|Agency||Palatine Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Volunteer|
|Age Range||36 to 40|
|Date of Birth||0/0/0|
|Date of Death||2/23/1973|
|Cause of Death||Contact/Exposure|
|Nature of Death||Asphyxiation|
|Attribute of Death||Smoke inhalation|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations , SCBA operations|
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. Ahlgrim and Freeman had actually discarded their SCBA, prompting Helms to speculate that they had “panicked and torn their masks off when their tanks ran empty.”
Don Ruhter, “3 volunteer firemen die in Palatine,” Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1973.