CHICAGO — The number of lives saved by the Fire Department this year is admirable, but dwarfed by the city's not-so-distant past, although inconsistency in record keeping makes it difficult to compare eras.
The city's murders topped out at 970 in 1974, but the murder rate actually peaked, given a declining population, with 943 murders in 1992 — or 34 per 100,000 residents.
That was the year Chicago Fire Fighters Union spokesman Tim O'Brien joined the Fire Department, who recalled "it was a blur."
"I went to a fire company that was in a pretty tough neighborhood ... 67th and Bell, Engine 101, Truck 41. And they didn't have an ambulance in the house at that time. We went to a lot of shootings at that firehouse," he said.
At the time, they were considered "first-responder class": cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, oxygen, bandaging, preventing loss of blood with tourniquets. "Basically, it was a level above Boy Scout," O'Brien said. "We had to pray that the ambulance got there swift."
The Chicago Police Department, however, did not keep track of shooting incidents at the time, but instead monitored aggravated assaults involving firearms, which also include threatening someone with a gun. That year, there were 14,644 such incidents. To compare, there were 4,075 aggravated battery reports involving guns in 2010.
So, the Fire Department has been even busier treating shooting victims in the past, not to diminish their increased workload in 2012 compared to more recent years.