Archive for category Fire Service News

Historic fire service video The Noble Breed

This from Steve Redick:

I dipped into my vault for a friend and I came up with a great piece of firefighting history. I imagine many of you may have never heard of the documentary The Noble Breed. It was produced by the Kemper Insurance Company in the late 1960’s. They spent quite a bit of time riding with SS3 with some footage of my dad, Warren Redick and a young Bill O’Boyle. They also spent time in Skokie and have some footage of the well known George Trier. My grandfather, not shown in the film was chief in Skokie at that time. They also spent time with other FD’s including LA and San Francisco as well as some volunteers. For it’s time this was probably one of the best FD documentaries ever produced. It was narrated by Rod Serling, a classic voice of the time. Due to size limitations it is in 2 parts.. take a look. Be sure to expand the viewing window to a larger size.

The videos can be viewed HERE:

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New area dealer for Rosenbauer America

From the Interstate Emergency Vehicles Facebook page:

We are excited to announce that Rosenbauer America, the worlds largest builder of fire apparatus has provided us with the opportunity and a great future for our business & employees. Interstate Emergency Vehicles, based in Joliet, Illinois in our new 12,000 square foot facility is ready for the challenge. We wish to thank our customers in the Chicagoland area and Northwest Indiana for the continued support of fire truck sales and the privilege to service your emergency vehicles.
Ed Orolin

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Northfield Fire Rescue news

Excerpts from the

A former part-time firefighter who authorities say placed a video recorder in a shower at the Northfield fire station pleaded guilty to the charges, court records show.

Edward T. Panicko, 59, of Arlington Heights, was sentenced on Wednesday to one year conditional discharge and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service in exchange for pleading guilty to unlawful video recording.

He was also ordered to pay $484 in fines.

Panicko resigned from the Northfield Fire Department in July 2016 after a fellow firefighter made misconduct allegations against him.

thanks Dan

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2-11 Alarm fire in Chicago, 1-8-17 (more)

Excerpts from

Three people were injured in an extra alarm fire Sunday morning on Chicago’s West Side, leaving a long-time resident looking for a place to live as authorities investigate the cause. Two people suffered smoke inhalation, and another was treated for exposure to the extreme cold Sunday morning.

Patrice Ammons said she did lose a lot in the fire that destroyed her West Side home of 20 years – but not everything. For one, she had gratitude for the firefighters who saved her.

“You can replace material things, but you can’t get your life back, and all of us are safe because of them,” Ammons said. “I really want to tell the firemen thank you, I got my brother out, and I couldn’t get back. That fireman did not hesitate, he took off his cap, he went in blind and I wish I knew who he was, so that I could say thank you.”

Ammons said sometime between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday, her brother told her something was burning. The back of the two story building was in flames, which ripped through the roof, and engulfed the whole back wall.

The fire had escalated to two alarms –at the time temperatures in the city were hovering around zero degrees. Eventually more than 100 firefighters responded.

Patrice Ammons lost her home and most of what she owns, you can’t control the circumstances, she says, but you can control your attitude.

thanks Dan

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Northwest Homer FPD news

Excerpts from

The family of an Orland Park woman is suing a 911 dispatch company after an ambulance was sent to the wrong address. In July of this year, the husband of Laurelyn Wagner-Pitts noticed his wife was having trouble breathing and called 911. The call was automatically sent to the Western Will County Communication Center according to the lawsuit. The address that appeared on the dispatcher’s screen was listed as Lakeview Trail in Homer Glen. But the emergency was at Lake View Court in Orland Park. Randy Pitts stayed on the line and repeated again that he lived in Orland Park.The dispatcher realized she had dispatched the wrong department.

Pitt’s wife had gone 17 minutes without oxygen. It would be 49 minutes from the time of the 911 call and arriving at Silver Cross Hospital. She died in August after the family took her off a ventilator.

The lawsuit filed in Will County Court is suing Western Will County Communications and the Northwest Homer Fire and Ambulance Protection District.

Excerpts from the

The family of a woman who died last summer when an ambulance was dispatched to the wrong address, has filed suit against the dispatch center and an Illinois fire department.

Laurelyn Wagner-Pitts, 60, suffered a cardiac arrest on July 30, 2016. Her husband, Randy Pitts, called 911 and requested an ambulance from the Western Will County Communication Center. The dispatcher had some difficulty with the address and initially sent an ambulance from the Homer Fire Department to a different location.

Approximately 10 minutes later the mistake was realized and an ambulance from the Northwest Homer Fire and Ambulance Protection District was dispatched. By the time it arrived, Wagner-Pitts had been without oxygen for an estimated 17 minutes. She passed away in August when her family took her off a ventilator.

