The Springfield Fire Department’s dedication to public safety was honored Dec. 8 during a ceremony on the south side of the BOS Convention Center for the unveiling of a plaque commemorating “Howard’s Ladder.”
“Howard’s Ladder” is named after former Springfield Fire Department Division Chief Howard Beagles.
“I was honored to serve with the Springfield Fire Department for 30 years and to play a small role in keeping Springfield safe,” Beagles said. “This plaque is for the whole department.”
A symbol of the heights to which the fire department is prepared to go to protect the public, the ladder was initially installed near the end of the construction of the Convention Center in 1979 at the insistence of then-Fire Marshal and director of the building department, Division Chief Howard Beagles, who was concerned that the department’s ladders would not reach to the rooftop of the Center. This meant that firefighters would have to access the roof during a fire by climbing through interior scaffolding, thus losing precious time and endangering firefighters.
“Howard’s Ladder” was a term coined by Beagles’ family and known to few others until it was reported by former SJ-R columnist Dave Bakke in his Jan. 2, 2014, column, which brought the story to the attention of the general public. The column also motivated Carl Drake, Beagles’ grandson, of Bloomington, to see if the ladder and all it represented might somehow be commemorated.
“I am grateful to everyone who helped this idea become a reality,” said Drake “It is very special for my family to be able to share this moment with Grandpa.”
Drake, a constituent of State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), worked with Barickman’s office to receive permission to place the plaque. With support from Barickman, the family won approval from the Springfield Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority (SMEAA) in fall 2015 for the plan.
“The public often is unaware of the lengths that public safety officers must go to in order to keep us safe every day,” said Sen. Barickman. “This plaque, and the story behind it, serve as great reminders of those efforts.”
The plaque, paid for entirely by private donations, is on the south side of the BOS Center, on the north side of the sidewalk that runs along Adams Street. “Howard’s Ladder” is visible almost directly above the plaque on the roof of the structure.
Every detail of every public building is scrutinized to ensure it meets stringent city codes for health and safety, This ladder is just one of many details that represent the work done – and often unnoticed- by city departments and inspectors- to protect citizens,” said SFD Battalion Chief Matt Raymond. “As member of the fire department, respecting our past and our traditions is very important to us. All of us today owe a debt to what Howard and others did years ago to make us a great fire department today.
Senator Barickman and Howard Beagles