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Wreath Laying Ceremony

February 18, 2011
On Wednesday, February 23, 2011, the Palatine Fire Department will be conducting a ceremony to recognize the service and sacrifice of Palatine Volunteer Firefighters Warren Ahlgrim, Richard Freeman, and John Wilson. 
Three volunteer firefighters from the Palatine Fire Department were killed on February 23, 1973, while trying to extinguish a blaze at the Ben Franklin Variety Store in downtown Palatine, Illinois. John Wilson, the owner of the store, was one of the firefighters killed, along with Warren Ahlgrim and Richard Freeman. Wilson’s body was recovered from the store’s basement staircase, while the bodies of Ahlgrim and Freeman were found under rubble at the foot of the stairs. Palatine Fire Chief Orville Helms later reported that Ahlgrim and Freeman had followed Wilson down to the store’s basement, as they believed the fire was centered on the building’s furnace. Although each of the three men wore a self-contained breathing apparatus, Helms reported that they asphyxiated due to smoke inhalation and the superheated air in the basement.
Citations: Don Ruhter, “3 volunteer firemen die in Palatine,” Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1973.

The ceremony will be held at the Palatine Firefighters Memorial at the corner of N. Brockway St. and W. Slade St. in downtown Palatine, IL. It is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Mayor Jim Schwantz has proclaimed this “The Palatine Volunteer Firefighter Day of Remembrance” in the Village of Palatine. Members of the Palatine Fire Department will speak and the Palatine Fire Department Honor Guard will present a wreath and conduct a Firefighter Bell Ceremony. 


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