At Issue: Chicago's First Black Firefighters

Craig Dellimore
October 04, 2019 - 6:00 am

image courtesy: Dekalb Walcott

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(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Fire Prevention Week begins Sunday. It's the perfect time to remember a group of African-American firefighters who made history for what they did for the profession.

WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports.

Last month, the Chicago City Council honored a group of firefighters from the 1800s — Engine No. 21 — and modern-day former Fire Battalion Chief Dekalb Walcott Jr., who chronicled what made them special.

In his new book "Black Heroes of Fire,” Walcott tells how then-Mayor Joseph Medill created a black fire unit to recognize how former slaves and others fought the Great Chicago Fire.

Walcott notes that the leader of that fire unit is credited with creating the first sliding pole in a fire house. It would later become a popular feature for fire houses.

The author talks about the highs and lows experienced by the city's first black firefighters on “At Issue,” which runs Sunday evening at 9:30.