On The Job Illinois: Four-Alarm Fire Destroys Northlake Tire Shop

Northlake Fire Protection District

Chief: Robert Hjelmgren

Personnel: 2 chief officers, 15 career firefighters, 6 paid-on-call firefighters, 1 auxiliary member

Apparatus: 2 pumpers, 1 aerial, 2 command cars, 1 pickup truck, 3 rafts, 2 ALS units

Population: 12,000

Area: 4 square miles


On Feb. 15, 2014, a four-alarm fire destroyed a tire shop in the Chicago suburb of Northlake, IL. Firefighters were hampered by severe winter weather conditions, frozen hydrants and low water pressure early in the incident.

Jacobson Tires, at 2200 North Mannheim Road, occupied a 50-by-100-foot, one-story, brick and cinderblock building that dated from the 1930s, with two-story wooden addition at the rear. The structure had a wooden, bowstring truss roof. There were no fire protection or detection systems in the building. The business sold and repaired tires for cars and trucks.

The new and used tires contained inside the business helped to fuel the fire, Northlake Fire Lieutenant Herb Milnes told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The whole building is filled with tires, from front to back, top to bottom,” he told the newspaper. The Chicago Fire Department’s Foam Task Force was called to assist.


Initial notification

A motorist passing the business noticed smoke coming from the building and proceeded to the Leyden Fire Protection District Station at 2600 Mannheim Road in Franklin Park, approximately four blocks from the scene of the fire, to report it. Responding on the still alarm were Leyden Quint 133, a 2,000-gpm pumper with a 75-foot aerial ladder, and Ambulance 130, along with automatic mutual aid from four other departments. Also responding were Northlake Fire Protection District Engine 806, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Bensenville Fire Protection District Squad 17, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Bensenville Battalion Chief Rick Tam; Stone Park Fire Department Engine 21, a 1,500-gpm pumper and Stone Park Chief 21, Mike Paige; and Franklin Park Fire Department Truck 2, a 100-foot aerial ladder responded on the automatic mutual aid call.

At 5:55 P.M., the first-arriving unit found fire venting through the roof on the south end (Sector B) of the building and fire extending out of the overhead door in Sector B. Firefighters were also informed of the possibility that an invalid lived in the office area of the business. Leyden Quint 133 requested a full box alarm assignment. Northlake Lieutenant Herb Milnes, on Engine 806, advised dispatch that the fire was in Northlake’s jurisdiction and to continue the original response.

Milnes also advised dispatch to use Northlake run card 1501 and dispatch any additional companies due on the Northlake full still alarm. This included Hillside Fire Department Engine 402, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Bellwood Fire Department Truck 602, a 100-foot tower ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Northlake Truck 803, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Melrose Park Fire Department Engine 703, a 1,500-gpm pumper; and Ambulance 700; Elmhurst Fire Department Truck 1, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Schiller Park Fire Department Truck 5, a 100-foot tower ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump assigned as the rapid intervention team (RIT), all of which responded to the scene. Elmwood Park Fire Department Engine 947, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and Wood Dale Ambulance, were given change-of-quarters assignments.

Leyden Quint 133 was positioned in Sector B, supplied with a 400-foot, four-inch hydrant line and set up for aerial master stream operations. Firefighters also deployed a 200-foot, 2½-inch attack line to Sector A from this unit. Bensenville Squad 17 was positioned in Sector A (east side) and connected onto the hydrant. Firefighters deployed a 300-foot, three-inch hoseline that was wyed into a 2½-inch attack line and a 1¾-inch attack line that were placed into operation in Sector A. Franklin Park Truck 2 was also positioned in Sector A and set up for aerial master stream operations, fed by a 400-foot, four-inch hydrant supply line.

The crews from Leyden Quint 133 and Northlake Engine 806 were assigned to search and rescue operations in Sector B. No victim was found in the structure. Franklin Park Truck 2 and Bensenville Squad 17 were assigned fire suppression in Sector A. Northlake Truck 803 was assigned to suppression and exposure operations in the B/C sector.

