Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

LOS   ANGELES   EXAMINER--------------------------------------------------------


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 Photo Diagram Showing Wreck of Fire Wagon After It Was
Struck by Car, and Portrait of Frank B. Willits,
Driver, Who Was Injured.
(Note-Fire Station 14 on L. side of photo.  LAFIRE)


Injured Man Is Veteran of Department
----Chief Lips Demands Protection for His
Men, and Mayor Concurs,



Killed  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  131
Injured  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  725

Los Angeles firemen were roused almost to the lynching point yesterday when Frank B. Willits, driver of the combination hose and chemical wagon of Engine Company No. 14, sustained injuries in a collision in font of the company house, East Thirty-fourth street and Central avenue, with Vernon avenue car No. 342, that will incapacitate him for life from active duty.

    The apparent disregard of human life and reckless operation of the car by the motorman, who had a straight, clear stretch of four blocks to travel before he arrived at the point opposite the fire station will be the cause of Fire Chief Lips, demanding a clear-cut ordinance that will halt all street cars passing fire stations on each side of the station so that the lives and limbs of firemen will be saved.

    Ten days ago a Maple avenue car, speeding at high rate crashed into the hose wagon attached to Engine Company, No. 7, East Twenty-fourth street and Maple avenue, and aside from injuring fire firemen incapacitated two, who are now confined to cots at the California Hospital.  This accident, like the one of yesterday, it is claimed was avoidable.

Frank B. Willits, the injured driver, is fifty-three years old, and yesterday's affair was his first accident.  For nine years he was detailed with Engine Company, No. 3, West Second and Hill streets, where he drew the reins over the backs of the three horses attached to the heaviest apparatus in the company.  While there he was noted for his careful driving.  He was detailed as hose wagon diver at Engine Company, No. 14, last September, so he could be near his family, residing at 1180 East Thirty-sixth street.

    His worst injury is a compound fracture of the right elbow.  This will probably leave him a stiff arm for life.  The other injuries he sustained were bruises and lacerations, all of which will compel him to remain inactive for weeks to come.  Willits was strapped to his seat, and fell with the apparatus.

    The collision was at 8 o'clock a.m. Shortly afterward Fire Chief Lips and Assistant Fire Chief O'Donnell were on the scene gathering data for complaint to the mayor and councilmen.  In the confusion none of the firemen thought to note the names or numbers on the shields worn by the street car crew, which was unable to stop the car until it had traveled two car lengths from the point of the collision.

    Driver Willits was at his post at 8 a.m. when the exercise signal for the horses is sounded.  As he drove the team from the house Vernon avenue car No. 342 southbound, approached at a seed variously estimated between thirty and thirty-five miles an hour.  No warning bell was given and just as the rear wheels of the wagon passed over the west track, used by the south bound cars, the car struck the wagon with terrific impact, telescoping the rear wheels, and throwing the combination wagon a distance of twenty-four feet.

    The wrecked vehicle was raised from the ground, thrown clear of the east track and turned over on its right side between the east track and the curb.  Willits was held tight in his seat by the straps, and his right elbow was caught so that the iron work of the seat splintered and crushed the bone.

    The injured driver was taken home, 1180 East Thirty-sixth street, where Police Surgeons Quint and Cook reduced the fracture.  He refused to take liquor, saying he had not tasted it for fifteen years.

"Lives and limbs of the firemen must be given protection," declared Fire Chief Lips.  "These accidents are becoming too common.  The street car men would be the first to criticize us were their houses destroyed by fire, due to accidental delays on our part.  They do not exercise common sense precautions, and we will ask he Council to give us new legislation to protect our lives."

    Mayor McAleer and members of the Fire Commission are much wrought up over the accident.  They will demand that action be taken by the City Council to put a stop to collisions between fire engines and electric cars.

    This morning the Fire Commission meets and Chief Lips will render an official report of yesterday's accident.  Mayor McAleer favors appointing the captain of each company and some of the lieutenants, special policemen so they may arrest motormen who violate the ordinance when they are caught.

    "I was shocked and pained at the accident," the Mayor said.  "It does seem that people would understand that when firemen are on their way to a fire they are risking their own lives to save those of other human beings and their property, and world give firemen the right of way.  This sort of thing must stop."

