Posts Tagged Elgin Fire Department

Elgin Fire Department news (more)

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The Elgin City Council agreed this week to double its hotel tax and keep measures in place to reduce the number of firefighters per shift from 34 to 32.

The initial budget proposal would have raised the hotel tax from 4 percent to 6 percent, adding about $1.39 to the average room rental. It also would have eliminated the city funding for the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Elgin city manager said that statements by council members indicated they wanted to find a way to continue to fund the bureau. So he suggested raising the tax a total of 8 percent, which would add close to $3 per night per room and bring in an additional $240,000.

Elgin has been funding the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau since the 1980s, with money from a hotel/motel tax and a matching grant from the state. The bureau will receive about $212,500 from Elgin’s tax in 2017.

The proposed budget also posits $700,000 savings in fire department overtime by reducing two positions per shift, from 34 to 32 firefighters required to fill positions. The savings would be realized without the need to lay off firefighters by restructuring how 32 shift firefighters are deployed for service calls, according to the budget document.

This would reduce the number of shift positions from six to five at Station 1 on the east side and Station 2 to operate a jump company. The new staffing model will increase the incidence of ambulances available for EMS calls which is the overwhelming majority of fire department activity the document states.

Council member and former Elgin Firefighter Rich Dunne said the move could negatively affect the city’s Insurance Service Office rating and could increase the time needed to form teams to fight fires or handle other emergencies. Dunne said the reduction could affect the safety of the public as well as firefighters. The department already is down 12 positions in the last 10 years and is doing more with less.

To make up the $700,000, Dunne suggested that the city could bill businesses for fire alarm service, lease equipment instead of purchasing it, and consider allowing a proposal made by Elgin Association of Firefighters IAFF Local 439 for firefighters to get their health insurance through the Illinois Firefighters Association. He claimed the moves would cover the $700,000 gap.

The council voted down adopting Dunne’s proposals as part of the 2018 budget by a 7-2 margin. 

The mayor said he has concerns about the continued use of overtime to fill fire department shifts, a policy in place for 15 years in the hopes it would save money by not having the legacy costs related to hiring more full-time employees.

The budget discussions continue at 9 a.m. Saturday at City Hall. The public is invited to comment on the proposed $259 million 2018 budget and the 2018-2020 financial plan. Final approval is set to happen Dec. 20. The document can be viewed online at

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Elgin Fire Department news

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The Elgin City Council appears inclined to cut firefighters’ overtime by $700,000 to help balance the 2018 general fund. On-shift staffing would be reduced to 32 from 34 firefighters at seven stations, yet city officials said that personnel responding to ambulance calls — which represent 80 percent of fire calls — would not be affected.

Councilman Rich Dunne, a former fire marshal, said at Wednesday’s council meeting the overtime cut would negatively affect safety, response times, and the department’s insurance rating. He proposed avoiding overtime cuts by increasing revenue. , including taking on fire alarm monitoring, buying into a larger health insurance pool through the state firefighters’ association, and leasing equipment.

Only one councilman supported Dunne’s motion. The others said they want to stick with the plan while looking into boosting revenue next year.

Elgin Association of Firefighters Local 439 has been lobbying to avoid the overtime cut, saying the department needs more, not fewer, people on shift. Union officials have asserted in recent weeks that firefighters’ injuries have increased since 2005, when the department switched to a high-overtime model. City officials say that’s not true.

Local 439 President Joe Galli said data from the fire department’s internal database shows injuries rose from 2 in 2002 to 60 in 2016, with a high of 98 in 2011. But the city’s risk management department data shows that there were 48 injuries in 2002 and 60 in 2016, with a high of 107 in 2011.

“Mr. Galli’s information is wrong,” City Manager Rick Kozal said. “Records retained by the city’s risk management department do not show any discernible trends with firefighter injuries. The staffing changes at fire stations 1 and 2 pose no additional safety risks to the firefighters.”

“If (Kozal) is disputing them now, we are not offended, but show us where they (the numbers) are. Prove it to us. Why wouldn’t you want to show it to us?” Galli said. 

Cogley said the union could have asked the risk management department for the data.

The firefighters’ contract ends Dec. 31, and the union has asked the city to engage in interest-based bargaining, which involves a federal mediator. The union said the process would be speedier and allow quicker implementation of agreed-upon revenue-boosting measures. The last time, contract negotiations lasted more than two years.

“The city has successfully bargained with its collective bargaining units using traditional methods and believes that is the best means for reaching agreement with the firefighters’ union,” Kozal said.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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Elgin Fire Department union officials oppose a cut in overtime in 2018 but stopped short of saying they’d file a complaint.

