Posts Tagged Springfield Fire Department

Springfield Fire Department news

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The Springfield mayor said he envisioned ground being broken for three new stations for the Springfield Fire Department after city council members kept the allocation for their construction at $10 million during Tuesday’s special budget meeting. Council members rejected by a 9-1 vote an amendment that would have proposed the construction of two firehouses.

A $6.2 million appropriation for the purchase of six engines and a truck for the SFD passed with no discussion. The equipment issue engendered a lot of discussion over the last several weeks, though it wasn’t originally in the budget.

With one engine and one truck still not arrived from the FY22 budget, the fire department will have nine new rigs within the next year. It addresses a major problem: 13 of the rigs are 15 years or older, with eight of them 20 years or older. Industry best practices, a report on the department issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Safety Management, LLC, suggest equipment should be replaced after 15 years.

Plans call for Station 6 to move from 2156 S. Ninth St. to 11th and Ash streets, the site of the former Honeywell-Hobbs. Station 8, now situated at 2051 W. Monroe St., would move to Lawrence Avenue, just west of Veterans Parkway, near a Dollar General store. A 13th station would be slotted for property the city owns right off of Woodside Road.

Earlier, the council earmarked $750,000 for SFD personnel overtime. With a new class of firefighters anticipated, it will cut down on overtime. 

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Springfield Fire Department news

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After months of back and forth, the Springfield Fire Department will be hiring 18 firefighters this year and could hire another 18 shortly after.

The department is already dealing with low staffing, down enough firefighters to fill two houses. Several large classes of firefighters hired in the late 90s and early 2000s are becoming eligible to retire, and that means now is the time to get ahead of it, hiring another class of firefighters soon after this one.

The department says hiring shouldn’t be difficult because they already have a list of recruits, several of which have backgrounds in EMS. These hires are expected to eventually help bring down the overtime hours. It can take ten months to train firefighters before they can help offset those numbers.

The department typically sees between 10 and 12 retirements each year.

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Springfield Fire Department news

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An amendment filed to the proposed Springfield budget would allocate $6.2 million to buy the fire department seven new rigs. This comes as the current budget has zero dollars in it for new apparatuses. This proposal still needs to be approved by the city council in the new budget and will be discussed on Tuesday.

The money is coming from a few different places: $2 million will be loans, $2 million would come from the corporate fund, and the other $2 million would come out of the money that was dedicated to build four new firehouses. The Springfield budget director said the plan of building four new firehouses this year has to change now.

The fire department’s fleet of apparatus is continually getting older, with 12 of them being over the 15-year benchmark. The money would buy six engines and one truck.


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Springfield Fire Department news

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A new consultants report is asking the City of Springfield to consider replacing fire safety officers with civilian personnel in an effort to cut costs.

Instead of six fire department captains working in the fire safety division, some could be replaced with trained civilians, but not everyone is convinced this is the way to go.

“Even though we’re not putting out the fires, we’re preventing fires before they start,” said Division Chief Ed Canny, who oversees the Fire Safety Division for the Springfield fire Department.

Canny and his team plan fire protocols in new buildings, inspect Springfield structures, and investigate fires after they happen. They also create educational programs for schools, nursing homes, and more to prevent fires

The new fire consultants report is recommending some changes to the division’s staffing, saying “CPSM recommends that the SFD should evaluate the feasibility and give serious consideration to replacing uniformed personnel in the Fire Safety Division with certified civilian staff members.”

The report says the civilian jobs may be a good fit for retired firefighters, and Canny says that experience is key.

Local 37 Union president Vince Zummo agrees that experience matters here, but as for getting retired firefighters to fulfill the duties … “I find it very difficult to believe that you’re gonna find retired firefighters who, number one, would want to do it and number two, would have the educational requirements to do this,” Zummo said.

Zummo says the change wouldn’t come easily because of that, and because of the union contract. The parties cut a deal where the fire safety division gets to remains intact as long as the department maintains a residency requirement, meaning firefighters have to live in Springfield.