Two wood-frame residential structures located at 10406 and 10408 Dickens were 25 feet from the fire building in Sector C. Hillside Engine 402 and Melrose Park Engine 703 were assigned to exposure operations along with Northlake Truck 803. Firefighters operated several handlines in Sector C along with the aerial master stream to protect the exposures.


Command staff

A multi-agency command structure was established for the incident. Stone Park Chief Mike Paige was assigned as incident commander. Milnes was assigned to Operations; Northlake Fire Chief Robert Hjelmgren to Logistics, Northlake Deputy Chief Paul Feldmann to Accountability, Bensenville Battalion Chief Don Tessler to Water Supply, Bensenville Chief Mike Spain to Staging, Schiller Park EMS Coordinator Rich Nocek to EMS/Rehab, Franklin Park Battalion Chief Mark Stewart to Safety, Franklin Park Chief Steve Iovinelli to Sectors A/B and Broadview Battalion Chief Jack Kowalski to Sectors B/C.

At 6:03 P.M., Paige requested a second alarm. Responding to the scene were Elmwood Park Engine 947; Berkley Fire Department Engine 35, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Rosemont Public Safety Department Truck 158, a 100-foot tower ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Broadview Fire Department Squad 7; Schiller Park Ambulance Re-Hab 5; and the Bellwood Office of Emergency Management (OEM) command van and rehab bus. Norwood Park Fire Department Engine 101, a 1,500-gpm pumper, was given a change-of-quarters assignment. All responding apparatus were staged and crews were assigned as relief crews operating handlines.


Additional alarms

At 6:13 P.M., Paige requested a third alarm. Norwood Park Fire Protection District Engine 101, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Maywood Fire Department Truck 502, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; and Wood Dale Ambulance responded. Park Ridge Engine 35, a 1,500-gpm pumper, was given a change-of-quarters assignment. Third alarm apparatus were staged and firefighters were used as relief crews on handlines.

Paige requested a fourth alarm at 6:29 P.M. and special requested a five-engine Strike Team from Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 3. Responding on the fourth alarm were Park Ridge Engine 35; River Grove Fire Department Engine 505, a 1,250-gpm pumper; and Addison Fire Protection District Truck 73, a 100-foot tower ladder. The Strike Team consisted of North Maine Fire Protection District Engine 1, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Morton Grove Fire Department Engine 5, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Niles Fire Department Engine 2, a 1,250-gpm pumper; Prospect Heights Fire Protection District Engine 9, a 1,500-gpm pumper; and Glenview Fire Department Engine 7, a 1,500-gpm pumper. The fourth-alarm companies were staged and crews were assigned to relief crews on hoselines. The Strike Team engines were assigned to large diameter hose relays to hydrants located several blocks away for water supply.


Foam task force called

At 8:03 P.M., Milnes requested the Division 9 Foam Task Force from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to respond. This included Crash Truck 653, Engine 10, Squads 7 and 7A and Battalion Chief 8, Steve Kierys. Prior to the arrival of the Foam Task Force, a backhoe was used to breach the wall on Sector B so that the foam could be applied more effectively on to the burning tires. Chicago ARFF 653 was positioned in Sector B and used its turret nozzle to apply foam to the burning tires for approximately 30 minutes. ARFF 653 used its 3,000 gallons of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) and was refilled by Chicago Engine 10.

Paige declared the fire under control at 10:30 P.M. Mutual aid units were released at 10:55 P.M., and Northlake apparatus left the scene at 11:21 P.M.



More than 100 firefighters operated 18 engines, five trucks, one quint and one crash truck at the scene. Approximately 10 hydrants supplied 945,000 gallons of water used to extinguish the fire. Three thousand gallons of AFFF was used. During the incident, the temperature was in the teens with wind chills in the single digits. Winds were from the south at 10 to 15 mph.

Damage to the building and contents was estimated at $1 million. Truck 803 and Quint 133 suffered cracked windshields from radiant heat. The investigation into the origin and cause of the fire continues.