Chicago FD's Jeep FC Units


The most unusual roster of Jeep Forward Control fire apparatus I know of, didn't include any of the usual variety of popular Forward Control Fire Engines. The Chicago Fire Department had a collection of special-purpose units on the FC-150 and FC-170 chasssis in the 1950s and 60s.

Mars Light Wagon The "Mars Light Wagon" was equipped with a generator and two banks of floodlights for illuminating fire scenes. It's not clear why the "Mars" name was used, since Mars Signal Light Co. was known for manufacturing warning lights, including the Model DX on the roof here. Possibly they also supplied the floodlights.

Photo by the late Warren Redick, a CFD Battalion Chief and co-author of Classic Chicago Fire Department Images From the 1950s and 1960s. Courtesy of Steve Redick at KSC711.

Chicago 914This later picture was included in an article in Automobile magazine, February 1999. Unit 914 appears to be the same lighting wagon, updated with the new black and red CFD paint scheme.

According to the article, the Chicago firehouse that quartered several of the custom FC rigs was nicknamed "Disneyland," and some of the units were built by the John Bean Division of FMC Corporation in Lansing, Michigan, who also built Forward Control pumpers.

John Bean demo John Bean certainly built this high-pressure fog pumper, in Chicago as a demo unit when it was photographed by Warren Redick. CFD did buy one of these, possibly the same one.

Warren Redick also photographed one of Chicago's later Darley/International Harvester fog units (320K JPEG).

Turret Wagons

Jeep Pressure No. 1 Jeep Pressure No. 1 was a 1959 Willys with a deluge gun behind the cab. The little truck could drive closer to a fire than a larger truck could, laying the hose from a pumper.

This great shot was taken circa 1961 by Warren Redick. See also a right side photo (100K JPEG) from the Ken Buchanan collection.

Chicago FD I ran across this uncredited fire scene photo of Jeep Pressure No. 1 and an Autocar squad with their deck guns in action. I would like to find more information and a better copy of this. See also an archival photo of No. 1 being shown off at a Fire Department display (120K JPEG).

McCormick Place, 1967 And here's an amazing shot of the morning after the McCormick Place fire of 16 January 1967, with the Jeep and an Autocar still pouring water on the ruins of the huge "fireproof" convention center.

Photo courtesy of the International Housewares Association, whose trade show was due to open that morning.

Chicago 671Jeep Pressure No. 1 was later renamed Deluge Unit 671, with no apparent upgrades other than a new red and black paint job. It was photographed by Dick Adelman in April, 1975.

Chicago 671This photo of 671 in action is courtesy ChicagoFD.org. It shows how small the Forward Control trucks really are.

Robert Quinn, fire chief from 1957 to 1978, is credited with promoting the strategy of increased use of master streams from outside a building, to reduce the need for firefighters to enter dangerous involved structures.

Chicago 674The monitor stream strategy led to the development of larger turret wagons capable of hitting fires higher up in large buildings. Unit 673, named "Big John" after its designer John F. Plant, had a deluge gun designed for a fireboat, mounted on a 6x6 chassis with hydraulic lifts. See a rear view photo (70K JPEG) by Ray Plum, of Big John in action. More detail photos at ChicagoAreaFire.com.

Chicago 674

Big John's litle brother was Unit 674, built on a 1961 FC-150 chassis, and known as "Little John." Jack Calderone, editor of Fire Apparatus Journal, supplied this photo and says Little John's rear deck and body were fabricated in the CFD shops.

Chicago 674Little John could direct two high-volume master streams, supplied by multiple pumpers, at large fires. It's seen here doing that job, in a photo from ChicagoFD.org.

Original Big MoThe next step was "Big Mo," with a pair of the fireboat turret nozzles (70K JPEG) and a double manifold (70K JPEG) with 32 inlets capable of supplying 8000 gallons per minute. The theory was to create large water streams quickly with minimal manpower, although the hard part was supplying enough water.

This massive gun was initially installed on the 1962 Jeep seen here, with large tires and stabilization jacks added. Thanks to ChicagoFD.org for these rare photos.

Big Mo in ActionAt one fire, Big Mo was reportedly able to hit the 17th floor with a 1700gpm stream peaking at 230 feet. The shot of Big Mo in action here comes from a Chicago FD film available on YouTube.

See also a front view (90K JPEG) and a great shot of the gun being tested at Navy Pier (70K JPEG) courtesy of ChicagoFD.org.

Big Mo 1970'sThe weight and force of that much water proved to be more than the Jeep could safely handle, and Big Mo was moved to a 1953 International 6x6 chassis, and then a 1957 GMC painted Civil Defense blue. See also a rear view (80K JPEG) of the new Big Mo in action (photo courtesy Steve Redick.)

Smoke Ejectors

Smoke Ejector 1 Photo by Warren Redick of Smoke Ejector No. 1.

Ken Buchanan says, "This 1961 Willys Jeep carried portable smoke ejector fans, plus a large one permanently mounted on the rig, which used canvas tubes to vent the smoke (like a big vacuum cleaner.) Note the green flasher light on the upper passenger side of the box. All Chicago FD rigs have the marine-style red to port, green to starboard lighting."

Smoke Ejector2 Warren Redick also photographed the identical Smoke Ejector No. 2. These trucks were also well-marked with a pair of Model DX Mars lights, and like the turret wagons they had front winches.

Thanks to Steve Redick at KSC711 for his dad Warren's early-sixties apparatus portraits, and to Gary Urbanowicz, Ken Buchanan, Jack Calderone and ChicagoFD.org. -- Derek Redmond

See more Forward Control Fire Engines.

Also on CJ3B.info, see a Chicago Fire Department 1946 Jeep and a CJ-3B Crash Truck at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

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Last updated 4 February 2020 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond