Posts Tagged Fire Chief Bill Sohn

South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District news

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At the age of 64, Bill Sohn wasn’t ready to retire from the South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District, but the 42-year department veteran said recent health problems have made it time for him to move on after four years as chief. In recognition of that service, Sohn was honored Friday with a traditional fire department walk out ceremony complete with uniform review. 

Former chiefs of police, retired firefighters, current and retired office staff, area fire chiefs and the department’s firefighters and staff turned out for the event. Sohn shook every hand and even a hugged a few people who lined up for the formal uniform review. The walk out ended with the final tones coming over dispatch radio.

Sohn started with the South Elgin department as a part-timer in 1976, and was one of the first three full-time employees in 1979.

It was important to Steve Wascher, the new fire chief, that Sohn be saluted for his years with the department with a ritual that hasn’t been done at South Elgin in several years.  Sohn officially retired March 9, and Wascher was sworn in March 10. Wascher is also a long-time South Elgin firefighter. He’s been with the department for 25 years.

While he had cousins who were firefighters, he hadn’t thought about the work as a profession until he ran into Elgin Firefighter Mike Oine, whose own father was the South Elgin chief. Oine told Wascher he should apply, and by the time he got back to his summer job at his family’s appliance store, there was a message from the chief waiting on his desk.

South Elgin is seeking voter approval to sell $10 million in bonds to allow the department to replace its aging fire house at 150 State St. with two new stations. If approved by voters Tuesday, one station would be built on Spring Street on the west side of the Fox River and the other on South Elgin Boulevard, east of the river.

Another ballot question voters to approve a .10-percent tax levy increase to fund operations at those two locations. If approved, taxes would increase $33 on a home valued at $100,000.

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South Elgin FPD to evaluate old fire station (more)

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The South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District board swore in Jeff Theriault as its newest trustee in a special meeting Wednesday night, then proceeded to give Theriault a crash course in fire district budgets.

At the request of Fire Chief Bill Sohn, board member — and former South Elgin Fire Chief — Joe Cluchey provided much of the budgeting background information for the newest board member. The fire district had been without one board member — a county appointment — for more than a year.

He warned Theriault — a Schaumburg police detective who lives in South Elgin — that it will take at least a year of the monthly board meetings to completely understand the department’s budget and funding mechanisms.

Asst. Chief Steve Wascher presented the 2016-17 budget proposal. The district’s fiscal year begins June 1.

Total estimated income for the district for next year sits at $6.4 million — with the bulk coming from property taxes — with a capital expense budget of $4.1 million. The remainder of income goes toward personnel costs.

The district also has about $2 million in its building fund contingency — set aside for future replacement of the fire station at 150 State St. Sarah Dring, of Chicago-based 222 Architects, said last fall that basic fixes and remodeling for the building could reach $1.4 million. Current estimates put the station’s replacement cost at a minimum of $5 million, Wascher said.

In 2000, the district built the station in the Thornwood subdivision on Bowes Road for $2.5 million.

Although the old fire station is in poor shape, the budget does call for $50,000 toward redoing the concrete apron outside the north side of the fire bay doors. The area is sinking into the ground, causing unsafe conditions for firefighters and the public.

South Elgin fire is also waiting to see if it will receive a $400,000 federal grant to upgrade its radio system to StarCom, the satellite-based radio system used by Elgin police and fire. The South Elgin and Countryside fire district is dispatched through the Elgin 911 Center.

That grant, if approved, would provide the infrastructure, radios and base stations needed by South Elgin, Wascher said.

The board also approved some land acquisition from the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District.

A few parcels including the Five Islands Park subdivision just south of Vasa Park, a sliver of land in the Thornwood subdivision, and 20 or 30 lots in the Lafarge Fox River Quarry backing up to Randall Road. Those lots are now part of the quarry’s water retention area on the far west side of the property and are only accessible through the quarry or by rappelling down the side of the quarry.

Those parcels were improperly recorded in the late 1970s, Sohn said. Transferring the land into South Elgin brings about $4,000 more in annual taxes to the district, he said.

thanks Dennis

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Fire district and community college discuss trading an ambulance for class time

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The South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District has an ambulance it isn’t using and is looking to sell.

The Elgin Community College’s Public Safety Training Center, now under construction near Burlington off Plank Road, would like to have an ambulance for training emergency medical technicians and others how to work in real-world conditions.

Now, the two sides are looking at whether or not the South Elgin fire district can donate the ambulance to the college. The fire district board has expressed interest in the trade but wants something for the taxpayers in return, said Fire Chief Bill Sohn.

