IFLODD: Firefighter Memorial

Firefighter Record

Firefighter Details

Name John Jansen
Agency Waukegan Fire Department
Rank Firefighter
Type of Firefighter [Unknown]
Age Range [Unknown]
Sex Male
Date of Birth 0/0/0
Date of Death 4/23/1908
Cause of Death Struck by object
Nature of Death Trauma
Attribute of Death [not applicable]
Type of Duty Firefighting operations , Hose operations

Incident Details

Incident Name N/A
Incident City Waukegan
Incident State IL
Incident Date 4/22/1908 23:18
Incident Location Industry/ Manufacturing
Incident Attribute Structural collapses , Fires

Incident Summary

On April 22, 1908, Firefighter John Jansen of the Waukegan Fire Department was fatally injured in the line of duty while fighting a late-night fire at the North Shore Electric Company.

The fire started at a switchboard in the plant and spread quickly, before the on-duty engineer was able to shut off all of the generators and other machinery. The fire department arrived on scene at 11:18PM, but within minutes the fire burned through the belt on a large flywheel that was still operating. The flywheel, more than twenty feet in diameter, broke loose, shattered, and sent pieces crashing through the plant walls.

Pieces of the wheel were scattered throughout the neighborhood, including a five-ton piece that was hurled more than one block. Jansen was pulling a hose line into the plant when he was struck by the flywheel’s spoke as it burst through the plant wall. Jansen was caught in the spoke as it rolled away from the plant and plowed through two walls of the nearby Waukegan Ice Company, where it struck and killed a spectator. Jansen suffered severe trauma and was transported to the hospital, where he died shortly after midnight, on April 23.

Jansen had been manager of the Waukegan telephone exchange for seven years, and was also a trustee of the fire department pension fund. He was survived by his widow and four children, and was buried at Oakwood Cemetery on April 25. In 2005, the Waukegan Fire Department installed a memorial to Jansen at the city’s Fireman’s Memorial Park, with more than twenty of his descendants in attendance.


“Big Wheel Wrecks, Kills,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 23, 1908.

“Fly Wheel Runs Wild,” Waukegan Daily Gazette, April 23, 1908.

Firefighter and Incident Images

Firefighter and Incident Audio

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