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Naperville
Monday, March 4, 2024

Making a difference for public safety

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Above / In 2024, the Naperville Fire Department will celebrate 150 years! (PN File Photo)

Originally, I was going to write this month’s article about how much the role of fathers has changed in my lifetime. Then I heard that Rich Lichter passed away and I remembered his contributions to the Naperville Fire Department.

Fifty years ago, Naperville was still a small community. There was only one fire station. There were about a dozen full-time fire department personnel and about two dozen paid-on-call firefighters. Training and building teamwork have always been important to provide the best possible service to the citizens of Naperville.

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On Wednesday nights, Captain Richard Lichter and Captain Fred “Pete” Heinke would work hard to provide training exercises for the department personnel. There is a lot to learn in order to put out fires as quickly as possible. Firefighters would use dummies to practice saving people from buildings. Drills would be done to ensure hose lines could be laid and connected to fire hydrants quickly.

They also had to learn how to transport water to areas that did not have fire hydrants.

Firefighters needed to be trained so they could drive the firetrucks. Like so many jobs, you don’t realize how much knowledge is needed until you try to do the job. I have only listed a few of the tasks that needed to be learned.

Captain Lichter saw so many changes while he served the Naperville Fire Department. Women joined the team of firefighters. Naperville grew, more fire stations were built, and more full-time firemen were hired. Eventually the paid-on-call firefighters were replaced with full-time staff.

Many of the paid-on-call firefighters, including my husband, Terry, became full-time firefighters. Some of them became Lieutenants, Captains and District Chiefs. They shared the knowledge, skills and work ethic they learned from Captains Lichter and Heinke with the new firefighters who were hired as the Naperville Fire Department grew to 10 stations and a staff of more than 200 people. Their dedication and professionalism helped make the Naperville Fire Department one of the best departments in the country.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s remember the great legacy that has been left by all the men who added so much to our lives. The world is better because of the lessons they taught us.

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Sue Jelinek
Sue Jelinek
Sue Jelinek welcomes story ideas from ship to shore. Contact her at jelinst@sbcglobal.net.

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