The Trib Local has an article about how budget cuts will affect the Lake Zurich Fire Department.

After Lake Zurich officials announced layoffs and job cuts in the village fire, police and public works departments, one board member has expressed concern about how public safety might be affected by the resulting 30 percent fewer fire inspections.

Lake Zurich will cut 11 positions, and five employees will be laid off as a result, according to budget. The fire prevention bureau will halve the number of its employees, going from four to two. Those cuts will result in a decrease in fire inspections by as much as 30 percent, according to fire department Chief David Wheelock.

Trustee Terry Mastandrea, who was fire chief in Lake Zurich for 21 years until he retired in 2011, said the fire department already has faced cuts over the years. Mastandrea said he fears tapering back inspections might prove dangerous.

“We don’t have enough people or resources to respond to fires, so the best way is to prevent them,” he said. “Why are we taking a step backward when we need to be concerned about public safety?”

In total, two fire inspector positions are being eliminated in the fire prevention bureau, and one is being reclassified from an “inspector” to a “fire prevention specialist”, Wheelock said. The new person in the job will have to take on additional duties as a result, Wheelock said, and will work with the deputy fire marshal. The change will save the department close to $135,000 per year, according to the budget.

The village also is looking to start a program in which owners of buildings at lower risk of fire can do self-inspections and report back to the fire prevention bureau, Wheelock said. The department hopes to get that program up and running this year, he said.

Mastandrea questioned the self-inspection plan, saying there is no real incentive for businesses to report themselves if there is a violation.

“We haven’t had a fire loss in years, and it’s because of the progressive fire prevention we have, and our inspection service,” Mastandrea said. “The only way we can make sure [buildings] are safe is to get out there and inspect them.”

Businesses usually get one warning before being charged for violations, Wheelock said, and the types of businesses targeted for self-inspection are small places like offices and mom-and-pop shops without much foot traffic.

Therefore, Wheelock said, he’s not concerned about giving owners a checklist of things to watch for and ways to remedy issues. He said even low-risk buildings would be checked at least once every other year by an inspector.

Lake Zurich makes about $32,000 a year conducting fire inspections for neighboring towns like Deer Park and Kildeer, Wheelock said. The reduction in inspections, therefore, only will take place in Lake Zurich, where businesses aren’t charged an inspection fee, he said.