The mayor says he’s created a working group of city and fire professionals to go through the report and determine what changes the city can make from it.

The fire safety division investigated more than a hundred fires last year, identifying multiple serial arsonists in the process.

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Springfield Fire Department news

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Springfield city aldermen are giving high praise to the fire department amid budget discussions. It was a record setting year for the Springfield Fire Department as firefighters responded to more calls than ever before in 2021. The increase was mostly to a rise in hazmat responses, false alarms, and EMS calls. 

“We surpassed 21,000 runs this year- that’s our highest volume ever,” Chief Brandon Blough told the council Monday night.

Firefighters are now being asked to fill the gap while there has been a shortage of paramedics.

“This is something that’s out of our control. These are privatized companies and we can do our best to work with them,” Blough explained.

But aldermen said they want answers as to why firefighters are spending so much of their time and resources on EMS calls as they try to reign in their own overtime costs. The department is also tackling overtime by hiring 18 more firefighters.

Aldermen plan to bring in the three private companies that operate ambulance services for the city to ask for reimbursement, and the mayor said it’s time for more drastic action, including changes to the union contract when it comes to minimum manpower and pension contributions.

But with new firefighters, a new fire station and a new focus on the future, aldermen are confident they’re headed in the right direction.

The department is budgeted to receive one new fire station to be built in the Panther Creek area. Three others will be torn down and rebuilt in new locations. The four new stations are expected to cost $12 million and be partially paid for with federal pandemic dollars.


Springfield Fire Department news

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While still dealing with a $1.4 million cut to their budget, the Springfield firefighter’s union is concerned over another issue: What happens if there are too many fires and not enough firefighters?

On Sunday night, three fires in under three hours occupied most of the Springfield Fire Department’s resources. Now, they say they are worried that if fewer people are on staff at one time because of these budget cuts, it will leave the city unprotected in situations like this.

Due to the minimum manning provision in the previous contract between the city and the fire union, 49 firefighters have to be on staff at all times. At any moment, there are 45 firefighters on staff who operate 15 companies, plus two safety personnel and two battalion chiefs. During one fire, six rigs go out.

So, on Sunday, when two fires were burning at the same time and one followed shortly thereafter, resources were spread thin.

But, with the fire budget being cut by $1.4 million, the union fears layoffs and changes to the minimum manning provision may be coming.

While the Springfield mayor and the city’s leadership have repeatedly said layoffs will not happen, the union says a change to the minimum manning would be a loophole and would hurt the city in situations like Sunday night.

The previous contract between the city and the union expired on Feb. 28.




Springfield Fire Department news

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Nearly half of the Springfield Fire Department’s operating budget was slashed Tuesday and the Springfield City Council added on eight amendments that directly affected the Fiscal Year 2022 corporate fund budget before giving its final approval on a 9-1 vote.

That vote capped a nearly four-and-a-half-hour evening that started with a Committee of the Whole meeting then went to a public hearing session before the special city council meeting. Aldermen trimmed $1.4 million from the fire department on a 6-4 vote. Later, a proposal to restore $500,000 in overtime pay was defeated in an 8-2 vote.

“The cut, I don’t know if it’s overcome-able without sending people home,” Fire Chief Brandon Blough said, referring to layoffs. “I think that was probably why that number was set. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep everybody at work. But they’ve put the fire department in a position where it’s going to be really hard. Over 90 percent of (the department’s $41.5 million budget) is personnel costs, so I don’t know where $1.4 million is going to come from.”

The $3 million in operating costs, Blough explained, is for things like diesel fuel for trucks, keeping the lights on in fire houses, and buying medical supplies.

More than a dozen firefighters filled seats in city council chambers in a show of support. Earlier, Vince Zummo, the new president of the local firefighters union, made an impassioned plea for the city administration and union to enter into a new era of trust.

