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Eight Elgin firefighters have died in line of duty

Updated: March 27, 2013 6:19AM

One wall at the Fire Barn No. 5 Museum shows the eight Elgin firemen who have died in the line of duty.

The first was Horace Tuttle, who died — apparently from an infection — nine months after injuring his leg in a fall off the hose wagon in 1896.

The most bizarre death was that of Capt. George Bogart. On May 18, 1903, according to the display, Bogart climbed into the hayloft of the fire barn at DuBois Avenue and Van Street, planning to hunt crows from one of its windows. But as he was climbing into position, his shotgun fell over, went off and blasted him in the abdomen. Doctors were summoned and did what they could. But, still in the hayloft, he died five hours later.

Emil Barth, the uncle of museum vice president Cathy Hemmings, was riding the tailboard of a firetruck in 1928 at a fire at 666 Orange St. The engine was backing up when one of its wheels slipped into a ditch. Barth was thrown off, and the engine rolled over him.

One fire chief died from a head injury in the early 1900s after he went to inspect a hotel fire escape and it collapsed with him on it.

Two firefighters died of heart attacks while on the job.

The most recent and most public deaths were those of Stanley Balsis and Michael Whalen in 1974. Scores of people watched from the Kimball Street Bridge as the two firefighters tried to rescue a teenager whose boat had gone over the Kimball Street Dam in the Fox River. The teenager survived. But the dam trapped Whalen and Balsis in its violent backwash and drowned them as other firefighters tried desperately to rescue the rescuers.

— Dave Gathman

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