The Los Angeles Examiner, June 29, 1906

Motorman Says He Saw Apparatus
Leaving Engine House, but Mis-
judged Direction Horses
Were to Turn

    Vernon avenue car No. 342 on the Los Angeles railway yesterday morning at 8 o'clock while running at a speed of thirty-five miles an hour, according to witnesses, crashed into a combination hose and chemical wagon at the corner of Central avenue and Thirty-fourth street, smashing the rear wheels and throwing the driver form his seat.

    The car was going at such speed that it cold not be stopped until it had gone fully two lengths.

    The wagon was raised from the ground and fell twenty-four feet away on the right side.

    Frank B. Willets, the driver, threw out his arms to break his fall and sustained a compound fracture of the right elbow.  Police Surgeons Quint and C. W. Cook were called to attend the injured man, after which he was taken to his home at 1180 East Thirty-sixth street.

    From Thirtieth street to Thirty-fourth street Central avenue is straight and motormen usually speed there.  The motorman on the southbound car yesterday acknowledged that he saw the engine leaving the house but supposed that the driver would make a turn as soon as he was on the street and would get off the track.

    The driver says that he did not hear the car coming.  He was positive that the gong was not sounded.  He said yesterday that the first he knew that a street car was near him was when it struck the wagon.

    This is the second piece of fire fighting apparatus that has been damaged by being struck by a street car within two weeks.  On Monday, June 18, a hose wagon was struck at the corner of Maple avenue and Twenty-fourth street and three firemen were injured.




Fire Apparatus Rendered Useless Be-
cause Vernon Avenue Car Crashed
Into It, Causing Loss
of $200


    The fire commission yesterday authorized the city attorney to bring suit against the Los Angeles Railway company for the damage alleged to have been done to engine 14 by a Vernon avenue street car Thursday morning, June 21.  Driver F. B. Willets, who was seriously injured in the accident, will probably bring suit to recover personal damages.

    Fire Chief Lips yesterday reported to the commission that Engine 14 had been damaged to the extent of $200.  The street car company will be asked to settle in full.

    The injuries to Driver Willets may cause the loss of his arm.  He sustained a compound fracture of the elbow, and when operated on several pieces of bone were removed.  The attending surgeon has little hope of saving the arm, and unless Willets succeeds in recovering heavy damages from the railway company he may be a life member of the city pension commission.

    The accident occurred about 8 o'clock Thursday morning, June 21.  Engine 14 was leaving the engine house at Thirty-fourth and Central for the regular morning exercise, when one of the rear wheels was struck by southbound Vernon car 342, which witnesses claim was going at a very fast rate.  The engine was overturned and Diver Willets, who was strapped to his seat, was thrown under the machine in the collision.

     The engine was stripped of its valves, three axles were sprung and considerable damage was done to the framework


        The Los Angeles Herald, June 29, 1906                   The Los Angeles Examiner, June 30, 1906

Don't Blame the 
Motormen Off-Hand

    IT ought not to require the passage of a special ordinance to prevent the recurrence of collisions between street cars and the engines of the Fire department. Yet it would seem that some such action will be necessary if things go on as they have been going.

    Twice within a fortnight have trolley cars run into wagons of the department, seriously injuring the occupants of the latter.  In the first instance seven men were hurt, two so seriously that they have been under treatment at a hospital for more than ten days.  In the most recent case, which happened day before yesterday, Frank B. Willits, the diver of a hose and chemical wagon, received injuries which may incapacitated him for further service and only escaped death by a miracle.

    In each of the cases the collision was due to the reckless rate of speed at which the trolley cars were run.  The natural disposition is to blame the motormen for their apparent recklessness.  An investigation may show, however, that they were simply obeying the orders of their superiors.

        Left to himself, the motorman has every incentive to be careful. In case of accident he knows that not only the public, but his employers,  will do their best to place the responsibility of injuries on him.  He is in great measure the slave of a "schedule" prepared for him by those who wish, for purposes of economy, to handle a traffic with as few cars as possible.  The fewer the number of cars the less employees are needed.

    In glaring cases like those cited, which occurred in front to engine houses, the likelihood of repetition may be minimized by a simple order requiring a slow rate of speed when passing such places.  But the real difficulty will mot be solved that way.  A proper official supervision of the street car traffic is what is needed.

The Los Angeles Examiner, June 30, 1906

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