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Springfield Fire Department news (more)

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Brandon Blough has been appointed as the new Springfield fire chief. Three candidates from within the department were interviewed for the position

Blough was a member of the senior command staff, serving as deputy division chief of operations. He was promoted to the position in 2018. Prior to that he was a captain, driver engineer, and firefighter. He was also a member of the dive team. He currently sits on the board of directors of the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, a group that represents the more than 600 police and fire pension funds in Illinois. He served on the Springfield Firefighters’ Pension Board from 2009 to 2018, first as a trustee and later president. Prior to joining the SFD, Blough was a legal sergeant with the Illinois Army National Guard from 1989 to 1995.

The city’s fire pension systems is currently about 42% funded. Nearly $270 million in additional funds will be needed above what the city is expected to collect in property tax revenue in order to meet the state law requiring that local pension systems be 90 percent funded by 2040, according to a city presentation from 2019. The city’s annual contribution to its fire and police pension systems has exceeded the property tax levy for the past several years.

Blough will be tasked with maintaining the department’s Class 1 rating, which it regained in 2018 after being downgraded in 2003. The ratings system looks at a city’s fire suppression capabilities by grading the fire department, the emergency communications system, the city’s water supply and efforts toward community risk reduction.

His annual salary as chief will be $137,000.

Blough’s father, William “Billy” Blough, was on the fire department from 1972 to 1999. He retired as a driver-engineer.

Fire Marshal Ed Canny, a 23-year department veteran who is also the chief of the department’s fire safety division, will continue to be the point person for the COVID-19 response. 

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Springfield Fire Department news

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With Fire Chief Allen Reyne’s surprise announcement that he will retire on Dec. 1, attention now turns to who will replace him. The pool of prospective candidates already has been whittled down — foremost by a clause in the city’s contract with the firefighters’ union requiring that the mayor choose the chief from the current ranks. Furthermore, the chief and other top-level fire department appointees must meet minimum requirements per city code that include having at least 10 years of service with the department and having passed the battalion chief’s examination. With the exception of six years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the hire-from-within clause has been in the Springfield union’s contract since it began to collectively bargain with the city.

This brings the list of potential candidates down to 25, including three division chiefs, two deputy division chiefs, nine battalion chiefs and 11 captains who are on the battalion chief’s list. 

Bassett, a 24-year veteran of the force, is a certified fire investigator who previously served as deputy division chief of fire safety and deputy division chief of operations.

Moore, a 20-year SFD veteran, would be the first female chief in the department’s history. About 95% of Springfield firefighters are men. She already broke a glass ceiling in 2018 when she became the first woman to ever be a fire division chief in the city’s history.

Blough, a 21-year veteran of the department, served as a captain before being promoted to his current position in 2018.

There are three other 2018 candidates still in the department: Jason McMillan, a captain; Jim Price, a senior arson investigator; and Donnie Richardson, a battalion chief.

Another possible candidate is Fire Marshal Ed Canny, a 23-year department veteran who is also the chief of the department’s fire safety division and oversees several programs, including code enforcement, investigations, fireworks safety and public education. He’s been in his current role since May 2019.

Deputy division chief of operations Mike Abbott, a 20-year veteran of the force, could also be in the mix.

All Springfield fire chiefs in recent memory have come from within the department’s ranks.

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19 (more)

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Springfield’s fire department reported 73 total firefighters in quarantine Friday, along with a total of 19 who had tested positive for COVID-19. This comes after firefighters reported 37 people were quarantined on Nov. 9. Twelve firefighters had tested positive for the virus at that time. 

All fire stations are open and providing services but Engine 2 and Engine 12 will not be operating until further notice due to the change in numbers. Both engines are part of a multi-company station house. 

“While this is not ideal, it is our current reality with so many of our members who have been exposed,” said Springfield Fire Chief Allen Reyne. “The department will begin working with our regional hospitals to determine if our methodology for quarantine, which we have used since day one, is still supported by CDC.”

This is a temporary shutdown and the department will be working hard to get firefighters back quickly while keeping the safety of everyone in mind. 


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