The suit was filed by Wagner-Pitts’s two sons, Matthew and Eric Schlottman. It names the Western Will County Communication Center and Northwest Homer Fire and Ambulance Protection District as defendants. More on the story.

thanks Scott

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Tri-State Fire Protection District in the news

Excerpts from the

A case involving a Tri-State Fire Protection District official charged with submitting a fraudulent report in 2015 may soon reveal the truth behind possibly dubious circumstances lurking within the Burr Ridge-based district.

Originally at issue was the questionable aptness of Michael Orrico’s dual relationship with the fire district as both a trustee and as an equipment vendor.

Reporting in the Edgar County Watchdogs’ (ECW) Illinois Leaks publication, principal writer Kirk Allen said last month that Orrico, who sells gear for Fire Service Inc., failed to mention his employment in a key disclosure statement for his trustee position. Fire Service Inc. is based in various locations, including Naperville.

According to Illinois state law, anyone filing a statement of economic interests who deliberately puts on record a false or incomplete statement is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, so when the 18th Judicial Circuit Court of DuPage County in Wheaton finally issued an arrest warrant for Orrico Sept. 16 this year, ECW expressed approval.

Named as a defendant in the case, Orrico was required to make a 10 percent bond deposit and appear in court for a bail bond hearing Oct. 11. Terms of the warrant forbade him from leaving the state of Illinois without the court’s permission, limiting Orrico’s whereabouts to an eight-county range.

In part, the charges read, “on or about March 16, 2015 … Michael J. Orrico committed the offense of Filing a False Statement of Economic Interest, in that the … trustee of the Tri-State Fire Protection District, willfully … failed to list on that statement … his employment with Fire Service Inc. and his title or the description of any position held with Fire Service, Inc., from which the defendant earned income.”

As it happened, Orrico, one of three elected Tri-State Fire Protection District trustees, had disagreed with his colleagues in the past about records handling. As his case unfolded, details about missing records came to light, and further fanning the flames were apparently obscure circumstances by which records were lost to begin with.

In December 2013, Tri-State reported that confidential tape recordings were missing from a safe in its Burr Ridge facility. The audio documentation regarded executive sessions of the district’s board of trustees.

“Whatever has been going on during executive session remains a mystery,” the Chicago-based Better Government Association (BGA) said in 2013. The investigative nonprofit previously had published a series of articles on the district’s Darien branch, keeping its eyes peeled on spending records and alleged conflicts of interest and other irregularities.

“According to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, trustees are allowed to convene in private to discuss sensitive material such as litigation or personnel matters, provided certain rules are followed,” the BGA said. “Among the rules, they must keep a verbatim record – either video or audio – of all sessions closed to the public.”

Tri-State allegedly had stored its closed-session records at the shared residence of trustee Jill Strenzel and Fire Chief Michelle Gibson, longtime partners. According to BGA, Orrico asked to hear the recordings, but of seven meetings arranged specifically for that purpose, four or more were canceled.

In a bizarre twist, Strenzel fell outside the station on Nov. 18, 2013, breaking two tape recorders in the process and sending a staffer to buy a new one. She then claimed that someone broke into a safe containing tapes and notes at the Burr Ridge Station at 10S110 S. Madison St. on Nov. 21.

“Strenzel … started to pull papers out of the safe, ‘at which time she stopped and was worried that unlawful entry had been gained,’” according to records obtained by BGA. Police determined that nothing was missing and classified the burglary as suspicious circumstances due to lack of evidence.

Strenzel followed up at the scene with speculative questions regarding what should be done if someone had erased the tapes using a magnet. The next day, the police were recalled to the same station and were asked to move items into a new safe. Records indicate that the officers declined to physically perform the task, instead observing Strenzel doing so.

At the next regular board meeting in mid-December, Strenzel and one other trustee voted to keep closed session meeting minutes confidential, with Orrico the sole opponent.

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DeKalb County rural fire departments to pay for dispatch services

Excerpts from the

DeKalb County’s 10 rural fire departments have received free dispatching service from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office’s Communications Division since the 911 system was established.

 However, that long-standing practice is set to come to an end. For months, Sheriff Roger Scott and other county officials have been negotiating a new fee system for the small departments.

Only Cortland and Kirkland have yet to pay or agree to pay the new fees, although it is not sitting well with some, including longtime Shabbona Fire Chief Frank Ottengheime.

“We pay taxes, we pay county taxes, we pay on our phone bills, we pay on our cellular phone bills, in other instances they pay into the city taxes,” said Ottengheime, who has been with Shabbona’s all-volunteer department for 40 years. “I don’t know how many times we can be taxed for the same service.

“… Our feeling is that it’s an essential service, it should be supplied.”

Although the proposed fees come at a time when the county is curbing spending to balance its budget, Scott said that was not what spurred the change. Rather, it was officials from rural police departments who suggested the fire departments chip in.

