Springfield Fire pension board ends holiday pay perk for future firefighter hires
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
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
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
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
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.