Posts Tagged North Riverside Fire Department

North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

On Nov. 18, even though the company’s proposal was the more expensive option, a majority of the North Riverside village board said they would vote in favor of extending a contract for another five years for paramedic services with Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI), which has provided paramedic services for the village for more than three decades.

But that extension was conditioned on the village administration pledging to explore the North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 proposal to hire full-time and part-time paramedics in order to wean the village from its reliance on a private company.

Two of the paramedic proposals submitted to the village on Aug. 16 were from private firms, PSI and Metro Paramedic Services. Each submitted a proposal for a five-year contract, with Metro’s price coming in at $2,415,441, compared to PSI’s $2,530,200.

North Riverside Firefighters Union 2714 also submitted a proposal to staff the village ambulances with part-time paramedics, but the proposal didn’t meet the requirements of the village’s request.

A quick calculation performed by the village’s fire chief, but not submitted to the administration prior to Nov. 18, indicated such a proposal could cost an estimated $2.1 million over five years, but the finance director said she couldn’t vouch for the figures.

The union’s proposal was inspired by the Village of Bensenville’s solution for paramedic staffing, employing in-house full- and part-time paramedics. Two trustees said that option was worth exploring after visiting the Bensenville Fire Department to get more information.

With only three paramedics assigned full time by PSI to North Riverside, and with PSI’s contract extension twisting in the wind, Fire Chief John Kiser said it was becoming difficult to convince contract paramedics to commit to being assigned permanently to North Riverside. While the village’s ambulance is fully staffed each shift, the turnover in personnel on those shifts is enormous. He also suggested extending PSI’s contract at this time to avoid a change that could result in an all-new crew of paramedics being assigned to North Riverside.

Two trustees opposed extending PSI’s contract, with one proposing to throw out the proposals the village accepted in August and seek new ones, even though PSI’s latest proposal represents a decrease in the fee the village now pays. He said that by rejecting the proposals and seeking new ones, the companies would get the message that they need to be more competitive. In fiscal year 2019-20, North Riverside budgeted $523,000 for paramedic services. Over five years, such a fee would equate to $2,615,000.

The village board will formally vote to extend the contract with PSI at its meeting on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in the council chamber of the Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave.

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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

About 70 police officers, firefighters, paramedics, high school and mall security personnel, and emergency dispatchers from North Riverside, Brookfield, Riverside, and Brookfield Zoo got a crash course in handling incidents involving people on the autism spectrum last week during special training sessions.

Three two-hour training sessions were taught by an autism specialist from EasterSeals Chicago. This training costs $750 an hour, and when factoring in multiple shifts, the cost can drive smaller agencies away. A $5,000 grant from Autism Speaks is helping to defray the cost.

North Riverside paramedics in the past year have responded to a couple of incidents involving people who appeared to be behaving unusually, but had no identifiable medical issues. It wasn’t immediately apparent to the paramedics that the individuals were autistic. In one instance they were called to the mall after security observed an adult sitting in the same spot for several hours. Unsure what to do, they called paramedics.

The inability of first responders emergency personnel to communicate with someone on the spectrum or identify that they are autistic can lead to potentially dangerous situations. Family members at times express fear that police or paramedics will misinterpret the actions of someone with autism when someone reports an adult acting strangely. 

One of the takeaways from the training is a toolkit with items to help emergency personnel communicate with someone on the spectrum. The items include cards, that can assist police and paramedics understand the problem they’re confronting – whether someone is in pain or needs to take their medication – or to obtain information like the phone number of a relative. If the person needs to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance or in a police vehicle, picture cards explaining the process of what’s about to happen or dry-erase cards where that process can be written out can help reassure them. The toolkit also contain items to keep a person occupied during times of stress. Individuals with autism have complex sensory needs oftentimes, so being able to provide them something to keep their hands occupied or to focus on something other than the situation at hand can help ease that anxiety and keep them calm. There’s also a business card-sized reminder card to provide a quick reference of how to approach situations that may involve someone with autism – to approach in a non-threatening way, understanding sensory needs, talking in calm tone, keeping instructions simple, etc.