The city’s proposed budget includes cutting department staffing from 34 from 32 firefighters per shift, a savings of $700,000. No one would be laid off.


Edward Hanson, vice president of International Association of Firefighters Local 439, said the issue is not the loss of overtime pay, but having fewer people on shift. “There definitely will not be enough people to do our job to the level we have done it,” he said.

The department operates on a high overtime model, meaning the city chooses to pay overtime rather than hire more firefighters — whose starting pay is $67,181.

The mayor said it’s appropriate to cut overtime to balance the $116.4 million general fund. The plan is to also use $876,000 from reserves, create a new gasoline tax, and increase sales and hotel/motel taxes.

The department would create two more jump companies. About 80 percent of calls are for ambulance service.

Hanson said firefighters have been overworked since the city decreased shift staffing from 36 to 34 people a few years ago, a decision supported by an arbitrator in 2015. He claimed that, as a result, there have been more injuries on the job, but couldn’t immediately produce data to that effect.

It was suggested that the department should consider taking on alarm monitoring for businesses, which one expert estimated at up to $450,000 in revenues. The city also could draw more money from reserves next year, he said. The proposed budget has $43.6 million in reserves at the end of 2018, or 38 percent of operations, above the city’s policy of 30 percent or more.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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Four Elgin fire stations are set to get new electrical systems equipment to replace antiquated or failing items.

The city council on Oct. 25 unanimously approved awarding a $65,290 contract to replace the generator and transfer switch at Fire Station 2 along Big Timber Road.

Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said there have been issues with the generator at the northwest side station for at least the last three to four years.

Council members also unanimously approved awarding a $127,000 contract for the installation of uninterrupted power supply systems and transfer switches in three fire stations and at the public works building.

Fire Station 3 along Royal Boulevard, Station 4 along South McLean Boulevard and Station 5 along Villa Street were built in 1991, long before the electrical demands of current technology. The three stations each have a generator that must be manually started during power outages, and the buildings’ electrical loads must be manually transferred.

Installing automatic transfer switches will allow the generators to start automatically when power to the buildings is lost. They will also be able to start without firefighters present.

The current uninterrupted power supply at the three stations can only maintain reserve power for about 15 to 20 minutes. That means it takes several minutes to manually restart computers, phone and station dispatch equipment. The new system is designed to operate along with the generator.

The funding for the new equipment will come from the city’s share of Grand Victoria Casino revenue.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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Firefighters pulled out two workers from a trench Friday afternoon in Elgin after one man fell from a ladder and landed on the other man, authorities said.

The men were contractors digging huge trenches to put in a natural gas pipeline off Mccornack Road near Big Timber Road, Elgin Fire Department Batallion Chief Rich Carter said.

“They were about 20 feet down in the bottom of the trench,” Carter said. “They were both injured.”

fFirefighters were lowered into the trench to tend to the workers’ injuries, which were serious. Both men were pulled out manually with ropes and pulleys.

“It took us about 40 minutes to get them out of the trench,” Carter said.

The men were taken to hospitals by ambulance and helicopter.

Several neighboring fire departments responded with rescue personnel, including Pingree Grove, Hampshire, Bartlett, and Rutland and Dundee townships.

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Elgin Fire Department’s 150th Anniversary

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For Elgin Fire Assistant Fire Chief Robb Cagann, Saturday was a special way to celebrate the Elgin Fire Department’s 150th Anniversary. 

The Fire Barn No. 5 Museum’s open house Saturday showcased the department’s history as part of the celebration of the day it began exactly 150 years earlier.

Cagann credited the museum board with building the collection housed in the early 1900s fire barn. The volunteer museum board takes care of the fire engines and all the memorabilia, he said.

Elgin Fire Department was established on September 16, 1867, and the all-volunteer force worked out of a building at 9 N. Spring St., according to a brochure the department created. The city’s first company, the Elgin Hook and Ladder Company, had a hose wagon and two horses to serve 5,441 residents, it stated.

Fire Station No. 5 was built in 1903 to 1904 at 533 St. Charles Street. By 1904, the fire department had 5 fully staffed fire barns with three hose wagons, two combination hose/chemical engines and horse-drawn engines, according to the museum. It was decommissioned in 1991, later becoming a fire museum, officials said. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, the brochure states.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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A domestic argument got heated Wednesday morning when a man allegedly doused an Elgin home in gasoline and set it on fire.

Officers were called at 9:25 a.m. to a house in the 900 block of Carol Avenue, where a man was reportedly threatening bodily harm while dumping cans of gasoline inside the house.

Responding officers found the caller about a block away from the house, and when they reached the home, the front of the structure exploded into flames that engulfed the house.

