Posts Tagged Park Ridge Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen

Park Ridge Fire Department news

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What started as a discussion about upcoming eligibility tests for the Park Ridge Fire Department, evolved into a discussion on how salary compression at the highest levels in several departments could jeopardize retaining senior staff.

Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen said tests must be administered in July for firefighter, lieutenant, and battalion chief, because the old lists expire after two years. Should a vacancy occur, he would have to wait until there is a new list to fill the position. With three battalion chief positions, he needs at least three qualified candidates if promotions become necessary before 2018.

The union contract for personnel below that level was settled in the last year, allowing some increases in pay. Union members, up through lieutenant, qualify for overtime pay if they have to work longer hours. Battalion chiefs get no overtime.

The differential between lieutenants and battalion chiefs has been shrinking, a situation which Mike Suppan from Human Resources calls salary compression. He said that the situation of wage compression for non-union staff, and the resulting concerns on employee retention, has been a problem for seven or eight years.

Sorensen said more than half his lieutenants already have enough seniority to make close to battalion chief pay.

Retention, especially of employees with seniority and leadership experience in the department, needs to come with incentive for promotion. Two years ago there were only two who tested for battalion chief.

Sorenson appointed an executive officer (a civilian post) and promoted one lieutenant to training captain, while eliminating positions for deputy chief, senior administrative assistant, and a part-time emergency preparedness coordinator. Salaries for chief and the executive officer have dropped since the fiscal 2014 budget by $95,177.

Efforts to economize, to streamline operations, and to get grant money to cover expenses have helped the city’s bottom line, but have not been returned to the fire department budget.

Suppan said he had talked to both Sorensen and Police Chief Frank Kaminski about the situation. Kaminski estimates he has 11 or 12 non-union employees not covered by union contracts.

Aldermen asked whether they should try to address the fire situation immediately, or wait and address non-union salaries for all the departments at once. While they agreed this type of discussion should have happened in the 2014 or 2015 strategic planning sessions that never occurred, a consensus of the council concluded 4-3 in favor of not trying to solve the fire department situation that night.

thanks Dan

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Off-duty firefighter assists neighbors during fire

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Robert Sempoch has responded to a quite a few fires in his 10-year career with the Park Ridge Fire Department. But none occurred as close to home as the one he encountered in June. That’s because the fire broke out in the sixth floor of Sempoch’s own Palatine apartment complex. But even though he wasn’t on the job, officials say he took charge of the situation.

Palatine Fire Chief Scott Andersen sent a letter to Park Ridge Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen complimenting Sempoch for helping evacuate the floor and contain the fire to the apartment unit in which it started, simply by closing the open door. An open door could have easily caused the fire to quickly spread to the hallway and common area of the building, confronting residents who were trying to get out.

Sempoch said he was alerted to the fire when the fire alarm in his building sounded early on the morning of June 10. Sempoch, who lives alone, exited his apartment and noticed smoke in the hallway. Looking for the source, he saw a man step out of unit 609. Inside the apartment, Sempoch said he saw fire.

“I asked him to stay outside,” Sempoch said of the man. “Then I went to my side [of the building] to get my fire extinguisher and called 911 to report the fire. When I came back, unfortunately the person was again inside the apartment.” Sempoch said the man was attempting to put out the fire with an extinguisher. Sempoch also tried to assist, but the fire was too big, he said, and he pushed the resident out of the unit and closed the door.

“At that point, the smoke was almost all the way to the ground, so I went back to my west side hallway and waited for the first firefighters to arrive,” he said. “I told them where the fire was and I tried to get a couple of people out.”

Sempoch knocked on doors, alerting residents to the smoke and fire so they could evacuate.

The only individual injured in the fire was the man who lived in the unit where the fire started [who] was treated for burns at Loyola Medical Center. Unit 609 was destroyed, other apartments on the floor sustained smoke damage and water damage occurred in some fifth-floor units.

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