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North Riverside Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from the

The North Riverside mayor announced on Aug. 27 that he’s hired a new permanent fire chief, following heated criticism both online and in person at last week’s village board meeting regarding his choice for interim chief. 

The new chief will take over from Scott Boman, who has served as the North Riverside Fire Department’s interim chief since July 13, when the mayor abruptly terminated Chief Tom Gaertner and Deputy Chief Pat Schey after just seven months. Boman had been slated to be sworn in at the North Riverside Village Board’s Aug. 13 meeting, but it didn’t happen.

John Kiser, who for the past two years has served as chief of operations for the Cook County Department of Homeland Security, will start in his new post on Sept. 1. He will be sworn in at the village’s board’s Sept. 4 meeting. A Forest View resident, Kiser was hired as regional coordinator for the Cook County Department of Homeland Security in 2014 and was promoted to chief of operations two years later. Since 2002, he has been a commander for the Forest View Fire Department, serving part time in that capacity since 2014, when Forest View dissolved their full-time department.

Kiser has also served as a water rescue course coordinator and fire, rescue and HAZMAT instructor at the Romeoville Fire Academy. He got his start in the fire service in 1994 as a paid-on-call firefighter in Riverside, where he was also employed as a contract paramedic firefighter through the village’s private paramedic service, PSSI, now known as PSI.

Kiser said he’s aware of the labor situation, but said he was up for the challenge. “I’m excited for the opportunity and look forward to the challenge in front of us,” Kiser said. “No fire department job out there is perfect. All organizations have their challenges. … We’ll take the challenges head on and let the chips fall where they may.”

thanks Dan

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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Members of a local progressive political group, along with many North Riverside residents, packed the Aug. 13 meeting of the village board to protest the hiring of an interim fire chief, with the mayor stating that a search for a permanent replacement is ongoing.

Typically routine affairs that last 20 or 30 minutes at most, the board meeting featured calls for a new chief and pleas to female elected officials to take seriously the sexual harassment allegations in a lawsuit, settled in 2009 by the village of Oak Lawn, against Interim Fire Chief Scott Boman.

Meanwhile, others, including former North Riverside Mayor Richard Scheck and his wife, Judith, defended Boman, claiming he was innocent of the allegations and the target of a smear campaign launched against him by a disgruntled female employee.

At the time Boman’s appointment was announced a month ago, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. announced that Boman would be formally sworn in Aug. 13. That, however, did not happen, though he was present at the meeting. Asked following the meeting when or if Boman would be sworn in, the mayor said he was “interim until he’s not interim” and that he was still interviewing candidates.

Regarding the search process, Hermanek said he was tapping the resources of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and accepting resumes from individuals who have expressed interest in the job.

Members of Indivisible West Suburban Action League organized a protest of the swearing-in, and its members — predominantly women from Riverside and North Riverside — jammed the council chamber in North Riverside Village Commons and loudly applauded the handful of women who stepped up to ask that Hermanek find another candidate for fire chief.

thanks Dan

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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

After a little more than seven months on the job, North Riverside’s fire chief and deputy fire chief are out after the Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. informed them of a change in direction during a brief meeting in the mayor’s office at the village commons on July 13.

According to Hermanek, Chief Tom Gaertner and Deputy Chief Patrick Schey resigned, but Gaertner told the Landmark he was fired and that he hadn’t submitted a letter of resignation. Neither man was offered a severance package; neither had an employment contract with the village.

“I’m shocked and I’m upset about it,” said Gaertner in a telephone interview with the Landmark. “There was no reason for it, because we weren’t doing anything wrong.” Gaertner said he believed the cordial relationship he and Shey had with union firefighters was frowned upon by Hermanek.

