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This is the firetruck, 2253, that Engineer Gene "Bo" Carroll drove at the time of his retirement. Gene worked for the Chesterfield Fire Protection District for 30 years retiring in 1997.  And he was a volunteer for numerous years before that.


KNOW YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT    By: Deputy Chief Robert Palmer
(This incident happened in 1968 during Gene's first year on the fire department.)

The alarm sounds and off they go!  Usually a short fast ride to the scene of the emergency.  Fire fighting is man against destruction, man against death.  The order is given to get inside the house for rescue and to knock down the fire.  The firefighters must go in, into smoke, gas, hot electrical wires and even flame.  They must go in and find the source of fire so they can stop  the spread of fire or save a life.

This is the life a firefighter has chosen, a firefighter such as Captain Layne Schwenck of the Chesterfield Fire District.  He chose this life because he is a man who wants to live by helping others.

Firefighters risk their lives almost every day.  When they're not actually fighting fires or rescuing helpless people, they are kept busy by training, preventable maintenance on the equipment, inspection work and many other techniques so they will be ready when disaster strikes.

A firefighter's challenge at times can seem unbelievable.  The time for a right decision and fast positive action must be made.  The wrong decision could mean the life or injury of our citizens or fellow firefighter.

On November 2, Layne Schwenck's day had just begun when suddenly at 11:18 a.m. he was faced with that decision and the job of finding a fire.  Down into a dark basement, through the black, choking hot smoke and unforeseen gasses, Captain Schwenck and a
fellow firefighter went in search of the fire. [The fellow firefighter was Gene] Captain Schwenck had to retreat because of the thick smoke.   He went back to the fire truck, grabbed a self-contained smoke mask and started back to the basement.  Just as he got to the house he passed Fire Chief Ott Biele who stated he was going for a smoke ejector.   Approximately ten seconds later, Captain Schwenck again entered the basement.   As he started down the basement stairs he saw an orange fire ball heading towards him.  He started backing out, but the faster he backed out, the faster the orange ball came towards him.  In a matter of seconds, the orange glow and excessive heat had surrounded him.  As he fell out the door, Chief Biele was there to help him.   The other firefighter managed to escape through a basement window. [This was Gene]

Layne_Swank.JPG (5933 bytes)Captain Layne Schwenck is now in St. John's Mercy Hospital with first, second and third degree burns of the head, face, hands and legs.

Usually the battle with fire is won at close quarters, face to face with an enemy that gives no warning and has no mercy.  Captain Schwenck's life was saved because of his knowledge of fire and because of his self-contained smoke mask.   The dedication and spirit of firefighters like Captain Layne Schwenck, should be a real inspiration to today's youth, who answers when asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  "I want to be a firefighter."


firefi4.jpg (11706 bytes)Four Chesterfield fire fighters including Chief Ott Biele, were injured fighting a fire in this house located on Hwy. 40-61 in Gumbo.  Rush hour traffic was backed up for miles last Wednesday evening, while the firemen fought to control the blaze.

Two area fire chiefs were injured in separate fires last week, one of which caused many thousands of dollars damage to a furniture store.  In the commercial fire, Carol House, a huge discount furniture store, located on Marshall Rd. in Valley Park, lost a tremendous amount of new merchandise. No accurate estimate of the damage is available, but owner, Nat Dubman, told Community Press, at the scene, that over $100,000 worth of merchandise was in the building.  Another portion of the 25,000 square foot building was sub-leased to Mason's Department Store, and many home appliances were destroyed or damaged.

The fire, according to Valley Park Fire Chief William Brignole,started on the east side of the building in an area used to store used furniture.  The cause of the holocause has not been determined.  It was well reported, according the Chief Brignole, who told Community Press that at 12:15 a.m., Tuesday, February 25, the Valley Park Fire Department had a "walk-in", two calls from St. Louis county Police and four private calls, reporting the fire, almost simultaneously.

In a great display of integration and cooperation among St. Louis County Fire Departments, six companies responded to Valley Park's call for assistance, making a total of seven fire departments and the Mobile Reserve Rescue Squad on the Scene.  Afton, Ballwin, Fenton, Kirkwood, Manchester and Mehlville, all came to Valley Park's aid.

Chief Joseph "Bud" Weil of Fenton, was injured as he was leading his men into the building to set up a deluge gun to cool down the fire.  He was 20 to 30 feet ahead of the Fenton firefighters, when he became overcome with smoke and fell, breaking four ribs.  Assistant Chief Richard Curtis of Ballwin carried Chief Weil out where he was treated by the Mobile Reserve, and taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood.  He is reportedly making a rapid recovery.