The officers found 60-year-old Larry Harris in the back yard and took him into custody.

Emergency crews Firefighters searched the house and brought the fire under control within 20 minutes. Two people were treated at the scene and one of them was taken to Sherman Hospital in Elgin for additional treatment.

Detectives from the Major Investigations Division found evidence of accelerant use. Harris, who lives in Elgin, was charged with felony counts of residential arson and criminal damage to property and a misdemeanor count of domestic battery.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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The Elgin Fire Department intends to use a $72,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to purchase state-of-the-art equipment to be used when performing CPR.

The city council Wednesday night is set to move along for final approval the purchase from Michigan-based Stryker for $79,400, with $7,200 of the money coming from the fire department’s capital budget. Stryker is the owner of Washington-based Physio-Control, which makes the system.

We will be getting five of the systems, one for every frontline ambulance,” Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said Tuesday.

“It’s great tool to have in the community,” said Dr. Mohammad Zaman, Medical Director, CEP America, Presence St. Joseph Hospital Elgin.

The systems are designed to provide consistent, high-quality mechanical chest compressions that meet the American Heart Association standards for rate, depth and speed. Part of the apparatus goes under a person’s back, while the other part wraps over a person’s chest and holds a device which applies the compressions, which can be adjusted to the size of the person.

The Lucas Chest Compression System the department plans to buy allows firefighters to keep CPR going while a patient is on a stretcher and while the patient is being moved, even up or down stairs.

The machines also take away lapses in applying CPR thus lessening health-related issues for patients and keep the compressions consistent, taking away the fatigue factor when a paramedic is applying the compressions. Current protocol calls for CPR to be applied for 30 minutes before terminating resuscitation efforts.

Schmidt said the systems also mean more safety for paramedics while in ambulances, who now can wear a seat belt while chest compressions are being applied by the battery-operated machine.

The systems are Bluetooth enabled so that they can transmit the data they collect to the department’s computer system and to the hospital to which a patient is being taken.


Statistics show that each year in the United States, more than 300,000 individuals suffer non-traumatic, out-of-hospital, sudden cardiac arrest, which has been the leading cause of death in adults over 40. The Elgin Fire Department responds to about 56 cardiac arrest incidents annually.

During a four-month trial of the two mechanical CPR systems, the Return of Spontaneous Circulation (ROSC) percentage rate in cardiac arrest victims rose from 36 percent to almost 58 percent, Schmidt said. Upon completion of the trial, the rate returned to 36, or about 10 percent higher than the national ROSC average.

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Elgin Fire Department news

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Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said that in December the fire department purchased a practice drone and one that will be used in the field with a sophisticated forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera system. The camera cost $9,000 and the two drones a combined $3,000.

The police and fire departments will begin using the equipment in the field after a presentation to be given the city council. Eventually, other departments might find uses for the drones, such as public works surveying its projects or the water department inspecting water towers and its sites.

At a hazardous materials spills, a drone could be sent up to survey the situation prior to any firefighters being sent into the impacted area. With structure fires or field fires, the drone could be deployed to see the nature of the blaze or from where the fire might be coming or be most intense. In searches for missing people, the drone could assist from above, saving time and saving money. Helicopters used in such scenarios can run upwards of $2,000 an hour.

The camera works in conjunction with a GPS mapping system. So if there were a flood, tornado, snowstorm, or other natural disaster that left an area unmarked or cleared of housing, that mapping could be used to compare how the area looked before and after the event. In those situations the drones also could be used to look for survivors and damage assessment.

Overseeing the fire department training is Battalion Chief Rich Carter. At the Elgin Police Department, Officer Kevin Snow has been training on using the drone system.

Advanced functions on the drone Elgin will be using include object avoidance and the ability to fly indoors. It’s also designed to be able to carry small objects, such as a life vest. It can stay in the air 28 to 35 minutes, and can be flown in winds up to 30 mph, but not in the rain.

State law limits how police departments can use drones. For surveillance operations, police must get a signed warrant. Any footage taken that is not used in a criminal case must later be destroyed, and drone footage is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.


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Elgin Fire Department news

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Elgin Firefighter/Paramedic Lt. Wayne Smith wasn’t even supposed to be at the hockey rink in Rolling Meadows on March 13.

But Dan Isola, who collapsed on the bench from a heart attack that night, is glad he was.

Smith, 53, was honored by the Rolling Meadows City Council for helping to save Isola’s life. Smith, who lives in Rolling Meadows, coaches hockey and plays in an adult league, had been asked to fill in as a player for the 10:30 p.m. game. He was about to get onto the ice when he heard people yelling to “call 911.”

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