Excerpts from thereporteronline.com:

Members of the Chicago Ridge Firefighters Union presented Fire Chief George Sheets with the first George W. Sheets Award for professionalism, progress and results during the past 21/2 years that he has led the department. It will now be awarded annually to a member of the department.

Chicago Ridge Fire Department Capt. Chris Bennett said Sheets deserved the award named after him. The plan is to present the award annually to a deserving member of the department who shows the qualities emblazoned on the plaque: professionalism, progress, and results.

Bennett said a lot of improvements have been made in the department in the 21/2 years since Sheets took over as chief. He cited the creation of the part-time firefighter program, with fully-trained part-time firefighters working alongside the 13 full-time firefighters as one of Sheets’ accomplishments. He said Sheets has also expanded the role of paid on-call firefighters, a program that grew out of the department that was made up of volunteer firefighters.

Bennett said the success of the part-time firefighter program is allowing the department to keep the village’s second firehouse, at 107th and Lombard Avenue, open 24/7, starting in mid-February. For the past year, since it was reopened in April 2015, it has been open 12 hours a day. Currently, ambulances are based at the station, but eventually fire equipment will be, too. Officials said having it open has reduced response times by more than two minutes.

“This system is better than under past administrations, when we had three deputy chiefs who were only administrators and shift commanders. They could not work any equipment. Now, as a captain, in addition to being a shift commander, I can go out on calls to monitor the situation. We now have enough people to man two ambulances, and we don’t need to look for help from neighboring communities as much as we once did,” said Bennett.

“The bottom line is, (Sheets) is a great delegator, and we are getting things done. He protects this town more than it ever has been before.”

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