Posts Tagged Mattoon Fire Department

Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

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In less than a year, Mattoon has gone from three ambulance services to one. Now, the city council is placing a moratorium on a new service trying to come to town for up to the next six months.

The city pulled the fire department out of ambulance business in July 2018, citing budget issues. Last week, Dunn’s Ambulance Service announced it was leaving the city due to staffing issues. Mitchell-Jerdan is now the only ambulance provider left.

The local firefighters union is still trying to get the city to reconsider the ambulance service as they also negotiate a new labor contract. Union president Bart Owen says Mitchell-Jerdan has had issues fulfilling the need on its own in the past.

“It hate to say ‘wait and see’ again, but we’ll have to watch this,” Owen said. “We are not staffing [our ambulances]. They are in storage…they are technically still an option here. But we’re being told they’re not an option at this time.”

But the mayor and city council have remained firm: the city-run ambulance service was cost this city money and wasn’t viable long term.

“Do you want us to cut police officers?” asked city commissioner Preston Owen. “Do you want us to cut ambulance services duplicated? Do you want us to stop filling potholes? That’s the choice.”

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

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Taylorville-based Dunn’s Ambulance has given notice that it plans to close its Mattoon operation sometime on or before May 31, which would leave Mattoon based Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service as the sole provider of ambulance services in Mattoon. Dunn’s has been operating in Mattoon since 2008 and has an ambulance station at 1821 Marshall Ave.

The city ended the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service on July 25, but the department has retained advanced life support equipment on its fire trucks to provide backup service as needed. The fire department operated an advanced life support ambulance service from 2010 to 2018. City officials have said that the department’s ambulance service lost money and duplicated the work of private providers. Firefighters countered that their service generated needed city revenue and provided essential coverage for Mattoon.

Mitchell-Jerdan has increased its ambulance and staffing levels since the fire department’s ambulance service ended and it has provided backup for Dunn’s as needed. There have been a few instances in recent months of Charleston Fire Department ambulances needing to be dispatched to Mattoon for backup.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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The Mattoon City Council voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday night to approve an agreement for retired Charleston fire chief Kris Phipps, as an independent contractor, to serve as interim chief for 12 months to fill a vacancy created by the Feb. 25 retirement of Tony Nichols. The interim chief resolution states that the city opted to hire a contractor in the interim to ensure the efficient operation of the fire department while the city conducts an employee selection process in order to permanently fill the chief vacancy.

Under the contract, Phipps will serve as interim chief from March 19, 2019, to March 18, 2020, for a total fee of $118,500 paid in installments. The city administrator said he hopes the city can begin seeking chief candidates from within the department and outside it in about six months.

Phipps retired in 2009 as Charleston fire chief after serving three years in this post and a total of 27 years with the department. He then worked for Spectra Tech, Inc., based in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in roles that included teaching emergency operations planning for those who work with fuel storage facilities.

 Mattoon Fire Department’s shift captains have been handling top leadership responsibilities with the department since Nichols stepped down. The council voted on Oct. 17 to eliminate the department’s assistant chief post due to budgetary restraints and to transfer then-Assistant Fire Chief Sean Junge to fill a vacant shift captain post.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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Mattoon Fire Chief Tony Nichols has announced that he plans to retire after leading the department for nine years and serving in the department for 24 years after  joining the fire department in December 1994.

He said the budgets for the fire department and city have gotten tighter every year during the last decade which have made it tougher to operate the department. He said the council’s vote to eliminate the department’s ambulance service last summer was a factor in deciding it was time to retire. The fire department operated an advanced life support ambulance service from 2010 to 2018. City officials have said that the department’s ambulance service lost money and duplicated the work of private providers. Firefighters countered that their service generated needed city revenue and provided essential coverage for Mattoon.

Nichols, a Mattoon native, is a second generation Mattoon firefighter. His father, Gary, served with the fire department for 27 years and retired as captain more than a decade ago. Nichols joined the department after serving in the Navy and worked his way up to becoming chief in October 2009.