Gaertner said Hermanek would not specify the reasons behind the change, and that the meeting in the mayor’s office lasted about 10 minutes. “It’s all political,” said Gaertner. “I didn’t fit their political agenda. I think politicians need to put their personal agendas aside and do what’s best for the people in this town.”

Asked by the Landmark about the move, Hermanek said he could not publicly talk about his reasons for making the change. While saying the two men resigned, Hermanek admitted that he’d been conducting a secret search for a new fire chief for the past month. While Hermanek wouldn’t state any specific reasons for the departures of Gaertner and Schey, there are clear indications that the administration didn’t like the rapport the two chiefs had built with rank-and-file union firefighters.

Shortly after informing Gaertner and Schey of the change, Scott Bowman was hired as the fire department’s interim chief. Bowman most recently served as assistant fire chief for the Oak Lawn Fire Department. Hermanek called Bowman eminently qualified, more than any chief in our village’s history. “I’m satisfied [Bowman] will do things that are in the best interest of the village,” said Hermanek.

Bowman, who will officially be sworn in at the village board’s August meeting, moved into his office at the North Riverside fire station shortly after Gaertner and Schey collected their belongings and left. Bowman reportedly met with on-duty firefighters after arriving at the fire station to inform them of the situation.

Deputy Police Chief Christian Ehrenberg and Commander Dion Bobo accompanied Gaertner and Schey as they packed boxes in their offices. Police then drove the two men home from North Riverside.

Firefighter Chris Kribales, president of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714, called Gaertner one of the best chiefs in the department’s history. Union firefighters have been working without a contract since May 1, 2014. Both sides are scheduled to appear before a labor arbitrator on July 24 and July 31.  Kribales said the chiefs’ ability to work with union firefighters could only have hurt them in the eyes of the village’s administration. “I believe the fact that these two worked with labor to move forward hindered them immensely,” Kribales said.

Asked if such an assessment of the situation was accurate, Hermanek responded, “That’s probably true. The chief and deputy chief work for the administration.”

For the past four years, the administration and the fire union have been engaged in a bitter battle over staffing, including a failed attempt by the village through the courts to privatize the fire department.

In the face of attempts to break the union, firefighters responded by publicly supporting rival candidates for mayor and trustee, including Village Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, who has long championed union firefighters’ causes. During his 2015 run for mayor, Demopoulos dubbed his political committee “Save Our Firefighters.”

thanks Dan

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Box Alarm fire in North Riverside, 4-28-18

This from Jeff Braun, Jr.

Here are some photos of the Box Alarm fire in North Riverside (4/28/18). Initial calls came in for a fire alarm at the Big Corner Tavern (8405 Cermak Rd.) Engine 808 arrived on scene and reported a 2-story, mixed occupancy with heavy smoke and fire from the second floor. They immediately requested the box alarm assignment. Truck 904 set their aerial up to the roof in the alpha sector, while Berwyn Chief 900 assumed command of the scene. Forest Park Engine 401 was setup in the rear of the building and Broadview Engine 7 tapped the hydrant on the corner of 2nd and Cermak. Crews from North Riverside, Berwyn, Broadview, Forest Park, Lyons, Riverside, Oak Park, LaGrange Park, Stickney, and Cicero were on scene, and River Forest was due on the COQ. Companies were in the process of overhaul on my arrival. -Jeff Braun Jr. (COUNTY-WIDE FIRE PHOTOGRAPHY)

Cicero FD Truck 2


Firefighters after battling a fire


Firefighters on building roof with aerial ladder


Berwyn FD Truck 904


fire scene in North riverside IL


fire scene in North riverside IL


Oak Park FD Engine 603


Firefighters on scene with ladder


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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said the village will drop its pursuit of privatizing firefighting services through the courts after the Illinois Court of Appeals on Sept. 29 upheld a ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board that the village engaged in an unfair labor practice by seeking to unilaterally terminate its contract with union firefighters while that contract was subject to arbitration.

