Archive for category Fire Service News

Former Highwood Deputy Fire Chief on trial (more)

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An Illinois Appellate Court has reversed the 2015 felony conviction of former Highwood Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Ronald Pieri who was found guilty of false entry in connection with time sheets submitted between 2006 and 2010 while he was serving as a firefighter, shift commander, and deputy fire chief.

The Second District Appellate Court found the data and statistical reports relied on by prosecutors to prove that Pieri falsified time sheets were “so unreliable as to create a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.”

In a 15-page ruling, the appellate justices said prosecutors, the state’s forensics examiner, and the judge assumed that when Pieri’s time sheets did not match records in the department’s computer management system Firehouse, that the Firehouse records were correct. But the appellate court said its own review of four months of Firehouse records from 2006 reveals a multitude of questionable or improper data in the logs. The appellate court found some of the state’s exhibits to be rife with errors.

“As the saying goes, ‘Garbage in, garbage out,” wrote the justices in their Jan. 13 opinion.  “We conclude that the evidence … was so improbable, unsatisfactory or inconclusive that it creates a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.”

Circuit Court Judge Victoria Rossetti found Pieri guilty of one count of false entry and not guilty on two counts of official misconduct and two counts of theft of government property. Rossetti sentenced Pieri to two years’ probation and 150 hours of community service.

Pieri was the highest-ranking member of the Highwood Fire Department when he was arrested in 2011 and at one time had served as the fire chief. At the time of his arrest, he was the husband of a sitting alderman and the son of a former alderman.

Though Highwood residents voted to dissolve the Highwood Fire Department in a 2016 and turn fire and paramedic services over to the City of Highland Park, Pieri’s employment status remains in limbo. He is currently seeking back pay through the Highwood Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

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Fire service news

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The office of the State Fire Marshall is accepting applications for its Small Equipment Grant Program. The $3.5 million program provides grants of up to $26,000 for the purchase of small firefighting and ambulance equipment for Illinois departments. This includes items such as self-contained breathing apparatuses, backboards, and communication equipment. Applications are due by Feb. 29.

The program is particularly helpful to smaller fire and ambulance agencies which are unable to generate revenue to update equipment. The program is open to most fire departments, fire protection districts, township fire departments, and non-profit, stand alone ambulance services. To be eligible for funding, fire-protection agencies must have participated in the National Fire Incident Reporting System for a minimum of two years before applying.


Cancer in the Fire Service

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Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger and Congressman Don Bacon (R-Nebraska-02), a U.S. Air Force veteran, introduced the Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act on Thursday in the U.S. House. It aims to provide veteran firefighters will the compensation, health care, and retirement benefits they earned with their military service. The bill is named for Michael Lecik, a Powhatan County resident who was deployed twice as a U.S. Air Force firefighter.

Lecik was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Feb. 2019, but the Veterans Health Administration does not cover the treatment costs for such disease because the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does not often recognize the service connection between firefighting and cancer as a presumptive service-connected disability more than a year after active duty. Lecik’s service ended in 2008. Following his military service, Lecik became a civilian firefighter and then chief fire inspector at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee. he also volunteered as a firefighter with the Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department.

The legislation would create a presumption that veteran firefighters who become disabled by certain diseases, such as heart disease, lung disease or certain cancers, contracted that illness during their military service. It would also extend the time frame during which certain diseases can be recognized as service-connected to military firefighting to 15 years.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study in 2010 that found U.S. firefighters are more likely to suffer from certain diseases and illnesses as a result of their career, and they ten to experience higher rates of cancer than the general population in the United States.

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New 137-foot aerial ladder for Chicago (more)

This from Chi-Town Fire Photos:

Today I had the opportunity to take pictures of the new AT8. Its a 2019 E-One Cyclone ll 0/0 137′ RM aerial. Very nice setup and should serve the city well.

2019 E-ONE Cyclone CR137 aerial

Chi-Town FIre photos

2019 E-ONE Cyclone CR137 aerial

Chi-Town FIre photos

E-ONE Cyclone cab and bumper

Chi-Town FIre photos

E-ONE 5-section ladder with waterway

Chi-Town FIre photos

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Of interest north of the border … Burlington Rescue Squad (more)

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Tuesday night saw the end of a 73-year-old tradition. The Burlington Rescue Squad, a volunteer emergency medical service that has covered the City and Town of Burlington since 1946, officially disbanded when the clock struck midnight. The writing was on the wall for the rescue squad’s dissolution for quite some time. Volunteerism is down and call volume is up. In April, the Rescue Squad and City of Burlington Fire Department jointly announced they were entering negotiations for a merger. The Burlington Rotary Club oversaw the nonprofit rescue squad for the entirety of its existence. For many years, the squad also provided service to portions of Walworth and Kenosha counties and part of the Town of Dover in Racine County. But in recent years, call volume had reached 1,300 to 1,600 annually, an unsustainable level for the volunteer entity.

With the end of one era begins another. The City of Burlington Fire Department will now run EMS calls in the town and city, picking up where the rescue squad left off. In preparation, the fire department elevated its service to the level of the rescue squad by obtaining advanced EMT licensure, the second-highest EMS certification. The city also allocated more than $360,000 for new hires in the 2020 budget, and the rescue squad agreed to give the fire department an ambulance and various equipment.

About 20 members were on the all-volunteer rescue squad. One has applied to join the city and others plan on joining other agencies such as the Rochester Volunteer Fire Co., Lyons Fire Department, Madison Fire Department, and Waukesha Fire Department. Others will take time off.

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Illinois Fire Service news (more)

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday consolidated pension programs for most of the state’s police officers and firefighters outside the Chicago area, a move he said would expand the funds by up to $2.5 billion over five years while cutting administrative costs for local governments. He lauded the action as a landmark step toward rectifying Illinois’ beleaguered public-employee retirement systems, but it doesn’t touch accounts for state employees or Cook County, which includes Chicago. Those accounts are tens of billions of dollars short of full funding.

