Archive for July, 2014

Oak Lawn firefighters file grievance

An article from the Oak Lawn Leaf:

The Oak Lawn Firefighters have filed a grievance against the Village of Oak Lawn pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between the parties claiming that the Village of Oak Lawn has failed to maintain minimum manning requirements as required by the contract and recommended for safety of the public and firefighters. 

According to sources within the Village of Oak Lawn, the Village has already responded to the grievance claiming that it has not violated the contract.

However, according to an Arbitrator’s ruling issued on July 7th of this year, the administration’s efforts to reduce the number of firefighters on an engine from four to three was once again denied.  The arbitrator’s ruling was the result of Interest Arbitration initiated by both parties.

The collective bargaining agreement includes a “minimum manning clause”, in which both the village and the firefighters agreed that for the purposes of “efficient response to emergency situations and for reasons of employee safety, sufficient personnel and apparatus need to be maintained in state of readiness.”   The provision mandates that the Village of Oak Lawn maintain four firefighters on an engine, two paramedics on an Advanced Life Support Ambulance and two EMTs on a Basic Life Support Ambulance.

Under Village Manager Larry Deetjen’s recommendation and the Village Board’s support, the village has allowed the firefighter employees to be reduced from 100 to 72 over the years.  The Village has also waged and lost multiple battles over the issue.

The firefighters have supported keeping the “minimum manning contract language” the same while the village agreed with the daily shift of 21 employees, it sought to add language stating that would have allowed the village to staff only three firefighters to an engine if staffing fell below 21 daily employees, “for any reason”.  The language was rejected by the union, which has battled over the issue of minimum manning and had to file an unfair labor practice. The Illinois Labor Relations Board ruled against the village and that decision was upheld by the Illinois Appellate Court in 2011.

The relationship between firefighters and the administration has continued to deteriorate according to sources on both sides of the table.  Most recently, Village Trustee Robert Streit (Dist. 3) asked the Mayor and his fellow Trustees to consider applying for a Safer Grant to fund new firefighter positions.  The grant would pay as many as three years of salary and benefits for the firefighters.

At first, Mayor Sandra Bury and Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) claimed the village was working on the issue already and it was “in the process”.  More recently, the Oak Lawn Leaf has learned that Deetjen approached the firefighters demanding that the firemen agree to eliminate the minimum manning clause in exchange for a promise by the village to apply for a Safer Grant for additional firefighters.  That request was rejected.

The firemen have complained that the village is wasting millions of dollars in overtime pay as a result of its failure to hire new firefighters.  Mayor Sandra Bury has countered arguing that the minimum manning provision agreed to through the collective bargaining process was devastating to the village.     

Trustee Robert Streit (Dist. 3) has previously denounced Mayor Sandra Bury’s attacks on the firefighters noting that the village was told its position was wrong in 2011 and chose to continue to fight the issue, making it virtually impossible to negotiate any issues with the firefighters union.  While Streit has claimed that he can’t support a position that the courts have consistently ruled against, other Trustees, such as Terry Vorderer and Mike Carberry have made comments supporting the fight over minimum manning despite the court rulings.

Despite concerns about the budget the Mayor and Board Majority under Deetjen’s leadership are ready once again to expend tax dollars to defend their position.

thanks Dan

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Chicago Fire Department picnic



New Squad for Cary

This from Tyler Tobolt:

Sutphen chassis for heavy rescue

New Cary Squad 255 is on a Sutphen chassis. Typer Tobolt photo

SVI squad for Cary on Sutphen chassis

Tyler Tobolt photo

chevron striping on rescue squad

Tyler Tobolt photo

SVI squad for Cary on Sutphen chassis

2014 Sutphen/SVI squad for Cary. Tyler Tobolt photo

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North Chicago receives federal grant

From the Lake County News-Sun:

The oxygen tanks firefighters use to enter burning buildings or when smoke conditions outside are dangerous are essential — and North Chicago’s Fire Department is celebrating because it can finally replace its old ones.

“Our old equipment was from 2002 and it was so obsolete that we couldn’t repair it. They no longer made the parts for it,” Fire Chief Dell Urban said.

This week the department announced it had obtained 30 new self-contained breathing apparatuses, a significant upgrade over the old equipment, with the help of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. They also got a new Cascade system, which refills the bottles.

“The new ones have built in safety provisions and they increase our air from 30 minutes to 45 minutes so we have more time for search and recovery,” Urban said.

They will also have emergency oxygen bottles for when a firefighter gets trapped inside a structure that gives rescuers 60 minutes of air time.

The equipment cost $195,000. The federal share is 90 percent or $175,500, while the city has to cover 10 percent of the cost or $19,500. The North Chicago City Council approved its share last week.

The grant money came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, administered by FEMA in cooperation with the department’s United States Fire Administration.

Each breathing apparatus bought with the grant money will include a high-pressure, 45-minute air bottle, breathing regulator, frame, harness, full face piece, and a spare bottle. The new equipment is expected to have a 10-year service life.

thanks Dan

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Web site updates

There have been several updates to the site:

Division 1:

  • Des Plaines Station 3 has been updated to Station 63 with all currently renumbered units

Des Plaines Fire Department Truck 63

Division 3:

  • Niles – updated several pieces at the two stations and added a new photo of Station 2 with red doors
  • Northfield – updated the photo of Squad 29
  • Wilmette – updated photos at both stations
Wilmette Fire Department rescue squad

Wilmette Rescue 27. Larry Shapiro photo

Division 10:

  • Hinsdale – added the photo of new Engine 1012

Division 11:

  • Cicero – added a photo of new Engine 3

Division 12:

  • Addison – updated the photo of Quint 73
  • Oak Brook – made the necessary corrections to both stations

Division 20:

Division 21:

Bedford Park Fire Department Engine 704

  • Roberts Park – updated photos and added missing reserve units

Type I ambulance photo

Crimson fire engine

Division 24:

  • Riverdale – added a photo of new Engine 836

Riverdale Fire Department Engine 836

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New engine for Bridgeview

This from Keith Grzadziel, Bridgeview Fire Department:

Our new Engine 416 was delivered by Fire Service Inc. this Monday. It will be in service in about 2-3 weeks.
Bridgeview fire engine

New engine for Bridgeview. Keith Grzadziel photo

Bridgeview fire engine

Keith Grzadziel photo

Bridgeview fire engine

Keith Grzadziel photo

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Park Ridge to buy new ambulances

From the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate:

The Park Ridge Fire Department hopes to replace two ambulances with a reported history of mechanical problems.

