Over 70% of Fire Departments in Illinois are staffed by volunteers. This means when the call for service comes in, they drop what they’re doing and head to the fire station to get the appropriate equipment before going to the emergency. As a son of a former volunteer firefighter and a volunteer firefighter myself, I know firsthand the sacrifices that are made every day.
As your Ogle County Board Member, I do not just serve as a volunteer firefighter, I represent three volunteer fire departments. I believe it is my duty to recognize and advocate for bills that would help the citizens that I have the honor to represent on the board. Currently, there are two bills in Springfield that would be a significant help to the volunteer fire service her and throughout the state.
The first is HB771, filed on January 26 by State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Mt. Vernon). HB771 passed unanimously through the State House on February 23 by a 98-0 margin. This bill allows regularly enrolled volunteer firefighters to purchase four vehicle tires every three years through his or her fire department’s or the municipality’s joint purchasing contract relating to the purchase of vehicle tires. The volunteer firefighter would still cover the cost of the tires and the taxes, only the tires would be at a reduced rate. This bill not only assures the safety of the firefighter in responding to emergency calls but could act as small recruitment component as the number of volunteer firefighters has decreased significantly over the last three decades. This bill is currently in the State Senate where it is being sponsored by State Senator Paul Schimpf (R-Murphsboro)
The second is HB3206, filed on February 9 by State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville). HB3206 is currently still in the State House and assigned to the Fire and Emergency Services Committee. No action has been taken on it since February 22. This bill would allow Fire Departments that have an ambulance serving a population of 10,000 or fewer to staff the ambulance with only one EMT-Basic and one First Responder instead of the current two EMT-Basic requirement. The fire department would have to apply for the alternate rural staffing authorization through the Department of Public Health, but once the authorization was approved it would not expire. This is a key bill for rural fire departments. Currently, if only one EMT-Basic and one First Responder respond to a call they are forced to call for a mutual aid ambulance from a neighboring town or a private ambulance service. Thus, the patient care is delayed and the other town is stripped of an ambulance. With this bill allowing fire departments to reduce staffing from the two EMT-Basic requirement to just one, patient care will still not be compromised because all along one of the two EMTs had to drive the ambulance and only one EMT is with the patient in the back of the ambulance. This bill is long overdue and would provide a significant benefit to several Ogle County Fire Protection Districts.
Over the last couple of weeks I have sent letters to several of our State Representatives and State Senators encouraging them to pass these bills. Many of our elected leaders are supportive of both HB771 and HB3206. I ask that you contact your local State Legislator and tell them to get on board with both of these bills.