The measure Pritzker signed into law creates two statewide funds — one for law enforcement agencies and another for firefighters — from among 649 local programs outside of Cook County, a goal that has eluded previous lawmakers and governors for 70 years

With pooled assets of $8.7 billion in the police fund and $6.3 billion in the fire account,  additional investment returns will total $800 million to $2.5 billion in the first five years while also relieving local governments of administrative costs for housing separate programs.

“We are helping hundreds of cities in Illinois alleviate their spiraling property tax burdens, and just as importantly, we’re showing that Illinois can tackle its most intractable problems,” Pritzker said in a statement.

A pension-review committee the governor convened in January recommended the change and lawmakers agreed, giving Pritzker the latest of several legislative victories he has enjoyed in his first year on the job.

But the change doesn’t affect nine Chicago and Cook County pension accounts underfunded by $44 billion, or five state employees’ programs that are $134 billion short.

The lone effort to cut those costs, a 2013 law that ended compounded yearly cost-of-living increases, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary that counts toward calculating benefits the Illinois Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in 2015.

Another cost-cutting law that survived offers less-generous benefits to new employees. But the cuts were so steep they threaten to eventually violate federal Social Security minimum protections, so Wednesday’s consolidation law sweetened by as much as $95 million the less-generous benefits employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, receive.

The new law retains local pension boards to administer benefits and ensures that no assets or liabilities are moved from one plan to another.

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9-1-1 Dispatch consolidation in Lake County

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Since 2013, Lake County, through the Lake County Emergency Telephone System Board, has studied whether consolidating more than a dozen independent primary and secondary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) or dispatch centers in Lake County could enhance 911 service.

New legislation in 2015 forced consolidation of smaller systems, and at the time, a study by the task force found that there were 19 dispatch centers employing 280 full-time equivalent positions at a cost of $33 million per year. Equipment maintenance costs about $17 million annually. If all systems were consolidated into one, the estimated savings at the time was between $2.3 million and $10.4 million per year, according to the 2015 study.

In the spring of 2018, 21 Lake County public safety entities agreed through an intergovernmental agreement to participate in a 911 Consolidation Implementation Planning Project. This fall, project members agreed to three tiers for further consideration and planning. The first would involve focusing on technology, where a member would agree to use standardized technology while maintaining independence. The second would add standardized policies and procedures formalized in intergovernmental agreements. The third would include a full consolidation that would combine all dispatch centers under a single entity or agency formed through intergovernmental agreement.

Eventually, the county plans to sell the property where its main dispatch center is in Libertyville that a was built in 1948, along with the old Winchester House property along Milwaukee Avenue. The county could build a replacement or combine with other entities to cover a wider area and save on efficiencies like administrative costs. There are nine different systems used in the 14 centers that serve Lake County.

One of the entities, the FoxComm E911 Communication Center, just purchased brand new equipment. They handle police and fire calls for Fox Lake, Grayslake, and Lake Villa, plus police calls for Park City. Like the county, Park City dispatches police and routes fire calls to the appropriate agency.

Cook, Lake, and DuPage counties, along with Will County to an extent, are the only counties in Illinois without a single 911 center.

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Of interest … former Carol Stream fire chief retires from Colorado FD

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Chief Mark Bodane retires from the Brighton Fire Rescue District

thanks Drew


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Evanston Fire Department news

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The Evanston Fire Department (EFD) and public health officials urged residents to learn about the state’s new smoke detector law, which requires residents to install an alarm with a 10-year sealed battery by 2022.

The EFD worked with the Illinois General Assembly to pass the law because of the number of deaths that occur in Illinois homes without smoke detectors. In 2018, 70 percent of the residential fire deaths were in homes without smoke detectors.

Evanston Fire Chief Brian Scott said that though the number of people killed in fires has decreased in the past, people are more likely to die in a residential fire than they were years ago. The majority of deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, which can be prevented by people escaping faster.

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Area fire departments receive loans for apparatus

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A total of 23 communities in Illinois will receive funding for new fire trucks, and 11 communities will get funds for new ambulances. Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez and Illinois Finance Authority Executive Director Christopher Meister issued over $9.3 million in no interest or low interest loans to emergency responders across the state. The loans are made available through the Fire Truck Revolving Loan Program (FTRL) and Ambulance Revolving Loan Program (ARLP).

Under the FTRL program, fire departments and fire protection districts can apply for up to $350,000 in low interest or no interest loans for purchase of a fire truck or brush trucks. The loans have to be repaid within 20 years. Under the ARLP program, local governments and not-for-profit ambulance service providers can apply for no interest or low interest loans of up to $200,000. These loans must be paid back in 10 years.

Area recipients of the Fire Truck Revolving Loan:

• Evergreen Park Fire Department                           $350,000.00

• Harvard Fire Protection District                              $350,000.000

• North Park Fire Protection District                          $350,000.00

• Oak Forest Fire Department                                   $350,000.00

• Orland Fire Protection District                                $350,000.00

• Schiller Park Fire Department, Village of               $350,000.00

• Woodstock Fire/Rescue District                            $350,000.00

Area recipients of Ambulance Revolving Loan:

• Cortland Community Fire Protection District          $200,000.00

• Franklin Park Fire Department                               $157,991.00

• Joliet Fire Department                                            $200,000.00

• Limestone Township Fire Protection District          $200,000.00

• Nunda Rural Fire Protection District                       $200,000.00

• Palos Heights Fire Protection District                     $185,000.00

• Princeton Fire Department                                     $200,000.00

• Woodstock Fire/Rescue District                             $200,000.00

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