He is proud of fundraisers that firefighters have held for various community causes, such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the firefighter’s Thanksgiving food basket program in addition to the more than $550,000 in grants that firefighters have obtained in recent years to help with the purchase of a rescue pumper and turnout gear.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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Many current and retired Mattoon Fire Department personnel gathered Saturday for the dedication of a new memorial on the north side of city hall and for the cookout that followed in the fire station. Two granite plaques on the memorial bear the names of more than 150 firefighters who have served in the Mattoon Fire Department since its formation in 1861. The monument and a new flag pole sit on a concrete pad bordered by landscaping stone and are illuminated by LED lights. The memorial area also contains the Fire Station No. 2 front door marker from the former Lake Land Boulevard fire station.

The monument at the center of the memorial was created by Capt. Keith Orndorff and donated to the department upon his retirement last spring. He collects firefighter memorabilia and used some of these items, including an aluminum deck gun from a fire engine, to craft the monument.

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

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The Mattoon City Council voted Tuesday night to eliminate the city’s assistant fire chief position due to budgetary restraints and transfer the current assistant fire chief, Sean Junge, to fill a vacant shift captain post.

One council member said this post is being eliminated to help reduce the city’s budget deficit and to put another firefighter into the field to help meet union minimum staffing requirements. He and the mayor emphasized that the elimination has nothing to do with Junge who declined to comment after the meeting. The city administrator estimated that Junge’s annual salary will decrease by approximately 8 percent, not counting overtime, with the transfer to shift captain.

The council also heard concerns from residents about ambulance service coverage in Mattoon, including two accounts of Paris ambulances needing to be dispatched to Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center to transfer patients to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

Four residents spokes about ambulance coverage in Mattoon since the city eliminated the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service on July 25 due to budgetary constraints. Private providers Dunn’s Ambulance and Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service are continuing to offer coverage in Mattoon.

The city has been making budget cuts as it faces a $750,000 deficit this year and the prospect of an even larger deficit next year. The city is facing growing pension costs and  expenses.

Residents who feel strongly about the ambulance issue were encouraged to form a committee to pursue a sales or property tax referendum for bringing back the fire department’s ambulance service.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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The Mattoon city council is scheduled (Tuesday) tonight to consider eliminating the assistant fire chief position within the Mattoon Fire Department due to budgetary restraints.

The proposed ordinance also calls for restructuring the management of the fire department by transferring the assistant chief, currently Sean Junge, to fill a vacant shift captain position.

Regarding the budgetary restraints, the proposed ordinance states that the city approved a deficit budget for fiscal year 2018-19 and continues to make adjustments in an effort to reduce this deficit.

In addition, the proposed ordinance states that the city is in negotiations for a new contract with Mattoon Firefighters Local 691. The city is making efforts to comply with an arbitration ruling to return staffing levels to 30 firefighter bargaining members. Mattoon currently has 23 firefighters.

If Junge becomes a shift captain, he would be eligible to become a bargaining member of the firefighter union and would have to take a 15 percent reduction in salary if this change occurs.

The Mattoon firefighters posted a statement on their Facebook page that says the elimination of the assistant chief position puts “the community and our department in a more compromised position” and is “another direct attack on department staffing.

The statement indirectly referred to the city’s recent elimination of the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service. City officials have said that this service was losing money as the city dealt with a budget deficit and that this service duplicated the work of existing private ambulance providers in Mattoon.

thanks Keith

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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The Mattoon Fire Department recently received a $200,000 federal grant that will enable it to replace all 30 of the aging air tank sets for the department’s firefighters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded this grant through the Assistant to Firefighters program, and the grant was matched by $10,000 in city funding.

The grant funding arrived as one third of the department’s bottles are scheduled to retire at the beginning of 2019 and another third are set to expire at the beginning of 2020. Each new set of grant funded equipment will include two bottles, a harness, and a face mask. One feature of the new equipment will be a warning signal that indicates when 33 percent of the air supply is left, instead of the current signal at 25 percent.

In other matters, the department recently purchased a washing machine and a clothes drying cabinet for turnout gear with the help of a $15,700 small equipment grant from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office. They installed the new cleaning equipment this week at the fire station annex building behind city hall.