“Rural police departments have been paying for a number of years, and it was a consensus of the rural police departments that the rural fire departments should help reduce the costs for the rural police departments,” Scott said. “They took that proposal to the [County Board’s Law and Justice Committee] back in 2015, and they lobbied to redevelop a plan that included the rural fire departments.”

County documents show the rural fire agencies will pay about $26,000 for service in the fiscal year that ends June 30. That figure will grow to about $30,000 by 2021.

The county’s eight rural police departments – Cortland, Hinckley, Kingston, Kirkland, Malta, Shabbona, Somonauk and Waterman – will pay $162,000 this fiscal year, records show.

The sums that the county wants to charge are comparatively small. The Shabbona fire board recently agreed to pay the $1,900 fee for dispatching services – a fee that will increase each year by 3 percent to 4 percent through 2021.

The dispatch fee, when spread among the homeowners in a district, will cost a homeowner anywhere from 14 cents to $2 per $100,000 in assessed value, according to county documents. Shabbona’s fire district includes about 400 homes.

But the dispatch fee is just one more financial demand on volunteer fire departments that are already facing trying changes. Volunteer firefighters in Shabbona are paid $8.50 an hour, while paramedics earn $12.50 an hour. As the part-time chief, Ottengheime earns $3,000 a year.

“No one’s getting rich fighting these fires,” Ottengheime said. “A guy gets $10 to get up at 3 a.m., they’re not in it to make money.”

Training and other requirements for running an ambulance are making a volunteer ambulance service a less workable proposition. With the tax cap limiting what rural fire districts can collect in tax dollars, adding a new fee can have an effect on what equipment and training a fire agency can afford, Ottengheime said.

Scott noted that he had been through several different proposed formulas as the sheriff’s office sought to convince everyone it was being fair. He said that increases in what the agencies were asked to pay were tied to increased labor costs, which are dictated by a union contract.

At any rate, although the sheriff’s office has been providing the service for free for decades, it has never been required to, Scott said.

“Fire dispatching is not a mandated responsibility of the sheriff’s office,” he said. “It is an additional responsibility. We have several mandates in the statutes, that’s not one of them.”

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office provides dispatching services for most rural fire departments in the county. They have instituted new fees for the departments, which are scheduled to increase by 3.4 percent to 4.1 percent a year through June 30, 2021.

Cortland $4,300

Hinckley $2,750

Kirkland $3,400

Lee $450

Leland $1,450

Malta $2,350

Paw Paw $200

Shabbona $1,900

Somonauk $5,950

Waterman $2,400

Source: DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office

thanks Dan

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5-11 Club news

From: Alan Wax
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2016 7:36 PM
Subject: 5-11 Club Needs New Canteen

I have been asked to forward a request from the 5-11 Club, who provides canteen and rehab services to the members of the Chicago Fire Department and other area departments.

If anyone knows of an available old ambulance or box truck, the 5-11 Club desperately needs to replace one of its canteen units – it is in dire shape.  If you know of a unit that might be available to be donated, please contact Gary Altwasser at 773-965-5599.

Information on the 5-11 Club is viewable at

Thank you,

Alan Wax

Fire Chief

Des Plaines Fire Department


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Aurora Fire Department news

Excerpts from

Cathy Medernach and her son were walking near the retention pond behind their Aurora
home Sunday, when their dog Bailey headed out onto the pond and fell through the ice.

Medernach and her son grabbed the family’s canoe. She took the canoe out onto the ice, but then it tipped, sending her into the water which was up to her waist. She fought to climb back into the canoe while her son went inside to call for help.

The boy called his father, who told him to call 9-1-1.

When firefighters arrived, she told them to rescue the dog first, but they insisted on getting her to safety.

After getting Cathy inside where she could warm up, Aurora firefighters used ropes, and a floating sled to reach the dog. A member of the dive team pulled Bailey out of the icy waters and the dog was rushed to a nearby animal hospital.

During about 30 minutes in the water, the dog’s body temperature had dropped 10 degrees, and she’d suffered some abrasions trying to climb onto the ice.

Aurora Fire Marshal Javan Cross said there’s a lesson here, whether it’s a dog, or a human, that’s fallen through the ice.

“Leave it to the professionals,” Cross said. “We’re trained to be able to do all kinds of rescue, pets included, so let us do our jobs, and don’t make any incident worse than what it needs to be.”

