|Agency||Peoria Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||31 to 35|
|Date of Birth||0/0/1867|
|Date of Death||10/26/1905|
|Cause of Death||Fall|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Responding to/returning from incident|
On September 29, 1905, a routine fire resulted in the eventual death of firefighter Charles “Charley” Gander. His death illustrates the many hazards firefighters face during the performance of their duties, when even the smallest of blazes can be their last alarm. Gander’s last day at the station was busy as usual. A rookie hoseman, he had to feed and groom the horses. He cleaned the stables, and then wandered upstairs to take a nap. At 12:53 p.m., Box Alarm 53 rang out, summoning fire crews to the area just south of the business district. Since the pullbox was located in the predominantly heavy industry and warehouse section of the city, most of the fire companies below the bluff responded on the first alarm. Hose Co. 5, located at Station 5 on North Adams Street, was one of the first to respond.
Upon the alarm, Gander jumped from his bed and ran for the brass sliding pole. A few feet away from the pole, he slipped and fell through the hole headfirst, breaking the wooden cover and falling on the apparatus floor 20 feet below. Gander landed on his face and shoulder, and immediately lost consciousness. He was attended to by his comrades. The police ambulance wagon stationed at city hall was immediately dispatched to Station 5. Gander’s condition appeared serious as he remained motionless on the floor. Gander was transported to St. Francis Hospital where he remained in critical condition, drifting in and out of consciousness. The cause of the fire was determined to be a pile of railroad ties adjacent to the train tracks at the foot of Pecan Street that had caught fire from the sparks of a passing locomotive. The first company on the scene had quickly extinguished the small blaze.
On October 26, Charles Gander closed his eyes for the last time and peacefully died nearly a month following the accident. Gander received a traditional firefighter’s funeral. A Peoria fireman since his appointment by Mayor Tolson on May 25, 1905, Gander was highly regarded as an upright, jovial gentleman, both on and off the job. Unmarried, he was survived by two brothers, John and William Gander, both of Peoria. Flags at all the firehouses were lowered to half-mast to pay tribute to hoseman Gander. On Sunday, October 29, 1905, a large group of Peoria firemen, accompanying eight fire wagons, escorted the most recent fallen comrade to his final resting place.
Summary by Marty Baker and Doug Brignall, Peoria Fire Department