The ambulance still has some value, Sohn said. He has gotten estimates that the ambulance is worth $5,000 to $9,000.

There have been preliminary discussions between representatives from the college, the Elgin Community College Foundation and the fire board.

A former firefighter paramedic, Dan Walter, one of the foundation board members said he remembers classes in emergency rooms and classrooms in the 1970s but rarely getting time working in an actual ambulance. The Elgin Community College paramedic program often borrows ambulances from other departments in the district but does not have one available for use.

As it is now, there is no location at the college to store an ambulance, said Carl DeCarlo, director of the fire science program at ECC. That will change when the public safety center opens.

The 18,300-square-foot academic building is set to open in spring or early summer 2016. It includes an 11,900-square-foot apparatus building, including classrooms and two bays for training on fire and police equipment, a three-story burn tower used for simulating residential and commercial fires, and other training amenities.

Sohn suggested that if the school would waive some rental time on the training tower — while still having the fire district pay the instructor — that would be a win-win for taxpayers in the fire and college district.

An area veterinarian has also shown interest in the ambulance, Sohn said.

“I would rather get it for the use at ECC,” said fire board trustee Joe Cluchey. But the fire district also needs to make sure taxpayers are getting fair market value out of the deal.

The Elgin Community College representatives said they would bring the proposal back to officials at the school.

The board also approved the 2015 tax levy of $5.7 million. The levy represents a 1.7 percent increase over the previous levy, said Steve Wascher, assistant fire chief.

thanks Dan

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South Elgin FD modifies response protocols

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The South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District is joining other area fire departments, dropping one if its four ambulances in favor of better protection for its residents, officials said.

Since May 4, the South Elgin fire department has been working with just three of its four ambulances to see if the idea worked for the fire department, explained Fire Chief Bill Sohn. Instead, one of the department’s engines was outfitted with the same life saving equipment as an ambulance. The end result, officials said, is better coverage for residents.

Cap. Mike Rothecker explained how having three ambulances and a fire engine with much of the same equipment actually provides better coverage.

Each of South Elgin’s two fire stations — one on McDonald Road and one in downtown South Elgin — has five firefighter/paramedics on duty at any time. Two of those are assigned to the ambulance, and three to an engine. If the ambulance is out on a call, those firefighters assigned to the engine would then take out the second ambulance. The same thing could be happening at both stations — leaving no one in the station for other calls.

Under the new plan, if an ambulance is out of the building and another ambulance call comes in, one of the other station’s ambulances will respond to the call. If there are enough calls coming in at one time, South Elgin would have three ambulances in the field and a fire engine with the same capabilities. However, patients are not transported to hospitals in the engine.

Mutual aid and automatic aid agreements with Elgin, Bartlett, Fox Valley and Tri-Cities bring ambulances into South Elgin if their  own personnel are busy.

About 68 percent of their calls for service comes from ambulance calls — an amount that is fairly common in the modern fire service.

thanks Dan

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South Elgin FPD to evaluate old fire station

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This week, the South Elgin and Countryside Fire Protection District board moved to ask its architectural firm for a complete assessment of the fire station 1’s needs — from space for firefighting apparatus to living space for firefighters, and from heating and cooling needs to its lack of parking.

“We have not had a building survey done in a couple of years. I am recommending a new building survey so we know what is wrong and what needs to be replaced,” said Fire Chief Bill Sohn.

The last survey was done in 2010 … If the survey is completed, the board could choose to go forward with renovations or pursue other next steps for its downtown South Elgin fire station.

The village of South Elgin has shown interest in buying the property, according to information from village officials during budget hearings this spring. Village Hall needs additional parking, and the police department is short on evidence storage.

The South Elgin and Countryside Fire District’s current State Street station has a long and complicated history, Sohn said. At one point, the district was a part of the village. Then, in about 1953, the fire district split from the village.

Th architects … “are going to tell us what we really need to do to stay there. We are not sure until they tell us, what the true conditions of the building are and can give us a quote,” she said.

The fire station houses two ambulances, two engines, a ladder truck, staff car, dive van and boat, plus an ATV. There is about two feet of walking space for firefighters to fit between apparatus.

Over the years, the building has had three additions and numerous remodels. One of those additions was a second story in about 1982, to provide sleeping quarters for firemen.

Sohn said he doesn’t want to see good money go after bad. The concrete apron behind the building is crumbling, and the bay floors were built to hold firefighting apparatus that are 20 tons lighter than those they now operate.

thanks Dan

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