The new equipment will enable firefighters to clean their own turnout gear on site without having to send it to a cleaning service. The washing machine can clean two sets of gear at a time.

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

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It’s been over a month since the fire department’s ambulance service ended. Now some families are feeling the effects of it.

When Jace MacDonald has a seizure, a response from emergency services can get tough for his family. Recently he had a seizure while they were running errands. His mother called for help. She stopped when she saw an ambulance. Two of them drove past her. Then she took matters into her own hands    

“We drove by Mitchell-Jerdan. [They] Didn’t haven’t any ambulances there. I took him to Mattoon Fire. I walked in with him postictal and they cared for him through his entire postictal phase. Monitoring his heart rate. His oxygen saturation.Stayed there unless I had to administer his emergency medication and were very very helpful,” says MacDonald.

Alissa MacDonald says she was grateful to those firefighters. She took her concerns to city council, hoping for sympathy or a solution; but, she says there was no response at all. 

“Their job on the city council is to represent the citizens of Mattoon and if a citizen of Mattoon comes with a legitimate concern and is respectful and professional I feel like it’s their obligation to express their concerns whether or not they agree with me, the fact that they didn’t have the decency to address me is horrific,”states MacDonald. 

We reached out the private ambulance services that have taken on the emergency calls. They say when they’re pulled away to transfer calls which takes away from responding locally. Those can take them as far as an hour or two away.

Still, MacDonald says the council should have been ready for it all. 

“They’re lack of preparation is not my emergency. It’s not my son’s emergency and I should not have to suffer the consequences. He certainly shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences because of their poor planning,” says MacDonald.   

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

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Nearly one month has passed since the city ended the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service on July 25. The two private ambulance providers operating in Mattoon have been adding to their staff and fleets as they adjust to handling all of the calls for emergency medical services. The private providers have been assisted at times by the Mattoon Fire Department, which has retained its advanced life support equipment, and by the Charleston Fire Department’s ambulance service.

The number of calls for emergency medical services in Mattoon totals well more than 300 per month on average, according to fire department records. Fire Chief Tony Nichols said there were 13 times between July 25 and Aug. 18 that the Coles County 911 system needed to dispatch other ambulance services to help while the two private providers were busy with other calls.

The Mattoon Fire Department’s calls for backup included needing to use its advanced life support equipment at the scenes of two vehicle crashes and at one medical emergency. Charleston Fire Department ambulances transported three patients. Neoga or Sullivan ambulances were dispatched a total of three to four times, but were called off en route.

Ambulance providers in Mattoon are still helping transfer patients from Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center to higher level trauma centers, although the health center also has Abbott EMS ambulances assist with transfers if available. 

Dunn’s has been keeping three ambulances in operation in Mattoon during peak hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and two overnight. Their goal is to soon have three ambulances available 24 hours per day in Mattoon. They has been hiring more staff, but competition for applicants in the region has increased now that Abbott EMS is providing an ambulance service in Effingham and that Horizon Health’s Paris Community Hospital has started its own ambulance service.

Dunn’s and Mitchell-Jerdan are working together to try to ensure that there are always at least two ambulances available in Mattoon while still transferring patients for Sarah Bush Lincoln.

Resident Alissa MacDonald told the city council on Tuesday that her 22-month-old son, Jace, collapsed last weekend at home due to an epileptic seizure. MacDonald said she and her husband were already aware from the scanner that Mattoon had no available ambulances at the time and neither did Charleston. She said they later found out that the nearest available ambulance was 22 minutes away in Sullivan. MacDonald said she is a neonatal intensive care unit nurse and her husband is a critical care paramedic, so they were able to provide medical assistance for their child. However, she asked the council to consider what could happen to other families during such situations or to people in other emergencies, such as a shooting, if an ambulance is not readily available to help them.

“This town, in the wake of a school shooting (Sept. 20 at Mattoon High School), voted to move forward with eliminating the MFD ambulance system,” MacDonald said. “My own stepchildren were in that building last fall. And if God forbid they would have been injured, it would be my expectation that help be there immediately. One would think that after such a tragedy our city council would take action to increase safety in this city, not take it away.”

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