Chesterfield Fire Chief Ott Biele received a bad cut on his face,and three other Chesterfield firefighters were injured while fighting a house fire on Hwy. 40-61 in the Gumbo bottoms, on Wednesday February 26.  The fire, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Clifford H. Johnson and their five children, was reported at about 4:30 p.m.   Chesterfield was assisted by the Ballwin Fire Protection District.  Miles of rush hour traffic was tied up for an hour, while the firefighters battled the stubborn blaze, which apparently started from faulty electrical wiring in an upstairs closet.   The fire was put under control in an hour and firefighters left the scene at 8:30p.m.

Chief Biele was struck in the face by a falling slate shingle.  He told Community Press that he could have been hurt far more seriously, but the missile struck the front of his helmet.  Captain George Belamy received a bad cut on his hand and private Ed Underwood had a finger nearly severed, when he was struck by an ax, as firefighters chopped their way to the seat of the fire.  His glove was credited with saving the finger.  
Private Gene Carroll was overcome with smoke inside the house.   All of the injured firefighters were treated on the scene by the Mobile Reserve Rescue Squad and conveyed to St. John's Mercy Hospital, where they were treated and released.


Gene at left in dark shirt in both pictures.

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Above left: A Grover man was the first to make use of the new ambulance when he had to be conveyed from the scene of a motorcycle accident on Eatherton Rd. south of  Wild Horse Creek Rd.  He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital where he is listed in good condition.  (Community Press Photo) Approxiamtely 1973.


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Gene is the fireman (center) charging into the building with a hose.


Independent Journal - 19 Sept. 1985

Gene Carroll Dress Blues 1985.JPG (6377 bytes)Willard Eugene Carroll, of Potosi, an employee of Chesterfield Fire Protection District, Chesterfield, Missouri, was honored recentlly (Wed., Aug.28th, 1985) at a "years of service recognition dinner" held at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel, Westport Plaza, St. Louis, Missouri along with 24 other firefighters.  He was presented with a sterling silver ring, set with a large emerald surrounded by raised lettering which reads "Chesterfield Fire Prot. Dist. 15 years".  On each side of the band is the fire department emblem and his initials "W.E.C." are engraved on the inside of the band.  He also received a name tag set with the fire department emblem and 3 small emeralds, each representing 5 years.  The firefighters wives were presented with long stemmed yellow roses.

Carroll is a 1956 graduate of Crestview Jr. High School, Glencoe, Missouri and a 1961 graduate of Eureka High School, Eureka, Missouri.  In 1963 he enlisted in the United States Air Force with 4 years active duty with the Base Fuel Supply Squadron.  He served his overseas duty in Goose Bay, Labrador.  After 2 years inactive duty he received and honorable discharge, with the rank of Sgt. in 1969.

On January 2nd, 1968 he began employment with the Chesterfield Fire Protection District, giving him an actual total of 17 years of service.  He currently holds the rank of Engineer.  His main duties consist of driving and operating a 25 ton, 32 ft. long FMC tandem pumper on a Spartan chassis which features a 1500 gallon per minute Bean pump, 2000 gallon booster tank, 1000 gallon per minute monitor, 20 gallon tank of 6% AFFF foam and a 20 gallon tank of 3%  - 6% AFFF foam for alchol fires.

During this time he has received certificates of training from the University of Missouri-Columbia in the subjects of:  Basic Firemanship I, Basic Firemanship II, Hazardous Materials, Sprinklers, State Fire School Pump Operation and Automatic Sprinkler Protection.

From the Fire Department Training Coordinates Association he is certified in:  Certified Firefighter I,  Certified Firefighter II, Pumper In-Service Testing, Today's Firefighter and the Utilities, Salvage and Overhaul, Pesticides and the Firefighter, Company Officer, Air Craft Crash and Rescue, Defensive Driving of Emergency Vehicles and Fire Apparatus Practice.

Also from the Department of the Army, Granite City Army Depot, Granite City, Illinois:  Arson Device and Bomb Scare Course.

From the FMC Fire Apparatus School, Tipton, Indiana:  Basic and Advanced Maintenance and Operation of Bean's High Pressure and Volume Pump Systems.

From the American Red Cross he is certified in:  Advanced First Aid and Emergency Care and in CPR which he has had to perform on more than one occasion.   He is also qualified to drive the ambulance which he has done several times.

He is also qualified to operate other equipment on the fire department such as the rescue truck, 55 ft. squirt and brush buggy.

He is a member of International Association of Firefighters Local #2792, Firefighter Association of Missouri, Washington County Democrat Club and a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.

Engineer Carroll has had several "close calls" during his career as a firefighter.  The first incident was when he was trapped in the basement of a house after the upstairs exploded and the wooden stairway burst into flames.  He was forced to make his escape through a small basement window.  A fellow firefighter was severely burned in the same incident.

Another time he and a fellow firefighter were "gearing up" to go into a burning church to locate the source of the fire, when just a few seconds prior to entering the entire structure collapsed.

He has also suffered from smoke inhalation and a knee injury, both requiring emergency medical treatment.


