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Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Springfield Fire pension board ends holiday pay perk for future firefighter hires    view comments tweat me share on facebook
The Springfield Fire Pension Board on Monday unanimously voted to stop factoring double-time holiday pay into firefighter pension calculations for future hires. The vote, taken at a special meeting to deal with the holiday-pay issue, comes on the heels of an advisory opinion issued earlier this month by the Illinois Department of Insurance advising the board that the double-time holiday pay for firefighters “is not considered pensionable salary,” contradicting a 1998 advisory opinion from the same department. While the change for future fire department hires passed easily by a 5-0 vote, the board couldn't decide how to deal with current firefighters and whether the board could face litigation if it decides to stop the longtime practice for them. “Constitutionally, I don’t think you can affect anyone that’s on the job,” said Don Craven, the pension board's attorney. For each holiday that isn’t worked, Springfield firefighters receive an additional eight hours of regular holiday pay, which factors into pension calculations. At issue here, though, is the additional double-time pay firefighters receive if they work a holiday, which the latest opinion contends shouldn’t factor into their pensions. The department opinion, issued Nov. 6, says in order for holiday pay to be considered part of a firefighter’s salary and factor into the pension, every employee would have to receive the additional compensation, whether they work the holiday or not.
Springfield State Journal-Register

Update: Hancock residents say alarm system failed during fire    view comments tweat me share on facebook
Following a weekend fire on the 50th floor of the John Hancock, some residents are questioning the building's safety. When flames lapped the windows halfway up the Hancock, residents were scared and witnesses didn't know if something sinister caused it. The incident has heightened safety concerns even though we know it was an accident started by a candle in a bedroom. But some Hancock residents say the fire alarm system didn't work and that the incident has revealed other flaws in the building's emergency plan. The voice alert notification system that Hancock residents were supposed to hear in an emergency, they apparently didn't on Saturday. John Whapham, a neurosurgeon who lives on the 63rd floor, told the I-Team Monday that there are serious issues with the fire evacuation system evident during the weekend fire. "Not a single alarm, not a single announcement anywhere, nor did the expensive alarms that we spent the last year and a half putting in go off, nothing. Nothing on my whole floor," Dr. Whapham said. Non-working fire notification systems are code violations. Fire officials say everything worked fine, but Dr. Whapham says it didn't. Five people were hurt during the incident, though not seriously. And while the fire was put out quickly, Chicago Fire Department officials had to call in extra manpower to help residents who found themselves trapped in smoky stairwells. "Absolutely chaos today up on these upper floors that are above the area where the smoke was sucked up to the upper floors," Dr. Whapham said. "People really, at least on my floor, were running around. No one had any idea how to get out when they were trapped and couldn't get down." The 100-story Hancock was finished in 1969, long before sprinkler systems were required in high-rise buildings.
WLS-TV ABC 7 Chicago

Gaffney resigns from St. Charles Township fire district    view comments tweat me share on facebook
A month ago, the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District Board accepted Jim Gaffney’s resignation as president. Monday, the trustees reacted to yet another resignation from Gaffney – this time from the board. Bob Handley, who was named president at the Oct. 26 meeting, told his colleagues that he received Gaffney’s resignation letter that day, although it was dated earlier. The resignation was effective immediately. The trustees – who met in a room named after Gaffney at Station No. 3 in St. Charles Township – formally declared a vacancy on the board. Gaffney was absent. He was serving a six-year term to expire in 2019. The district’s attorney, Ken Shepro, said the board could appoint someone to the position, and that person would serve until the 2017 election. The trustees deferred discussion about the procedure to closed session. Gaffney served as the face of the district as it ended its relationship with the city of St. Charles in 2011 and opened two fire stations despite residents’ protests. When Fox River and Countryside dedicated Station No. 3 last fall, fellow trustees said the training/community room was named Gaffney Hall in recognition of his leadership and vision.

DeKalb Fire Department undergoes live flashover training    view comments tweat me share on facebook
Thick, curling smoke cut visibility to zero for the 12 people in the room before it caught fire. Flames flashed overhead as temperature soared to 600 degrees. Despite the help of a 25-pound air tank, taking a breath took focus. This was just a drill for firefighters from the DeKalb Fire Department, who took part in flashover training last week in Rotary Park. The specialized training was part of a professional development fire science program hosted by Sauk Valley Community College, designed to allow firefighters to observe the stages of a completely engulfed structure fire – from the inside. “We do in the neighborhood of six to 10 trainings like this a year,” said Nick Dinges, who led the course and owns the Illinois Fire Store, a specialty store that sells firefighter gear. “This is a mobile simulator, one of three in the United States. … It’s pretty exciting, but very safe as well.” The mobile unit allows firefighters to observe the signs and symptoms of a flashover from a vantage point below floor level, as well as see how things such as different airflows, ventilation and water impact the flame ignition and trajectory. The group crowded into the burned metal trailer before the training, which began with Dinges igniting plywood set up on a platform. “What I want you to recognize is the condition around us,” he told the group of firefighters, his voice muffled by a haz-mat airmask. “What are we seeing up here, and the smoke condition above our heads. At some point, you may have fire around your head, but don’t panic. It will only last for a second or so.” Trainings that incorporate live burns are important because it’s a rare opportunity to learn, Dinges said. “Our job today is tactical,” he said. “We get in there. We put the fire out.” And that’s just when a fire actually is involved.
DeKalb Daily Chronicle