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Spartan Motors to acquire Smeal

From the SpartanERV website:

Addition of Smeal Product Portfolio and Key Operational Team Members Accelerates Spartan Motors’ Emergency Response Business Turnaround Plan; Transaction Accretive to Earnings in 2017

CHARLOTTE, Mich., Dec. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Spartan Motors, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPAR) (“Spartan” or the “Company”), a global leader in specialty chassis and vehicle design, manufacturing, and assembly, today announced its wholly-owned subsidiary, Spartan Motors USA, Inc., has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. (“Smeal”), an industry-leading innovator and manufacturer of fire apparatus in North America, and its subsidiaries for $36.3 million, subject to certain net working capital adjustments, the Company’s forgiveness of certain liabilities owed by Smeal to the Company, and a subsequent tax gross-up payment, which is expected to be more than offset by tax benefits accruing to the Company. The acquisition will enable Spartan Motors to strengthen its Emergency Response business, gain scale and geographic reach in the industry, and accelerate its Emergency Response business unit turnaround plan. The transaction is expected to close in January 2017, subject to customary closing conditions.

Smeal is expected to generate 2016 revenues of approximately $100 million, which includes approximately $30 million of Spartan chassis sold to Smeal.  The newly combined Spartan Emergency Response business unit will rank as one of the top-four North American fire apparatus manufacturers and will be well positioned, in an increasingly consolidating industry, to provide a robust and respected portfolio of leading products, services, and technologies. Today, Spartan’s Emergency Response business unit engineers and builds fire truck cabs and chassis for many of the industry’s leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Smeal, as well as designs and manufactures complete fire apparatus. The acquisition of Smeal is a logical next step in the longstanding relationship between the two companies, which spans more than 30 years.

“We look forward to adding Smeal’s industry-leading product portfolio and manufacturing expertise to Spartan’s, while expanding on a decades-long successful partnership,” said Daryl Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer of Spartan Motors. “We expect the acquisition to be accretive to earnings in 2017 and bring significant scale to our Emergency Response vehicle portfolio, which will help accelerate the turnaround of the Spartan Emergency Response business unit. It also expands the geographic reach of our dealers, benefits all of our customers by expanding our product offerings, and brings an additional portfolio of leading technology and expertise to the market.”

Adams continued, “We are pleased that Smeal chose Spartan Motors as their partner to carry on their brand’s legacy, as we take our supplier relationship to the next level. Spartan Motors is prepared to lead the consolidation charge in the fire apparatus market as strategic opportunities present themselves, and this acquisition represents a deliberate and strategic decision to accelerate the turnaround of Spartan’s Emergency Response business unit. Importantly, we also preserve a large, longstanding chassis customer relationship and protect the interests of their dealer channel, as we expand our dealer network across the U.S. and Canada and simultaneously accelerate our goal of becoming the leader in the fire apparatus market.”

Founded in 1955, Snyder, Neb.-based Smeal and its subsidiaries, U.S. Tanker Co. and Ladder Tower Co., are leaders and innovators in fire truck manufacturing and vehicle technology, offering a full line of aerial ladders and platforms (including Squrt®, TeleSqurt®, and Snorkel®), tractor-drawn aerials (TDAs), pumpers, stainless steel tankers and wildland urban interface vehicles (WUI).  Today, Smeal operates facilities located in Snyder and Neligh, Neb.; Delavan, Wis.; and Ephrata, Pa.

“Spartan Motors is the perfect fit for Smeal, our customers, our employees, and our operational leadership team, as we combine with a proven ally and industry leader to help solidify our future and preserve the legacy of the Smeal organization,” said Rod Cerny, Smeal’s Chairman of the Board. “As part of a larger, profitable and well-capitalized public company, we will have the working capital necessary to ensure continued investment in product development and make sure the Smeal brand is able to deliver the exceptional products and service our dealers, departments, and municipality customers have come to expect.”

Acquisition Highlights:

  • The acquisition is a positive and compelling strategic fit for both companies and is an important step in securing the Company’s market leadership in an increasingly consolidating industry
  • The acquisition is expected to be accretive to earnings for Spartan Motors in 2017 through a combination of operating efficiency efforts and synergies
  • Smeal’s (including U.S. Tanker Co. and Ladder Tower Co.) notably superior aerial ladder, platform, and TDA product portfolio enhances and complements Spartan’s and brings industry-leading product technology to an important, high-performance product subset
  • The combined Company will have 47 dealers in 44 states, 10 provinces and 3 territories, giving Spartan Emergency Response the ability to serve customers in the entire U.S. and all of Canada
  • Smeal is expected to add approximately $70 million in annual revenue (excludes $30 million of Spartan chassis sold to Smeal) to the Company’s Emergency Response segment, and positions Spartan Emergency Response as one of the top-four fire apparatus manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada
  • Smeal is expected to generate positive EBITDA in 2016
  • The transaction will be initially financed with Spartan Motors’ recently amended $100 million line of credit

“We are proud of this significant milestone for Spartan’s Emergency Response business, and welcome Smeal’s knowledgeable and respected operational management team and employees to the Spartan Motors family,” concluded Daryl Adams. “This transaction will bring together some of the best talent in the industry and provides an opportunity for all employees to pursue a broader and more diverse career path.”

For more information regarding this transaction, please visit

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