Fire Chief Mike Zywanski presented a proposal to the City Council to purchase two ambulances, at a cost of $440,500. The city will not likely receive the ambulances until roughly one year after the purchase is approved, he said.

The two ambulances Zywanski is looking to replace have been used since 2005 and are “showing significant amounts of wear,” he told the council during a July 14 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Mike McGrath, fleet manager for the Public Works Department, told the council that the ambulances have been “a maintenance nightmare” due to their engines, which were eventually discontinued by the manufacturer. While maintenance is performed by Public Works Department mechanics, there have been outside labor costs associated with the vehicles as well, McGrath said.

The department has a third ambulance that it is not being replaced at this time.

The ambulances may be traded in at an amount of about $9,000 each, said Purchasing Agent Jim McGuire.

Part of the $440,500 cost covers the purchase of two cots, totaling about $19,800.

“The cots we’re looking at going with are cots that will be able to handle very significant-weight patients,” Zywanski said. He explained that this year alone, paramedics have had six patients weighing in excess of 600 pounds each.

The new cots will be able to hold these individuals and are raised up into the ambulance by a motor.

“We’re hoping it’s going to save some potential workers comp claims and potential injuries when we are dealing with these types of patients,” Zywanski said.

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North Palos house fire, 7-26-14

This from Martin Nowak:

I arrived when the fire was out. It was in the attic of the house as I was told. Took some pictures of the rigs.


fire trucks at fire scene

Martin Nowak photo

fire trucks at fire scene

Martin Nowak photo

fire trucks at fire scene

Martin Nowak photo

fire trucks at fire scene

Martin Nowak photo

More photos seen here:

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As seen around … Chicago

This from Martin Nowak:

I’ve seen Ambulance 3 twice at St. Marys and was able to get a picture of it. 2014 Ford E-450/Wheeled Coach. 

new ambulance for the Chicago Fire Department

New Ford/Wheeled Coach unit for Chicago Ambulance 3. Martin Nowak photo

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Area fire departments and districts seeking new revenue streams (more)

The Better Government Association has an editorial about the practice by several area fire departments to charge non-residents for services at motor vehicle accidents.

One of our jobs at the Better Government Association is to look for warning signs that suggest trouble may be on the way. And with that in mind, I point to a recent BGA investigation that sounds the alarm at a number of Chicago-area fire departments, but not because there’s an actual blaze.

This alert is sparked by a growing and potentially troubling trend in emergency service that requires victims of car accidents to help fill municipal budget holes. It’s known as a “crash tax,” and it’s quietly showing up in more and more communities as fire departments struggle to make ends meet.

The BGA found at least fifteen Cook County suburbs that are now billing non-residents after providing emergency responses to their accidents. That means if you get into a car crash, you might be charged for the fire crew that comes to help, even if the accident is minor or not your fault.

Some departments charge an hourly rate — anywhere from $250 to $400 for each engine that responds, and $35 to $75 per firefighter — while others charge flat fees ranging from $435 to $2,200, depending on the situation. It could be a major accident with people seriously injured or trapped inside a car, or routine work like directing traffic, cleaning up debris or simply waiting for a tow truck to arrive.

These services have typically been free to the recipients and covered by local property taxes in the responding municipality. But towns and villages are scouring the landscape for resources these days, and that means sending out bills for first responders. The concept is to recoup some of the costs of running a fire department by collecting money from the auto insurance companies that provide coverage to accident victims.

But what if the driver doesn’t have insurance, or the claim is denied? In some cases, unpaid bills end up with a collection agency, which is what happened to Daryl Jenkins Jr. of west suburban Berkeley. He was hit with a bill last year after a small fire broke out under the hood of his SUV, and his brother, who was driving the vehicle at the time, called 911 for help. The Broadview Fire Department arrived and doused the flame within 11 minutes, according to the incident report.

But Jenkins was charged for one engine on the scene, at a rate of $250 per hour, and four responders, at $35 each, for a total of $390. He was shocked to see the tab, and he probably has a lot of company — drivers who get caught up in similar situations.

The Broadview Fire Department contends that non-residents don’t pay the village’s property taxes, so drivers from out of town can’t expect free emergency service.

Other agencies make the same argument, even though the fees bring in just a fraction of what it costs to run a department.

It’s true that fire stations are expensive operations, and we’re not trying to tell first responders how to do their jobs.

But this practice raises several concerns:

    • It borders on predatory to target those who’ve suffered the pain or trauma of an accident, and those who can’t afford to pay the fees, by unleashing collection agencies on them.
    • It can easily be abused if fire departments send out more trucks, equipment and manpower than necessary to pad the bills.
    • It’s arbitrary — that is, dependent on the decisions of insurance companies to reimburse or deny the claims.

We certainly understand the need for new and creative revenue streams to keep property taxes from skyrocketing out of control.

But if more fire departments are going to be charging for emergency services, let’s build in safeguards that protect the victims of car accidents from being jolted a second time by an unexpected bill.

thanks Dan

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