Harper College fire science program wins national certification    view comments tweat me share on facebook
Arlington Heights Deputy Fire Chief Pete Ahlman has worked in fire service for more than 25 years, and now is among the top brass in a department that answers more than 10,000 calls per year. Yet, he recently turned to Harper College's Fire Science Technology program, where he took his seat in class with a mix of aspiring recruits and seasoned veterans, all eager to advance their careers. "Harper's program provided a whole new depth of understanding for me," Ahlman says, "in everything from the most basic to the most complex fire technology subjects." The program is one of the most popular of the career and technical programs at Harper, where more students earn their applied associate degree than any other career program. But it recently added another distinction: national certification from the U.S. Fire Administration. The Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education initiative, which promotes higher education in fire and emergency services, certified that Harper's program meets all the standards of excellence.
daily herald

Monday, November 23, 2015
Five injured after fire breaks out on 50th floor of Chicago’s iconic John Hancock Center   view comments tweat me share on facebook
Five people sustained minor injuries in a fire that broke out in the iconic John Hancock Center Saturday afternoon. The fire broke out just a few hours before the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival was to begin on Michigan Avenue. Fire officials said it took only about a half hour to put the flames out and while the homeowner on the 50th floor remained unharmed, her unit was completely gutted by flames. Mary Minow, who lives in the unit above where the fire began, said she noticed a strange smell and then opened her front door to find smoke filling the hallway. "I went into the hallway and there were other neighbors who smelled smoke," she said. "The elevator didn't work, so we went five (flights of) stairs, down to 44 and that elevator took us down." Calls for help from the iconic 100-story high rise began around 2:30 p.m. after thick smoke and flames began shooting from the building's east side. More than 100 firefighters and six ambulances arrived at the scene. There was never a full evacuation of the building, which also has retail stores, offices, an observatory and a restaurant-bar on the 95th floor - where tourist Kim Wichman was. "It's scary because you always think of 9/11, when the fire and the building collapsed," she said. "You don't know what the structure's like."
WLS-TV ABC 7 Chicago

Hoffman Estates man dies after vehicle crashes with ambulance in Streamwood   view comments tweat me share on facebook
Five people were injured in an accident Sunday in northwest suburban Streamwood involving an ambulance and another vehicle, officials said. The accident happened at 4:05 p.m. at Sutton Road and Tallgrass Court, according to Streamwood Fire Chief Christoper J. Clark. Fire officials were called to that location after a private ambulance and a Honda CRV SUV were involved in an accident. The crash left two people pinned inside the SUV. The ambulance was transporting a patient when the accident took place, officials said. The driver of the SUV was in critical condition, and a woman with him was in serious condition, Clark said. He said three people inside the ambulance suffered injuries that were not life threatening. All five people were taken to St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates for treatment. Sutton Road remained closed between Schaumburg and Golf roads as of 8:20 p.m. as officials reconstruct the accident, Clark said.
Chicago Tribune

’Hydrant Confusion’ Legislation Signed by Govenor After Cherry Valley Fire   view comments tweat me share on facebook
A bill to prevent the type of 'hydrant confusion' that hampered firefighting efforts at a Cherry Valley home has been signed into law. In November, 2014, WTVO broke the story of why the fire hydrants in a Cherry Valley neighborhood didn't work at the scene of a house fire at 2411 Pine Drop Parkway, causing it to burn nearly to the ground. The President of the utility services company which operated the hydrants told 'Eyewitness News' they weren't fire hydrants, but rather 'flushing hydrants' used to maintain the water system. The problem was the Cherry Valley Fire Department wasn't aware of that, saying they had even used the hydrants to fight fires in the past. The issue caught Sen. Steve Stadelman's (D-Rockford) attention, and on Friday, Senate Bill 373 which he sponsored was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner into law. It requires utility companies to notify fire departments when their hydrants cannot be used for firefighting. “Firefighters must know the working condition of the hydrants they use to be able to effectively put out fires. Thanks to this new law, no family in Illinois will have to watch their house burn to the ground because the firefighters hadn’t been updated on the status of their hydrants,” said Stadelman in a news release.

Plainfield Fire Department debuts Chief John Eichelberger Public Safety Scholarship   view comments tweat me share on facebook
The Plainfield Fire Department has created a new scholarship to help District 202 high school students looking to major in fire service, public safety or medical and emergency services. The Chief John Eichelberger Public Safety Scholarship will award $500 annually to four District 202 students who live in the Plainfield Fire Protection District. The scholarship honors former Plainfield Fire Chief John Eichelberger, who retired in 2015 after 40 years of service to the department.

Mt. Vernon: Teens Charged with Arson Released, Ordered to School   view comments tweat me share on facebook
Three male youths accused of starting a multi-structure fire on Jordan Avenue Nov. 9 have been released on home confinement until their trials. While free, the teens will have to comply with numerous “pre-trial conditions,” including regular reports to the probation office, school attendance, and an avoidance of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, or any criminal activity. The boys are also prohibited from contacting each other or their victims, and are not allowed to visit the crime scenes. Any infractions will result in the youths being sent back to jail, said Judge Jerry Crisel who presided over detention hearings for the boys Friday. “You're going to have to walk the line even more than usual,” Crisel warned one of the defendants. “If you don't, it won't be good, I can assure you that.” The fire in question happened shortly after 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at 322 Jordan Ave. Police allege the fire was started with gasoline at a vacant home. The blaze then spread to three adjacent occupied homes, including a trailer at 320 Jordan Ave. The trailer was destroyed, leaving the occupants without a place to stay. Initially, two youths were arrested and charged. Police allege a 15-year-old boy actually started the fire while a 17-year-old co-defendant provided the gasoline and lighter and possibly came up with the idea. Then earlier this week, a third 17-year-old co-defendant was arrested in the case. His specific role in the alleged crime has not been made clear. All three are charged with arson and criminal damage to property.

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