One of the worst tragedies in Waukegan’s history was a fire that occurred on Christmas morning in 1984 at the Karcher Hotel on Washington Street and claimed the lives of nine people. For the second time in their history, the Waukegan Fire Department mourned the loss of a brother firefighter who died in the line of duty.
On December 29, 1985, Lt. Franklin Mercer lost his life while battling a house fire at 721 McAlister Street. Lt. Mercer had been operating a hose line on the second floor. Lt. Mercers joined his company in an aggressive interior attack after there was a report that children were trapped in the building. He died as a result of multiple injuries sustained when he fell through a floor that was weakened by the fire. At his funeral, representatives from 63 public safety agencies attended to honor his service.
Lt. Mercer was a 15 year veteran with the Waukegan Fire Department and also served for two years with the Great Lakes Fire Department. Lt. Mercer was also a veteran‚ serving in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. He was very active in physical fitness and enjoyed working as a mechanic for our Fire Department. Lt. Mercer was instrumental in completely restoring one of our Fire Engines and he also served as our Apparatus Officer.
Lt. Mercer was a well respected Fire Officer and friend to many members of our department. He had numerous academic accomplishments and certifications relating to the Fire Service.
Franklin Mercer was survived by his wife Paula and two children and was a man of honesty‚ and integrity who is missed by all those who knew him.