Four years into his budding career as a firefighter, Glenn Ericksen was used to putting out routine fires in apartments, single-family homes and small businesses in Arlington Heights.
Then in the early morning hours of July 31, 1985, he and his co-workers at the firehouse got the call they'll never forget: A fire had broken out in the Horseman's Lounge at Arlington Park. Ericksen drove the first engine that arrived on the scene.
"When we got on the grounds itself, we were met by a security guard in a vehicle flashing his lights. We've never seen that before, so it was kinda like, 'Uh oh,'" he said.
"Still, it didn't really look bad, but they were telling us the fire was on the other side of the building. We pulled out on the track surface where we saw the bulk of the fire. It's where we sat til the early afternoon that day."
Ericksen, who became Arlington Heights' fire chief years later and now coordinates a statewide firefighting response consortium, has fought a lot of blazes over the course of some four decades in the fire service.