The appeal was effectively North Riverside’s last resort in the courts, which for the past three-plus years have systematically ruled against the village’s contention that it could terminate the union contract because the two sides had reached an impasse.

“It finally closes the door on this experiment to argue that our contract is null and void,” said Chris Kribales, the president of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714, which represents the village’s 12 union firefighters. “It finally puts us back on a level field.”

In March, the appellate court had affirmed that the Illinois Labor Relations Board was the proper venue to play out the contract dispute. In 2014, the village had filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, asking a judge to declare the village could unilaterally terminate the union contract. Judge Diane Larsen ruled she didn’t have jurisdiction to make such a ruling.

Now the matter will go before Illinois Labor Relations Board arbitrator, something North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 had demanded in 2014, shortly after the village had filed its suit in circuit court.

“We’re not going to appeal this,” Hermanek said of the Sept. 29 appellate court ruling. “It’s done. This was the last shoe to drop.”

An arbitrator selected to hear the North Riverside matter put the hearing on hold back in January 2015, because of the pending litigation. Now that the litigation has concluded, the arbitrator will resume his role.

Hermanek was philosophical about the failure of the lawsuit, saying, “You don’t know ’til you try. Now we’ll just move in a different direction.” He is holding out the slim hope that a labor arbitrator might rule that it can terminate its contract because, if it doesn’t, the village would face a devastating financial future.

The appellate court ruling noted that “while the goal of arbitration is to reach an agreement, [the Illinois Labor Relations Act] does not prevent an arbitrator from determining that the circumstances presented justify an award permitting an employer to sever any contractual relationship with the union” and that “the categorical elimination of employment, a [collective bargaining agreement] and every condition thereof falls within the purview of the arbitrator’s decision.”

While it would seem unlikely that an arbitrator would go to such lengths as to allow the village to terminate its union contract, it’s at least possible, the three-judge panel ruled.

The most recent union contract expired on April 30, 2014. Both sides have met during the past year to see if there are areas of common ground as they pursue a new deal. The union wants its staffing levels brought up to pre-2009 numbers, when minimum staffing was set at six firefighters per shift, according to Kribales.

Right now, the department is working three four-firefighter minimum shifts, but only has 11 firefighters to staff them (the 12th firefighter is a day-shift lieutenant). That means even if every shift is fully staffed (and no one takes a day off or calls in sick) the village is paying someone 24 hours of overtime one out of every three shifts, said Kribales.

Hermanek said the village will hire a firefighter to fill a vacancy created by the recent retirement of Firefighter Rick Urbinati. But there’s been no promise to add any additional firefighters after that.

Kribales said hiring just the one firefighter to replace Urbinati, while not enough, will still help.

It’s been an expensive detour for the administration, which announced the lawsuit as a way for the village to ultimately save money by eliminating future union pension obligations. It’s unclear exactly how much the village has spent to have its law firm pursue privatization through the courts and in matters before the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The firefighters union estimates the village has spent more than $1 million, while the village has claimed the court action has cost roughly $100,000.

The Landmark’s analysis of village financial records showed that North Riverside spent more than $800,000 on total legal fees between 2013 and 2016. The privatization effort started in the summer of 2014.

For the three years prior to the 2013-14 fiscal year, the village had never spent more than $76,000 annually for legal services

thanks Dan

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As seen around … North Riverside

From Josh Boyajian:

Mack CF fire engine

Josh Boyajian photo

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Fatal Box Alarm in Berwyn, 5-5-17 (part 1)

This from Jeff Braun, Jr.

