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Palatine Salutes 40th Anniversary of Firefighter Line-of-Duty-Deaths

The Ben Franklin fire in 1973 is one of the great tragedies in Palatine history. Three firefighters lost their lives fighting it, and a memorial will be held Saturday to honor their sacrifice.

Saturday will mark 40 years to the day that three volunteer Palatine firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting a fire at a Ben Franklin store in downtown Palatine.

The fire broke out in the early morning hours of Friday, February 23, 1973 at the store located on the west side of Brockway Street north of Slade Street, and quickly spread throughout the building.

Volunteer firemen John Wilson, 40, who owned the Ben Franklin store, Warren Ahlgrim, 32, and Richard Freeman, 25, whose father owned Zimmer Hardware, all died from smoke inhalation as they fought the fire in the basement of the building.

The Palatine Fire Department will host a memorial ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday, February 23 at the corner of Brockway and Slade Street, which is across the street from where the Ben Franklin store once stood.

The original Snorkel fire truck used by volunteer firefighters on February 23, 1973 was transported by Plote Construction company to Palatine on Wednesday from an Indiana fire department, and will be part of the ceremony. 

The ceremony will include a formal Palatine Fire Department procession, their honor guard, a wreath laying and three rings to the memorial bell to honor the lives of the three fallen firefighters.

Members of the community are encouraged to attend. 

For a more in-depth history of the event and Palatine residents who experienced it, click here to read the article by the Daily Herald. 

Information provided by the Palatine Fire Department and Then & Now, Palatine, Illinois. 

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