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Samuel Cramer
Dixon Fire Chief

Contributed by Ora Flaningam


Fire Dept. Jan. 30, 1937

Sam Cramer, senior member of the Dixon fire department, who joined it May 11, 1915, serving continuously since that time was today sworn in as chief of the department. Filling the vacancy caused by the death of Chief William Mitchell last week. Commissioner Cal G. Tyler moved his appointment to head of the fire department at the council meeting last evening and the entire commission concurred in the action.


Saturday May 11, 1940

Fire Chief Sam Cramer who today rounded out a quarter century of continuous service to the City of Dixon and was receiving the congratulations of the city officials and members of the several departments. Twenty five years ago today Chief Cramer was appointed to the fire department in which he has seen continuous service and of which he is now the chief.


Dixon Evening Telegraph, Thurs., Jan 13, 1944

Fire Chief Sam Cramer has tendered his resignation to the Dixon City council and action will be taken at the regular weekly meeting Friday evening. Chief Cramer became a regular member of the Dixon fire department May 11, 1915 and has served as chief for the past seven years. He has been eligible for the fireman's pension for the past few years, and upon retiring from the city's service in which he has served most faithfully and efficiently for more than a quarter of a century, plans to return to his old profession as a shoemaker. He expects to accept a position in the local plant of the Freemantle Shoe Co. He having served for many years as a shoemaker before entering the city's employ.

Dixon Evening Telegraph - Mary's Listening Post - 02 February 1944

When Sam Cramer, recently retired Fire Chief of Dixon, was asked the other day for some of the interesting experiences that he had as a fireman, he laughed and said, "If I should tell you all the exciting things that have happened it would fill a book. You see I have answered over 35,00 calls and I don't believe any two of them were exactly alike." Mr. Cramer went on to say that he had been a member of the Dixon squad for almost 29 years and Chief for the last seven years. The largest number of calls in a year was 175 and the smallest number was 81. The :busiest" day that he remembers had seven calls and the longest "vacation" they aver had was 41 days without a fire.

He recalled the time when the Countryman building was destroyed. He said they started fighting that blaze on Saturday night and did not quit and go back to the station until Wednesday noon. During that one time they stopped just long enough to eat some lunches which were brought to them from time to time. When the men finally finished fighting the fire they almost dropped to sleep exactly where they stood. Another fire which he recalled was when the Duffy garage burned and destroyed 63 cars. The building stood where Kline's department store is now located ‑ it was a bitter cold night (40 degrees below zero) and many who came that night drove their cars into the garage for evening storage. By the time the fire was discovered it had gained considerable headway and the gasoline tanks on the cars soon started to explode. There was a remarkable "fireworks" display but it was no joke for the firemen who were forced to retreat a little more with each explosion. Mr. Cramer. Mr. Cramer still laughs about how he finally backed up to a telephone pole, behind which he could stand and protect his face from getting burned, but he soon found this so cold that he couldn't stand it! The most amusing call which he recalled was when they arrived at a house to find a lady standing in the doorway with a baby wrapped up in a blanket in her arms. She said she could smell smoke and had hunted all over the house and couldn't find it. She had even had someone else go with her but to no avail. So the firemen, well aware of the smoke took up the search and they were almost ready to admit defeat when she shifted the baby from one arm to the other and there was the blanket smoldering in her arms! Probably just another careless cigarette.

In his years of service the department has been called for almost everything imaginable. One person became almost a steady customer when he called time after time to come and get cats who became stranded in high trees! Another person called frantically one day and reported that a swarm of bees had gone through a knot‑hole into the side of her house. That was one call which was never answered! People frequently phone in for the inhalator thinking it may save someones life and they fail to realize that it is merely a machine which contains oxygen that will do the person absolutely no good unless artificial respiration will bring the person back to consciousness. The biggest tragedy which came to the department while Mr. Cramer was a member was the death of Fireman Art Penny. They were fighting a fire at the Dr. Chandler residence where Geo. Beiers lives now. There was a tremendous amount of smoke and before long Mr. Penny asked the chief if he might go back to the station because he was ill. Permission was granted and he was taken back where he went upstairs to get some dry clothes. He got that far and fell over on the bed dead ‑ some of the gas which he had contacted in the fire had been poisonous apparently! Here Mr. Cramer stopped his reminiscing and warned that smoke from burning wool, feathers, celluloid and many new products are very poisonous. He said that people should remember that is there is much gad present and a great deal of smoke that a person is extremely foolish to go into a burning building to try to save some piece of furniture. If rescue work must be done the fire company has three gas masks which they use in emergencies. They find them too difficult to breathe through for long periods.

The main injury that Mr. Cramer received while he was with the squad was when the Woolworth store burned. After that he had what the doctor called "smoke blisters." He could see scarcely anything for about a week and he still finds that his eyes will not stand a very long period of reading. And speaking of injuries he remarked that 20 people had been burned to death in Dixon during his term. He said when he joined the department there were four members and he became the fifth one. They then had 24 hours off every five days. Now there are seven men in the department ‑ the chief is on duty day times and the others are divided into platoons of three each with the groups "on" 24 hours and "off" 24 hours but on call all the time. Although much is said about the training and fine work of large city departments, ex‑chief Cramer said that he felt that a firemen from Dixon could do a better job with a company in Chicago man could do out here because every man in a large department is a specialist in his own work. That is, a hose man never touches a ladder and the "engineer" knows little about any other job whereas the small town fireman must of necessity be skilled in many things. After the war he felt that Dixon like many other departments would be wanting new equipment. He is very interested in the new "fog" fire fighting methods. He says that it only stands to reason that a stream of water broken up into a fine spray can do much more cooling and suffocating than a straight stream. He saw an example of something like this in a fire on the railroad property at Nelson. The Dixon department was called but water was not obtainable in sufficient quantity to do any good. A train engine was run up beside the fire and the steam valve opened. The fire was extinguished immediately!

As a final word of caution to the public he said that cigarettes cause the highest percentage of fires and that wood shingles are guilty of most of the roof fires (there have been over 500 in wood shingles in his experience as against 2 on composition roofs, and those two were caused by leaves in the gutters). Number 10 wiring instead of the old number 14 is really the only thing which is safe with all the modern electrical appliances. And of course, don't use pennies for fuses. And finally he said "Tell the public NOT to shout advice to the firemen when they are at a fire. The chances are that a man who has answered 1,000 or so calls knows much more about solving the mystery of the fire than a bystander and any comments which outsiders make merely take the attention of the fireman away from his job."

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