenue in Elmwood Park also donated an ambulance to the town of Elmwood Park. We also purchased a used Cadillac Ambulance in 1955. It’s interesting to note that the Norwood Park Fire Protection District was one of the earliest in the area to have its ambulance personnel trained in Advanced First Aid, and had sponsored American Red Cross First Aid classes at the fire station throughout the 1950’s. Paramedic training was started in 1973 and full time Paramedic Service began in 1974 (by then the department had 10 personnel already trained as EMT’s-contrasted in the new millennium the Department has a number of civil service Paramedics and contracts with Paramedic Services of Illinois for 12 Paramedics to staff two ambulances).
In 1987 a new fire station was added at 7447 W. Lawrence Avenue in Harwood Heights. At that time all operations were moved to this station, centrally located in the fire district. The building purchased was formally a tool and die manufacturer, and was rehabbed substantially in order to meet the Fire Districts needs. It was officially opened and dedicated in 1988, and an addition was added to the rear of the station in 2002, to facilitate district training and education as well as provide storage.
Currently, the District employs 27 full time Firefighters (including the Fire Chief, Deputy Chief, and Inspector), 12 contract Paramedics and 1 Administrative Assistant to the Chief. In contrast to those early years of alarm calls (27 in 1942), the Norwood Park Fire Protection District averages over 3000 calls for the calendar year, (in 2007, for example, we ran 1815 calls in Norridge, 940 in Harwood Heights, 44 in Norwood Park Township, 438 Automatic Aid calls to Schiller Park, Elmwood Park, and Park Ridge. There were 985 fire calls and 2283 ambulance calls. Throughout the year we needed 44 mutual aid ambulances to cover our call volume. There were also, 2 Hazardous Material Boxes, and 12 Investigator Boxes).
We currently have 2 Engines, 1 Aerial Tower, 3 Ambulances, 1 Command Car, 3 Staff Vehicles and 1 Utility Vehicle.
We continue to buy the best equipment available to keep up with the ever changing times and keep the residents of the District in a safe environment. In addition, we use an alarm system with our neighbors called MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) which ensure that the public will always have emergency response whenever it’s needed-no matter how much call volume increases!