St. Louis Post Dispatch - front page - February 4, 1992
Gene Carroll is second from left.

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A Chesterfield man waiting in his car Monday afternoon at Ladue and Babler roads as Union Electric workers disconnected a 34,000-volt power line that fell across the car when a garbage truck knocked down four utility poles.


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Independent Journal

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Feb. 5, 1998


FIRE FIGHTERS      By: Esther M. Carroll

Every time I hear on the news that more firemen have died in the line of duty I am soooooo glad Gene is retired! He was a paid firefighter for Chesterfield FPD, St. Louis County, for 30 years & was a volunteer before that. I've lost count at the number of fires he's fought. I spent all those years praying that nothing bad like that would ever happen to him & my prayers were answered. Here are a few of the many close calls that Gene has had:

Back in 1968 (we weren't even married yet) during Gene's first year on the fire department Gene & another firefighter, Layne Schwenk, went into the basement of a home in search of the fire. Layne had to retreat because of the thick smoke.  He went back to the fire truck, grabbed a self-contained smoke mask & started back to the basement.  As he started down the basement stairs he saw an orange fire-ball heading towards him.  He started backing out, but the faster he backed out, the faster the orange ball came towards him.  In a matter of seconds, the orange glow & excessive heat had surrounded him & he fell out the front door.  Gene was trapped in the basement but finally managed to escape through a small basement window.

Since I lived nearby I was at the scene for awhile but I stayed way back out of the way.  The last thing firefighters need are spectators underfoot.   There were so many firemen running around & in those uniforms & fire fighting gear you can't always tell who's who so I didn't know where Gene was until after he came out the basement window.

My father was a voluteer & was also there & helped tend to Layne until the ambulance arrived.  Layne was then taken to the hospital with first, second, & third degree burns of the head, face, hands & legs.  Layne was in the hospital for a long time.  He fully recovered but never went back to fire fighting.

In another incident several Chesterfield fire fighters, including the chief, were injured while battling a house fire in Gumbo Bottoms which was in the Missouri River valley. The chief received a bad cut when he was sturck in the face by a falling slate shingle.  Another received a bad cut on his hand & another had a finger nearly severed when he was struck by an ax as firefighters chopped their way to the seat of the fire.  Gene was overcome with smoke inside the house.  All of the injured firefighters were treated on the scene by the Mobile Reserve Rescue Squad & conveyed to St. John's Mercy Hospital, where they were treated & released.

Another time Gene & a fellow firefighter were gearing up to go into a burning church to try & locate the source of the fire. Just a few seconds prior to them entering the entire structure collapsed. If they would have gotten their gear on just a little sooner they would have been inside when that happened & would not be alive today.

Another time when Gene was riding the ambulance he had to do CPR on a man all the way from the residence to St. John's Hospital which was about a 20 minute drive even with lights & siren.  Gene had been out several weeks with a nasty bout of the flu & this was his fist day back.  By the time they got to the hospital Gene was exhausted & dizzy.  For awhile it was thought that Gene might have to be admited but the doctor made him sit with his head between his knees & after some time he was OK & went back to the firehouse & was ready for the next call.

When going on calls Gene usually drove the fire truck. Driving any emergency vehicle at a high rate of speed is always a danger in itself. And especially so when stupid assholes won't get out of the way! In all of his fire fighting years Gene found that there are more people who ignore emergency vehicles than pay attention to them.   One time while responding to an accident on Hwy. 40-61 during rush hour Gene had a near miss with a tractor-trailer. Gene had to use the emergency crossover & in doing so he thought it was clear & he almost pulled out in front of the semi which was not yeilding as quickly as he should have.

Another time Gene had to take his fire truck down Monarch Hill which was VERY steep & winding. And this time it was also snow packed & VERY slick. The truck begins to slide & almost hits a car that had hit a utility pole & then almost rams into the back of a trash truck. Gene finally managed to maneuver the firetruck to hug the right embankment to get it stopped. If the truck would have slid off the left embankment it would have been a deadly disaster as it would have rolled down hill approx. 100 feet.

The Chesterfield FPD did lose one fire fighter. I don't remember the year but I definitely remember the incident. The fire fighter who had on his self contained breathing apparatus went in the back door of a home & fell through the floor into the basement. He could not find an exit because of the thick smoke & he ran out of air. At the funeral he was conveyed on the back of the fire truck & was escorted by other emergency vehicles. When passing by other fire houses all the firemen would be outside standing at attention & saluting until the entire procession passed. When we were driving on Hwy. 270 I looked out the back window of our car & the procession was a far as I could see - probably well more than a mile long. Police officers as well as many, many citizens showed their respect by turning on their headlights & joining the procession for awhile while others would turn their headlights on & off in tribute as they passed by.


Read about our cat BOOTS - THE FIREHOUSE CAT

For a picture of:  First/original Chesterfield Engine House #2 & firetruck # 302 click here.