Here are some photos of the Box Alarm for the house fire in Berwyn at 3310 S Home Ave. The fire started at approx. 11:45 hours. Companies arrived on scene and reported heavy smoke and fire showing from the roof. The Box Alarm was initiated about 10 minutes into the incident. One victim was found deceased. Thanks. -Jeff Braun Jr.

firefighters with hose line at fire scene

Jeff Braun, Jr. County-Wide Photography

flames from the attic of a house

Jeff Braun, Jr. County-Wide Photography

North Riverside FD Piere PUC fire engine on a hydrant

Jeff Braun, Jr. County-Wide Photography

Oak park E-ONE tower ladder at fire scene

Jeff Braun, Jr. County-Wide Photography

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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

The president of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 announced a vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Brian Basek during a blistering and, at times, personal denouncement at the end of the village board’s March 20 meeting, and which appeared timed to inflict maximum political damage and embarrassment to Mayor Hubert Hermanek just two weeks before the April 4 election.

In a council chamber packed to overflowing with supporters of both union firefighters and the village’s administration, union President Chris Kribales said members cast unanimous no confidence votes and read a two-page prepared statement blasting Basek’s “inability to provide sound leadership and effectively manage the affairs of this fire department.”

Basek, a full-time North Riverside firefighter for 32 years and chief since 2013, announced his retirement last year and intended on walking away from the job at the end of November 2016.

He agreed to stay on through the election as a favor to Hermanek, since candidates for the job were leery of taking a new job with a mayoral election just over the horizon.

The chief sat silently through Kribales three-minute statement, during which the union president criticized him for “flagrant apathy for public safety,” “orders to use antiquated apparatus and equipment” while new equipment sat idle, “intentionally misinterpret[ing] the labor agreement, and “micromanag[ing] the day-to-day operations of his command staff.”

“This undereducated, underqualified mayoral appointee conveys an arrogance and ignorance dangerous to his position by not allowing positive, proactive decisions necessary for this department to move confidently forward,” said Kribales to the applause of his supporters.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Basek told the Landmark, “I don’t want to dignify Mr. Kribales’ remarks with a response.”

Hermanek responded at the meeting to the no-confidence announcement by rattling off a list of accomplishments, from setting department policies to securing a grant for a new fire engine, that lasted six minutes. At the conclusion of Hermanek’s remarks, many in the audience along with all of the members of the village board, responded with a standing ovation in support of the fire chief.

While the fire chief didn’t want to respond to the vote of no confidence, Hermanek called the union president’s statement “embarrassing, disgusting and uncalled for.”

The mayor also said it was an election stunt near the climax of a campaign where administration three-year effort to privatize the fire department have drawn clear battle lines.

Kribales told the Landmark that firefighters took the no-confidence vote about a month ago. Basek and Hermanek said no one from the fire department mentioned anything to them about the vote in the past month.

Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, who stood to applaud after the mayor’s March 20 remarks, is running against Hermanek for mayor and has made the fire department his number one issue for the past two municipal elections.

In 2015, Demopoulos was re-elected trustee, leading a slate of candidates calling itself Save Our Firefighters.

Since 2013, he has supported the fire union’s proposal for the village to drop its longtime private paramedic service and use part-timers to man ambulances while union firefighters, most of whom are not cross-trained, get paramedic certification. Demopoulos and the union want the department to be staffed only by union firefighter/paramedics and Demopoulos has embraced the union’s call for additional staffing.

Paramedic Services of Illinois, the village’s paramedic service for more than three decades, has contributed $8,885 to the VIP Party, of which Hermanek and every village trustee with the exception of Demopoulos is a member. Their last contribution was for $1,500 on Feb. 14.

While state campaign contribution records don’t indicate any large donors to Demopoulos’ campaign to be from individuals or groups associated with firefighters, past Demopoulos campaigns drew financial support from local and out-of-town firefighters.

In 2015, the biggest contributors to Save Our Firefighters were a pair of Berwyn firefighters, which each gave $1,000. The campaign also received donations from the Berwyn Firefighters Union ($250), the Cicero Firefighters Union ($250) and a veteran North Riverside firefighter ($200).

thanks Dan

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